GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a tradition that stretches more than a decade, here is our annual ranking of the 90 players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster. This isn’t merely a look at the best players. Rather, it’s a formula that combines talent, salary, importance of the position, depth at the position and, for young players, draft positioning. More than the ranking, we hope you learn a little something about every player on the roster.
No. 25: QB Tim Boyle (6-4, 232, third season, Eastern Kentucky)
In some ways, nothing has changed for Boyle over the past 12 months.
At this time last year, he was getting ready to challenge DeShone Kizer to be the team’s No. 2 quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers. Entering this year’s training camp, he’s getting ready to battle Jordan Love to be the No. 2.
In other ways, everything changed. Boyle, statistically one of the worst starting quarterbacks in college football history, beat out Kizer, a highly touted prospect from prestigious Notre Dame, for the backup job last year. Over the span of the next five months, Boyle “became a veteran,” in the words of quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Luke Getsy.
“He became a pro last year,” Getsy continued in the accompanying video. “I thought when the competition for the backup role ended, he opened up tremendously and grew so much. The mental part of his game is at a whole other level now. We’re so lucky to have him, especially at a time like this when we aren’t able to be together as much as we usually are.”
In his two seasons in Green Bay, he’s been a sponge around Rodgers. Famously, after Rodgers returned from a knee injury to beat Chicago in the Week 1 opener, Boyle wore an authentic No. 12 jersey to the stadium the next day. When Rodgers is enveloped by reporters for his weekly media availability, Boyle lingers just to Rodgers’ right to soak up every word.
The idolatry has shown up a bit on the field.
“OTAs and training camp, I’ve seen a change in my approach and I think my play,” Boyle said last summer. “When you’re around a dude who throws like Aaron, I’ll feel myself in the pocket, and Aaron does some funky stuff with his arm angles, and I feel myself doing that. Right after I do it, I almost feel like, ‘Wow, that was almost Aaron Rodgers-esque.’ He’s definitely rubbing off on me a little bit. I obviously have my own style and my own rhythm, but being around him has really improved my game both physically and mentally. I feel like I belong. I definitely feel like my confidence is on the rise.”
His connection with Rodgers shows up off the field, too. As you’d expect, their bond grew tighter last season because of Boyle’s added importance on the roster. Being the No. 2 quarterback isn’t the easy paycheck that some make it out to be. He’s expected to be ready to play winning football at a moment’s notice but might not get any practice reps to actually get ready. Rodgers and Boyle communicate frequently while outside the building, with Boyle picking the former MVP’s brain while offering his own film observations. The coaches put Boyle in charge of the Friday quarterback quiz, a final exam of sorts regarding the upcoming opponent.
“You feel like you're more invested in what's going on,” Boyle said at the end of the season. “This year, I definitely felt like I took a step in the right direction. Understanding conceptually what they're looking for here. I understand this offense super-well now with it being (installed).”
The Boyle who will arrive for his third NFL training camp hardly resembles the Boyle who labored through three seasons at Connecticut. That Boyle completed 48.4 percent of his passes with an unthinkably bad one touchdown vs. 13 interceptions from 2013 through 2015. Since 2000, no major-college quarterback with at least 200 career passing attempts owns a worse passer rating than Boyle, with his collegiate mark of 77.9 equating to an NFL mark of 42.6. No major-college quarterback with more than 200 career pass attempts threw fewer touchdowns.
Boyle, in a word, was terrible. He transferred to Eastern Kentucky, regrouped mentally as a redshirt in 2016 but still threw more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (11) as a redshirt senior in 2017. Not surprisingly, he went undrafted in 2018.
Boyle is not a terrible NFL quarterback. In fact, he's shown signs of being quite capable. He was the clear winner in the backup derby last summer. With six touchdowns and zero interceptions, he had a league-best 112.9 passer rating. In the regular season, he got in a couple games and completed 3-of-4 passes for 15 yards at the end of the loss to San Francisco.
Boyle boasts a big arm, intelligence and a willingness to learn. Those ingredients don’t guarantee anything, of course, but they beat the alternative.
“Tim really opened up I think throughout the year last year, and I saw him kind of grow up a little bit and be more comfortable kind of being himself and speaking up and having questions and asking them in the room,” Rodgers said last summer. “Some of the best players we’ve had around here who haven’t played right away kind of have that approach where they’re a sponge. They’re going to soak up as much as they can information-wise from the guys in the locker room, the guys in their room.”
Why he’s got a chance: Yeah, he’s got to beat out Love to remain the No. 2 quarterback. That’s no slam dunk, obviously. The Packers paid a high price to get Love in terms of draft capital and money. Sometimes, those things dictate personnel decisions. Nonetheless, having a full year in the system will give Boyle a huge opening advantage over Love, whose development has been severely stunted by the pandemic. If the No. 2 job will be predicated solely on which quarterback gives the team the best chance to win should something happen to Rodgers – and in this COVID world, anything is possible – then it would seem Boyle would have the advantage.