GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy has a proven system for developing young quarterbacks. From the offseason program to training camp to preseason games, the QB trade is dissected and learned to its fullest in Green Bay.
Brett Hundley is the latest prospect to dive into the McCarthy way, and it sounds like he's on the fast track to be Aaron Rodgers' top backup in 2016.
"I'm excited about Brett," McCarthy said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine. "If you go back and watch him play in the preseason, it speaks volumes. He did a heck of a job. He's really come on fast."
Rodgers had two backups last season, veteran Scott Tolzien and Hundley, a third-day draft pick out of UCLA. Tolzien is a pending free agent, and while McCarthy has raved about his work ethic, professionalism and steady improvement since arriving in Green Bay in 2013, the Packers may be content to let Tolzien pursue a starting job elsewhere.
Hundley's rapid progress has given the Packers that comfort. His athleticism was no secret when Green Bay traded up 19 spots in the fifth round to draft him last spring, but Hundley also showed the mental acuity to absorb McCarthy's complex offense in the classroom and on the practice field as a rookie.
"He's doing what you're supposed to do. He's taken every note from Aaron and Scott," McCarthy said. "Very bright young man, very athletic. Boy, I'm glad we have him."
Hundley's growth from the first through fourth preseason games last summer was impressive. Though he did have a short TD pass in the opener, he was sacked three times in just 14 dropbacks through the first two games, a typical slow start for a rookie QB.
Then, taking the majority of the snaps over the final two outings, Hundley completed 38 of 54 passes for 551 yards and six TDs with just one interception. He also added 27 rushing yards.
McCarthy lauded his ability to stay in "clean plays" when given run-pass options at the line of scrimmage. His 129.6 preseason passer rating was No. 2 in the league and tops among all rookie QBs.
"He just got comfortable and was out there making plays," McCarthy said. "Brett Hundley has a very bright future."
McCarthy's confidence stems from his system and track record too, of course. With Hundley getting his first full offseason in McCarthy's "QB school" and then five preseason games and the extra week of practice next summer that come with the Hall of Fame Game assignment, more progress is a given. How much more is up to Hundley.
In what promises to be intense competition for the pecking order and playing time at wide receiver, Hundley will have a key role in helping sort that out. As of now, the third through sixth receivers on the roster – Ty Montgomery, Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis – will have plenty of game experience, so Hundley will have more reliable targets and fewer rookie mistakes to deal with as he navigates his important second season.
"It'll be important for them to build a relationship with Brett when we get going here in April," McCarthy said of the receivers. "We'll have a lot of reps for our young guys."