The question seemed jinx-proof on Oct. 11. After all, back on Oct. 11, the Packers had started Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers in 431 of their last 440 regular-season and postseason games.
That means from Week 4 of the 1992 season through Week 5 of the 2017 season, the Packers needed their backup quarterback nine times. And only seven times was the need injury-related.
So, in doing a story on the Vikings’ Case Keenum, I said to Packers coach Mike McCarthy, “Mike, I know you haven’t had to use them over the years, but what’s the main quality you look for in a backup quarterback?”
Four days later, Rodgers was on the turf at U.S. Bank Stadium with a broken right collarbone, signifying that we had arrived at the mother of all injury-plagued seasons before Halloween.
A day later, the last team you’d imagine being drawn into the Colin Kaepernick discussion was neck deep in it. By late in the week, 18,000 Packers fans had signed a petition to sign the former 49ers quarterback who started the national anthem protests last year.
McCarthy’s answer back on Oct. 11 suggested he was comfortable with the grooming process of young Brett Hundley as Rodgers’ backup.
His answer stressed the importance of a backup basically tricking his mind into preparing each week as if he were starting. The coach also indicated that Hundley has the arm strength to “play in Green Bay, Wis.”, that he’s intelligent and eager, and that he’s not just an arm for the scout team.
“I’ve always liked the developing player as my backup,” McCarthy said. “The old vet starter taking care of the young guy.
“We’ve always looked at the quarterback room as the most important room because the quarterback position is the toughest position in sports, in my opinion. It’s important for the guys to emulate the starters, especially with Aaron Rodgers. The thing I can’t say enough about is the amount of time he spends helping our young guys.”
Less than a week later, McCarthy was being asked questions about Kaepernick. He started off a press conference by expressing his confidence in Hundley and Joe Callahan, who was promoted from the practice squad.
When McCarthy was pressed about signing Kaepernick as at least a backup, he snapped.
“Did you just listen to that question I just answered?” he asked the reporter. “OK, I got three years invested in Brett Hundley, two years invested in Joe Callahan. The quarterback room is exactly where it needs to be.”
There’s no question Kaepernick is a better quarterback than Hundley, Callahan and others who have signed while he sits. But can Kaepernick win the grievance he filed against the NFL for collusion?
He’d have to prove two or more teams — or the league office and at least one team — conspired against him.
It’s not enough to prove that a team doesn’t want him because of the distraction he would create. I’m sure there are plenty of those teams.
But it’s also possible that teams view Kaepernick as an inaccurate passer and a bad fit for an offense they’ve spent a lot of time building. And Kaepernick wouldn’t be the first read-option quarterback whose value was quickly diminished as defenses adjusted to the scheme.
In saying that, the season and the broken body count aren’t over, folks. McCarthy took a firm stance this week. But what happens if Hundley goes down?
Callahan played at Division III Wesley College. He was undrafted in 2016. He’s never played an NFL snap in his life.
Would the Packers rethink Kaepernick if Hundley goes down on Sunday at Lambeau Field? They’d almost have to consider him, even with the added baggage of a lawsuit against the league. Even more desperate times would call for McCarthy to wing it with an outside-the-box option.
Of course, what are the chances of the Packers now losing two starting quarterbacks in two weeks? About as long as losing Rodgers was a week ago.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL