The Green Bay Packers should place a call to Colin Kaepernick in the wake of Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone
If you want to look on the bright side after the devastating Aaron Rodgers broken collarbone, Packer Nation, think of this: Your team is 4-2, tied for first place in the NFC North with 10 games to play. The Packers are 3-0 at home, and the next five weeks are, relatively speaking, exceedingly kind: New Orleans at home, bye, Detroit at home, at Chicago, Baltimore at home. That takes you to Thanksgiving. Conceivably, the Packers can stay in it while Brett Hundley gets some experience and Mike McCarthy game-plans to hide the QB’s weaknesses.
Realistically, though, no very good team in the NFL is more reliant on its starting quarterback this season than the Packers are on Rodgers. New England could lose Tom Brady and win with Jimmy Garoppolo; the Patriots, briefly, did last year—with Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. The Chiefs, I believe, would have a better chance to keep winning with the totally untested Pat Mahomes if Alex Smith went down. Philadelphia has Nick Foles. Atlanta has Matt Schaub. Denver has Brock Osweiler (5-2 as a Broncos starter). Who makes that final drive in Dallas last week other than Rodgers, the frisky marksman? Who wins the playoff game in Dallas last year? Rodgers’ rare combination of elusiveness, running ability and precision is unmatched in football, now and maybe forever.
“It’s devastating, no question,” Packers wideout Randall Cobb said. “We still have to play football. We have a long season ahead of us to figure out what we’re going to do.”
My opinion: The Packers should call Colin Kaepernick on Monday morning. Not necessarily to sign him. If I were general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy, I’d want to meet with Kaepernick to see if he’d be willing to come in as a backup to Hundley while he took a crash course in the offense. If they’re impressed enough with his approach and his conditioning, they could sign him and groom him to be Hundley’s backup—and, if Hundley struggles mightily (as he did Sunday at Minnesota) in the next game or two, then McCarthy can judge whether Kaepernick or number three quarterback Joe Callahan gives the Packers the best chance to win. With the bye week coming up after Sunday’s game against the Saints, that would give the staff 19 days between now and the game after New Orleans to see how much Kaepernick could absorb, and to see if he can be better than Hundley or Callahan.
Maybe Kaepernick can be a fit. Maybe he can’t. And this grievance Kaepernick filed could complicate things too. I just know that if I were the Packers, I would want to feel very good about my quarterback situation when the rest of my team is a solid playoff contender.
The injury to Rodgers is a rerun of the 2013 season, when, in the eighth game of the season, Rodgers broke his left collarbone, also in a key division game the Packers went on to lose. The Bears won that day at Lambeau Field. Rodgers returned exactly eight weeks later to beat the Bears at Soldier Field in the last game of the season, the NFC North title game as it turned out. Green Bay went 2-4-1 without Rodgers, using Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien.
This time it’s Week 6. Missing eight weeks would put Rodgers back in the lineup in time for the season’s last four games—though there’s no indication this is the exactly same injury with the same timetable for return, and because this injury is to his throwing side, it’s logical to think it will take longer for him to return. There’s no way to know how long Rodgers will miss, or whether he’ll be able to return this season at all.
Hundley is a fifth-round pick from UCLA with zero NFL starts. Callahan is an undrafted free-agent from Wesley College in Dover, Del., with zero NFL passes. And the line in front of Hundley is battered; both starting tackles—David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and Bryan Bulaga (possible concussion)—could be hampered when they’re needed most.
If you’re waiting for the Kaepernick cavalry, you’ll be waiting a long time. Probably forever. “Brett Hundley’s my quarterback,’’ coach Mike McCarthy said after the game. “Joe Callahan is the backup.”
It’s hard to imagine the Packers surviving this blow and making the playoffs this year. If they do, it will be the best coaching job in McCarthy’s career.