In good hands

While many NFL teams are hurting at quarterback position; Packers are sitting pretty

Do any of these names impress you? Tarvaris Jackson, Brodie Croyle, John Beck, Joey Harrington, Kellen Clemens, J.P. Losman, Kyle Boller, Vinny Testaverde, Rex Grossman and Trent Dilfer.

These are the names of 10 starting quarterbacks for this weekend's NFL action, and even though Dilfer and Grossman have led teams to the Super Bowl, this list of quarterbacks is about as futile as it can get.

Watching Minnesota's Brooks Bollinger last week at Lambeau Field got me thinking about No. 12 on the Packers. For those of you who don't know who that is, that's Aaron Rodgers, who's the backup to Brett Favre. Rodgers had an impressive preseason this summer and seemed to give the Packers assurance he's a capable No. 2 quarterback in the NFL.

But after watching the quarterback play this season, you wonder how many teams Rodgers could start for right now. Ten? Maybe.

The quarterback position, from 1-32 is brutal. The top is great with the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Carson Palmer and Favre, but get into the late teens and 20s, and it's ugly.

Despite so many teams turning to the pass before the run, the quarterback play in the NFL is suspect. Which brings us to Rodgers. How good is he? We don't know, but Matt Hasselbeck used to be the Packers' "Mr. August" – in reference to the only time of the year he got on the field, during preseason – and has turned into a quality quarterback in the NFL.

Rodgers was bashed by many duiring his first two seasons, and with no good reason. There was nothing to go on. He came in mop-up situations, like against Baltimore his rookie season and got hammered by the Ravens.

So did Favre during that game, which is why the offense scored three points. But after that game, Rodgers caught flak for not making anything happen. What did Favre do in that game with a week's preparation? It's tough to come in as an inexeperienced quarterback and play a defense like that.

That was one example of people questioning the Packers' selection of Rodgers during the 2005 draft. His latest preseason success has some thinking the quarterback spot will be OK when Favre leaves, if that ever happens.

Until Rodgers gets a chance to prepare during an offseason and goes into training camp as No. 1, though, we have to be patient. Some question where he came from – California – whose coach Jeff Tedford has gotten quarterbacks drafted in the first round (Akili Smith, Harrington and Dilfer) and none of them lived up to their draft status.

Still, when you look at the crud around the NFL, you have to rank Rodgers, untested or not, in the top 30 quarterbacks in the NFL. Here a list of starters who I'd put ahead of him: Brady, Manning, Favre, Romo, Carson Palmer, Vince Young, Matt Schaub, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, David Garrard, Eli Manning, Donovan McNabb, Jason Campbell, Jeff Garcia, Drew Brees, Jon Kitna, Derek Anderson, Hasselbeck and Matt Leinart. That's 21. These are quarterbacks who have proven something in the NFL. The likes of Daunte Culpepper, Boller, Steve McNair and Losman may also rank ahead of Rodgers, but what's the difference between Rodgers and the rest? For now, Jamarcus Russell and Brady Quinn likely rank ahead of Rodgers, but neither are starting and what happens if they fail when they get a chance? The problem the NFL has is college football isn't developing NFL starting-caliber quarterbacks. Last year's Heisman Trophy winner, Troy Smith, is a third-stringer in Baltimore.

This year's crop includes Oregon's Dennis Dixon, who is not a pure passer; Florida's Tim Tebow, who is also a runner–thrower. He also plays under Urban Meyer, as did San Francisco's Alex Smith, who's now being questioned as the 49ers' answer at quarterback after being the top pick in the 2005 draft.

Louisville's Brian Brohm may be the best quarterback prospect, but without Bobby Petrino this season (Petrino is at Atlanta) he hasn't lived up to the hype of being the No. 1 pick in 2008.

Hawaii's Colt Brennan is interesting, but he plays in a spread offense and in a weak conference, so he's unknown. Also, the last time Hawaii had a notable quarterback, Timmy Chang, he didn't make an NFL roster. Brennan appears better, but we'll see.

The NFL is in store for a long run of having mediocre quarterbacks start in its league. Too many teams and not enough quarterbacks to go around.

Nonetheless, the Packers seem secure, as long as Rodgers doesn't leave before Favre does. He hasn't proven anything in the NFL yet, but that hasn't stopped other NFL teams from using lesser-talented quarterbacks. Rodgers' time will come. It has to. Just watch Sunday.

Doug Ritchay is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.


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