A Violent Femme's View – How Do You Like Me Now
In watching the Packers’ personnel moves in the off season, I realized early on how committed Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson were to Graham Harrell being the backup quarterback. While they drafted BJ Coleman, that was a late round pick and it was obvious that they were looking for something to develop with him. (Which, incidentally, after seeing him throw zingers in practice, is what I think will happen.)
I had no preconceived notions about Harrell. While I wouldn’t say I blindly worship MM and TT (although some think I do) I trust their judgement when it comes to quarterbacks. MM is one of the best QB developers around, something confirmed by the great article Ty Dunne wrote about him recently. I figured we’d see how he developed in preseason. In practice, from what I observed, he looked fine. Nothing spectacular, but nothing alarming either.
But there were doubters. And a lot of them. The subject of how the backup quarterback would play took on a life of its own, as these things tend to do with Packer fans.
Then the games began. I admit, in the first one I was a little taken aback. It wasn’t just Harrell, the whole team looked substandard and flat. Having seen this in the playoffs, the last thing I wanted to see was flat in preseason. With Harrell, I believed that it was just jitters and the reality of finally getting to play in something close to a true NFL game. That’s what preseason’s for. Still wasn’t too worried.
By game four, the vast majority of Packer Nation was in a true state of panic. The state of affairs for the Packers, should Aaron Rodgers go down (something, truly that we need to expect to happen given the concussion history, and if he’s out for the season, bye bye playoffs) and the team had to depend on Harrell to lead them, was a topic of concern on the radio, both by hosts and callers alike. Tweets abounded on everything from getting Colt McCoy to disdain for MM, who steadfastly defended his backup QB.
I’ll admit, going into game four, even I was getting a little worried. I was trying to keep in mind that a) Harrell had still been getting up to speed and b) he had been playing behind an offensive line that lived up to its name – it was truly offensive. Graham was running for his life, a little nugget of information that seemed to be widely ignored.
Also forgotten in the whirlwind of concern and criticism is a key fact – Harrell missed basically an entire year of development thanks to that fun thing we all went through called the lockout. That can’t help. It doesn’t mean that he’d be light years better, but one would hope that indeed he would have been vastly improved. The prep, including QB camp, that MM requires can’t be underestimated – it’s important.
Last, but not least, very few backup QBs come in with no playing time whatsoever and look stellar. I remember Aaron Rodgers looking less than promising in some preseason games (and me being decidedly upset when He Who Must Not Be Named’ was pulled in the 2007 Detroit game I attended, and by then Aaron was a lot better). I also remember the fears before the Patriot game in the Super Bowl run when Flynn had to start. What we’d seen until then did not indicate how well Matty would perform when he was surrounded with a high level of talent.
As we all know, game four was everything we wanted to see (well, it was for me). Harrell looked poised and confident. He had much better blocking, giving him time to execute plays, and of course having Jermichael Finley to throw the ball to doesn’t hurt either. A perfect passer rating? Wonderful. He silenced many of his critics, although there are still those, like Dave from Packers Therapy, who still think that he is only worthy of being 3rd string. (Usually I agree with Dave. Not on this one.)
As stated by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “I knew I could do it,” Harrell said. “I think I told you all along, it wasn’t like we weren’t confident in ourselves. It wasn’t like I lost any confidence in myself throughout the preseason.”
He was classy. If I were Graham Harrell, I would have said, in the words of Toby Keith ‘How Do You Like Me Now’?
I’m glad I didn’t lose faith, kid. You’re going to be just fine.