Apparently it was foreshadowing.
Oh, how sweet the life of a backup quarterback. You get to impersonate other quarterbacks when running the scout team at practice, you can still tell the ladies you’re an NFL QB at the bar, you wear a slick hat on Sundays, make a few million dollars per season, and don’t have to face hits like these.
The life of a backup isn’t completely carefree. When savage hits knock their pal out of the game, they’re thrust into action without warning. Some go onto shine, others fail miserably. (See Cleveland.)
Often a team doesn’t know exactly what they have in their backup until he has to enter a game. There are certain quarterbacks who get timid when facing live bullets, and others who elevate their play in the moment. Names like Steve Young, Brett Favre, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers all spent time riding the pine (and some betting their coaches they could throw the ball to the upper deck) during their careers. But, once given the chance, they all seized the moment.
Is there a Steve Young in the league right now who’s currently relegated to holding a clipboard? Ok, Young might be too high a bar, but there are some backups are certainly competent enough to start.
Which team has the best insurance policy under center isn’t really the question at issue. The purpose of this list is to find the guys who could lead a team from Week 1 to the post-season, not come in for a couple innings of solid relief pitching! (Sorry, Matt Moore.)
In order to generate this list, I weighed a few things: how they have performed as a starter, where the unknown is benefiting many; the way their coaches and teammates, as well as the rest of the league, view them; their expectations as a pro; and how they have developed during their time in the league. If you have a more accurate method, please share your criteria!
What these rankings are guilty of is a bit of a recency bias, since rookies have yet to prove that they are inadequate.
A bit of clarification before we get started, this list will not feature Josh McCown or Colin Kaepernick, whom I assume will both start the season as backups, because they’re just a couple Griffin/Gabbert mistakes away from being a starter (if they don’t snag the job out of camp).
You also won’t find Jimmy Garoppolo on this list because he’s already getting his chance to start. By the way, has anyone considered the possibility that it was Garoppolo who ordered the air out of those footballs? Tom Brady was framed!
Geno Smith isn’t on the list either. But that’s not because he could get the chance to start; it’s because he’s not good.
I could pick on Geno all day, but these backups are already waiting patiently to get on the field, I shouldn’t keep them waiting here, too.
Backup Quarterback Rankings:
- Jared Goff, Rams – There’s a reason he was the first-overall pick in the 2016 draft. Case Keenum and Nick Foles may force Goff to the field a little quicker than the organisation has planned.
- Paxton Lynch, Broncos – He was the most physically gifted quarterback of the three taken in the first round. His footwork and familiarity with a pro offense will come, and when it does, no one in Denver will remember who Brock Osweiler is.
- A.J. McCarron, Bengals – He performed to the tune of a 97.1 passer rating in his three starts last season, and almost got the Bengals a playoff victory. He was not phenomenal, but he was efficient and protected the ball. Andy Dalton’s job isn’t as safe as it was when Josh Johnson was #2 on the depth chart.
- Carson Wentz, Eagles – Not throwing your rookie quarterback under centre right away is a strategy practised quite often, but not even dressing him says a couple things: the team wants to be patient in his development, and he’s got a long way to go.
- Mike Glennon, Buccaneers – All the trade chatter proves that he’ll be given a chance somewhere else. Glennon will be a free agent after this season, and I expect him to get a lot of attention on the market.
- Derek Anderson, Panthers – In 2007, Anderson went 10-5 as a starter in Cleveland (yes, CLEVELAND!), and was awarded with a trip to the Pro Bowl. He also played extremely well in his two starts in 2014 as a Panther.
- Connor Cook, Raiders – He will be given a start in this league, just probably not in Oakland, barring injury.
- Chase Daniel, Eagles – We haven’t seen much of him – just two starts, to be precise – but the $7 million he’s going to make this season suggests that he may get a start if Sam Bradford doesn’t excel.
- Ryan Nassib, Giants – Eli Manning has ensured that we know nothing about Nassib as a pro. What we do know is he has a cannon for an arm, and Eli and the Giants’ coaching staff think very highly of him.
- Shaun Hill, Vikings – Teddy Bridgewater isn’t the answer at quarterback for the Vikings, but Hill isn’t a play-maker either. He can manage a game, though, something Minnesota may opt for around the midpoint of this season.
- Garrett Grayson, Saints – I was shocked to see Luke McCown receive the snaps in Brees’ absence last season, but that won’t be the case if the same scenario arises this year.
- Drew Stanton, Cardinals – He’s a gun-slinger without the touchdowns.
- Christian Hackenberg, Jets – He was very inconsistent at Penn State, and his accuracy issues are concerning. But he has the size and arm strength to be given a shot.
- E.J. Manuel, Bills – He hasn’t been horrible as a starter, but he hasn’t been good either. His poor completion percentage (59.1), and knack for turning the ball over has allowed a former backup to assume the starting role in Buffalo.
- Brian Hoyer, Bears – He should have taken the 2014 Browns to the playoffs, but his inaccuracy was on display all season long. The fact that the Texans grossly overpaid for an unproven quarterback (Osweiler) says enough about Hoyer’s ceiling.