GREEN BAY, Wis. — Seneca Wallace over Vince Young, Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman. At first glance, perhaps it didn’t make much sense when the Green Bay Packers chose Wallace instead of all three of their training camp backup quarterbacks, but the reasoning became much clearer Monday afternoon.
It seems the Packers want a true backup quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers. A veteran. Someone with a lot of NFL experience. Not a player like Young who’s looking to revive his career and earn one last shot at starting somewhere in the league. Not a player like Harrell who didn’t show much improvement in three seasons with Green Bay and whose only other professional football experience was with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Not a player like Coleman who is only 24 years old and still trying to learn about life in the NFL.
“Seneca Wallace has been in the league 11 years,” coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. “He’s been a backup quarterback primarily his whole career. He clearly understands the role, has a lot of experience in and out of systems. Just talking football with him last night, I felt confident that he’ll be ready to play Sunday. That was part of our conversation.”
The key phrase there is that Wallace “understands the role.” Wallace, 33 years old and now the second-oldest player on the Packers’ roster, is happy being a backup. It might sound strange for a competitive professional athlete, but Wallace has no problem standing on the sideline this season and helping Rodgers.
“I’m here, just providing my insight as far as a veteran goes,” Wallace said in the locker room. “I think it’s been some years since they had a veteran quarterback backup to try to help A-Rod during the game and during the meetings and things like that. Just some of the insight that I can provide being around for a long time.”
Wallace has a 6-13 career record as a starter, first with the Seattle Seahawks and most recently with the Cleveland Browns. The Packers need him ready in case Rodgers gets hurt, and Wallace’s 11 years in the NFL will help with that. But even Wallace is hoping that his starting record doesn’t read anything but “6-13” after this season.
“I’m pretty sure if something was to happen (to Rodgers), God forbid, that we would try to lean on some of the stuff that I learned in the past, just to try to get through it,” Wallace said. “But we’re not going to talk about that. We want the man to stay upright and continue to keep doing his thing.”
Wallace isn’t just saying the right thing for the sake of his new team. He’s comfortable in the career he’s carved out for himself as a player who’s best suited to be No. 2 on a depth chart.
“Look, it’s been a blessing for me to keep playing this game,” Wallace said. “I’ve been here 11 years. When I first came in, it was ‘this guy can’t really play in an NFL system.’ For me to be here 11 years later, I have no complaints about how my career has went. If that’s a backup, whatever I can do, I’m going to be the best at it. Whatever it is, whatever role it is, even when I was playing receiver in my early days in Seattle, as long as I step on the field, I’m going to do my best.
“As a backup, I’m going to do whatever I need to do to continue my success; and provide whatever I can provide to A-Rod. I’m just excited to keep going on with my career.”
Green Bay obviously didn’t feel prepared with the quarterback situation that was playing out behind Rodgers in training camp. It’s not often that the Packers have had that happen at any position since general manager Ted Thompson took over in 2005. But Thompson and McCarthy were unsettled at an important position with the regular-season opener less than one week away.
“If it didn’t work out the way people are used to, I make no apologies for that at all,” McCarthy said. “We’re about building a football team each and every year, building a team to go win a championship. You do an evaluation where you give everybody a true opportunity and it’s the responsibility of the individuals to take advantage of those opportunities. That did not happen in certain positions. So with that, this is our 53 and we feel great about it.”
The reality is that if Rodgers goes down, so too go Green Bay’s hopes of a Super Bowl. So, does it really matter who would take the spot of the former NFL Most Valuable Player? Or is it better to give Rodgers a backup quarterback who can best help him from the sideline during games and not worry too much about how that player would do if inserted into the starting lineup?
The Packers basically answered that question with Wallace. If none of the quarterbacks (Young, Harrell, Coleman and Wallace) give Green Bay a good shot at winning, the Packers’ philosophy seems to be that they should give the job to the player who benefits Rodgers the most. That’s what Wallace represents, and it appears to be the main reason why he was signed and why he was immediately told that he’s the No. 2 quarterback on the roster.
“This lifespan (in the NFL), it’s a very short window,” Wallace said. “The ones who stay around for a long period of time are the ones who get it.”