PETE DOUGHERTY

Packer Plus - - Analysis - PETE DOUGHERTY

If Aaron Rodgers is out, sea­son is over

Min­neapo­lis — Pooof. That very well might be it for the Green Bay Pack­ers’ Su­per Bowl hopes this sea­son.

The early news on Aaron Rodgers’ in­jured shoul­der is grim. The Pack­ers an­nounced dur­ing the game that his bro­ken col­lar­bone might be sea­son-end­ing. They never, ever say in­juries might be sea­so­nend­ing dur­ing the game. So that’s a bad sign.

Now, we have to leave open the pos­si­bil­ity that they made an ex­cep­tion this time. Maybe they wanted to pre­empt the self-in­flicted, weekly will-heor-won’t-he-play soap opera they en­dured in 2013, when he broke the col­lar­bone on his left (non-throw­ing) side, missed seven games and re­turned for the reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale and play­offs.

But this time the in­jury is on his right side, his throw­ing side. That means the re­cov­ery will take longer, maybe a lot longer. There are only 12 weeks from now to the play­off opener. So this looks bad.

And do we even need to say it? If Rodgers is out for the sea­son, the Pack­ers aren’t com­ing back to Min­neapo­lis in Fe­bru­ary to play in the Su­per Bowl. This is tak­ing Michael Jor­dan off the Bulls.

If I’m the Pack­ers I’d dis­miss the no­tion of bring­ing in a quar­ter­back from the out­side. They drafted and de­vel­oped Brett Hund­ley just for this pur­pose. They need to give him the team and see what he can do.

If the Pack­ers know Rodgers is done for the sea­son, sign­ing some­one else should be a non-starter. What would be the point? No­body on the street can take this team to the Su­per Bowl. There prob­a­bly are only two quar­ter­backs in the game who could: Rodgers and Tom Brady.

And even if there’s hope Rodgers could re­turn in Jan­uary, it still doesn’t add up.

Colin Kaeper­nick is a tal­ented player and put up de­cent num­bers last year with San Fran­cisco (90.4 passer rat­ing, 16 touch­downs and only four in­ter­cep­tions). But he also was 1-10 as a starter. When he won with the 49ers in 2012 and ’13, he had a top-tier de­fense and a Pro Bowl run­ning back. The Pack­ers de­cid­edly have nei­ther. Maybe Kaeper­nick is bet­ter than Hund­ley, but maybe he’s not. We don’t know yet. But if he is, it’s not enough to mat­ter. He’d have to carry the Pack­ers, and there’s noth­ing to sug­gest he could do that.

Tony Romo? Same thing. He had more tal­ent around him in Dal­las than he’d have with the Pack­ers, and he never got past the di­vi­sional round of the play­offs even in his prime. He’s 37, has a his­tory of back prob­lems and bro­ken col­lar­bones, ba­si­cally didn’t play last sea­son (four pass at­tempts) and now is work­ing as a TV game an­a­lyst. He’s a fast-de­clin­ing player and an in­jury wait­ing to hap­pen.

Really, even in a best-case sce­nario of Rodgers re­turn­ing in Jan­uary, what are the chances a Kaeper­nick or a Romo could come in cold, with no back­ground in Mike McCarthy’s of­fense, and get this team to the post­sea­son? I’d say nil.

It’s not like the Pack­ers can change their iden­tity and be­come a de­fen­sive-ori­ented, run-first team. They don’t have the play­ers. And with all the in­juries on the of­fen­sive line (the Pack­ers fin­ished this game with three back­ups in their front five)? Who­ever their quar­ter­back, he’s go­ing to have to be a pretty good play­maker for this 4-2 team to fin­ish even .500.

Let’s face it, ev­ery­thing this team does, and ev­ery­thing it hopes to ac­com­plish, de­pends on Rodgers be­ing on the field.

The only real choice is Hund­ley. He’s in his third year in the sys­tem. McCarthy knows his strengths and weak­nesses, and start­ing this week he can game plan around them. Hun- dley’s chances of win­ning are bet­ter than any­one the Pack­ers can bring in at this point.

So Sun­day the Pack­ers started liv­ing their worst night­mare. The guy who makes them a peren­nial ti­tle con­tender is out for a long while, and prob­a­bly for the sea­son, though no one’s say­ing for sure.

Now the Pack­ers are go­ing to find out a lot about the rest of their ros­ter.

It’s go­ing to be rough. Wel­come to how most of the NFL lives.

Hund­ley flashed some play­mak­ing Sun­day af­ter Rodgers went down in the first quar­ter. But he also threw three in­ter­cep­tions and had a tough time mov­ing the ball.

A week of prac­tice as the starter should help, but he has a ways to go. In a sim­i­lar spot in his third year, Rodgers re­placed an in­jured Brett Favre in Dal­las and looked pretty good in a 37-27 loss to a Cow­boys team that fin­ished 13-3. Hund­ley didn’t look like that Sun­day.

And even with three years of NFL ex­pe­ri­ence and an off-sea­son work­ing as the man, Rodgers went only 6-10 in his first sea­son as a starter. So things look bleak for the 2017 Pack­ers.

But as a reg­u­lar emailer as­tutely wrote to me Sun­day evening, ad­ver­sity re­veals as much as it teaches. Now we’ll find out for real about Hund­ley’s makeup and skill set, as well as the play­ers around him.

The Pack­ers were early in what had all the signs of a very, very promis­ing sea­son. Rodgers looked like a man on a mis­sion through five weeks. He might have been on his way to an­other MVP year. And there was some young tal­ent on de­fense that had a chance to de­velop and at least make that side of the ball good enough to win a cham­pi­onship.

But Sun­day might have dealt that a mor­tal blow. Odds are, Rodgers is fin­ished for the sea­son, and if that’s the case, so are the Pack­ers.

DAN POW­ERS/USA TODAY NET­WORK-WIS­CON­SIN

Train­ers tend to Pack­ers quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers, who lies in­jured with a bro­ken col­lar­bone af­ter be­ing hit while throw­ing a pass in the first quar­ter.

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