‘Big jump’ coming for Packers backup QB Sean Clifford in Year 2

By: Paul Bretl 5/9/24

The Green Bay Packers selected Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt in the seventh round of this year’s draft, however, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t bullish on Sean Clifford as the backup either.

“He developed throughout the year,” said quarterbacks coach Tom Clements, “which is what you’d like to see. He’s doing a great job in this offseason. So I think he’ll make a big jump from year one to year two.”

The Packers’ choosing to draft a quarterback shouldn’t have come as a surprise. In fact, GM Brian Gutekunst told us at the NFL Combine that he wanted to get back to drafting and developing the quarterback position.

My sense is that drafting Pratt was more so about adhering to an organizational philosophy that goes well beyond Gutekunst’s tenure as GM, where the development of the quarterback position is prioritized, almost regardless of what the depth chart looks like, and it was less about the Packers feeling a sense of urgency to find an upgrade for Clifford.

From the outside looking in, we saw very little of Clifford last season. He completed his one pass attempt for 37 yards to Bo Melton in the Packers’ Week 17 blowout win against Minnesota. In the preseason, he completed 72 percent of his 57 attempts at 6.9 yards per attempt, with one touchdown and two interceptions.

One intangible trait that LaFleur often used to describe Clifford was ‘resiliency.’ Regardless of what had just happened, whether it be a turnover, a sack, or a missed throw, Clifford was very quick to bounce back and move on. He’s a competitor. 

However, a big part of Clifford’s responsibilities as the backup was running the scout team offense each week. In that role, just like many of the other Packers’ rookies, Clements saw growth in Clifford as the year went on.

“Sean, he definitely did grow,” said Clements. He’s like a game-type gamer. A little bit of Matt Flynn in him. Once the season started, and he was running the scout team, and he started to become more familiar with our offense and then running opposing team’s offenses, you usually have a lot of similar plays, and he ran the scout team very well, ran the huddle well, he’s a good leader, and he started to make plays throughout the year.”

As the backup quarterback, obviously, that player has to be ready to step in at any time if an injury happens. There is also leading the scout team offense against the starting defense each week as well. But another key part of the role is being an extra set of eyes for Jordan Love, whether that be in the flim room, on the practice field, or the sidelines on Sundays–and this is a role that Clifford has fully embraced. 

“Well, as a backup,” added Clements, “you want someone if the starter is out for a game or a couple of games to come in there and run the team. Be able to lead the team and get a win because you want to continue to win if you’re starter is not there. Got to know the offense, which I’m sure that will happen and have the confidence of the other guys in the huddle and I think that will happen.”

I’m sure if Pratt is able to come in and push Clifford, creating some additional competition, the Packers will be thrilled. All offseason, Gutekunst has continually mentioned the importance of competition within every room. 

With that said, don’t forget about Clifford either, just because there is a new quarterback on the team. The Packers are ‘super excited’ about what they have in him, as LaFleur put it, and with Clifford having a full year in the NFL and in LaFleur’s offense, he is going to have a massive leg up in any potential competition that takes place this summer with Pratt.

“As I said, usually there’s a big jump from year one to year so I anticipate that to be the case,” Clements said. “You just have to be ready to go. Sean is very into the game. If you watch him on the sidelines, he’s always talking to Jordan, learning, watching what’s going on out on the field. He loves football, so he just needs to continue to work and be ready.”