The Packers have gone from a blissful day spa to the woebegone corner room at a highway motel in the matter of a few weeks. The sweet sounds of a soothing harp-laden track have been replaced by the blaring horns of tractor trailers on the freeway. The relaxing sauna is gone, in favor of a living space where you need to tap on the air conditioner with the right precision just to get it rolling and adjust the room's temperature. A finger sandwich buffet stocked with grass-fed meat is a mere distant memory with a half-stocked vending machine in its stead.
An offense that once operated with unparalleled efficiency at the hands of all-time great Aaron Rodgers is unrecognizable with Brett Hundley at the controls. No one makes it look easier than Rodgers. Accustomed to a quarterback who executes every facet of the position, it's painful to watch the Packers' offense manned by a player who makes every play look as laborious as possible.
Head coach Mike McCarthy insisted with feverish intensity that he was more than comfortable with Brett Hundley as his starting quarterback in the wake of Rodgers' collar bone injury. The fact that the Packers' offensive brain trust sank over two years of work grooming and developing Hundley seemed to give the longtime head coach confidence. So far, through over a half of relief and two starts, that confidence looks anything but warranted.
With all the exposure we have to Brett Hundley's play so far this season, it's on the nose to say he doesn't offer Green Bay acceptable play behind center. It's unfair to play any passer to Aaron Rodgers but after we've seen this scoring attack operate without Rodgers, it's worth wondering just how much he covered up for Green Bay.
While Rodgers is a master of pinpoint passing, Hundley has been anything but. The backup quarterback had thrown just four tight-window passes (less than one yard of separation) heading into Week 9. During Monday's 30-17 loss to the Lions, he threw 28.9 percent of his attempts into tight windows, the second most of any quarterback on the Week 9 slate. Hundley averaged 5.9 yards per attempt on his tight-window throws for a passer rating of 72.2. The high-degree of difficulty throws have been simply too much to ask of Hundley thus far.
Hundley also showed significant issues with pressure against the Lions. He consistently drops his eyes when defenders even get near him and scrambles himself into sacks. When Hundley did take to the air with pressure bearing down, he completed just four of seven passes for 62 yards. In the two games before the bye, Hundley had a 13.9 passer rating when under pressure. Getting heat on Hundley will be a priority for the Packers' opponents going forward, as it's clear the effect it has on the young quarterback is an Achilles' heel for the Green Bay offense.
While it seems like a distant memory, the Packers' offense struggled through the first half of the 2016 season. It wasn't until McCarthy unshackled Rodgers and let the All-Pro quarterback freelance that the scoring attack blossomed. So far in limited looks, McCarthy hasn't put together a similar plan to get his athletic young backup in position to improvise on the move. Hundley attempted just eight passes outside the tackle box against the Lions, completing just four for 26 yards.
McCarthy has been criticized throughout his coaching tenure for being too conservative and ridged in his insistence that his offense stick to the system. Hundley's time under center has brought those critiques to the center stage. The young quarterback hasn't played well, but McCarthy's inability to adjust his approach to assist Hundley has constricted the field for the Packers. Hundley's completion travel just 4.9 air yards on average, the second-lowest among quarterbacks with at least 68 pass attempts.
The Packers, for the first time in years, look lost. A team we routinely expect to see in NFC playoff contention is heading for a dark wilderness period in the team's decade-plus run of privilege. A fanbase that got to watch a future Hall of Famer pass the torch to a true artist at the position, now must watch as Hundley and company miss opportunities and lead drives that stall out with a flicker. It doesn't help that they must watch their injured starting quarterback drive through nature with freedom blowing through his hair alongside a canine companion every commercial break.
Rodgers will be back to the NFL stage eventually. No matter when that moment arrives, it won't be in time to save the Packers, who sit third in NFC North. Unless a coaching revelation or a Hundley turnaround suddenly falls from the sky, the rest of 2017 holds nothing but dark days for the once mighty Packers.
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