Last year, the complacency was a huge gamble.
As the wounded ducks accumulated, Brian Brohm plummeted from second-round pick to third on the depth chart. Aaron Rodgers' (overkilled) injury history, Matt Flynn's minor-league arm and Brohm's unexpected descent fused together for one major cause for concern: the need for a veteran quarterback as insurance.
One sad, Rodgers-less snapshot against Tampa Bay only heightened anxiety. Without him, the offense may be doomed. A big gamble, indeed.
This year? Not as much. Rodgers' steady progression under Mike McCarthy suggests that Brohm and Flynn will keep improving. With a full year of tutelage under McCarthy's quarterbacks school, both second-year pros should quell any fears of a Rodgers injury. While McCarthy didn't close the door on the team bringing in a veteran, it's clear the backup duo has made major mental strides.
"Now, they totally understand not only what to do, but why they're doing it and why everybody does it, how it all fits together and flows for them," McCarthy said.
Last summer, Brohm and Flynn appeared dazed and confused at times in Green Bay's offense. Brohm, particularly, struggled. During the preseason, the former Louisville star completed only 19-of-42 passes for 155 yards and an interception. It was surprising considering, at one point, McCarthy had said Brohm had picked up his offense faster than any quarterback he's coached.
Just never translated onto the field. The seventh-rounder Flynn was clearly a cut above the second-rounder. Certainly discomforting. But in his sophomore season, that may change. McCarthy said that at one point this offseason, Brohm said, "I wasn't even aware that this stuff went on."
Such revelations are expected in the quarterbacks school, which originated when McCarthy worked with offensive coordinator Paul Hackett in Kansas City. With the Chiefs, the duo helped springboard Rich Gannon's career when he was backing up a guy named Joe Montana. In large part of McCarthy and Hackett's behind-the-scenes, mid-career schooling, Gannon had a renaissance in his late 30s.
At 37 years old with Oakland, he threw for 4,689 yards and 26 touchdowns en route to a MVP award. Gannon may pay Rodgers, Brohm and Flynn a visit soon, McCarthy said. Kind of like Bill Gates going back to Harvard to give undergrads a pep talk.
"(Gannon) is a big believer in the quarterback school and breaking the position down," McCarthy said. "It's a position of such demand when you get into group activities."
So spring with quarterbacks coach Tom Clements — not summer training camp when surrounded by teammates — is the best time to wipe away the cobwebs and make strides. Flynn showed some moxie at times last year, making plays on his feet. And if Brohm can recapture the rhythm he had at Louisville, the Packers should be fine behind Rodgers.
Remember, Rodgers' debut in green and gold wasn't exactly memorable.
The demons that held him captive in the green room on draft weekend resurfaced. Amidst a treacherous downpour and audio issues in his helmet, Rodgers started with a thud. He went 2-of-6 for 7 yards with two sacks. Fans beckoned for general manager Ted Thompson to trade him for Randy Moss, and they kept squawking for a few years.
But over four years, Rodgers grew immensely behind the curtains, behind Brett Favre. The Gannon Effect. And now, he's clearly the Packers' quarterback of the present and future.
The system is in place for Brohm and Flynn to keep improving.
"You can really see gains in your quarterbacks every year," McCarthy said. "It was really nice to watch Aaron grow yearly and attack the things you want to improve on fundamentally. And it shows up in his games on Sunday. We've gone through the same process with Matt and Brian."
By the preseason, McCarthy expects the classroom gains to reflect on the field and nobody will be begging Thompson to chase J.P. Losman or any other July scrub on the free-agent market.
"I think we have two talented young quarterbacks that I think everybody is going to be impressed with when we line up and play some preseason games."
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Tyler Dunne writes for Packer Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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