How Important Are Backup Quarterbacks in the NFL?

There are many factors why a team doesn’t put ‘backup quarterback’ high on their shopping list in the offseason or for the NFL Draft. Teams can be hamstrung by the salary cap, lack of quality draft picks and limited roster spots.

If you look at the 2017 NFL season so far, 14 teams have had to use their backup quarterback on at least one drive this season. Most of those were due to injury and Houston/Cleveland/San Francisco had to change quarterbacks due to ineffectiveness.

Injuries to starting quarterbacks have also wreaked havoc on NFL betting odds for the season. Just last week there were three games that had their betting lines delayed by days due to the questions about a quarterback’s health. 

How much equity (roster spot, salary, high draft pick) should an NFL team use on a backup quarterback today? 

As a lifelong fan of the Indianapolis Colts, I used to shrug my shoulders every preseason when I saw the same old, un-athletic white guys hold the clipboard for QB Peyton Manning. Here’s the murderer’s row of some of the luminaries that backed up Manning in his career in Indy.

  • QB Brock Huard
  • QB Jim Sorgi
  • QB Curtis Painter

The Colts definitely had a type.

I don’t know who exactly to point the finger at since Manning had GM Bill Polian for his entire time with the Colts. Was it his way of putting together a roster or was it Manning’s preference to not have any competition to take his job away from him?

If you look at other Polian teams he controlled in the past, the early 90’s Buffalo Bills for example, he had QB Frank Reich who backed up Hall of Famer QB Jim Kelly. Reich was a very talented backup quarterback and put some of those skills to the test when he led the Bills to the largest comeback in postseason history. Polian clearly wanted a starter-level backup quarterback when he was the general manager in Buffalo.

It’s kind of insane to think Manning wanted a below-average backup out of a fear of his own inadequacies, but on paper, it looks like that is the case. You can’t even say that it was a money crunch, cause QB Jim Sorgi was getting around a million dollars a year. There are just some questions I’ll never know the answers to, I guess.

I wanted to describe the Colts history of backup quarterbacks as an example that having a good backup could be a slippery slope. A quarterback like Peyton Manning, who was one of the all-time best quarterbacks in NFL, appeared to be bothered at the mere presence of an adequate backup. I guess it could happen to anyone.

Let’s face it, NFL general managers don’t really have time to focus on signing the best backup for their teams. It’s hard enough to find your starting quarterback, let alone your #2 QB. It’s also an issue if you have a quarterback that has a large ego. He could view drafting/signing a good, young backup as someone possibly taking his job.

It’s more important than ever to have a solid backup quarterback in today’s NFL. Defenses have gotten bigger and faster, so a team’s quarterback is taking more and more damage, even if the NFL are adding stricter rules to limit certain hits. At the very least, the old adage of “If you have two good quarterbacks, you don’t have one” is no longer applicable. Today’s general managers need to be prepared, but the backup QB will always be down on the list of needs somewhere in-between starting QB and long snapper.

Follow us on Twitter @Sweetbob & ‘LIKE’ us on Facebook!

sweetbob-author-picAbout the Author…

Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot ClicksGuyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *