GREEN BAY – As he walked toward the team bus Saturday night, B.J. Coleman couldn’t stop grinning. Whatever happens to the Green Bay Packers young quarterback from here – miraculously winning the No. 2 job, another year on the practice squad, getting cut and joining another team, or finding out that the NFL doesn’t want him anymore – he’ll always have St. Louis.
“It’s like I told you, the most important thing is when they give me an opportunity, whether it’s on the scout team, it’s live practice reps, it’s in a game, I’ve got to do the best I can,” Coleman said after throwing his first NFL touchdown pass – a 9-yarder to tight end Jake Stoneburner – during the Packers’ 19-7 preseason victory over the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome Saturday night.
“My biggest thing was I wanted to put the football in the end zone. I hadn’t done that yet. And that was pretty special. That’s something you’ll never forget – your first touchdown pass. It doesn’t matter if it’s preseason, five, 10 years down the road, that’s something you’ll look back at and it’ll be pretty special.”
Even with that sublime throw – which capped a 13-play, 75-yard drive on which he converted a pair of third downs with excellent throws and got a fourth-down pass-interference penalty to keep the drive alive – Coleman’s odds are long. The Packers decided after his poor showing in the Family Night Scrimmage to bring veteran Vince Young aboard to compete with incumbent backup Graham Harrell for the No. 2 spot behind starter Aaron Rodgers, and Coleman spent almost every practice running the Rams’ plays on the look team to prepare the defense. Only occasionally did he get to run the Packers offense.
“I think those scout-teams reps are very valuable for B.J.,” quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo explained late last week. “I think a lot of the footwork, a lot of the concepts – especially this week (running the Rams’ offense) – carry over to what we’re doing.
“We’ve invested a lot in B.J., and B.J.’s invested a lot in us. We still believe in him, and I still believe in him. He has a big heart, he’s a tough guy, he’s a fighter, and he’s going to continue to develop and work on it.”
It sounded like a not-so-subtle way of saying – after coach Mike McCarthy also extolled the virtues of Coleman’s future potential in response to a question about his present performance – that he’s still at least a year away from being a realistic option as the primary backup. More likely, Coleman will be released at the end of camp and the Packers will try to stash him on the practice squad for another year, since they traditionally have kept only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.
A sudden, major improvement cannot entirely be ruled out, but one seems remote – largely because the touchdown drive was essentially his first in-game success.
Last preseason, Coleman was 7 of 18 for 77 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and one sack for an abysmal passer rating of 29.2, but Coleman was kept on the practice squad all season.
This year, Coleman threw two horrible interceptions during the Family Night Scrimmage, then got into last week’s game against Arizona almost as an afterthought, after incumbent Harrell got six series and Young made his debut. Coleman completed 2 of 7 passes for 15 yards (39.6 rating) after entering the game with 5 minutes, 11 seconds to play.
Time wasn’t an issue Saturday night, as McCarthy gave Coleman the entire fourth quarter. He trotted on with 13:55 left and made three big-time throws: A third-and-6 high fastball to Tyrone Walker, who made a terrific leaping catch for a 15-yard gain; a third-and-6 strike to Myles White, who gained 14 for another first down; and the touchdown to Stoneburner, which Coleman flung while scrambling to his right and put where only Stoneburner could get it.
But even the touchdown drive was less than perfect. Right after the conversion to White, Coleman had the offense at the line of scrimmage for first-and-10 at the St. Louis 38, and McCarthy burst onto the field to get a timeout, clearly perturbed by what he was seeing. (He quickly calmed down before calling Coleman to the sideline.)
After a pair of penalties, Coleman threw low and behind an open Omarius Hines across the middle. And after a well-executed screen to Alex Green gained 14 and a Rams pass-interference penalty allowed him to convert a fourth-and-6, Coleman threw high to Hines on a slant that nearly led to an interception.
And after the drive, Coleman got very little accomplished, going three-and-out on his next two series before ending the game with a pair of kneel-downs in the final minute.
“B.J. did a good job,” McCarthy said after the game. “He had a couple of plays that he’s going to wish he had back, but I thought he saw pressure from their defense and did a couple of things at the line of scrimmage. (He) needs to settle down a little bit more, but B.J. improved today.”
Added Rodgers: “He hung in there and made some good plays. He just needs reps. He needs more game opportunities like that. Mike did a good job getting him some plays he could check into or check out of and he made a nice scramble and delivered a good ball on the touchdown to Stoneburner. I think you’ve seen him the last week or so do a better job in practice, so it’s nice to see it carry over for him. I know he was happy with the way he played.”
Yes, he was.
“For the time I’ve been here, I’ve always wanted to see progression, and to be able to get in there, establish some time on the clock – the whole fourth quarter – so I could really get into a good rhythm, make decisions not based on just a couple seconds on the clock, that was pretty cool,” Coleman said. “Coach obviously is a very brilliant man. He has a reason. To have an opportunity to just work in his system, it’s a very fortunate thing for me. To watch the guys out there I was with, to see them be successful and get in the end zone, just the faces they had – I’ll never forget it. That was special.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde