Packers Annual Checkup: QB Graham Harrell

Today is the 17th day of FOX Sports Wisconsin Packers writer Paul Imig’s offseason evaluations of every player on Green Bay’s roster. Click here for all of Paul’s previous evaluations and come back every day through mid-March for Paul’s in-depth film and statistical analysis. Coming up soon:

Today: QB Graham Harrell
Thursday, Feb. 14: RB DuJuan Harris
Friday, Feb. 15: ILB A.J. Hawk
Saturday, Feb. 16: CB Casey Hayward
Sunday, Feb. 17: CB Davon House 

Monday, Feb. 18: WR Greg Jennings


Season stats: In four preseason games (45 for 78 passing, 57.7 completion percentage, 484 yards, three touchdown passes, two interceptions, passer rating of 78.2, one fumble lost). In two regular season games (32 snaps; 2 for 4 passing, 20 yards, one fumble lost)

Best game: Preseason Week 4 win over Kansas City (13 for 15 passing, 223 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, perfect 158.3 passer rating)

Worst game: Week 4 win over New Orleans (one snap, one fumble lost) season rating: minus-1.8

Expectations at the start of the season: Low

Expectations were … Met

Looking live: Harrell became the Packers’ No. 2 quarterback for the 2012 season after general manager Ted Thompson decided not to re-sign Matt Flynn last offseason. Flynn received a big pay day from the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay went the inexpensive route with Harrell as its backup. There were plenty of questions about whether Harrell would be able to step into a regular season game and perform well enough for the Packers to get by. Clearly, if Aaron Rodgers gets injured, it doesn’t really matter who the backup quarterback is because the dropoff in production will almost certainly be substantial (though Flynn proved otherwise in Week 17 in 2011). Harrell, who had been on Green Bay’s practice squad, almost left the Packers late in the 2011 season when the Buffalo Bills offered him an active roster spot. But, knowing that Flynn’s days in Green Bay were numbered, the Packers called up Harrell at that time. Thompson used one of the team’s 2012 seventh-round picks to draft quarterback B.J. Coleman, but that didn’t end up impacting Harrell’s spot on the depth chart. Coleman spent the entire 2012 season on the practice squad.

Upon further review: Backup quarterback can be a very important role on an NFL team. It can also be a very unimportant role. If Rodgers stays healthy, as he did in the 2012 season, it doesn’t matter who the next man up would be. If Rodgers were forced to miss a game, though, Harrell has only had one performance (a perfect — by passer rating standards — game in the preseason finale) that suggested he might have held up fine in regular-season action. But, aside from that one game, Harrell struggled. Rodgers literally missed one meaningful snap all season and, when Harrell entered the game with the ball near the goal line, he fumbled and turned it over. That’s certainly not the regular-season debut that any team hopes to see from its No. 2 QB. Harrell was a very good college quarterback at Texas Tech. However, Harrell isn’t going to be the next Flynn. Harrell turns 28 this offseason and will never be expected to play like an NFL starter, no matter which team he is on.

Overall 2012 grade: C-

Status for 2013: 55 percent chance of being on the Packers’ active roster in Week 1 next season. Harrell’s status on the team has more to do with Coleman than anything else. Green Bay’s front office used a draft pick on Coleman with the expectation that he could at least become a serviceable backup behind Rodgers within a couple years. Coleman wasn’t given many opportunities in the preseason, with one theory being that the Packers tried to hide him a bit so other teams wouldn’t sign him after final roster cut-downs. Coleman is Green Bay’s No. 2 quarterback of the future. If that future begins in 2013, it will be at Harrell’s expense. However, Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy have both supported Harrell publicly. Harrell isn’t likely to become an elite backup at this stage in his career, so the Packers’ determination will be based on which quarterback would give them the best chance to win should Rodgers be forced to miss any action.

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