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Tolzein's Long-Term Promise Overshadows Present Expectations

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Tolzein's Long-Term Promise Overshadows Present Expectations

There's a lot of hope out there right now about our backup quarterback position. Some of it is out of pure joy that there's actually a guy that looks like he can throw it upfield with a little zip. Some if it is out of self-convincing desperation that things aren't as bad as they looked on Sunday against an NFL-worst Philadelphia Eagle defense.

But with Scott Tolzein named the starter for next Sunday's game against the Giants, coupled with former fan favorite Matt Flynn returning from his coast-to-coast tour of duty, has some fans thinking that the Packers aren't as bad off while waiting for Aaron Rodgers to return from a dinged-up collarbone.

In fact, “The Tolzein Era” has some fans positively excited, and there's some reason to have some high hopes. If nothing else, Tolzein certainly has shown he has more vertical ability to press the ball into coverage than the other five quarterbacks who have been brought in this season to try and back up Rodgers.

But, always the realist, I'm going to offer a piece of advice: temper your highest of expectations for Tolzein, at least in the short run. I simply don't like building up a guy to be more than he is, then rip him apart when he doesn't fulfill those expectations. He seems like a great kid, and he has a lot of potential to be a lot more than any of the other backups we've auditioned this season, and possibly could surpass Flynn in pure ability to command a huddle when needed.

But for right now? Tolzein is going to go through the same growing pains that every other NFL quarterback goes through early in their career. That struggle to slow the game down and make the wise decisions were on high display in the early 1990's as Brett Favre frustrated Mike Holmgren's efforts to rein him in. Even Rodgers was nowhere near ready for prime time in his first few seasons. Luckily, he spent those seasons mastering his craft so that he was able to hit the ground running in 2008.

While watching him live at the game on Sunday, Tolzein at first played within the gameplan that appeared to have been set up around Seneca Wallace and the talent he brought to the table. A short passing game, avoiding throws longer than ten yards, and keeping them on a beeline to receivers running mostly out patterns, curls, and hooks. Easy stuff for a second-stringer. No timing patterns, no long passes, and an avoidance of throws that required leading the receiver too far.

But as the game progressed, Tolzein became more confident, putting balls in traffic...and completing them. Sure, some of them were a bit high, but the receivers—and Jarrett Boykin in particular—went up and got them. He has an arm, and as those balls went zinging up the field, you can guess that the shaky Eagle secondary wasn't quite expecting it after preparing for Wallace all week.

But that's the point: the Eagles were not only the leagues 32nd-ranked pass defense in the league going into the game, they had no idea that Tolzein was going to fire it right at them, daring them to pick it off. And the league's worst defense didn't have a whole lot they could have done about it if they had prepared for it.

While the Packers are facing two highly struggling teams over the next two games (from which Rodgers has effectively been nixed from returning to play), the Giants secondary is going to be a step up, however slightly, from what Tolzein faced in his first playing time. Furthermore, the G-Men has some tape to watch and a better idea of his tendencies.

In other words, the Giants will look to capitalize on what the Eagles couldn't do, whether out of lack of preparation or lack of talent. The Giants secondary, beat up but improving this season, now sits at 10th overall in the league in Defensive Passer Rating at ColdHardFoobtallFacts. Those two interceptions Tolzein threw on Sunday weren't bad throws, they were bad decisions. Look for the Giants to rattle Tolzein early and bait him into more bad decisions, as well as putting themselves in position to get in the way of the passes he tries to force into coverage.

That stated, Tolzein has a bright future, thanks to his strong arm and work ethic. But he's got some growing pains to get through. Perhaps he will shine and have a fantastic game, and no one will be happier than me if he does. Certainly, having the Vikings on the schedule the week after bodes well for a great game for anyone under center for the Packers.

But before we anoint him as the clearly superior option to Matt Flynn, let's see how he does. And let's give him some room to grow. The payoff in the long run could well be worth it, but he's going to need patience.  I'd hate to see people knocking him as a one-game wonder if he doesn't deliver to their expectations this Sunday.

He has the potential to be so much more.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (31) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Longshanks's picture

"Thompson fell asleep at the wheel after Rodgers took over the starting job. The mess the Packers find themselves in right now falls squarely at the feet of the general manager."

You still haven't apologized for your last article and those comments above. Will you admit you jumped the gun dissing Teddy Tee like you did?

I say not only was Thompson not asleep but he now has the best backups in all of football.


Beep's picture

Hey shankopotomus, who does CD owe an apology to?
a) TT
b) You
c) None of the above
Don't answer.
Its a fair criticism in the last post by CD that TT has whiffed on a few back up QB's.

Back to the article at hand here, Tolzein came in to last game with a low bar to hurdle that he definitely set higher for this next game. I agree with CD here in hoping that fans temper their expectations that Tolzein could just as easily go 12-30 with 3 INT as he could go 24-39 similar to last week except no INT's from some better decision making. I hope Tolzein can just keep the offense on track enough to hopefully score more points than the defense allows because thats how you win a game.

jeremy's picture

Let's hope Tolzien throws the ball less than thirty times in this next game. Feed the ball to Lacy and Starks instead, take some pressure off the QB.

Bibbon Hazel's picture

More than one called screen pass would be good too!

packeraaron's picture

Dude. Preach. The lack of a screen game the last two weeks has been absolutely baffling.

RC Packer Fan's picture

How about just using the RB's in the Passing game in general?

Doesn't just have to be a screen pass, get them on swing passes, dump offs, have them run some routes...

denniseckersley's picture

I don't get it. Call me spoiled but I thought I saw some pretty lousy QB play on Sunday. I wasn't really upset because I didn't expect much, but I was still disgusted with a handful of plays.

What about that slant than Jordy ran when he got wide open? Tolzien's throw was terrible. I mean, I'm fine with the guy as a backup I guess but I don't understand the mini-love affair. He threw a pick on the 5 yard line that was returned 70 yards the other way.

I understand that he's brand new to the organization and didn't take any snaps last week... but he was also at home against the worst defense in the league.

The term "Tolzien Era" should not be a thing.

Evan's picture

Most of what you said is true - the pick was bad, the Jordy overthrow was bad. But he took no snaps that week. He was running plays for the very first time. All things considered, I thought he played better than could ever be expected.

denniseckersley's picture

I think he played better than I would have expected also.....but that's mostly because I expected very little of him. He's brand new, he's backing up Seneca Wallace, and if he was any good you'd think he wouldn't have bounced around the league this often.

He played okay, but I think it will be very difficult for him to win any games for us.

Evan's picture

Yeah, a lot of this "hype" is because he exceeded everyone's expectations, which were less than zero. I'm excited to see what he does when he actually knows the plays he's running.

RC Packer Fan's picture

He was only with San Francisco. He got released from them and came to Green Bay. He wasn't bounced around the league.

Evan's picture

I had written out the same response before googling him and discovering he was with San Diego for a short bit before SF. But, yeah, "bounced around" is a bit of an exaggeration.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Ok, my apologies. I forgot he was with San Diego.

But yes, he hasn't bounced around the league. That was the comment I was referring too..

Longshanks's picture

The term “Tolzien Era” should not be a thing.

Yes, I noticed that too. Didn't care for that term by Angeli. Excellent point Dennis.


denniseckersley's picture

"Those two interceptions Tolzein threw on Sunday weren’t bad throws, they were bad decisions."

The first INT was a very bad throw. There was nothing wrong with the decision. All he had to do was throw it to Jordy's outside shoulder in the corner of the endzone. He missed bad underneath and the DB took off with it.

djbonney138's picture


jeremy's picture

I remember saying the same thing to my wife about the corner. But, Tolzien made the wrong throw, it was a bad decision.

Stroh's picture

Jordy was open, but the ball was badly underthrown. Have to put the ball over the top on that play in the end zone. Poor, Poor throw.

dawg's picture

Tolzens prep work this week will workout fine, as long as he doesn't get injured
I like em, showed some moxie.

Nerd's picture

Yeah, they'll have a little bit of film of him to study.

But he'll also now have a week to prepare and, you know, get reps in practice.

The Giants won't have film of him in action where he had gotten reps, and in fact where the game plan was built around his skill set.

I'm not expecting greatness, but I'm still more worried about the D.

RunAndHyde's picture

If we could get a fumble recovery or even better....waiiiit forrrrr INTERCEPTION this game could actually go in our favor. And for those of you who don't know what an interception is because we have had like ...2 or 3 this season. An interception is when the opposing qb throws it and one of our players catches it.

Longshanks's picture



Longshanks's picture

"The Giants won’t have film of him in action where he had gotten reps"

Excellent point Nerd. Saw Larry McCarren on the news talking about Tolzein tonight. The players are raving about his smarts, his command and just his focus to detail. Saw him zipping balls in practice and looked really good. Unlike Angeli I am raising the bar for this guy. My expectations are high for Tolzein. Why not I say!! This guy could be the next Greg I mean Tom Brady!!


UP-Packer's picture

Tolzien looked stronger & more aggressive than at anytime I can remember at Wisconsin. He actually can make some major league throws that were never part of his college days.

However, CD is correct. Tolzien is making his 1st NFL start on the road against a team that has won 3 in a row. The Giants will force Tolzien to beat them with his arm by stuffing the box. ---- Young QBs throw interceptions, many interceptions.

MM better have some plays ready to call that take the pressure off the QB. --- Tolzien is not AR.

Longshanks's picture

No he's not Aaron Rodgers but he's not a rookie either. This guy has kind of gone the same route as Rodgers though where he has sat back and basically had a chance to learn the mental part and in that regard he's definately on par with Rodgers.

He prepares and took advantage of every chance he could get so if he went in he would be ready. We all saw against Phili that at least he was ready and didn't look out of place.

He has learned from Philip Rivers, Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick who are all good solid qb's in the NFL. He's probably been the quiet one sitting in the meetings putting in the long hard work that nobody noticed except a few great scouts like TT.

Now Tolzein (like Rodgers in 2008)is getting his chance like Wallace did last week. This is his chance of a lifetime and could change his life forever. (see Matt Flynn if you don't believe me)

I have no doubt already he has the mental part down and he also has the physical skills to get it done in the NFL. Sunday is the first day of the rest of Tolzein's life and like Rodgers did against MN in 2008 in his first start, I say Tolzein shines!!


ohenry78's picture

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that if he comes out of the game un-injured, he will have exceeded the expectations of most of Packer Nation considering our string of luck.

Longshanks's picture

lol.. come on man!! Have a little faith!! It's all we have right now!!

The sad part is we could actually win the super bowl if we can win these next two games without Rodgers. I am asking..fuck it I am DEMANDING everyone think postiively about this Giants game!! We need all onboard!! No negative Nancys!! (Does saying Nancys make me a sexist?)


ricky's picture

LosAngelis, as always, good to read your comments.

Of course, its a good idea to temper our expectations of what Tolzien can do. He was, as you noted, playing against the worst defense in the league. Also, he was replacing Wallace, who looked really, really bad agsinst the Bears.

Now, as to whether the Packers can keep him long term, that remains to be seen. After all, there are a lot of QB hungry teams in the NFL. Recall that Seattle gave up a high draft pick for Charley Whitehurst a few years ago, then paid a high price to land Flynn in FA. So, the idea that the Packers now have a long term backup to Rodgers is very premature speculation. Also, it was only one game. Lets see what he does in the rest of the month (this assumes Rodgers will be returning for the Falcons game).

As far as Flynn goes, lets first see if his arm is OK Then try to understand why he was passed over by every team in the league when he was on waivers. It seems a lot of fans believe his performance against the Lions was representative of what he can do. I believe it was a fluke against a really poor defense. Similar to what Foles did against Oakland. Oh, and the game against NE? Anyone else recall that Flynn threw a pick-six in that loss? One game wonders don't impress me. Just ask Denver about Don Horn (Packers).

Evan's picture

"Now, as to whether the Packers can keep him long term, that remains to be seen."

He already did sign a 2-year extension.

Lou's picture

I would not trade Ted Thompson for any GM in the NFL, his overall consistent results stand on their merits. But, since Flynn left they have been skating on thin ice hoping Rodgers doesn't get hurt and now are paying the price. In my posts since Flynn left I was promoting acquiring a Colt McCoy type (young but decent starting experience) and Ted kept "hoping" that Harrell's arm got stronger and his deer in the headlights daze in the pocket disappeared. Worse yet they had a physically functional 3rd QB in Coleman who was so far in over his head that even if he did pick it up it was several years down the road. Those two were so bad that they actually reached for Vince Young with no time to devout to him. Tolzien better be the answer or Ted will doing what he does not like to do, answer media question again and again about the QB position.

PackerPete's picture

who is this Tolzein you speak of? "Tolzein" era? We must have signed a new QB, my last info was that Scott Tolzien will be starting against the Giants. But well, Tolzien probably pulled a groin in practice, so they signed Tolzein and he will start an era. Must have missed the announcement that they put Tolzien on IR and signed Tolzein instead...

All joking aside, I saw a good game with 2 very good QBs last night in the Ball State at Northern Illinois game. That Ball State QB is real good, he will play in the NFL. So will a few other guys on Ball State, especially that Snead IV and the TE.
Northern Illinois is a very good team with a good QB, but he's like Tebow (just stronger arm), so he won't get a shot at playing QB in the NFL but probably RB or TE.

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