To say the NFC is the more competitive conference in the NFL these days may be an understatement. The teams that made it to the playoffs last year—the Eagles, Vikings, Saints (with Drew Brees), Panthers, Falcons, and the Rams—all could have very well made it to the Super Bowl. Now, the 49ers are on the rise and could be added to that list of contending teams.
The team not listed there is the Packers. Why? They have the quarterback widely considered to be the most talented at the position and they hadn’t missed the playoffs in almost ten years.
Is the Packers run of success in the North Division and the NFC over?
I’m not making excuses for the Green Bay, (Go Bears!) BUT Aaron Rodgers—the man, the myth, the legend—played in only 7 games during the 2017 season. During week 6, in a game vs the Vikings, Rodgers suffered an almost season ending injury. He was injured with a fractured right collar bone that required surgery. Rodgers received 13 screws in his collar bone to stabilize it for the healing process. Remarkably, he attempted a return in week 15 and passed for 290 yards with 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
The Packers lost that game. Rodgers only played in that 1 game after the injury. Because of the loss, the Packers were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and Rodgers quietly returned to the injured reserve list.
After the week 6 injury, the Packers believed Rodgers was all but gone for the season, so back up QB Brett Hundley was the next man up. The Packers were confident that Hundley could fill the gap and keep the Packers in contention until Rodger’s hopeful return to health, and the active roster. Hundley’s mission was to keep the Packers in the win column. It didn’t seem like too much to ask since a 3rd string QB was leading the Vikings to the NFC North title and the playoffs.
Hundley, based on his college stats, appears to be a competent quarterback. He held the starting QB spot at UCLA for 3 seasons; his freshman, sophomore, and junior years. He had 9,966 passing yards with 75 touchdowns and 25 interceptions and a completion percentage of 67.4. Not too shabby.
So, it would seem Hundley is the heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers anyway, right? Well, maybe not. Hundley didn’t have it easy in 2017. He started 9 games, winning just 3 in place of the injured Rodgers. In those games he threw for 1,853 yards, 9 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and a 59.5% completion percentage. Nothing to write home about, but still he tried his best.
It’s ok though. Prior to missing the playoffs in 2017, the previous season the Pack wasn’t in the post-season was 2008. That was Rodgers first year as the full time starting QB. The Packers went 6-10 with Rodgers starting all 16 games. He threw for 4,038 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, and a 63.6% completion percentage.
Ok—nevermind. Hundley figuratively dropped the ball and let opportunity slip thorough his fingers. He probably knew this was his chance to lead the team, but couldn’t capitalize or rise to the occasion. The difference is, in 2008 Rodgers was given the reins to the team and told to lead. Hundley was told, essentially, “hold the line and do your job as the back up.”
Now, we enter the NFL offseason. A lot has happened, but we need to focus on what has happened in Green Bay. Jordy Nelson, considered to be Aaron Rodgers’ #1 wide receiver target for the past decade, is gone after being released and signing with the Oakland Raiders. Jimmy Graham, a top 3 tight end, signed with the Packers. Graham gives Rodgers another highly capable target to throw those ridiculous hail mary touchdowns to.
The deal that is getting the most attention is a trade with the Cleveland Browns. A trade that sent Damarious Randall (a cornerback), a 2018 4th round and 5th round draft picks. Our guy Nick talks about this trade and others in his article about the 3 trades involving the Browns.
The best thing about Cleveland was their offensive lineman Joe Thomas. Maybe things are turning around there, but I’ll leave that story telling to Nick.
He may have been a starter in Cleveland, but he is definitely a back up in Green Bay. Kizer seemed to pass all the peripheral/optic tests that scouts had and Green Bay took a liking to him. He was a starting QB at Notre Dame for 2 seasons racking up 5,805 yards, 47 touchdowns, 19 interceptions and a 60.7 completion percentage. Perhaps, Green Bay’s coaching staff with use Kizer differently than what was seen in Cleveland. Lord knows Kizer has a better example to follow.
Is Kizer now the future in Green Bay?
Maybe they are viewing him like they did Rodgers back in 2004. Then Green Bay had a QB in place, but was clearly on his way down. Brett Favre was, very clearly, on his way to Canton as well. If things pan out for Kizer in Green Bay, is it really possible for a franchise to have 3 Hall of Fame caliber quarterbacks in a row? That’s the kind of thing that makes any Browns or Bears fan nauseous—and highly jealous too.