GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Coach Mike McCarthy should just go ahead and call off the competition for the Green Bay Packers' backup quarterback job and demand that general manager Ted Thompson keep both Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien on the roster.
Maybe Thompson will feel as though he cannot afford to use three roster spots on quarterbacks. After all, he hasn't done so since 2008, and even then it was only because he wasn't ready to give up on second-round pick Brian Brohm.
But he also hasn’t had three worth keeping like he does now.
Given how close the competition is behind Aaron Rodgers, the safe thing to do would be to find a place for Flynn and Tolzien, especially after what the Packers went through last season when Rodgers broke his collarbone and missed seven starts.
The Packers need three quarterbacks to practice anyway, and since Tolzien has run out of practice squad eligibility, it’s the roster or bust for both backups.
Rodgers won’t play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, so expect Flynn and Tolzien to get a long look. But even McCarthy would not go so far as to say it’s a winner-take-all situation for the backup job.
“Well, we’ll see,” McCarthy said after Friday’s preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. “I’m not going to make statements like that.”
Based on game production alone, Tolzien might have closed the gap on -- and possibly even overtaken -- Flynn. Against the Raiders, Tolzien threw the ball with the kind of zip that Flynn does not always show, and he completed 8 of 11 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. But he also was the beneficiary of a diving catch by Chris Harper for a 27-yard gain and a juggling catch by Alex Gillett for a 15-yard touchdown.
“I’ve been in games where all of those have been incompletions, and tonight, guys were making plays on the ball,” Tolzien said. “The line was protecting, so there were a lot of guys doing good things.”
Meanwhile, Flynn completed just 4 of 10 passes for 37 yards and had a screen pass go terribly wrong and turn into an interception.
However, Flynn was undone by scores of mental errors and fundamental mistakes.
“We had one decent drive, one when I was in there, and it was OK,” said Flynn of the 12-play, 34-yard drive that led to a field goal. “But we’ve got to clean up the mistakes. We’re having some missed opportunities.”
For the preseason, Tolzien has blown away Flynn in nearly every statistical category. His passer rating is 104.9 to Flynn’s 61.9. His completion percentage is 68.4 percent to Flynn’s 47.8. His yards per attempt is 8.9 to Flynn’s 5.7, which supports the argument that Tolzien has a stronger arm and therefore is better throwing the ball down the field.
But Flynn’s history cannot be discounted.
Tolzien did not produce a single victory in three appearances last season, and after Flynn scratched out a tie after McCarthy pulled Tolzien against the Vikings, the veteran backup went 2-2 before Rodgers returned. He also spent his first four NFL seasons (2008-11) as Rodgers' primary backup before leaving in free agency.
And even if Flynn's numbers and production have not translated into preseason-game success, his practice-field performance has not slipped.
"Every year, you've got to prove to the coaches that you deserve a spot and you've earned a spot," Flynn said. "I don't think they just give out spots or anything like that because of what you've done. But I feel really good about what I've done this camp. I think I've had one of, if not the, best camps that I've had since I've been a professional. That entails a lot of things besides just what's going on out there. I'm proud of what I've done. I don't have any regrets."
Maybe Thompson won't be able to part with his 10th linebacker or sixth receiver or fifth tight end, therefore making it impossible to keep three quarterbacks.
But it would be a mistake to let one of them walk away, because if something happened to Rodgers again this season, they might need both of them again.