Hundley Time: The Packers Don’t Need Identity Change To Make The Playoffs

Dan O'Shea

Unless you’re a fan of a team residing in the NFC North, you’ve been able to take comfort in the fact that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers would be good each and every year. You may not have caught yourself rooting for this team at any point, but sometimes, being able to rely on one constant keeps you sane.

The sustained success of Rodgers and Green Bay is needed now more than ever in one of the most unpredictable seasons in recent memory, but even the former MVP couldn’t avoid the chaos that has been unleashed upon the NFL and all those who support it. The Packers may look different without Rodgers behind center, but with Brett Hundley running the show, their offensive scheme won’t look any different and neither will their plans come January. Hundley may not be Rodgers, but that doesn’t alter Green Bay’s gameplan or their chances for a postseason berth.

Up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, you can only imagine that the area looks like the setting of “This Is The End” after finding out Rodgers will miss at least seven games after being placed on the IR. Their star child, their muse, their flame, has fallen. Tickets are practically free, and all hope is lost. It’s probably isn’t easy to watch the riots wage mayhem upon the businesses of Green Bay as fans try to find meaning to all of this, but maybe it’s time for everyone to put down their torches and pitchforks, and try to look at the positivity that comes with Brett Hundley.

The glass does not become half full by looking at Hundley himself. There is no quarterback on the planet or likely in this universe that can match what Rodgers does, and the first-time starter should not be asked to attempt to duplicate his production. When you take a step back and look at how he can still conduct this same offense, that’s when the clouds hovering over the Packers’ season don’t look as dark and stormy.

Hundley may not be a big-name backup that some would rather see in Green Bay, but the fact that he’s been on this team for a number of years should bring comfort to fans. He isn’t some rookie who is still trying to comprehend the difference between college and NFL playbooks. He may not be proven, but he’s a veteran quarterback that has been part of this system for three years now. This is not a circumstance where he has to come in and cram the offense into his brain in a matter of weeks like we’ve seen Sam Bradford and Jacoby Brissett do in similar replacement situations in the past. There is no need to dumb anything down or simplify the playbook. Being comfortable and familiar with the offense is the first step, and it’s safe to say Hundley has gotten that far.

You may not be able to tell through his limited time on the field as a pro, but Hundley is not without talent. Again, and this can’t be stated enough, he shouldn’t be expected to come in and put up Rodgers-like numbers. It would be like asking a “Grey’s Anatomy” fan to perform brain surgery. Still, his stats lead you to believe that he could be a good fit in this offensive scheme. During his final season at UCLA, Hundley completed 69.1% of his passes and racked up 3,1505 yards, 22 touchdowns, and just five interceptions. That kind of efficiency continued during preseason play, as Hundley put up a 10-2 touchdown/interception ratio, but it still isn’t his arm fans should be pumped about. It’s his legs.

Rodgers isn’t the running threat players like Cam Newton and Russell Wilson are, but one of his greatest strengths is his ability to extend the play. Just by looking at Hundley’s 644 yards and 10 touchdowns back in 2014, it’s clear he has the mobility needed to conduct this offense. As ridiculous as it sounds, Green Bay actually prepares for situations where the quarterback has to extend the play. The offensive line won’t have to change anything they’re doing in order to make up for the change in quarterback behind them, which will allow this team to continue business as usual.

The head of this business model is obviously Rodgers, but let’s not forget about the weapons all over the field. It’s easy to think the quarterback makes the receiver, but that certainly isn’t the case in Green Bay. Randall Cobb is still solid, Jordy Nelson is one of the best wideouts in the game, and Davante Adams is on his way to join him. You may think their stats and opportunities will take a hit with Rodgers out, but Nelson and Adams will still have plenty of chances with Hundley starting.

One of the easiest gameplans most teams never take advantage of is giving the ball to their best players as much as they can. Rodgers is not the only good player on this offense. With Hundley blindly pegging the ball at two of the better playmakers in the league, there’s no reason to think teams will finally be able to cover them.

Even if Hundley does fear the speed difference between meaningful NFL play and the scarce garbage time he’s had, Green Bay has two of the best check-down options available. Martellus Bennet may have struggled thus far as a Packer, but receiving simple check downs from Hundley could be the best way to get him back into a rhythm. Plus, Green Bay is getting their other check down option, former wide receiver turned running back Ty Montgomery back at full strength at the perfect time.

In the three games he was healthy before breaking his ribs against the Bears in Week 4, Montgomery had 18 catches on 23 targets for 129 yards and a score. Not having a traditional running back may hinder the Packers at times, but it will only help a quarterback get comfortable.

It’s clear that Green Bay’s personnel should be the reason why there’s no reason to freak out. With so many options all over the field, moving the ball and scoring shouldn’t ever be an issue for this team, no matter who’s behind center.

If looking at the offense and the ideal fit Hundley may be for it, you can look at the Packers’ history without Rodgers to attempt to quell your nerves. The last time the Packers dealt with a Rodgers broken collarbone, the team managed to still make the playoffs. The 2-5-1 record the team posted during that time might not be anything you’d like to hang your hat on, but Green Bay did see decent backup quarterback out of Matt Flynn. The Packers struggled with Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien, but Flynn managed to put up an average of 229 yards per game with seven touchdowns and four interceptions, good for a 2-2 record.

A best-case scenario .500 record isn’t exactly something that will stop Packers fans from sipping on bleach prior to life without Rodgers, but it truly could be enough. For those looking for a miracle, I present to you the rest of the NFC North.

Do any of those stats really strike fear into your heart? The Lions have one win in their last four contests, including a game where the Saints hung up 52 points on them. The Bears don’t even need to be spoken about as they will sit in the basement in the division even if you, the reader, play quarterback for the Packers. The Vikings are clearly the biggest threat, but we’ve seen this team collapse after a hot start just last season. Having Sam Bradford or Case Keenum as your biggest threat to a division title is not something to be worried about.

Even the Packers’ remaining schedule gives this team little to fear. The combined record of Green Bay’s remaining opponents is 25-27, with just Pittsburgh, Carolina, and possibly Minnesota looking like playoff teams. It’s not the worst slate imaginable for Hundley, as Green Bay has easy games against the Browns and Bears on the horizon.

There is simply no reason to focus on Wisconsin Badgers football instead of having faith in this team. As of right now, Rodgers still has a chance to be activated for the last two or three games of the season for the Packers. Thinking Green Bay can go 4-4 isn’t the most ridiculous thing in the world, and would absolutely put them in a position to make the playoffs. Hundley likely won’t ever be the demigod that Rodgers is deemed to be. He may not flex his championship belt or bring home hardware, but he will bring home one thing: a postseason berth.