The battle for the backup quarterback position promises to be one of the most interesting when the Green Bay Packers open training camp for the 2018 season on July 26. While Aaron Rodgers is the undisputed starter when healthy, both incumbent Brett Hundley and newcomer DeShone Kizer will battle for the right to be the one the team relies on if Rodgers needs a rest or is unable to play.
The Packers are likely to keep only one of these two candidates on the final roster, so the battle is potentially career-altering for both candidates.
Head coach Mike McCarthy had been grooming Hundley since the Pack drafted him in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft. The UCLA alum only threw two passes in his first two NFL seasons, but when Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone in October, Hundley was pressed into starting duty.
Hundley’s performance was a major disappointment for the Packers. He completed 60.8 percent of his passes for a paltry 5.8 yards per attempt. Hundley threw for 9 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and had a very mediocre quarterback rating of 70.6.
Worst of all, Hundley left a lot of potential plays on the field, missing open receivers and failing to make the right reads.
While the Packers were off to a 4-1 start under Rodgers, the club was only 3-6 in the games Hundley started.
“Brett Hundley wasn’t ready for what he needed to be ready for,” McCarthy told reporters at the combine in February. “That’s something that we have to learn from. And that stings.”
While Hundley was struggling in Green Bay, Kizer had his own problems while starting 15 games as a rookie for the Cleveland Browns last season.
The Browns were the worst team in football, going winless for the season and Kizer was 0-15 as a starter. Still, the Notre Dame alum showed some grit and promise despite making many typical rookie mistakes reading defenses and making decisions.
New GM Brian Gutekunst saw a lot of promise in Kiser when he traded starting CB Damarious Randall to Cleveland to acquire a new backup quarterback. The Browns selected Kizer in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft and he finished the season with a 53.6 completion percentage while throwing for 11 touchdowns and 22 picks.
“I think he has exceptional arm talent,” McCarthy told ESPN shortly after the trade. “What we’re asking him to do is, particularly the footwork and just how he fits the scheme, and how he operates is brand new to him. That always excites me, because when you see that guy has no experience or background but has the ability, to me that’s an opportunity for a lot of growth, so I think he has a bright future.”
The Packers historically prefer to keep two quarterbacks on the roster under McCarthy. If there is a third QB, he is usually a developmental signal caller. That means that barring injury, the Pack will choose either Kizer or Hundley to be Rodgers’ backup this year.
Each candidate has some advantages as they head into training camp. Hundley is certainly more familiar with the Packers system and the returning receivers on the roster. Kizer has more arm strength and natural athletic ability. Both players need to prove themselves as quality NFL quarterbacks.
Since Gutekunst traded for Kizer, he has to be the favorite heading into training camp. If the competition is close, the younger, more talented ex-Brown is likely to get the nod since the new GM brought him in while Hundley was drafted by Ted Thompson’s regime.
The Packers brass has to be hoping that both Hundley and Kizer have strong preseasons and that the player who doesn’t win the job can be traded away for a mid-to-late round draft pick or perhaps a useful player.
Either way, the battle for the backup quarterback spot promises to be an interesting one. Packers fans have to be hoping it doesn’t have the same effect on the club’s season as it did in 2017.