Remember that one time Graham Harrell got into the game last year when it actually mattered? Of course you do, because by the time you’ve finished reading this sentence, the GIF to the left will have played about 6000 times. You might also remember it because it embodied perhaps the single scariest sequence of plays from the 2012 season.
Let me set the stage for you: the 1-2 Packers are hanging on to a narrow 21-17 lead over the Saints. Though it’s assumed the Packers should win this game (the Saints are 0-4, after all), New Orleans has been feisty, sticking with the Packers punch for punch. Fortunately, Aaron Rodgers has the Packers rolling, and they’ve negotiated deep into Saints’ territory and seem to have a good chance of extending the lead.
But suddenly, Rodgers is stumbling to the sideline holding his eye, the victim of a random poke during a tackle. Graham Harrell, the heretofore untested backup, comes onto the field, and it’s assumed he can execute a couple simple hand-offs as the Packers try to punch the ball in with Cedric Benson. That’s not the case, as he trips over his own feet (or probably Jeff Saturday‘s, to be fair) and fumbles the ball, gift wrapping a turnover for the Saints and giving Packer fans an unwelcome vision of T.J. Rubley. Four plays later, Drew Brees had the Saints in the end zone, and it felt for all the world like the 2012 season was all but over.
Fortunately, Rodgers returned and led the Packers to victory, and all was ultimately right with the world. But the lingering question remained: what if Aaron Rodgers really got hurt?
Fair or not, that’s the standard Harrell with have to live up to this off-season. Any grace period he had last season as the only other quarterback remotely familiar with the Packers’ offense is gone. B.J. Coleman has a year under his belt, and he has a big arm and bigger aspirations (probably) than hanging around on the practice squad again. (Note: I don’t actually know what his aspirations are. I just know practice squad guys don’t make a lot of cash, and I assume he’d like to have more money, not less.)
And let’s not forget Matt Brown, who may be a slightly more polished version of the version of B.J. Coleman we saw last year: a physically gifted quarterback from a small school hoping to make it on the big stage. Although it’s a long shot for him to make the 53-man roster, he’s definitely going to get a shot. Or he may just be a camp arm. Who knows?
So what should we expect from Mr. Harrell? Well, if he puts up numbers resembling last season’s pre-season finale, he’ll be golden. But seeing as that’s probably unlikely, he probably just needs to show he’s better than Mr. Coleman and the rookie Mr.Brown to make the roster.
After all, if Harrell has shown the Packers anything, it’s that going into a season with a backup who’s never played is a terrible idea.