After a surprising drop to the fifth round in last season’s draft, it didn’t take quarterback Brett Hundley long to impress the Green Bay Packers.
In four preseason games, the former UCLA star showed enough promise for general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy to be comfortable with the youngster serving as vice president of their quarterbacks room. After Scott Tolzien agreed to terms with the Indianapolis Colts on Friday, the Packers will move forward with Hundley backing up MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 2016.
“Brett Hundley has a bright future,” McCarthy said at the NFL scouting combine last month.
Tolzien’s future will be spent backing up another No. 12.
Moving from one All-Pro caliber starter to another, Tolzien will back up Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. He replaces Matt Hasselbeck as Luck’s backup in Indy. Hasselbeck, a sixth-round pick of the Packers in 1998, retired this week after a 17-year career that included three Pro Bowls.
Behind the scenes, Hasselbeck was credited for playing a vital role in Luck’s early development. Tolzien doesn’t have Hasselbeck’s experience, but he could be relied on as another sound voice in the Colts quarterback room. Rodgers has often praised Tolzien for his knowledge of the game and how to play the quarterback position.
Tolzien spent the past three seasons with the Packers, serving as Rodgers’ primary backup last fall. His time in Green Bay helped him grow as a quarterback after being undrafted out of Wisconsin in 2011.
“Scott Tolzien did a great job for us,” McCarthy said at the combine. “I can’t tell you how much he was a part of not only our quarterback room, but our locker room. His work ethic is exceptional.”
Tolzien was expected to find another home with Hundley ready to fill the primary backup role. Hundley shined in his first preseason, completing 45-of-65 passes (69.2 percent) for 630 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception. He had a spectacular preseason finale, throwing for four touchdowns and no interceptions against the New Orleans Saints.
“He just got comfortable,” McCarthy said, “and was out there making plays. Plays very systematic as far as staying in clean plays when he was given a run-pass option.”
There’s a difference between preseason and regular season, of course. Hundley was on the Packers 53-man roster last season, but he never was activated for a game. Now, the Packers expect Hundley to be ready behind Rodgers should he need to enter during a game.
The Packers may also hope to develop Hundley into a potential trade asset down the road. As Tolzien showed Friday, a few good years behind Rodgers can generate interest from other teams.
“I’m excited about Brett,” McCarthy said. “I think if you go back and watch him play in the preseason, it speaks volumes. He did a heck of a job. He’s really come on fast. He’s doing what you’re supposed to do. He’s taken every note from Aaron and Scott. He has really dove into the offense.
“Very bright young man. Very athletic. Boy, I’m glad we have him.”