At this point, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy hasn't even seen Scott Tolzien in action for what amounts to one entire game, but he already knows Tolzien gives his team the best chance to win Week 11 in New York to face the Giants.
McCarthy had already come to that conclusion at his post-game press conference in the immediate aftermath of Sunday's 27-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles that dropped the Packers' record to 5-4.
"I thought Scott Tolzien did as well as could be expected, just the one throw down in the end zone," said McCarthy referring to Tolzien's second-quarter interception. "He probably wishes he had that one back, but other than that he did a lot of good things. I'll tell you right now, Scott Tolzien will start against the New York Giants."
What's not being said is that Aaron Rodgers will miss a second consecutive game with a broken collarbone, even though the organization has not put a firm timeline on Rodgers' return.
Of course, Rodgers' absence is the reason Tolzien finds himself in the spotlight to begin with, playing the most-important position for one of the most-historic franchises in the NFL.
Just a week ago, Tolzien found himself on the Packers' practice squad, promoted after Rodgers was injured in the Packers' loss to the Bears, the first of two consecutive losses at Lambeau Field––the first that's happened since 2008.
Tolzien was thrust into action when Wallace injured his groin in just the Packers' first series of the game.
After completing 24 of 39 passes for 280 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, McCarthy made the call on Tolzien, not even waiting to see if Wallace will be healthy to play next week.
It's not as if Tolzien was perfect. His two interceptions were costly mistakes, but there's hope that he's the best backup option since Matt Flynn left in free agency following the 2011 season.
"You have to be impressed with his game management," said McCarthy. "You're talking about a young man that hasn't played, not only in a game with us, but hasn't had a lot of snaps at practice. His work has been really confined to the opponent squads. This week he was able to get some snaps with the first offense."
Since training camp, the Packers experimented with four other backups to Rodgers, and in just one game, Tolzien proved he had more promise than all of them.
For sake of comparison, here's the cumulative statistics for the other quarterbacks who have played for the Packers in 2013, including the preseason:
- Vince Young––26 of 49 (53.1 percent) for 218 yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions, 71.6 passer rating
- Graham Harrell––23 of 42 (54.8 percent) for 169 yards, zero touchdowns, one interception, 54.6 passer rating
- B.J. Coleman––14 of 34 (41.2 percent) for 128 yards, one touchdown, one interception, 49.6 passer rating
- Seneca Wallace––16 of 24 (66.7 percent) for 139 yards, zero touchdowns, one interception, 64.4 passer rating
Tolzien proved to the quarterback most capable of pushing the ball downfield, averaging 7.2 yards per attempt, outpacing the other quarterbacks with Wallace coming the next closest at 5.8.
On Sunday, Tolzien displayed a rapport with wide receiver Jarrett Boykin, connecting eight times for 112 yards.
Whether Tolzien can keep the Packers afloat remains to be seen. But for better or worse, he's being tasked with such responsibility––at least as long as Rodgers remains out.
For his part, Tolzien seems to grasp the situation the Packers find themselves in.
"The bottom line is we just have to keep getting better," said Tolzien. "I think it's pretty simple, and you start by looking at yourself in the mirror. You always do that, and certainly there's a few plays you'd like to have back in the game. But I really appreciate the guys help out there, rallying around me. And my coaches as well this week helped me prepare to be ready to go."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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