GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers isn’t the only Green Bay Packers quarterback who might benefit from a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterbacks coach.
But while the two-time NFL MVP is sure to adapt to the changes head coach Matt LaFleur, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy bring, Rodgers hasn’t had to deal with much change as he enters his 15th NFL season and 12th as the Packers’ starter.
No. 3 quarterback Tim Boyle? Most of his football life has been spent rolling with the changes.
In college at Connecticut, Boyle played in 27 games over three seasons – under three different head coaches. He played for Paul Pasqualoni as a freshman in 2013, until Pasqualoni, who recruited him, was fired after four games and replaced by first-year offensive coordinator T.J. Weist for the remainder of that season.
The Huskies then hired Bob Diaco as their new head coach in 2014, and Diaco hired a new offensive coordinator in Mike Cummings. Then, while Diaco returned as head coach in 2015, he demoted Cummings to offensive line coach and brought in Frank Verducci as UConn’s new offensive coordinator.
Boyle transferred to Eastern Kentucky after that 2015 season, spent 2016 redshirting and showed enough during his senior season (2,134 yards with 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for the 4-7 Colonels) in 2017 to draw NFL interest because of his size (6-foot-4, 232 pounds) and strong arm.
Now, after playing for head coach Mike McCarthy, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin (who served as interim head coach for the final four games of last season after McCarthy’s Dec. 2 firing) and quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti, Boyle believes that his first season allowed him to build a strong foundation – even if he’ll have new coaches and a new playbook to learn when the offseason program begins in early April.
“It was great. I learned a lot. We had a great room, obviously. Aaron’s been great to us. Coach Cignetti taught me a lot of ball,” Boyle said. “I couldn’t see the year going any better for me from a developmental standpoint.”
Well, it would have been nice had Boyle gotten to play in a regular-season game at some point. Instead, he’ll have to take his 107 snaps of preseason experience (during which he completed 26 of 53 passes for 294 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions for a 69.2 rating) and extensive practice work and apply it going forward.
“It’s hard to tell (how much improvement there has been) because I haven’t played in an actual, competitive game,” Boyle admitted. “But watching Aaron and how he prepares for games has been unreal. It’s hard to say because I haven’t played a competitive snap since August, but I’d like to think I’ve gotten better. Just being around Aaron, your game increases so rapidly. Just being around that good of a player, you feel like your accuracy increases, your arm strength increases, just because you want to keep up with Aaron.”
Boyle enters the offseason knowing nothing is guaranteed – especially his roster spot. While the Packers liked him enough to bring him in for a pre-draft visit and sign him as an undrafted free agent – and Boyle did enough in preseason to make general manager Brian Gutekunst comfortable enough with him to trade former backup Brett Hundley to Seattle and keep Boyle on the 53-man roster behind Rodgers and DeShone Kizer – the Packers have 10 picks in the upcoming NFL Draft and certainly could spend one on a quarterback if one unexpectedly falls to them in the late rounds like Hundley did in 2015.
“Tim, he can throw the football. You look at him, he has the ability to make all the throws,” Cignetti said late last season. “He’s a quick thinker and he’s eager to learn and get better. (But) I think the next step for any quarterback is just getting the chance to play. That’s how you truly get better. You practice, but you have to get chances to get out there to compete and play, too.”
While Boyle didn’t get any regular-season playing time, he did gain something nearly as valuable last season: Confidence. From early on in training camp, he carried himself like someone who knew he belonged at the NFL level, even with his thin college resume.
In truth, he came to the Packers with some self-doubt about his abilities after his vagabond collegiate existence. But his confidence returned as he showed everyone – including himself – what he could do.
“Honestly, I always knew I was a good football player and I could throw the ball well. As my college career progressed, my confidence decreased a little bit,” Boyle said. “But I always internally knew that I had the talent. When I got here and I did well, it was definitely a confidence boost for me. To spend the year on the 53-man roster was a huge confidence boost for me, as well.
“And, DeShone and Aaron were awesome to me. It was a great year for me.”
LaFleur finalized his staff on Monday by promoting Chris Gizzi to strength and conditioning coordinator and retaining Mark Lovat, Thadeus Jackson and Grant Thorne as assistants. Gizzi spent the past five seasons working under Lovat, who had been the coordinator since 2010.
“That is a critical hire,” LaFleur said. “You talk about the guys that are going to talk to the team the most, it’s going to myself, it’s going to be the special teams coordinator and it’s going to be the strength coach. Those three positions are absolutely critical to our success moving forward.”