There are multiple routes a backup quarterback can take to a starting job.
In the case of Green Bay’s Graham Harrell, he will likely have to take a road familiar to the passers who have played behind Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers in the last 20 years. In short, Harrell’s going to have to show enough in limited playing time, whether in the preseason or in a rare regular-season stint, to attract interest from another club, for the Packers have their starting quarterback in Rodgers.
Harrell is 28, and he is restricted free agent at season’s end. If he progresses in 2013, he could draw a solid tender offer next offseason from Green Bay. Perhaps even a trade market could develop for him.
First things first: Harrell needs to secure the top depth-chart spot behind Rodgers once again. In a feature published Monday, Harrell told Weston Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press-Gazette that he’s become more well-versed in the Packers’ offense than ever this offseason.
“As a backup, you really get more reps now than you get anytime else,” Harrell told the Press-Gazette. “I think that’s one of the biggest things and I feel more comfortable now than I’ve ever felt, knowing the protection, pretty much the O-line and feeling good with protections, because routes when you play quarterback at some point you check defenses similar ways no matter what system you’re in.”
Per the Press-Gazette, Rodgers believes Harrell has taken a step forward like former backup Matt Flynn did in his time in Green Bay.
“I think he’s really improved,” Rodgers told the paper. “I think you saw it last year throughout the season as he became more comfortable. I look at him as being in the same spot that Flynn was when Flynn was in his last year with us. We’re very confident in the offense and it means more to him to be successful every day in practice like you saw just a slight shift with Matt, and it was no surprise when Matt got a chance to play how well he played.”
Flynn parlayed his rare opportunities to play — with his 2011 performance vs. Detroit his audition tape — into a free-agent deal with Seattle. To take the next step up the ladder in his career, Harrell needs to hold off B.J. Coleman and hold his spot as the top backup to Rodgers.
And when it comes to play, Harrell needs to put something good on tape for evaluators to consider.