GREEN BAY – In his first media availability of training camp, back on July 30, Brian Gutekunst was asked how he would evaluate the backup quarterback competition between DeShone Kizer and Tim Boyle through training camp.
His answer was pretty straightforward.
“I think you’ve got to be a little bit more patient and then the games matter," the Green Bay Packers general manager said. "When they get in those preseason games their ability to kind of manage the huddle, manage the game and make plays. I mean, they gotta be able to do that. They’ve got to be able to play winning football when they get out there under the lights.”
Four preseason games later, Boyle posted an exhibition-season best 112.9 passer rating on 34 of 57 passing (59.6%) for 356 yards and six touchdowns against zero interceptions. Kizer went 25-for-45 (55.6%) for 273 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions with a 70.0 rating.
So, 33 days after that statement, Kizer was sending an Instagram from Green Bay-Austin Straubel International Airport on his way to meet Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden and Gutekunst was meeting the media for the final time before the start of the regular season.
“I think Tim performed better in the preseason games when it mattered,” Gutekunst said. “Both those guys are quality NFL quarterbacks and they've done a nice job over the time that they've been here. We wish DeShone nothing but the best. I think he's going to do outstanding in Oakland. But I think at this time Tim was a little bit ahead of him."
But it took until 3 p.m. Saturday for Boyle to find that out, which is when everyone else did.
“More so just anxious, more so wanting to know what’s going to happen,” Boyle said. “Am I waived, am I two, am I three, am I getting traded? You don’t really know. Once the deadline hit and I had a good understanding I made the final cut ... but then that was kind of a sigh of relief after that.”
While Gutekunst – the ultimate architect of the Packers’ 53-man roster – told everyone from the beginning how the competition to back up Aaron Rodgers was going to be weighted in his eyes, he was in regular contact with head coach Matt LaFleur.
LaFleur had to sign off on having the 24-year-old, second-year man out of Eastern Kentucky as the lone backup quarterback on the active roster heading into Thursday night’s season opener in Chicago. LaFleur communicated to Gutekunst he was indeed OK with just two. There was a comfort level there for the head coach because since entering the league as an offensive quality control coach with Houston 10 seasons ago, only four times has an offense LaFleur was a part of had three quarterbacks.
On the other end of the spectrum, since Rodgers became the Packers’ starter in 2008, he’s had one backup on the 53-man roster just four times.
The last two were in 2017, when the Packers opened the season with Rodgers and Brett Hundley, and in 2013 when they opened with Rodgers and B.J. Coleman – though Coleman was released the Monday of opening week. The Packers then signed veteran Seneca Wallace. Scott Tolzien was the practice squad quarterback.
Both those seasons saw Rodgers miss games with collarbone fractures. Last year Kizer played in the season opener and the finale due to Rodgers' injuries.
Boyle last started a game that counted in the standings on Nov. 18, 2017, when Eastern Kentucky beat Saint Francis University 14-10.
“This is where the work begins for me,” Boyle said. “It’s my job now to prepare like I’m the starter and support No. 12.”
If 2019 goes the way the Packers hope, Boyle will only play when wrapping up large victories. All involved know he could be playing as soon as Thursday night, however.
“I think he's ready for it if that occasion arises,” Gutekunst said. “He's one of the 53 that have got to go out and win games. So if he's called upon, I think he'll be ready."
But at the end of the day, there will always be a bit of an unknown element to how Boyle would react to the situation if, or when, he’s called upon.
“I think you have a pretty good indication, but again, until they’re thrust into the moment … because the intensity level does ramp up when you get to the regular season,” LaFleur acknowledged. “Because you’re going against everybody’s best and there’s legitimate game-planning each and every week. So it does get a little bit more difficult. But to your point, until you put some of those guys in those situations, you don’t know.”