Dougherty: No cavalry coming to save Packers' season

Pete Dougherty
Packers News
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Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley (7) walks off the field after a failed 3rd down conversion in the second quarter at Lambeau Field on Monday, November 6, 2017 in Green Bay, Wis.

Count me in the camp that thought Brett Hundley and Mike McCarthy would do better than this.

Even with an extra week to prepare for Hundley’s second start in place of injured Aaron Rodgers, their performance Monday night was about as uninspiring as it gets in the Green Bay Packers’ 30-17 loss to the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field.

Anemic. Impotent. You pick the adjective. The Packers’ offense was it until Detroit pretty much had the game in hand.

But here’s the thing: There’s no cavalry coming. The trade deadline has passed, so there’s no bringing in a quarterback from another team.

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And anyone thinking things would be any better with Colin Kaepernick or somebody else off the street is delusional.

So it’s Hundley, sink or swim. No wonder McCarthy gave him another full-throated endorsement after the third-year quarterback put up an 86.0 rating and only three points in the first 51 minutes of the game.

“I believe in Brett and that’s not just a press conference statement,” McCarthy said. “He’s got what it takes. He has it in his body, he has it in his mind, and he definitely has the heart. I believe in him.”

The last time McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson were in this position, in 2013, they went out and got Matt Flynn off the street. That move saved the season. Those circumstances were almost exactly the same as now, only different.

Like now, the Packers in 2013 had lost the game in which Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone and then the next two after that. Same for this year.

But in 2013, Flynn was out there as a fallback when Seneca Wallace got hurt and Scott Tolzien couldn’t get it done. The Flynn signing worked — the Packers went 2-2-1 in the games he finished and still were in the playoff hunt when Rodgers returned — for one reason, and one reason alone: McCarthy and Flynn had worked together before, for four years, from 2008-11. McCarthy knew Flynn’s game, and Flynn knew McCarthy’s offense. That gave them a fighting a chance.

Just like Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase could bring Jay Cutler in off the street and win a few games this year because they’d worked together in Chicago, McCarthy could make things work with Flynn.

There are no Matt Flynns out there for McCarthy now. The closest thing would be Brett Favre, who is 48 and seven years removed from his last NFL game. That’s a non-starter.

Actually, Flynn might be the closest thing to Flynn. He’s 32 now, not ancient, but hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2014 and hasn’t been on a team since ’15. Has he even stayed in shape? I suppose it might be worth a call, but it’s still a long shot.

BOX SCORE: Lions 30, Packers 17

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PACKERS CHAT: Ryan Wood at 1 p.m. Tuesday

I’m sure national pundits and some Packers fans will be clamoring for Kaepernick. They’ll point to a couple of his 2016 stats — 16-to-4 touchdown-to-interception differential and 90.7 passer — and insist he’d be an upgrade. But really?

Don’t forget, Kaepernick also was 1-10 as a starter with San Francisco in ’16. The 49ers averaged only 18 points in the games he started. So while he wasn’t turning the ball over, he wasn’t doing anything to win games. And that was with the team he’d played for his entire career. What chance would he have coming in at midseason to a new coach and new team?

Kaepernick’s faster and a little stronger-armed than Hundley. But he’s not that different a player. The question on both is whether they can make the quick reads and have the quick reactions that it takes to succeed at quarterback in the NFL. That hasn’t changed since Kaepernick has been out of the league.

So bring him in, don’t bring him in. It’s not going to make any difference. He and McCarthy have never worked together. By the time Kaepernick learned McCarthy’s offense, and McCarthy learned Kaepernick’s game, the season would be over.

More than anything, Hundley’s struggles highlight the big mistake Thompson made when he gambled and cut undrafted rookie quarterback Taysom Hill at the end of training camp. Thompson thought he could sneak Hill through to the practice squad, but the New Orleans Saints had other ideas.

So now Hill is the Saints’ No. 3 rather than the Packers’. Hill might have been the most physically talented of all the Packers’ backups in training camp. He has size, a stronger-than-average arm and ran a 4.46-second 40. He was overaged for a rookie (27 now) and had a troubling injury history. But he had talent to work with. I guarantee the Packers wish they had him now, as an option in case Hundley doesn’t pick up his play in the next couple weeks.

But they don’t have Hill. And they don’t have many options after Hundley. Joe Callahan is next on the depth chart, but if it comes to him, that’s when you look to the street.

So they’ll give Hundley a couple more weeks to see if he can find a way to keep them in the playoff hunt. For most of Monday, the offense struggled, but he did move the team when they went to their two-minute offense in the fourth quarter. Detroit no doubt had backed off, too. But he did move the ball and put up two touchdowns.

He’s also going to need some help. Coordinator Dom Capers’ defense came up with only one turnover and couldn’t get off the field against a sharp Matthew Stafford (132.4 rating). It’s tough to beat anybody that converts eight of 13 third downs.

But at this point, the Packers don’t have much for options on the offensive side of the ball. So they have to ride out this storm and hope McCarthy and Hundley find a way to keep their offense afloat.



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