Everyone does player grades.
Ours are different.
We do ours on a salary-cap curve. After all, the salary cap largely determines long-term success in the NFL. Players with big-money contracts must be big-time performers. Those highly paid players must be supplemented by several small-budget but high-production players.
With that, we lead off this series with the quarterbacks. Salary comparisons are from OverTheCap.com.
2016 cap: $19.25 million (10th among quarterbacks).
Rodgers’ season might as well be broken down by semesters. For the first semester, his grade was a D. In the first nine games, Rodgers ranked 17th in rating (93.9) and a woeful 30th in yards per attempt (6.53). For context, Rodgers owns the top passer rating and sixth-best yards-per-attempt figure in NFL history. To see Rodgers so far down the pecking order in those two categories was startling. Predictably, Green Bay was just 4-5 after getting crushed at Tennessee.
Then, with the team in danger of flunking out of school, Rodgers became an A student. No, an A-plus student. In the final seven games of the regular season, Rodgers ranked first in passer rating (120.0) and fourth in yards per attempt (8.37). He threw 18 touchdowns and no interceptions. He stopped fumbling, too. The Packers lost their 10th game at Washington but won the rest.
For the season, Rodgers ranked fourth in rating (104.2), first in touchdowns (40), second in touchdown percentage (6.6), fifth in interception percentage (1.1), fourth in yards (4,428), ninth in accuracy (65.7 percent) and 14th in yards per attempt (7.26).
With no reliable running game and a horrendous defense, the weight of the franchise rested on Rodgers’ shoulders. And he delivered. Because of Rodgers and his capable group of pass catchers, the Packers got to the NFC Championship Game in spite of one of the worst pass defenses for any playoff team in NFL history.
“He has spoiled all of us around here for a long time,” coach Mike McCarthy said simply before the playoff game against the Giants.
Rodgers didn’t play great in the loss to the Falcons but who knows how the game might have turned if not for Mason Crosby’s missed field goal, Aaron Ripkowski’s fumble, Jake Ryan’s missed recovery and two dropped interceptions on the Falcons’ final touchdown drive of the first half. Assuming Green Bay could have scored a touchdown on the Ripkowski drive and even three points on the Ryan play, that’s a 20-point swing — a far different picture than 24-0 at halftime.
By the way, no, that’s not a typo. Rodgers indeed ranked 10th in cap charge among quarterbacks. Among those ahead of him, Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, Washington’s Kirk Cousins and Carolina’s Cam Newton didn’t make the playoffs and Tony Romo didn’t figure in Dallas’ season. Relatively speaking, Rodgers was practically a bargain.
2016 cap: $580,908 (75th among quarterbacks)
Hundley moved from No. 3 to No. 2 when the Packers allowed Scott Tolzien to sign with Indianapolis. (Tolzien’s cap this season was $1.5 million.) An injured ankle threw Hundley for a loss in training camp. In what should have been a key preseason for his development, he completed 5-of-7 passes in his one game. In the regular season and playoffs, he finished five games and was just 2-of-10 for 17 yards.
Nonetheless, the sky is the limit for Hundley. He's got it all: Talent, athleticism, intelligence and work ethic. He's a future NFL starter; nothing that happened this season changes that fact. The Packers will be under no pressure to draft another quarterback, which is critical given the team’s lengthy list of offseason needs.
“He had a tough training camp but I’d say what stands out about him the most is his consistency,” McCarthy said in December. “I really like his personality. He’s a sponge. He’s a good fit for the room, which is important because that room, that’s where it all happens. It’s the epicenter of the way things go into the offense because we all understand how we play and the importance of the quarterback position in the West Coast Offense. What I like about him physically, I just really like his athletic ability. I think there’s a lot to work with. He’s doing a much better job with the footwork. There’s still some things throwing-wise we can continue to improve on. I think he’s a young, ascending quarterback. He’s got an excellent disposition for the position.”
2016 cap: $79,412 (99th among quarterbacks)
With Rodgers kept in mothballs and Hundley kept in the training room, it was up to Callahan to run the preseason. The former Division III phenom from Wesley excelled throughout. Callahan completed 54-of-88 passes (61.4 percent) for 499 yards, with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a rating of 88.2. He’s not tall (6-1 1/8) and he’s not athletic (4.98 at pro day); the height may be an issue but the athleticism was not.
Callahan made the final roster but was released before the Week 6 game against Dallas so it could activate defensive tackle Mike Pennel. Callahan spent time with the Saints and Browns before winding up back on Green Bay’s practice squad on Dec. 2. He was added to the roster two weeks later, when Rodgers was dealing with an injured calf, but didn’t play.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.