Packers go with DeShone Kizer's upside over Brett Hundley's experience

Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley (7) looks to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during their football game Thursday, August 16, 2018, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

GREEN BAY – Brett Hundley knew in his heart that he should be the backup quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.

He thought he’d earned it.

“I do,” Hundley said Tuesday, one day before the Packers traded him to the Seattle Seahawks for what an NFL source said was a sixth-round draft choice.

He also knew that it was possible the Packers would choose DeShone Kizer, the second-year pro they acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns in March, over him. So, he was prepared for anything.

“I’m at peace,” he said. “Wherever I’m at, I’m at. I’ll figure it out from there.”

It would have been something for Hundley to win the position back after all that went wrong for him last season. Vegas couldn’t have posted odds high enough for bettors to plunk down even loose change on Hundley bouncing back in 2018.

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On the surface, Hundley seemed to have the edge on Kizer, but it might have been more because he just looked a lot less like the Hundley from last year.

As easy as it would be to pick the guy in his fourth season in the system, general manager Brian Gutekunst, the guardian of the big picture, undoubtedly posed a vital question when evaluating the two quarterbacks.

That is, who has the bigger upside?

There’s an argument to be made that Hundley is better now, but Kizer will be better once he adjusts to all the changes in footwork and delivery necessary to play quarterback in coach Mike McCarthy’s offense.

From that standpoint, Gutekunst is taking a big chance because Kizer has been inconsistent with his throws, as his 50.9 completion percentage showed. He’ll get another chance to prove himself against Kansas City on Thursday night in a game in which few starters are expected to play.

Another factor was that Kizer has three years left on his deal while Hundley will be an unrestricted free agent next year. Now was the time to deal Hundley because if the Packers waited too long they wouldn’t have gotten anything for him.

What’s more, Gutekunst included former first-round pick Damarious Randall in the deal to acquire Kizer, and it’s hard to believe he would give up on the quarterback after just five months. Yes, he went 0-15 as a starter last season, but that was with the Browns, which is even more reason to grant him time to develop.

Yet another factor involved is the play of undrafted rookie Tim Boyle. Keeping Hundley and Kizer was an option, but Gutekunst, who admittedly loves stockpiling young quarterbacks, may have decided he couldn’t risk losing Boyle through waivers and would keep him as a third quarterback.

Boyle’s big arm and pocket toughness, along with some of the clutch completions he has made, make him an intriguing prospect.

When it came time to compare Hundley's and Kizer’s production, there really wasn’t much of a difference. Both men played 12 total series in the Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Oakland games and neither dominated.

Hundley led the offense to two touchdowns, three field goals and 18 first downs, completed four passes of 20 or more yards and threw one interception. The offense averaged 4.12 yards during his 71 snaps.

He completed 23 of 37 passes (62.2 percent) for 263 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 81.3.

Kizer led the offense to three touchdowns and 25 first downs, completed two passes of 20 or more yards and had no interceptions. The offense averaged 5.11 yards during his 89 snaps.

He completed 27 of 53 passes (50.9 percent) for 403 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 88.8.

It’s hard to judge a quarterback on exhibition game play because there are so many variables with some starters playing and some not, a limited amount of game-planning and a lot of action behind offensive linemen who won’t be in the NFL after this weekend.

But it’s also a time to find out if the quarterback can do what the very best ones do all the time, which is get their team in the end zone during the most trying moments. Can they rise above everything else going on around them and put some points on the board?

“Sometimes we’re not going to score 35 points in the game and it’s going to be a 17-14 kind of deal and you have to find a way persevere through those kind of games and keep the faith and make the plays you have to to win,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said Tuesday. “We’re going to have to display that here potentially Thursday night.”

Had Hundley done that, the job might have been his. But he merely played OK and didn’t rise above Kizer when it came to putting the ball in the end zone.

Still, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll sees potential in the former UCLA quarterback.

“It his fourth year now, he’s played quite a bit and started a bunch of games last year,” Carroll told Seahawks beat reporters. “We’ve been able to see him and really see how he has developed and we liked him coming out of college as well. He’s big, he runs well, he’s got a good arm, he’s got good vision on the field, he’s made a lot of big throws and big plays.

“He really gives you the thought that he could come in the game and keep it moving so we just thought it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

Kizer failed as many or more times than Hundley when it came to moving the ball in clutch situations. He had a chance to take the offense down the field for a game-winning touchdown at the end of the Oakland game and couldn’t do it. He failed to get the team in the end zone on four chances from inside the 10 against Pittsburgh.

If Kizer were forced to play right away, his poor completion percentage during the exhibition games and lack of touch in the red zone would have to be huge concerns for the coaching staff.

Hundley had the misfortune of playing against the Raiders’ No. 1 defense last week whereas Kizer played against backups and soon to be roster casualties. But proving you’re the better quarterback sometimes requires you to force your teammates to play at a higher level.

Hundley said a big lesson he learned was not trying to play like someone else and just play to his strengths. He thought he did that in camp.

"I just feel like I’m playing my game," he said.. 'I’m not worried about nobody else. I’m not worried about leading the team the way Aaron is leading it or doing anything (different). I’m just being me at this point.

"I ain’t got nothing more to do and I ain’t got nothing more to offer. I’m going to be me, I’m going to give you my best and that’s all I can do. Honestly, that’s where I found piece at with how I’m playing, and I feel good."

Now he'll move on to Seattle and the spotlight will be on Kizer in Green Bay.

Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette contributed to this report.

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