GREEN BAY — Mike McCarthy doesn’t blame Brett Hundley for the Green Bay Packers’ 2017 season cratering after they lost two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. And the longtime head coach believes it’s not all his young backup quarterback’s fault that he played as poorly as he did while Rodgers was sidelined.
Rather, McCarthy said during this week’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis that Hundley “wasn’t ready” to assume the starting role in the wake of Rodgers’ Oct. 15 broken right collarbone, and McCarthy made it clear that he doesn’t think the coaching staff did its part to make sure he was prepared.
“Brett Hundley wasn’t ready for what he needed to be ready for. That’s something that we have to learn from,” McCarthy told reporters at the combine. “And that stings.”
While Hundley did enough to keep the Packers in playoff contention until Rodgers gained medical clearance for the team’s Dec. 17 loss at Carolina, the Packers managed only three wins in the 10 games he played, including the loss at Minnesota in which Rodgers was injured. Those three wins came over the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who finished the season a combined 10-38.
In his nine starts, the Packers were shut out twice — by the Baltimore Ravens and the Vikings — and Hundley failed to throw a single touchdown pass at Lambeau Field.
Once the Packers were eliminated from the playoff picture by their loss to the Panthers, Rodgers returned to injured reserve and Hundley started the final two regular-season games, both of which the Packers lost. Hundley finished the season having completed 192 of 316 passes (60.8 percent) for 1,836 yards with nine touchdowns, 12 interceptions and 29 sacks (70.6 passer rating).
After the season, when quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt’s contract expired, McCarthy did not try to bring him back. That drew the ire of Rodgers, who lamented the decision during Super Bowl week. McCarthy has hired Frank Cignetti Jr., who worked as the New Orleans Saints’ quarterbacks coach in 2000 and 2001 when McCarthy was the Saints’ offensive coordinator.
It's unclear how much Hundley’s poor play factored into Van Pelt not being brought back.
“That’s something that we should’ve been better prepared for, and I say ‘we’ because it’s not just on Brett,” McCarthy said of Rodgers’ injury. “But in the same breath, there wasn’t enough step-up around him, either. It was (not) just one guy. I think that’s the first thing, stating the true evaluation of what went on.
“I believe in Brett Hundley. I do fully recognize that he has a lot of football in front of him. He has a big upside. Our structure and our coaching staff, we need to make sure we maximize that, but we also need to learn from the other parts of the offense that we didn’t do as good as we would have liked, and we’ll learn from that platform. I do believe Brett has a big upside, and (I’m) looking forward to getting back to work with him.”
All that said, McCarthy acknowledged Hundley’s disappointing play underscored that the team needs to explore other options at quarterback behind Rodgers.
“I look at that position no different than any other. We can’t have enough competition,” McCarthy said. “We need to increase the competition in our training environment.”
Hundley, a fifth-round pick from UCLA in 2015, is entering the final year of his rookie deal. When they picked him, the Packers hoped they might flip him in a trade to another team right about now for a higher draft pick. Instead, they’ll likely spend one of their 12 picks on a quarterback during next month’s nFL Draft.
The team could also add a veteran free agent to back up Rodgers, something they’ve never really done since Rodgers became the starter in 2008.
“It’s about opportunities, whether it be in free agency or through the draft. Who becomes available?” general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “You look at all avenues. You always want to create competition at every spot.”