Following a Super Bowl ring to end the 2010 season and a 15-1 record along with numbers that earned him the NFL MVP award in 2011, Aaron Rodgers had quite a bit to live up to in 2012. While his numbers declined a bit, which most experts saw as all but inevitable before the season began, Rodgers still had an outstanding 2012 season worthy of MVP consideration for a second consecutive season. After a slow start that led to a 2-3 record for Green Bay, Rodgers threw for just under 4,300 yards and 39 touchdowns against only eight interceptions, entrenching himself as one of the very best the game has to offer at the all important quarterback position. However, one number that has to be alarming to the Packer faithful is 51, as in the number of sacks Rodgers took in 2012, miraculously Rodgers was able to stay healthy enough to answer the bell for every start, however, with the amount of hits Rodgers takes due to his propensity for holding onto the football, not to mention his underrated abillity to pull it down and run it when an open receiver can't be found, the team would be wise to not tempt fate and bring in a quarterback they can rely upon to keep them in the game should disaster strike in the future. After watching Brett Favre make every start for the Green and Gold for over a decade, followed by Rodgers only missing one start in his first five seasons as Favre's successor, you can understand why the organization may feel somewhat charmed when it comes to avoiding injury at the all important quarterback position, but that kind of dillusional could prove costly on any given snap. The Packers felt somewhat secure behind Rodgers in 2010 and 2011 with Matt Flynn backing up number 12, and their confidence proved well founded when Flynn took the field. First, Flynn more then held his own in a losing effort against Tom Brady and the Patriots in a late season nationally televised Sunday night showdown in Foxboro, nearly pulling off a shocking upset victory against the heavily favored Patriots, and then in the regular season finale in 2011, Flynn set a Packer single game record with seven touchdown passes, outdueling Matthew Stafford and the playoff bound Lions at Lambeau Field. However, those two outstanding efforts made the rest of the NFL take notice, and when Flynn's rookie contract expired following the 2011 season, the Seattle Seahawks rewarded him with a three year $19.5 million contract the Packers weren't willing to match for a backup. Ironically, Flynn ended up as the number two man on the depth chart again, after rookie Russell Wilson shocked the organization with his outstanding play in the 2012 preseason , earning him the starting job over Flynn to open the storybook 2012 season for the team from the Pacific Northwest, meaning Flynn may again find a new home this coming offseason.
But none of that changes the fact that after Flynn's departure, the Packers handed the clipboard to unproven Graham Harrell, who had spent most of the previous two season's on the Packer practice squad behind both Rodgers and Flynn. The hope was that his two year apprenticeship had prepared Harrell to be the guy behind the guy in Green Bay, however a shaky performance in the preseason, and reports of less then impressive play in practice throughout the season in 2012 make the backup quarterback slot in Green Bay one of considerable concern for the Packer faithful. While the organization, most notably head coach Mike McCarthy still speak optimistically about Harrell's ability to handle the role in public, there has to be some concern about what would happen if the unthinkable occured and Rodgers went down for any considerable amount of time. The Packers would be wise to address the situation in the 2013 offseason, some names that would be capable of the job include Brady Quinn who appeared in 10 games for the Chiefs in 2012, Jason Campbell, who backed up Jay Cutler for the division rival Bears this past season, and Matt Moore, who lost the starting job in Miami to first round pick Ryan Tannehill after a somewhat impressive 2011 campaign. All three would have to be considered upgrades from Harrell based on both experience and physical tools, however, all three would likely represent some of the higher paid number two quarterbacks in the game, and all three, Moore in particular, may be looking for situations where they could compete for a starting job. Ted Thompson has historically shied away from free agency, and it's unlikely he would be willing to shell out much less then something hovering around the veterans minimum for a backup quarterback. Some of the potentially lower priced options that could be brought in to push Harrell include Derek Anderson (Carolina), Bruce Gradkowski (Cincinnati), Drew Stanton (Indianapolis), Chase Daniel (New Orleans), Rex Grossman (Washington), David Carr (New York Giants), or Matt Leinart (Oakland). Anderson, Carr, and Grossman are likely a little "too experienced" for the youth-loving Thompson to consider, the two most intriguing names on that list may be Gradkowski and Daniel. While Gradkowski lacks the size and physical tools team's look for in a starting quarterback, the former Toledo star has shown the leadership ability, intelligence, and football moxie to rally his teammates behind him to win football games when called upon, with the Bengals, as well as during his stops in Tampa Bay and Oakland. While the Bengals clearly have their quarterback of the future in Andy Dalton, Gradkowski represents everything you want in a number two, so signing him away from Cincinnati may prove difficult. Chase Daniel has served a three year apprenticeship behind fellow 6'0 quarterback Drew Brees after entering the league undrafted in 2009 out of Missouri and being released by the Washington Redskins after one season as their number three. He's shown flashes of brilliance during three preseasons and occasional mop-up duty for the Saints, but at 6'0 225 with limited arm strength and only above average athletic ability he's unlikely to get a look from any team's looking for a starter. However, he's spent three season's learning behind one of the very best in Drew Brees, as well as head coach Sean Payton, so you know he knows how to prepare during the week, a key component for any number two quarterback. Daniel has good feet and makes up for his lack of size by knowing how to find throwing lanes, if he could be obtained at relatively cheap price tag, he could be an ideal candidate to backup Rodgers, and would likely represent a significant upgrade over the incumbent Harrell. At the very least, the acquisition of either Gradkowski or Daniel could push Graham Harrell to earn his spot on the roster, if he were able to beat out either of these two more proven options, it would prove he belongs in the role of Aaron Rodgers' understudy, and if he weren't, both of these options would likely erase, or at least make less terrifying those nightmares that include the words "Rodgers is down!".
Another less likely option due to the potential distraction he could represent is.....genuflect and wait for it...that's right, Bethlehem's favorite signal caller Tim Tebow. Two season's removed from his magical ride in Denver that saw Tebow become the biggest story in football, if not sports, and a season removed from a far less biblical experience in the Big Apple that saw his own teammates call him "terrible" in the media, and his head coach show so little confidence in him that he skipped over Tebow in favor of number three man Greg McElroy after benching Mark Sanchez for the final two weeks of the season, Tebow's future in the NFL is very uncertain going into 2013. The one thing that does appear certain is he won't be returning to New York for a second season. The Jets will likely take just about anything they can get to rid themselves of the former Heisman Trophy winner, the smart money being Tebow's hometown Jacksonville Jaguars will bring him home, a move second year owner Shad Khan wanted to make a season ago, but was talked out of by the football personnel department and coaching staff. However, if Khan is convinced to resist again, the next most likely suitor may very well be the Green Bay Packers. Head coach Mike McCarthy let it be publicly known prior to the 2010 draft that he admired Tebow and would welcome the opportunity to attempt to develop him into an NFL quarterback. It may be a long shot, but Green Bay could be the perfect destination for Tebow, a place where his role would be clearly defined as the number two man, giving him time to develop his rough edges, and giving Green Bay a backup behind Aaron Rodgers who not only has playoff experience, but knows a thing or two about playing under pressure. Tebow would also give the Packers the sub-package weapon, giving them another option in short yardage situations, and forcing opposing coaching staffs to prepare for more then just the Aaron Rodgers led high octane passing attack.
The final, and frankly most likely option in upgrading the backup quarterbacking situation for Green Bay would of course be the NFL Draft. We all know Ted Thompson prefers the draft and develop philosophy in building a franchise, and at no other position is that more true then at quarterback. In fact, during Thompson's tenure with the Packers, he has yet to bring in a veteran quarterback from another franchise who has made the opening day roster, even after Brett Favre "retired" in 2008 and Aaron Rodgers was named the starter, his two backups were a pair of rookies drafted by Thompson in the 2008 draft, Brian Brohm who was selected out of Louisville in the second round, and the aforementioned Flynn out of LSU in the seventh. Brohm turned out to be a major disappointment and against all odds was convincingly beaten out by Flynn for the number two job. Since then, the only quarterbacks brought into the Packer organization have been undrafted free agents such as Harrell, or last season's seventh round pick BJ Coleman out of Tennessee-Chattanooga. Coleman does have some impressive physical tools, and with a full off season in the Mike McCarthy quarterback school could be a dark horse to push Harrell as well, but the most likely candidate, if any, will likely come in the middle to late rounds of the 2013 draft. While it's far too early to speculate which quarterbacks in this draft class Thompson might be sweet on, it's unlikely Thompson would use any picks before the fifth round on a quarterback, given the team's much more glaring needs at other positions.