Top 15 NFL Backup Quarterbacks

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Top 15 NFL Backup Quarterbacks

Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback is the most important player on any football team. As we have seen over the last several NFL seasons, it is hard to win consistently unless you have a good quarterback under center. Without a capable quarterback, entire offenses look out of sync and sloppy.

Given the importance that the quarterback position has taken on in the NFL, it is essential for teams to have a good backup quarterback that is ready to step in at a moments notice and keep the offense moving as if nothing happened. Having a quality backup is especially significant given the extremely physical nature of football and how easily it is for even the best quarterbacks to get injured.

It is hard to know how good some backup quarterbacks actually are because they have spent the majority of their professional careers standing on the sidelines with a clipboard in their hands. These young backups were selected by their teams because of the promise they showed in college, but have yet to have the chance to play outside of the preseason.

Other backups have a ton of experience from earlier in their career and provide teams with a more known quantity at the quarterback position. These veterans have experience as starting quarterbacks and provide teams with some stability at the backup spot, especially if the starter is going to be out for a significant amount of time.

Here is a look at the 15 best quarterbacks currently in the NFL that find themselves in a situation where they are backing up somebody else.

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Kyle Orton – Dallas Cowboys

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Kyle Orton has had moderate success as a starter with both the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos.

Now in his eighth NFL season, Orton is Tony Romo’s backup with the Dallas Cowboys. Through his career Orton has shown that he is not good enough to be a successful franchise quarterback, but that he is good enough to come in and win games in a pinch.

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Kirk Cousins – Washington Redskins

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A lot of people were scratching their heads when the Washington Redskins drafted Kirk Cousins 100 picks after taking Robert Griffin III in the 2012 NFL Draft, but Cousins showed why they picked him on Sunday.

Cousins led the Redskins on a crucial game tying touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens after Griffin went down with a knee injury. Cousins may eventually end up as a starter for another team in a couple of years, but for the meantime he is a solid backup for the Redskins.

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Tyler Thigpen – Buffalo Bills

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Tyler Thigpen is an intriguing backup quarterback who has only really had one shot at being a starter with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008.

Thigpen had 22 total touchdowns in his 11 starts in 2008, but the Chiefs only went 1-10 in his starts and he was shipped off to the Miami Dolphins the following season. Now with the Buffalo Bills, Thigpen has settled into a backup role behind Ryan Fitzpatrick.

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Matt Moore – Miami Dolphins

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Matt Moore has played significantly better as a backup quarterback with both the Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins in his career.

Moore had his most success in 2009 when he was pressed into service for an injured Jake Delhomme and led the Panthers to a 4-1 record down the stretch. Despite his success Moore was pushed out of his starting role in 2010 by rookie Jimmy Clausen. He also had success last season with the Miami Dolphins when he replaced an injured Chad Henne and started 12 games.

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Ryan Mallett – New England Patriots

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Ryan Mallett has no significant professional experience, but has spent the past two seasons on the bench behind Tom Brady.

The New England Patriots may choose to keep Mallett as Brady’s eventual successor, but eventually other teams with quarterback needs may eventually offer them a deal they cannot refuse for the big, strong-armed quarterback.

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Tim Tebow – New York Jets

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Tim Tebow is certainly the most talked about backup quarterback currently in the NFL, but it is for a reason.

Tebow led the Denver Broncos to an AFC West championship and a playoff win in 2011 before being dumped for Peyton Manning. Now with the New York Jets, Tebow has sat on the bench waiting for his chance to show what he can do once again. That chance might not come until next year with a different team.

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Alex Smith – San Francisco 49ers

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Alex Smith had the great misfortune of suffering a concussion and losing his starting job mid-season to Colin Kaepernick.

Smith has had the best two-year stretch of his career under current coach Jim Harbaugh and led the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC championship game in 2011. With Smith on the bench backing up the dynamic Kaepernick, the 49ers have one of the best quarterback situations in the NFL.

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Matt Flynn – Seattle Seahawks

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Matt Flynn came to the Seattle Seahawks to be the starting quarterback this season, but was beat out by rookie Russell Wilson in training camp.

Prior to signing with the Seahawks, Flynn had great success as a backup with the Green Bay Packers and currently holds the franchise record for most passing yards and most passing touchdowns in a game.

For now, Flynn is one of the top backups in the league with the Seahawks. However, it is only a matter of time before he gets his chance to be a full-time starter.

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Brock Osweiler – Denver Broncos

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The Denver Broncos drafted the 6’7” Brock Osweiler in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft to sit on the bench and learn from Peyton Manning.

We will never know how good Osweiler is until Manning decides to retire, but the Broncos obviously think he has a bright future as a franchise quarterback.

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Jason Campbell – Chicago Bears

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As a former first-round pick of the Washington Redskins, Jason Campbell has a ton of experience as a starting quarterback with both the Redskins and Oakland Raiders.

Now with the Chicago Bears, Campbell is Jay Cutler’s backup quarterback and has already seen some playing time this season with mixed results. He has had some success in the past which makes him one of the top backup options currently in the NFL.

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Shaun Hill – Detroit Lions

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Shaun Hill has been one of the best backup quarterbacks throughout his 11-year NFL career.

He has some experience as a starting quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers, but has found his niche as a backup in the pass happy Detroit Lions offense. He had he best season in 2010 when he started 10 games in place of an injured Matthew Stafford and threw for 2,686 yards and 16 touchdowns.

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Joe Webb – Minnesota Vikings

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Joe Webb is a dynamic backup quarterback who was initially drafted to play wide receiver in the NFL.

Webb has had moderate success passing in limited action with the Vikings, but he possesses the ability to beat defenses with his legs as he has run for 274 yards and four touchdowns in his career. He is most famous for winning his first career start on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010 despite the Vikings being two touchdown underdogs.

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Charlie Batch – Pittsburgh Steelers

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Charlie Batch has been a backup with the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2002 and has been one of the most reliable backups in that time.

He showed again this season that he is capable of coming in and winning a big game as he led the Steelers to an important road win over the division rival Baltimore Ravens.

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T. J. Yates – Houston Texans

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Nobody expected much from T. J. Yates when the Houston Texans selected him in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

However, after injuries to both Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart, Yates finished the 2011 season and led the Texans to the first playoff win in franchise history. In fact he is one of only five quarterbacks to win a playoff game in his rookie season, not bad for a backup.

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Matt Hasselbeck – Tennessee Titans

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Matt Hasselbeck has perhaps the most starting experience on this list from his time with the Seattle Seahawks.

Hasselbeck won an NFC Championship with the Seahawks in 2005 and holds almost all of their significant franchise passing records.

Now with the Tennessee Titans, Hasselbeck has lost his starting job to Jake Locker, but with his vast experience and success as a starter he is one of the best backups currently in the NFL.