It’s the most important position in the NFL, and the Packers’ outlook at quarterback is in an upward spiral with youth, depth and a starter in Aaron Rodgers who ranks among the best at his position.
So, as the NFL draft approaches, Super Bowl MVP Rodgers and highly-regarded reliever Matt Flynn put the position in the cellar on the priority list, but the pocket is a dangerous environment following every snap and Coach Mike McCarthy is also a teacher with an affinity for schooling young quarterbacks. Still, using a late-round pick for a passer would likely have to represent a bargain.
FOX analyst and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman said in a broadcast last year he would make Rodgers his top choice if he were building an NFL club from scratch. Since taking over as a starter in 2008, Rodgers has thrown for 86 touchdowns, 12,394 yards and added 879 yards rushing in the regular season.
The only blips on the radar screen for Rodgers have been the concussions he suffered last year, missing week 15 at New England and half of the contest the week before at Detroit, causing him to fall 78 yards shy of becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 4,000 yards in each of his first three seasons as a starter.
Rodgers bounced back by leading the Packers to four postseason victories, including strafing Atlanta with a remarkable 31-of-36, three-touchdown performance in the divisional round of the playoffs and tossing three TDs and for 304 yards vs. Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV.
His late-season concussions provided an opportunity for Flynn, and some considered him ripe for a trade after his gutty performance in a 31-27 defeat at New England on Sunday Night Football, however, that conjecture has been dismissed by the club.
Against the Patriots in his first career start, Flynn completed 24 of 37 for 251 yards and three touchdowns, showing poise and leadership. McCarthy also displayed his faith in Flynn the week before in a 7-3 loss at Detroit, calling for Flynn to let fly with a deep pass on fourth-and-1 on the final possession rather than try and run for a first down.
At 27, Rodgers is not only among the best quarterbacks in the NFL, he’s also the top young passer in the league after just three seasons as a starter. While Flynn is relatively unproven entering his fourth season, he is well-schooled in the Packers’ offense and has the confidence of his teammates.
Flynn wasn’t hesitant against a Patriots squad that entered the game at 11-2. New England was coming off consecutive victories over the Jets and Bears by a combined score of 81-10. McCarthy always has a young passer either on the active roster or on the practice squad to work with quarterbacks coach Tom Clements, who Rodgers credits with much of Flynn’s development.
It’s a staff philosophy, a way to bring up another QB into the system. Last year that player was Graham Harrell, a record-setter at Texas Tech who twice threw for over 5,000 yards.
If Harrell has some competition in 2011, it will likely come from an undrafted free agent.
Ricky Zeller is a contributing writer for packers.com. He has covered the NFL for several publications.