GREEN BAY, Wis. — Seneca Wallace knows that he doesn’t have the talent of Aaron Rodgers. And it didn’t take a plea from one of the Green Bay Packers’ wide receivers for the former backup quarterback to understand that.
“Please, Seneca Wallace, don’t go out there and try to be the MVP quarterback,” receiver James Jones said. “Go out there, be Seneca Wallace, throw the ball around, have some fun.”
The broken collarbone suffered by Rodgers will keep him out at least three games, elevating Wallace to the starting job on a Packers team that has a 5-3 record and is in a three-way tie for the NFC North lead.
When Green Bay signed Wallace on Sept. 2, the team never hoped to actually see him on the field during a game. Well, maybe if it was Week 17 and the Packers were just resting Rodgers for the playoffs, but that’s it.
This is the reality facing Green Bay. Its star player is out. The one player that the Packers couldn’t afford to lose has been lost. Now Wallace has to try to keep the team afloat throughout the third quarter of the season.
“Obviously I’m not going to be Aaron Rodgers,” Wallace said. “He’s been doing great things here for years. My job is to try go in and maintain things at a good level and win some ballgames until he gets back good and healthy. That’s my job.”
It won’t be an easy job for Wallace. Rodgers has been making Green Bay’s offense run smoothly for the majority of his six years as the starter. At only age 29, Rodgers has already added such items as NFL Most Valuable Player, Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl MVP to his résumé, which led to him also becoming the highest-paid player in league history.
“There’s not a person on this team that has more responsibility and more duties than the quarterback, especially the way we run our offense with all the checks and everything,” receiver Jordy Nelson said.
Mike McCarthy, whose roles include head coach, offensive play-caller and offseason quarterback-school teacher, tried to keep a positive attitude this week after finding out that Rodgers will be unable to lead the Packers’ offense for a while. He hopes it results in his team showing its mettle. But it’s certainly going to make it more difficult for McCarthy to perform his roles well when it’s Wallace under center.
“I’d much rather play games with Aaron Rodgers,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy claimed to “have all the confidence in the world in Seneca” and encouraged everyone to read Wallace’s bio to explain why he feels that way about him. Well, Wallace’s bio doesn’t paint a picture that produces enormous amounts of confidence.
Through Wallace’s 10-year career, the 33-year-old has 31 touchdown passes. That number would be a below average single-season touchdown total for Rodgers, who had 39 last season and 45 the year before. And while wins and losses shouldn’t exclusively be pinned to a quarterback, Wallace has a 6-15 record as a starter in the NFL. Most recently, he went 0-3 as the Cleveland Browns’ starter in 2011.
“There’s not a single person in here panicking right now about this week,” Nelson said. “Obviously it would be great to have Aaron there, but that’s the situation we’re in and we’re going to rely on Seneca to go out and make plays.”
Wallace struggled to make plays when he came in for Rodgers in the first quarter of Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears. He completed 11 of 19 passes for 114 yards with no touchdown passes and one interception, which resulted in a passer rating of 53.4. The last time that Rodgers had a passer rating that low in a game in which he played all four quarters was never. Yes, never.
“I honestly do believe (Wallace) played fine,” Nelson said. “There’s some throws he’d probably like to have back, but we were able to make some plays and some of us didn’t help him out.”
The Packers are hoping that Wallace will be much improved Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles after working with the starters all week in practice. Before Rodgers’ injury, Wallace would take five snaps all week with the No. 1 offense. That lack of preparation had Wallace in what he deemed “survival mode” in Monday’s game. Now, though, nearly all practice snaps belong to Wallace.
“It makes a huge difference,” Wallace said. “When you’re able to get snaps with the ones and you’re able to see things clearly, that helps you out big time figuring out the timing and things like that with the receivers. And just from a comfortable level it helps out.”
Rodgers isn’t simply taking the month off to recover from his injury. He’s helping out Wallace any way that he can. That started Monday in the second half after Rodgers came to the sideline in a sweatsuit and it continued in Wednesday’s practice.
“Aaron’s going about it just as if he were playing in the game,” McCarthy said. “It’s important for him personally to stay mentally sharp, and as soon as he can get his feet moving, keep his footwork and all that intact. But he’s an excellent teammate. He’s going right through it right next to Seneca. He’s involved. I’ve never been through this in my time here, but he is extremely involved in the preparation of getting Seneca and Scott (Tolzien) ready.”
All that Green Bay’s players can do while Rodgers is out is throw their support behind Wallace and hope for the best. And that’s exactly what they’re doing.
“I’m very confident in Seneca,” Jones said. “I can’t tell you that he’s going to go out there and break franchise records, but I’m very confident in him and we’re going to go out there and win a game.”