When Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, formerly of UCLA, knocked Aaron Rodgers to the turf on a questionable hit in Green Bay’s week six matchup against Minnesota, it opened the door for another former UCLA star to get his start in the NFL.
Brett Hundley was projected to be a backup quarterback until either one of two things happened — Rodgers retired, or he was traded to a team desperate for a passer. Rodgers sustained a broken collarbone on the hit from Barr, expediting Hundley’s development. Bruins fans all across the world were excited to see what one of the best quarterbacks to wear the blue and gold, could do in the pros.
So far, the results have not matched the expectations. It’s easy to explain away Hundley’s stat line from the Minnesota game. He was thrown in against the fifth best past defense in the league. To date, the Vikings have allowed nine passing touchdowns, tallied seven interceptions, and have given up 1,606 combined passing yards.
In the little under four quarters Hundley played in this game, he went 18-33 for 153 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Stats of this caliber would more than likely put a starting quarterback on the bench, but at the time, were dismissed due to the rare circumstances surrounding Hundley lining up under center.
With a week of starting reps under his belt, Hundley was expected to do big things against a Saints pass defense that people assumed was one of the worst in the league. That stigma should be going by the wayside, as New Orleans is now eleventh in the league in completion percentage allowed (60.2) and total passing yards allowed (1,684). Much of this newfound success can be attributed to rookie Marshon Lattimore, who has two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, and a team-leading eight defended passes for the season.
This context helps to explain Hundley’s paltry passing numbers in the 26-17 loss the Packers suffered. He went 12-25 for 87 yards and an interception, courtesy of Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro. The only redeeming quality Hundley brought to the field in this matchup was his running ability. He gained 44 yards on just three carries, one of which went for a touchdown.
Okay, New Orleans’s pass defense is actually good, so Hundley with a bye week before a Monday night matchup against the Detroit Lions should be ready to breakout, right? Wrong. The Packers were never close in their most recent game against their NFC North rival, which ended with a 30-17 Green Bay defeat.
On paper, Hundley’s stats look solid. He went 26-38 for 245 and no interceptions. He didn’t throw a touchdown either, but the lack of a turnover should be viewed as a victory, in and of itself. Again, Hundley did most of his damage with his legs, rushing for 22 yards on four carries, one of which put six points on the board.
The pedigree of passers in Packers history, from Bart Starr to Brett Favre, and most recently, Rodgers, puts Hundley in a position where anything but instant success is seen as a failure. Green Bay was assumed to be a playoff, and quite possibly, a Super Bowl team, but both these conclusions seem to be slipping further out of grasp.
For 2017, Hundley is completing 59 percent of his passes and has thrown just one touchdown to four interceptions. His impact as a starter has been so minimal that the Packers sought the talents of Brian Hoyer, who was released by the 49ers after they acquired Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots. Hoyer ultimately decided to go back to where his career began, backing up Tom Brady in New England.
Green Bay’s schedule doesn’t lighten up for the rest of the season. Their next game is against a Chicago Bears pass defense that has allowed only eight touchdowns all season. Outside of this matchup, they still have the Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Panthers, Vikings, and Lions all left to play.
The Packers haven’t ruled Rodgers out for the season, but it is unlikely he will return this year, especially if the playoffs become out of reach. Pessimists will bemoan the fact that Hundley will most likely be the starter for the next eight games, while optimists will celebrate the remaining schedule as an opportunity for Hundley to grow.
The injury Rodgers sustained shows that nothing in an NFL season can be predicted. So, while people may have their minds made up on what Hundley will or will not be as a pro quarterback, the fact remains no one really knows until Green Bay’s 2017 season is in the books. Hundley’s numbers may look bad now, but that doesn’t suggest he won’t have a breakout game. The only thing to do is sit back and enjoy the random chaos of the NFL.