Packers: Coach Mike McCarthy sticks with Brett Hundley at quarterback
GREEN BAY — Mike McCarthy is sticking with Brett Hundley as his quarterback, not that the Green Bay Packers coach has much of a choice.
Having committed to Hundley immediately after starter Aaron Rodgers suffered a fractured right collarbone Oct. 15 at Minnesota — and having immediately dismissed out of hand the idea of bringing in a veteran to serve as Hundley’s backup instead of young third-stringer Joe Callahan — McCarthy reiterated Monday that he will not make a quarterback change in the wake of Sunday’s 23-0 shutout loss to the Baltimore Ravens at Lambeau Field.
The loss marked the first time in 11 years that the Packers have been shut out, dating to a 35-0 loss to the New England Patriots on Nov. 19, 2006 — McCarthy’s first year as coach.
McCarthy also said he would not be making any drastic changes in advance of this week’s game against the 8-2 Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday night.
“We’re being evaluated all the time. It’s part of the process. Because you have to move the football team forward,” McCarthy said. “To make rash decisions … just think of the commitment that everybody has, from player to coach, going into the season, how far along we are into the season. At this point, we’ve played 10 games. And how hard it is to win a game, you can never lose sight of that.
“That’s why we do it the way we do it.”
Nevertheless, Hundley’s play has been disappointing, and never more so than the four-turnover day he turned in against the Ravens. Hundley threw three interceptions and lost a fumble, completing just 21 of 36 passes for 239 yards with no touchdowns for a passer rating of 43.6. He also absorbed six sacks and appeared indecisive and slow to read the Ravens’ defense as he danced in the pocket or scrambled.
“I’ll just say it again: I believe in Brett Hundley,” McCarthy said, repeating a phrase he’s used on a weekly basis since Rodgers’ injury. “I believe in Brett Hundley as a quarterback, and I believe he will improve. And that’s where we are.”
When it was mentioned to McCarthy that Hundley’s recognition and decision-making was not all that different from those of other young, inexperienced quarterbacks around the league, McCarthy pointed to the standard Rodgers has set in Green Bay — and suggested Rodgers has set the bar so high that no one can live up to it.
“To compare him to Aaron Rodgers, I mean, show me another quarterback that plays as fast as Aaron Rodgers. We’re talking about a quarterback that plays at a different level,” McCarthy said. “So really, what we’re focused on is, is Brett learning from Aaron and trying to play faster? And getting the ball out a little quicker?
“We’re spoiled right now with Aaron. He makes it look easy. He plays fast, and he does, he’s at a level that maybe a couple of guys in this league are as far as what he can do at the line of scrimmage. I don’t even know why I’m talking about it. Because we’re focused on our offense playing differently, and we need to play better. And that starts with me.”
Since he became the Packers’ starter in 2008, the team has not fared well when Rodgers has been sidelined by injury. Including the games in which he was injured — a concussion suffered at Detroit in 2010, a fractured left collarbone in 2013 and his injury this year — the Packers are 3-11-1.
After a 4-1 start with Rodgers playing at the level that made him a two-time NFL MVP, the Packers have now lost four of five to fall to .500 at 5-5. Eight teams are ahead of them in the playoff picture in the NFC, and they are two-touchdown underdogs entering Sunday night’s game against the Steelers.
Hundley enters that game having completed 96 of 158 passes (60.8 percent) for 940 yards with two touchdowns, seven interceptions and 17 sacks (63.2 rating). Whatever progress he made during the fourth quarter of the Packers’ 23-16 victory at Chicago on Nov. 12 — when Hundley threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams and had a clutch 42-yard third-down strike to Adams as the Packers tried to run out the clock — seems to have been undone by Sunday’s showing.
“I can’t expect to be perfect,” Hundley said. “But at the end of the day, I can expect to be better than this. And I will be going forward.”
After Hundley got off to a strong start on the first series of the game, Ravens veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith baited him into an interception on a throw for a seemingly wide-open Randall Cobb in the end zone. On the next series, Hundley threw another interception, this time making a poor decision to heave a downfield pass while under pressure that was easily picked off by Baltimore safety Eric Weddle. Later, Hundley lost a fumble on one of the six sacks he absorbed, then threw one last interception that led to the Ravens’ victory-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve just got to be better, no matter if that’s running or just making something happen out there,” Hundley said. “I felt like we had everything we wanted on offense (going into the game). I’ve got to take care of the ball.
“I can’t say I’ve never won a game with four, five turnovers, but the odds are stacked high against you. I’ve got to take care of the ball as the quarterback of this team. It shoots us in the foot when you throw two interceptions on the first two drives, and then the fumble, and then the interception at the end. That is hard to overcome as an offense, and as a quarterback I’ve got to better in that aspect of leading this offense.”
Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark avoided what initially appeared to be a serious ankle injury during Sunday’s game. Clark left the field on a cart after getting rolled up on during a second-half play but appears to have merely suffered a high-ankle sprain, which could force him to miss Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh but shouldn’t end his season. “Appreciate all the prayers,” Clark wrote on his Twitter page. “I’ll be fine.” … McCarthy did not have an update on Clay Matthews, who left Sunday’s game with a groin injury after recording his first sack since Sept. 28. But when asked about whether ex-University of Wisconsin outside linebacker Vince Biegel would play more going forward, defensive coordinator Dom Capers replied, “He probably needs to be ready for more, not knowing what Clay’s status is going to be.” … Rookie running back Aaron Jones is facing three charges and possible NFL discipline after an arrest Oct. 1 during a traffic stop, according to Wisconsin Circuit Court records: Operating a vehicle with a controlled substance in his system, speeding (24 mph over the posted speed limit of 55) and operating a vehicle without a valid license. First reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jones’ arrest occurred a week before his breakout game at Dallas on Oct. 8. He entered a plea of not guilty on Nov. 15.