Packers cuts Saturday
QB Graham Harrell
WR Justin Wilson
WR Omarius Hines
WR Alex Gillett
In the end, Graham Harrell’s familiarity with the Green Bay Packers’ offense was no match for intrigue and athleticism Vince Young infused into the team’s backup quarterback equation upon his arrival nearly three weeks ago.
After investing three years into developing Harrell, the Packers decided to release the 28-year-old quarterback on Saturday, an NFL source confirmed. The move paves the way for the 30-year-old Young to revamp his two-time Pro Bowler career behind starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Harrell spent four training camps with the Packers since signing with the team in May 2010, a year after completing a record-breaking run in Texas Tech's gimmicky, albeit successful, air-raid offense.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound quarterback spent a majority of those first two seasons on the practice squad before taking over as Rodgers’ backup last season when Matt Flynn signed with Seattle as a free agent.
Harrell and practice-squad holdover B.J. Coleman figured to battle for the backup role this year before the organization decided to add the 6-foot-5, 232-pound Young to the competition on Aug. 5.
The Packers have until Tuesday to complete their the league-mandated roster reduction to 75 players but felt as if they’d seen enough of Harrell after another lackluster showing in Friday night’s 17-10 loss to Seattle, when he completed 6-of-13 passes for 49 yards on four series.
Young’s performance upon relieving Harrell likely expedited the decision as the third-overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft completed 6-of-7 passes for 41 yards, rushed for 39 yards on three scrambles and led an 11-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown pass from Young to rookie fullback Jonathan Amosa.
It was enough to send Harrell packing after guiding the offense to only three points on 13 drives in three preseason games. The only score a Harrell-led offense registered came last week against St. Louis on a drive that started at the Rams’ 38-yard line.
“Graham, frankly, there’s some video we really need to look at,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy after Friday night’s game. “I’ll have to see, he had some tough breaks with the penalties. But the rhythm of the offense and some of the things mechanically, I would like to see us be more sharp there.”
Harrell had been a pet project for McCarthy the past few seasons. The team stood by him through a slow start to last year’s camp before a strong preseason finale against Kansas City, when he completed 13-of-15 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns.
Harrell didn't see many on-field opportunities playing behind one of the league’s most durable quarterbacks in 2012, but gained some attention for infamously fumbling his first NFL regular-season snap against New Orleans on Sept. 30 when Rodgers left after getting poked in the eye.
Both Harrell and the organization hoped for better this year, but he again struggled to move the offense with rhythm during his 79 preseason snaps, competing 23-of-42 passes for 169 yards with an interception and 54.6 quarterback rating.
The decision to discard Harrell puts Young in the driver’s seat to win the No. 2 job. After spending the past year out of football, Young has shown gradual improvement and natural athleticism over the past three weeks but cautioned following Friday's performance that he still has plenty to learn from quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo and offensive coordinator Tom Clements.
“I’m still not there yet. I’m still taking it one day at a time. It’s a lot coming in,” said Young, who has completed 12-of-19 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown in the preseason (88.5 quarterback rating). “It’s going to take a lot of work behind the scenes, me and Benny and Coach Clements, we’re doing a lot of hard work behind the scenes. I’m trying my hardest to try to catch up with the guys, but they’re so more advanced right now, I’m trying my hardest to catch up with them right now.”
The Packers still have Coleman on their roster, but it’s more likely the 6-foot-3 project will spend another year on the practice squad after registering a 68.3 passer rating in three games off 12-of-27 passing for 109 yards and a touchdown.
The Packers on Saturday also released wide receivers Justin Wilson and Omarius Hines and quarterback-turned-receiver Alex Gillett from their roster, according to NFL sources. A 5-foot-11 rookie out of Delaware State, Wilson was signed on Aug. 6 while the 6-foot, 215-pound Hines joined the team on July 29.
The release of Gillett, out of Eastern Michigan, is a potential sign both Randall Cobb (bicep) and Jordy Nelson (knee) are nearing returns from their respective injuries.
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— Pete Dougherty contributed to this report.