Green Bay Packers

Sean Clifford Isn't Just Going To Let Michael Pratt Take the Backup Job

Photo Credit: Mark Hoffman via USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Love proved he could handle the pressure of being the Green Bay Packers’ starting quarterback and be the franchise’s next elite signal caller. Love’s performance in the second half of the season showed he deserves a long-term extension, and it’s only a matter of time until he signs a deal that resets the QB market.

Now that Love is fully entrenched as a top-tier starter, the Packers need to have their “break glass in case of emergency” plan ready in case Love misses time due to injury.

Former USFL QB Alex McGough is transitioning to wide receiver, leaving incumbent QB2 Sean Clifford and seventh-round rookie Michael Pratt as the most likely options to be Love’s primary backup. While Clifford has the experience, he’s struggled this summer. Pratt is an intriguing option, and many believe he was a draft steal. With QB2 likely to be one of the most exciting camp battles later this month, where does the race for Love’s backup stand?

Thanks to his college career and age, many fans weren’t thrilled when the Packers selected Penn State QB Sean Clifford in the fifth round of the 2023 draft. As a rookie, Clifford was actually older than Love.

Thankfully, Clifford didn’t have to fill in much, playing only 13 offensive snaps. Most of those were end-of-game kneel-down scenarios. However, he got to show off his throwing skills in Week 16 against Minnesota. On his lone passing attempt, he threw a 37-yard bomb and earned a perfect passer rating.

The coaching staff liked Clifford’s performance last year and thinks he could significantly improve this season.

“He’s doing a great job in this offseason,” quarterbacks coach Tom Clements said, “so I think he’ll make a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2.

“He’s like a game-type gamer. A little bit of Matt Flynn in him.”

Brian Gutekunst said he wanted to start drafting and developing quarterbacks again. So, even though the coaching staff is high on Clifford, it wasn’t surprising to see them take Pratt in the final round of this year’s draft.

Unlike the Clifford selection, fans were higher on Pratt. He’s younger (he’ll turn 23 in late September) in an era where quarterbacks are older, thanks to the COVID seasons. Pratt was a record-breaking machine at Tulane, setting records for passing yards (9,602), completion percentage (60.6), TD passes (90), passing efficiency (148.0), and interception percentage (2.16).

Many analysts believe Pratt was one of the biggest steals of the draft; the consensus board had him at 120th overall. His pros are his trajectory of growth every year, his ability to deliver in big moments, and good fundamentals. His cons are his limited physical and field-reading abilities. Most analysts believe he has a ceiling as a highly capable backup quarterback, which is what he’ll hope to be in Green Bay.

Still, Clifford won’t sit idly by and lose his job. LaFleur praised Clifford’s process after the draft, saying, “I think he’s a self-starter. He’s got that intrinsic motivation. I don’t think whether we drafted Pratt or not, it’s going to change his mindset.”

Thus far, Pratt has had the better off-season, showing off some “wow” throws with his big arm and cleaner accuracy. He’s grasped the offense quickly and looked comfortable in this spring’s team activities.

Meanwhile, Clifford has struggled, especially with turnovers. In OTAs, he threw three interceptions in one day (all to Zayne Anderson) and four more through mandatory minicamp. Accuracy has been an issue, which isn’t ideal if Love misses time.

 

But Clifford has a year of NFL experience, whereas Pratt hasn’t worn pads in practice yet. As easy as it is to get excited about a new toy, Pratt is a seventh-round rookie. Expectations need to match that. When training camp really gets going, and the stakes get higher, we’ll get a better look at who is ahead.

The Packers likely want to keep both quarterbacks around, but there isn’t a guarantee they’ll retain three on the 53-man roster. In a perfect world, Green Bay would be able to develop one, have them ball out during preseason, and trade them for a higher pick than they initially went for, like they often did in the Ron Wolf days.

And in that perfect world, neither will need to play after the preseason. If Love stays healthy and consistent, the most either backup will do is kneel down.

However, with 67 quarterbacks starting games last season, the Packers need to prepare just in case. Relying on an older development prospect or a late Day 3 rookie might not be the best option, and the team may need to consider bringing in a veteran. For example, Ryan Tannehill is an option and has played for LaFleur in the past.

Still, based on their history, Green Bay will most likely roll with either Clifford or Pratt as Love’s primary backup. It will remain to be seen if the battle’s loser will earn a spot on the final roster.

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