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By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) I am well aware the following is a discussion of a hypothetical, but in no entertainment outlet do we find ourselves nearer to such a hypothetical than in football, especially in the NFL.
Of 80 possible starts, Aaron Rodgers has missed one due to injury since becoming the starting quarterback with the Green Bay Packers. He has been sacked 202 times in that span, including a league-leading 51 times last season.
Nobody who watches football would ever question Rodgers’s toughness. Surely he has played through pain, both that which shows up on the weekly injury report and that which just comes with being part of the 16 weekly car accidents of NFL life but goes unspecified.
But Rodgers is also defying injury odds. Quarterbacks who get sacked that much are supposed to be more than just sore.
In Chicago we’re all too familiar with wanting to know exactly what the Bears have in a second-string quarterback. Part of that lies in a segment of fans that are going to dislike Jay Cutler even if he brings the Lombardi Trophy back to Chicago for the first time since 1986 and therefore annually treat a backup as the favorite Bear.
Mostly, though, we’re cognizant of No. 2 on the depth chart because we’ve seen two seasons go from promising to toiletry with a Jay Cutler injury, one an NFC championship game loss to the Packers and another a derailed 7-3 start to a season. A lack of a competent backup QB was a major factor in fans calling for the head of former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo (and, in fairness, current GM Phil Emery’s choice of Jason Campbell last season, while initially praised by most, ended up a failure in Mike Tice’s offense).
Over the weekend Green Bay parted ways with Graham Harrell who saw little action as Rodgers’ backup the past two seasons, which presumably makes Vince Young the No. 2 QB (though head coach Mike McCarthy said/lied Sunday that there is still a competition for that role).
When Young was brought into Packer camp at the beginning of this month I evilly tweeted “I don’t root for injuries, but Vince Young starting games for the Packers would make me so giggly.” At the time I didn’t have any actual serious thoughts of Young captaining the Green Bay ship, though. But as he went from jobless to a hit to the wrong spot on Rodgers away from leading the team most in the way of the Bears competing for the NFC North title, I can’t help but put the Packers QB situation into familiar terms of consideration like we’ve seen in Chicago.
Evan Silva ranked Green Bay’s offensive line 18th in the league back in May and mentioned a “musical chairs” approach McCarthy took from 2012 to now after those 51 sacks given up. That right away would raise eyebrows in terms of being what mostly stands between a defense and an MVP quarterback. Then the best of that bunch, Bryan Bulaga, was knocked out for the season with an ACL tear. Rookie David Bakhtiari takes his place and was described by Rodgers thusly: “He’s young, he’s raw, doesn’t have the experience, but I think he has the confidence in himself. He’s very well coached, he had good fundamentals. It’s not easy playing left tackle in the NFL, especially when you have a right handed quarterback.”
It’s possible the Packers will go with a line featuring two new inexperienced starters and three that were part of the problem last year. That should not instill much confidence in the continued good luck Rodgers has had health-wise.
And what then if the ball is in Young’s hands? This is a man that didn’t play football in 2012, and not due to any injury but rather not being wanted by anybody despite being 31-19 as a starter, including the eventual 6-10 Buffalo Bills who cut him after three bad preseason performances in favor of Tarvaris Jackson to back up Ryan Fitzpatrick. If he is anything like what he showed as a Philadelphia Eagle in 2011—four touchdowns to eight interceptions and a QB rating of 60.8 in three starts (plus a pick in his only pass attempt in another game that season)—that will be a major problem in Cheesehead Country.
I understand that very few teams can stay afloat after losing a starting quarterback (the Bears with Cutler, he of the 148 sacks in 56 Chicago starts, would likely not be one of them), and Young right now is probably better than Todd Collins, Caleb Hanie, and Josh McCown as Bears, but that still doesn’t mean he’s good or a worthy safety net for a team that is a Super Bowl contender right now.
The Bears saw a pretty bad Matt Flynn with the Oakland Raiders Friday night (though that roster there isn’t doing him any favors), but as Rodgers’s backup he showed in a small sample size that the MVP’s absence wouldn’t necessarily sink the Packers. Starting two games instead of Rodgers (once due to a 14-1 record at the time) Flynn threw for 951 yards and nine touchdowns. Vince Young cannot match such totals even he ran for much of those yards and TDs.
And his legs are a point some like to make when discussing him. “He can make something out of nothing” is something you might hear about Young’s ability to scramble and net positive yards on a play where the secondary does its job. While that is true, in the Packers offense that Rodgers and a very good receiving corps has made run like a well-oiled machine most times, “nothing” should so rarely be an occurrence. Note, too, that Young has more career interceptions than games started, which isn’t alarming for pocket passers but is so for a guy known to be a “running quarterback.”
Young’s play in Friday’s preseason game vs. the Seattle Seahawks, which included a touchdown drive, helped establish his roster spot. From USA Today: “Young was fortunate the drive got to that point, because on his third play he threw directly to Seahawks linebacker Allen Bradford, who dropped an easy interception. But given new life, Young’s scrambling and throws on the run set up the Packers’ lone touchdown. His touchdown pass was a 1-yard throw to fullback Jonathan Amosa. Young’s other possession was ruined when he failed to handle an errant shotgun snap from Patrick Lewis.”
A player shouldn’t be penalized for playing well in the preseason as the alternative isn’t welcomed, but it should be noted that all that occurred against Seattle’s non-starters. Rex Grossman is the King of August after all.
The NFL’s cruel version of the law of averages is more likely than ever to find its way to Aaron Rodgers, particularly with some serious offensive line questions. Vince Young quarterbacking that team would invoke shades of Chicago’s recent past, and we here very much know what scary dice the Packers may be rolling in 2013.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa before earning his degree from Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @TimBaffoe , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.