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Mike Vandermause column: Vince Young should have been signed sooner

Aug. 26, 2013
 

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Green Bay Packers quarterbacks Vince Young, left, and Aaron Rodgers watch drills during training camp practice on Aug. 6 at Ray Nitschke Field. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media

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In a span of 363 games dating to September 1992, you can count on one finger the number of times the Green Bay Packers have needed a backup quarterback.

Defying all logic, the Packers’ starting quarterbacks have missed just one game due to an injury over the past 21 years.

It’s an amazing streak of durability. So when considering the pros and cons of backup quarterbacks in Green Bay, the discussion is mostly hypothetical.

Brett Favre was legendary for his ironman status by starting 275 consecutive games with the Packers, including playoffs.

Aaron Rodgers has followed in Favre’s footsteps by missing just one game because of an injury in five years as a starter, due to a concussion in 2010. Rodgers was also held out of a meaningless regular-season finale in 2011, so he has started 86 of 88 games.

Maybe general manager Ted Thompson became spoiled by the remarkable resilience of the Packers’ starting quarterbacks. How else can you explain his resistance to signing a veteran backup until earlier this month?

Thompson has been tempting fate for years by settling for inexperienced signal callers behind Rodgers. There’s no denying that approach has worked out fine because of Rodgers’ good health. But sooner or later, the law of averages says the Packers are bound to get burned.

What’s curious is that it took them 10 days into training camp to come to that realization, when they signed veteran Vince Young.

The Packers let the entire offseason slide by and, for good measure, watched as eight training camp practices passed before discovering, presumably, that their backup quarterback situation was on shaky ground.

Young has taken a crash course in the offense, but there’s only so much a player can absorb in three weeks.

Why the Packers didn’t sign Young in the spring is baffling. If he had been given months, rather than weeks, to immerse himself in coach Mike McCarthy’s schemes, the Packers could feel more confident if something happens to Rodgers.

Thompson didn’t have a good answer when asked why he waited so long to sign Young.

“We just kind of now got around to adding a fourth (quarterback),” Thompson said the week he brought in Young. “It was something that we wanted to take a look at.”

Thompson and McCarthy should have known about the limitations of backups Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman long before that. Coleman, a 2012 seventh-round draft pick, is still raw and developing and isn’t ready for prime time. Harrell, meanwhile, possessed average arm strength, and the ability to take his game to another level was questionable.

Given those circumstances, it should have been a no-brainer to give Young a shot much sooner.

“The more time you’re in an offense, it helps,” Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements said, “but it’s the way it worked out so you can’t think about what might have been.”

Young essentially showed more in three weeks than Harrell did in three years, which is why Harrell was released over the weekend.

Young directed an 80-yard touchdown drive against Seattle last Friday, can make plays with his running ability and is a proven winner with a 31-19 career record as a starter.

“You can see that the game’s not too big for him,” Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo said. “He feels pretty comfortable when the lights come on and I think that’s going to do nothing but help him.”

The more he learns the better Young gets in the Packers offense. But given his year out of football and limited exposure to a new system, rough patches are inevitable.

“The feet are starting to come,” McAdoo said after practice Monday. “Even today, you saw some signs that his feet are improving. He’s getting a better feel for things and the dropback part of things. ... (He’s) still breaking the rust off a little bit, but it was nice to see.”

The rust should have been scraped off during the spring and early summer, had Thompson acted with more urgency. But give the Packers general manager credit for admitting — if not in word, then in deed — his mistake by eventually signing Young and attempting, at long last, to shore up a vulnerable position.

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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