Change of Seasons: QBs

We start our position-by-position look at the offseason roster, beginning with the quarterbacks. How good was Aaron Rodgers this season? Does Matt Flynn have starter potential?

After nine months of watching everything from offseason practices to games, Packer Report looks ahead by looking back, starting with the quarterbacks.

Depth chart

Starter — Aaron Rodgers. Backup — Matt Flynn. Practice squad — Chris Pizzotti.

Overview

If not for Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and former teammate Brett Favre posting dominant seasons to drive their teams to first-round byes, Rodgers would have been in the conversation for league MVP. The second-year starter didn't succumb to a sophomore jinx and outdid his impressive debut season under the microscope as Favre's successor by completing 64.7 percent of his passes for 4,434 yards (24 shy of the team record), 30 touchdowns and only seven interceptions with a passer rating of 103.2. The interceptions number tied Favre for fewest in the league and his interception percentage ranked No. 1. His uncanny mobility — 58 rushes for 316 yards and five touchdowns — spared Rodgers from getting sacked no more than a co-league-high 50 times. When given the time to let loose, Rodgers' deep ball is as good as anyone's.

At the end of the day, nothing matters more than scoring points and avoiding turnovers. The Packers finished third in the NFL in scoring offense and set a franchise record with a league-low 15 giveaways (16, including special teams). It's not just throwing the ball. It's everything that leads up to the snap of the ball, and Rodgers was superb in making the right decisions.

Flynn served as Rodgers' lone understudy on the active roster the entire season after Brian Brohm was released and added to the practice squad before being signed away by Buffalo. Depending on who you talk to, Flynn could be a serviceable starter for a team with a good supporting cast. He's at his best when a play breaks down — like in Week 16 against Seattle — which is hard to teach. His arm might not be a cannon but it's considerably stronger than it was when he was drafted in 2008. He won a national championship at LSU, and those intangible qualities are evident.

Cheers

What separates good quarterbacks from the great ones is making plays when it counts. By that definition, Rodgers has solidified himself as one of the NFL's best young quarterbacks. Check that — one of the best quarterbacks, period.

There was no one better on third down, as the first-time Pro Bowl selection compiled a 133.5 rating with 1,710 yards, 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions on the all-important move-the-chains down. He ranked second in converting third-and-3 through third-and-7 (61.2 percent) and first in converting third-and-2 or less (80.0 percent).

And big situations in big games, the situation that was Rodgers' bugaboo last season, he excelled. There was the fourth-quarter touchdown pass to beat Chicago and incredible comebacks at Pittsburgh in the regular season and Arizona in the playoffs. When the Packers needed Rodgers to deliver after the team's 4-4 start, he accounted for 17 touchdowns (14 passing) and two interceptions. That's big time.

Jeers

With only one clunker in 17 games, Rodgers was the picture of consistency. But in overtime of the biggest game of the season, Rodgers fell flat. He could have won the game on the first snap of overtime but missed a wide-open Greg Jennings streaking free down the middle. And on third down, he froze while being blitzed and gave up a season-killing fumble.

2010 contracts

Rodgers: Through 2014 ($6 million base salary for 2010).

Flynn: Through 2011 ($470,000).

2010 outlook

With Rodgers and Flynn under contract, the quarterbacking situation is secure for the next two seasons.

Flynn took a huge step forward both physically and mentally last offseason. While Brohm bombed as a second-round pick, Flynn's improved play means general manager Ted Thompson won't have to go shopping in a dreadful free agent market or spend an early pick on a quarterback rather than try to fill a more pressing need. Pizzotti, a rail-thin 6-foot-5, has some intruging tools that will be nurtured in the offseason quarterback school.

Of course, the starting point is Rodgers. It's hard to imagine Rodgers can play much better than he did this season, and even offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said the biggest task will be for the coaches to keep Rodgers feeling challenged.

But if Rodgers continues to play faster, if the offensive line plays like it did during the second half of the season — when Rodgers was sacked 13 times compared to 37 in the first half of the season — and if the receivers can improve upon their fifth-worst 36 drops, then he'll have a chance to raise his game to an astronomical level.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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