Mora: Packers a 'perfect situation' for Hundley
Two mornings after the NFL draft, UCLA coach Jim Mora Jr. called to see how his former quarterback was doing.
He didn't know what to expect. On one hand, Brett Hundley had reached a lifelong dream of being drafted. He also slipped two, maybe three rounds further than expected.
So Mora posed the question on his 8 a.m. commute to work. What was Hundley up to? How was he doing?
The fifth-round draft pick told him he already was watching film of the Packers' offense — five days before rookie minicamp.
"That kind of, to me, indicates the type of mindset this guy has," Mora told Press-Gazette Media. "Monday morning, he's preparing for minicamp already. That's the kind of kid you're getting in Green Bay with Brett Hundley."
Mora said he wasn't surprised his former pupil was studying. This is the Hundley he knew for four years at UCLA. The guy teammates voted a captain during fall camp entering his redshirt freshman season, before he'd ever taken a snap.
At UCLA, Mora said, Hundley always was a leader. He outworked his peers, preparing even when nobody was watching. Mora said he expects Hundley to have the same work ethic in Green Bay.
"He's just a very motivated kid," Mora said. "He has the keys to the meeting room, he has a film machine at home. He's the first one in, and the last one out. All those clichés that describe great work ethic and great leadership — Brett, he is the cliché."
Eliot Wolf, the Packers' director of player personnel, described Hundley a different way Saturday. "Football nerd," Wolf called him. That was the first impression Wolf had after meeting Hundley at the NFL combine in February.
Never mind Wolf's other quip Saturday, when he opened his remarks assuring Hundley "probably" has no chance to start. With two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers, the most secure starter in the NFL, even the "probably" was too kind.
So long as Rodgers is healthy, and there are no fourth-quarter blowouts, Hundley will be stuck on the sideline. He will not be expected start this season, next season or the next. But don't expect Hundley to be deterred.
Mora knows the dead end that is the Packers' quarterback depth chart won't stop Hundley from turning Lambeau Field's sideline into his classroom.
"I love football," Hundley said. "It's just who I am, and what's bred inside of me. I love being a quarterback. I love knowing everything about the game. I could sit here and watch film all day with you and just learn. I like knowledge, to put it like that.
"If I don't know something, I want to know it, and I think that's the way I approach things. That's the way I approach football. I think Green Bay is the perfect organization to learn as much as possible, and they have the best coaches to help me do that, and Aaron Rodgers."
Mora was surprised Hundley slipped to the fifth round. But he "wasn't stunned," he said. The former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks head coach has been in enough draft rooms. Once the picks start, he knows there's no telling what might happen.
"It's just such a fluid event," Mora said. "Every year, there's a few guys that fall further than you thought they would, and there's some guys that get picked much higher than you anticipated that they would. This year, Brett was one of those guys."
Draft rounds are important, because they dictate a player's rookie salary.
As the 11th pick in the fifth round (No. 147 overall), Hundley is projected to receive a four-year rookie contract worth roughly $2.5 million, including a $225,000 signing bonus, according to Over the Cap. By comparison, if he had been the 18th pick of the second round (No. 50 overall) to the Buffalo Bills, his rookie contract would've been projected at $4.46 million with a $1.5 million signing bonus.
That's a significant difference. But there's also a second contract to consider, a more lucrative deal that hinges on Hundley's development the next four years. In Buffalo — or Cleveland, or Washington or the quarterback-starved New York Jets — Hundley could've been forced to play before he was ready, possibly stunting his growth.
On Saturday, Hundley called landing in Green Bay a "blessing in disguise." Mora said he emphasized the point to him on the phone Monday.
No, Mora said, this might not have been the way Hundley envisioned entering the league. But Mora lauded Packers coach Mike McCarthy's credentials for developing quarterbacks. He encouraged Hundley to absorb every bit of knowledge he could from Rodgers.
"I've known Aaron for quite a while," Mora said, "and I don't think you could find a better role model. I told Brett yesterday, 'Don't just watch this guy on the field. Watch him in the locker room, watch him in the meeting rooms. Watch how he handles the media. Watch how he is in public. Watch how he deals with the fame of being the starting quarterback for the most distinguished franchise in probably all of sports. Learn everything. Not just how to play quarterback, but learn everything from this guy.'
"I think Brett is the type of young man who will absolutely capitalize on this great fortune that he has of being with Mike and the Packers and Aaron."
McCarthy raved about Hundley's physical tools. "The things you can't teach," he called them. Hundley is 6-foot-31/4 and a lean 226 pounds. He ran a 4.63-second, 40-yard dash at the combine. Mora said Hundley has "excellent" arm strength and a natural feel for the game.
But Hundley's accuracy can be inconsistent. He also must work on his decision-making, Mora said.
"But that's true of everyone coming into the league," Mora said. "Nobody that hasn't been in the league — coached or played — understands the different level of competition between college and professional football, or the speed of the game. It's overwhelming at times, but I think he'll handle it.
"I think he's just got a unique style and a unique skillset, and I think it will translate well to the NFL. I'm really happy as a guy who has been in the NFL and does know Brett as well as I do to see him in Green Bay. I think it's a perfect situation for him."
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood.