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Mariucci on Packers Backup QB Situation: "It Behoves You to Have a Veteran"

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Mariucci on Packers Backup QB Situation: "It Behoves You to Have a Veteran"

NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci. Photo by Brian Carriveau of


NEWARK, N.J.––As the Green Bay Packers enter an offseason of uncertainty on the depth chart behind starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, count former Packers assistant coach and current NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci as one experienced observer who advocates the utilization of a veteran as the quarterback understudy.

"Not every club has a franchise quarterback or solid starting quarterback," said Mariucci at the annual Super Bowl Media Day in New Jersey on Tuesday. "Maybe there are not enough to go around. Are there 15? Are there 20? Whatever that (number) is. Also, not every club has a quality backup.

"What's a quality backup? You got to know that the starter takes just about every snap in practice all year. Very seldom will a backup get a snap unless the guy is sore or whatever. So it behooves you to have a veteran that doesn't need a lot of reps."

The Packers got themselves a veteran at midseason last year when they signed Matt Flynn in the month of November, but it arguably wasn't early enough after losing Rodgers to a broken collarbone in Week 9.

Prior to Flynn taking over and salvaging what was left of the team's season, the Packers severely misjudged the group of quarterbacks vying for a roster spot during the offseason and into training camp. None out of a group including Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman and Vince Young proved worthy of keeping around, and the carousel at the position ensued.

The Packers signed Seneca Wallace just as the season started but after he got injured, they had to turn to practice squad player Scott Tolzien, who was simply too wet behind the ears to carry the Packers on his shoulders.

Even though he apparently had a bum arm and had been cut loose by the Seahawks, Raiders and Bills, Flynn capably subbed in for Rodgers until he returned and led the team to come-from-behind victories over the Falcons and Cowboys and a tie against the Vikings.

Had it not been for Flynn, the Packers may have not qualified for the playoffs. And now they must decide which direction to go in the offseason, whether they re-sign Flynn as a free agent, stick with developing Tolzien or add someone else entirely.

If you ask Mariucci, taking the experienced route would be the best path. It's the veteran who knows the tricks of the trade.

"He's done that before;" said Mariucci, speaking of backup quarterbacks in general, "he knows the system; he knows these defenses; he's been in the league for seven, eight years or longer like a Matt Hasselbeck or Ryan Fitzpatrick or some of these guys that end up playing but didn't need all these reps because they played before; they started before."

Whether Flynn receives interest from any other teams in free agency remains to be seen, but after getting cut from three teams in one calendar year, he may not find much of a market. But perhaps that will suit the Packers just fine, happy to have a backup that's been there, done that.

"You hope that starter never misses," said Mariucci. "And it's a luxury to have a veteran backup quarterback. Like I said, not every team has one. And Green Bay got caught without one really."

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 [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (20) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Hank Scorpio's picture

I'm not sure if it was the complacency of only needing 2 starts from backups in 20 years or what but the Packers certainly did get caught at backup QB this year.

I wouldn't say the backup QB needs to be a veteran. But they certainly need one that can function at least to the level that Flynn did once he got comfortable. I'm not sure Tolzein is that guy yet.

Flynn is my first choice. If that falls through, there are other options out there. The important part is finding one before the offseason program begins, not waiting until after the season starts.

murphy's picture

Do you see them carrying 3 QBs in 2014?

JLeu's picture

If only they could take Flynn's head and put it on Tolzein's body.

Flynn with decent protection and a running game can run the offense, but it'll be severely limited as he doesn't have the arm strength to make a lot of the throws. He's a gamer, but in reality, he only had about 5 or 6 quarters of good football. Maybe if he comes back, with a little more time behind a healthier OL he can improve. But on the whole, he missed more plays than he made and he's gotten way too much credit for saving the season. He just looked good in comparison to Wallace who. like Flynn, had no arm, but also had never played in the offense. And Tolzein, who can make the throws but just came off the practice squad.

Stroh's picture

Flynn was 2-2-1 in games he played. I'll take that out of the backup QB every time. What he lacks in arm strength he makes up for in leadership and a will to win. The guys a winner. Love to have him another couple years behind Rodgers. He isn't going to be groomed to become a starter, just get the Packers thru some games if Rodgers misses time.

Arlo's picture

A winner who was let go by the SeaHawks, Raiders & Bills -- all in less than a year.

Even TT/MM avoided signing him until they were desperate. --- Even now, they haven't resigned him.

Don't be surprised if a completely different available QB is signed before OTAs.

Barutan Seijin's picture

Bees don't have ho[o]ves.

joshywoshybigfatposhy's picture

isn't that a line from an e.e. cummings poem?

redlights's picture

Flynn for another two year contract at about a mil; then let Tolzien, who has potential battle a late round rookie for #3. I understand the limits on the roster, but this can't happen again.

WKUPackFan's picture

Is there really that much value in keeping Tolzien as a 3rd QB? He played with a lot of heart and has a decent arm, but just seems to be multiple years from realistically giving the team a chance to win games. That's a long time to take up a valuable roster spot. I'd be comfortable with Flynn and a developmental QB on the PS.

Hank Scorpio's picture

I don't think you can make a realistic judgement on Tolzien's worthiness of a roster spot until he's been through the offseason and preseason. With Flynn & Rodgers, it was easy to see their progression from the couch during preseason games from one year to the next. They both looked better each year. I'd like to see Tolzien in preseason.

Conceptually, I am not opposed to keeping 3 QBs. As redlights wrote, what happened at QB cannot happen again. However, if the 3rd guy is just going to bumble and stumble his way through mistake & turnover filled performances (like Tolzein did last year), the PS is the place to develop him.

Evan's picture

Too bad Mooch got out of coaching. I always liked him.

WKUPackFan's picture

Curse of Detroit?

Evan's picture

Man, I forgot he coached Detroit.

Yeah, probably.

Lou's picture

Wolf always had a solid backup QB and most times a potential starter at #3 (Hasselback - Brunell - Detmer - Brooks - Petersen). Thompson was wise enough to give Flynn a chance when others passed him over even after leading his team to the national championship, and he was smart enough not to give him a large contract when he was a free agent. But, don't blame Thompson for the QB fiasco this season, that falls on McCarthy's shoulders, "Mr QB Guru" should have known Harrell and Coleman couldn't cut it (as the casual observers noted and pundits noted) and ran up the red flag to Ted, he waited until just before the season started which was ridiculous. Flynn at a Vet minimum has shown he can do the job and is as serviceable as Petersen was (he too when given a chance to start with other teams and failed because of lack of arm stength). Last years fiasco my give Tolzien an opportunity to stay as well instead of carrying an extra for another position, they ran out of LB's a couple times last year but got through the games.

MarkinMadison's picture

Brady was a rookie and a late round draft pick (6th?) when he came off the bench and led the Pats to a Super Bowl win.

Farve drank his way out of Atlanta after his rookie season. Granted he was highly regarded, at least by Wolf, but he was a risk. Second season, comes off the bench, ignites the Packers.

Russell Wilson. 3rd round choice. Wins the starting job over Flynn as a rookie. In the Super Bowl his second year.

Kaepernik beats out a veteran in his second year, and takes the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

There's more. It ain't hard. So Flynn v. Tolzien. 2nd year guy v. veteran. It's not about 2nd year guy v. veteran. It's about who gives you a better chance to win. Being a veteran is part of the equation, but it's not all of it. Not by a long shot.

Arlo's picture

Brady - an anamoly
Favre - 2nd rd. pick - traded for a 1st.
Wilson - 3rd rd. pick.
Kap - 2nd rd. pick.

Flynn - 7th rd. pick
Tolzein - undrafted.

There's your real difference. Both Flynn & Tolzein are limited at the NFL level. Both TT/MM will be putting their jobs on the line if either Flynn or Tolzein are GB's choice in 2014.

Cross your fingers that TT/MM have learned a lesson from 2013.

Hank Scorpio's picture


Aaron Rodgers is the choice of both TT & MM at QB. He's locked up to a long-term contract and should be healthy . Neither TT nor MM will be fired if Rodgers is again hurt and their backup choice is not as good. I think rational people take that as a given.

They might both subject themselves to criticism if they pull the 3 Stooges routine at backup QB through another offseason and training camp like last year. But their jobs will not be in jeopardy.

Attn: CHTVsmack twitter mystery person--- see above for monstrous lunancy!

Arlo's picture

Most (almost all, actually) GMs and HCs ultimately get fired. --- That's a fact, jack.

You're predicting the future based on nothing.

Hank Scorpio's picture

Of course they do. That's why they say that NFL stands for Not For Long. GMs & HCs might get fired for any number of other things. But the choice of backup QB behind Aaron Rodgers for the 2014 season is not among that number of things which may lead to the dismissal of TT or MM.

It. Will. Not. Happen.

4thand1's picture

Ron Wolfe didn't get fired. Some get fired by asinine owners like Jerry Jones, not because they were bad. A lot retire and ride off into the sunset. Unless you're a Lions fan.

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