Ranking All 32 Backup Quarterbacks Heading Into 2013 NFL Season
Who is the NFL's Best Backup Quarterback?
An NFL backup quarterback falls on two polar opposite ends of the spectrum; they're the player who the fans constantly want to see as the starting quarterback struggles, yet at the same time, if a team has to go to their backup quarterback, it becomes very unlikely that that team is going to have a realistic shot at playoff contention. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule, most notably last season when Colin Kaepernick came off the bench halfway through the season and went on to lead the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl.
Backup quarterbacks have been a hot point of conversation lately, as several teams have been holding preseason battles to determine the pecking order on their quarterback depth chart, while others have been searching for a player who they feel is capable of managing their team if their starter goes down. One of the most notable stories has been playing out in Buffalo, where the Bills are planning to start undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel if first-rounder E.J. Manuel is not healthy enough to make his NFL debut this weekend. Other hectic cases have been playing out with the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers, who have been rapidly shuffling quarterbacks in and out in attempts to find a decent No. 2 option.
Though no team wants to have to go to their backup quarterback in the middle of a season, there's no denying that having a serviceable backup is one of the keys when a team is trying to make a championship run. Here they are, based on overall track record, previous NFL experience and potential: the 1-to-32 rankings of the NFL's backup quarterbacks.
32. Seneca Wallace, Green Bay Packers
At this point, it's really a mystery why Wallace still has a spot on an NFL team, much less why he is No. 2 on anyone's depth chart. Though he has experienced previous success as a starter and has an 81.3 career quarterback rating, he hasn't started a game since he was used out of desperation by the Cleveland Browns in 2011, and he has never had a winning record as a starter.
Last year, Wallace was beat out for jobs with the Browns by Brandon Weeden, Colt McCoy and Thaddeus Lewis, and he didn't play in the league all year. Seeing as Lewis couldn't crack the Buffalo Bills' roster when they are so desperate for QB help, it doesn't seem logical that Wallace is a backup on a good team. And to make things worse, he's been released by the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers this year, and created a big scene by refusing to play in the 49ers' last preseason game.
31. Jeff Tuel, Buffalo Bills
It's a mystery what the Bills saw in Tuel coming out of college to give him a chance in the NFL; after all, he only had four wins as a starter for Washington State. That being said, it's pretty impressive that he's vaulted himself to the No. 2 job on a team that had established veterans such as Kevin Kolb, Matt Leinart and Thad Lewis. Tuel may not have had a great college track record, but it's too early to fault the Bills' talent evaluators.
30. Josh Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals
Johnson is a quarterback who has solid tools, but can't seem to hold onto a job. Over 27 NFL games, Johnson has just a 54.2 completion percentage and a 5-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He's one of the least reliable backups in the league, and it's a bit of a surprise that someone has entrusted him with a No. 2 spot.
29. Kellen Clemens, St. Louis Rams
Clemens was a second rounder in 2006, but has never lived up to the potential, and has instead made a living as a solid team leader who knows the offense well. He has a 62.2 career passer rating, which includes seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions thrown.
28. Luke McCown, New Orleans Saints
McCown probably shouldn't be relied upon as any more than a No. 3 option, but he has somehow settled his way into several top backup jobs over the past several years. The 10-year veteran, who in 2011 posted a 1.8 quarterback rating during an early-season start, and has thrown nine touchdown passes and 14 interceptions over his career, is very unlikely to play sitting behind the durable Drew Brees, but the Saints don't stand much of a chance if he's pressed into action.
27. Drew Stanton, Arizona Cardinals
Stanton has never really gotten an extended chance as a starter, but he has ascended his way into several different No. 2 jobs recently by virtue of experience. The seven-year veteran has only started four games during his career, while also seeing spot duty, and he has a 55.6 career completion percentage with five touchdowns and nine interceptions.
26. Dominique Davis, Atlanta Falcons
Davis, an undrafted rookie last season, has never attempted an NFL pass. He has some good athletic tools, though, and it speaks volumes that he's already moved up to the No. 2 job on a very good team in just his second season.
25. Josh McCown, Chicago Bears
McCown is a guy who has stuck around way too long to have never really experienced any success. He's made his living hopping around to different backup jobs, having played for seven NFL teams, and he's started just two games since 2008. He has decent numbers, having passed for almost 7,000 yards with 37 touchdowns and 44 interceptions, but the teams he has played on generally have not performed very well.
24. Bruce Gradkowski, Pittsburgh Steelers
Gradkowski is another well-traveled backup, having played for six teams during his eight-year career. His numbers have been OK, and he had a nice run with the Oakland Raiders in 2009, but he is in no way a player who should be relied upon to take a team to the playoffs.
23. Ryan Nassib, New York Giants
Though many draft pundits projected Nassib as a possible top-10 pick in advance of this year's draft, he ended up falling to the Giants in the fourth round. He beat out David Carr for the team's backup job, and he has a chance to be a decent starter at some point. But for now, he is unproven and can't be fully trusted.
22. Tyrod Taylor, Baltimore Ravens
Taylor is probably the best dual-threat quarterback among the NFL's backups, but he hasn't had much of a chance to prove himself thus far. He's only attempted 13 passes during his two-year career, eight of which he has completed. He's also averaged five yards over 15 career carries.
21. Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars
Henne had a chance to win the Jaguars' starting job, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he's good. He has just a 74.9 career QB rating, and the teams he's made starts for have never been very good. It says something that he lost the Jags' job to the underachieving Blaine Gabbert, despite the fact that Gabbert was injured for the second half of the preseason.
20. Tarvaris Jackson, Seattle Seahawks
Jackson has had to bounce around to take claim of several different backup jobs, and he did not play in a game last year. His numbers are surprisingly solid, though, as he has 38 touchdown passes as compared to 35 interceptions. Though he is no longer the dual-threat that he was when he entered the league. He has carved out a niche as a guy who will continue to get jobs because of his ability to grasp offenses and serve as a backup without complaint.
19. Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Glennon probably has the most upside among the league's current crop of backup quarterbacks, and some people expected him to push for the Bucs' starting job this season. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound NC State product could very well get a chance this year if Josh Freeman gets injured or performs poorly.
18. Colt McCoy, San Francisco 49ers
Many thought that McCoy might lose the 49ers' backup job this preseason, especially when the team brought in Seneca Wallace to push him. Ultimately, though, they decided to keep him, which is a smart decision considering that he still could be a serviceable starter. His numbers have been solid through his first three seasons, but the Cleveland Browns' new management decided to quickly pull the plug on him. McCoy was a highly-regarded signal-caller when he first entered the league, and it still seems too soon to write him off just yet.
17. Charlie Whitehurst, San Diego Chargers
Whitehurst has had some highs and lows in his limited starting experience, the highest of highs being when he led the Seahawks to a playoff berth in the 2010 regular season finale. His career numbers as a whole are not that impressive, notably his 54.2 completion percentage and 64.6 QB rating, but he has big-game experience, and that cannot be discounted.
16. Brock Osweiler, Denver Broncos
Osweiler has the best tutor out there in Peyton Manning, and he could very well end up succeeding the 37-year-old when he decides to hang it up. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound Osweiler has some serious potential, and though he's only attempted four professional passes, he seems to be one of the more reliable backups in the league.
15. Chase Daniel, Kansas City Chiefs
Daniel, a one-time undrafted free agent, worked under the tutelage of Drew Brees for the past four years, and parlayed that experience into a three-year, $10 million contract this offseason. He's performed very well when he has been given preseason opportunities, and has completed seven of his nine career NFL pass attempts. Daniel is backing up Alex Smith, who has been prone to injury and ineffectiveness in the past, so it is very possible that he will finally get a chance to show what he's got this season.
14. Ryan Mallett, New England Patriots
Many people believe that Mallett, one of the biggest quarterbacks in the history of the league, has more potential than any other backup in the league. He's only completed one of his four career pass attempts and has thrown an interception, but with his physical skills and impressive arm strength, he may still be the successor to Tom Brady one day.
13. Derek Anderson, Carolina Panthers
Anderson was a Pro-Bowl-caliber starter at one point, and on top of that, he's a guy who can be a good leader and grasp the offense well. The 6-foot-6, 235-pounder has never been exceptionally accurate, but he did throw 29 touchdown passes back in 2007 with the Cleveland Browns. Anderson probably is never going to be a regular starter again, but at least he has experienced success and gives his team a chance if he is called upon.
12. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
You could easily argue that Sanchez is the best quarterback on this list, considering that he's led his team to the AFC Championship game twice. However, he's become so consumed by the spotlight of the national media that his performance has obviously been affected, and he's now regressed to the point where he may end up getting cut in favor of undrafted rookie Matt Simms and failed journeyman Brady Quinn. It's not a good situation for Sanchez when he seems to be falling off the least talented quarterback depth chart in the league.
11. Kyle Orton, Dallas Cowboys
For a guy who got benched in favor of Tim Tebow and has played on some awful teams, Orton's numbers are surprisingly good. Over his nine-year career, Orton has thrown for 14,621 yards and has 81 touchdown passes versus 57 interceptions. Orton is not a guy who can be counted on to lead a winning football team, but he's not going to cause his team to lose.
10. Jason Campbell, Cleveland Browns
Campbell is a quarterback who can be very effective when he settles into a rhythm. He's generally been pretty effective when teams have given him an extended chance as a starter, but he hasn't been very good in spot duty. He had the worst season of his career last year with the Chicago Bears, especially in his lone start, where he was obliterated by the San Francisco 49ers' defense. Campbell will serve as the top insurance policy to Brandon Weeden this year, and it would not be at all surprising to see him get an extended shot at starting this year.
9. Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins
Though Moore has never been a starter for a team in contention, he has been pretty effective during his seven-year career. He has 33 touchdown passes versus 26 interceptions, and an 80.6 QB rating. He's a very solid backup who probably has deserved more of a chance as a starter than he's gotten thus far.
8. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
Foles made his NFL debut near the end of last season and put up very respectable numbers, especially for a player who was rushed into starting duty ahead of schedule. Unfortunately for Foles, though, new head coach Chip Kelly decided to bring back Michael Vick, and now he will have to wait until Vick undoubtedly gets injured again. Foles is one of the few backups in the NFL who has a good chance of being a consistent starter at some point in the future.
7. Shaun Hill, Detroit Lions
Hill is on the latter end of his career, but he has been very consistent over his 12 years in the league. He has thrown for 6,381 yards, 41 touchdown passes, 23 interceptions and has a QB rating of 85.9. It's unfortunate that Hill didn't get more of a chance as a starter, but for now he is one of the most respected backups in the league.
6. Matt Flynn, Oakland Raiders
As has been well publicized, Flynn has been brought in as the presumptive starter on two occasions and lost the starting job before the season started, first to Russell Wilson and now to Terrelle Pryor. He's been very effective when he's been afforded an opportunity, and most notably set the Packers record for most passing yards and touchdowns in a single game in the team's 2011 finale. He's probably blown his final chance at a regular starting job, but Flynn could still end up seeing some time as the Raiders mix and match quarterbacks during this rebuilding year.
5. Matt Cassel, Minnesota Vikings
Cassel had a very memorable 2008 season with the New England Patriots, and later led the Kansas City Chiefs to a playoff berth in 2011. He's been inconsistent over the rest of his career, but he has what it takes to start in the NFL and could do so if called upon. Look for him to take over later this season if Christian Ponder struggles.
4. Matt Hasselbeck, Indianapolis Colts
Matt Hasselbeck has had a long, successful career as a starter in the NFL, and now he will sit back and hold a clipboard as he tries to ride along for a Super Bowl win with the Indianapolis Colts. He will be a good sounding board for Andrew Luck, and he's shown over the past few years with the Tennessee Titans that he still has the skills to succeed as a starter if called upon.
3. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans
Fitzpatrick got a raw deal from the Buffalo Bills last season and now finds himself as the backup in Tennessee. He has pretty good career numbers, having thrown for 14,336 yards, 92 touchdowns and 81 interceptions. Jake Locker is by no means a proven commodity, and Fitzpatrick could very well take over the Titans' offense if Locker gets hurt again or struggles for an extended period this year.
2. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
Cousins had a fantastic rookie season and may get a chance to build on that again this year as Robert Griffin III completes his recovery from knee surgery. The 2012 fourth rounder completed 68.8 percent of his passes and finished with an incredible 101.6 passer rating. He'll probably end up getting traded somewhere to become a starter in the near future, but until then, he's one of the league's most reliable backups.
1. T.J. Yates, Houston Texans
It's a bit of a mystery as to why no team has traded for Yates and given him a shot as a starter, just as the Texans did with his superior, Matt Schuab, several years ago. As a rookie, Yates came off the bench after Schaub suffered a season-ending injury, starting the Texans' final five games and leading them to their first-ever playoff berth. He also quarterbacked them to a first-round playoff victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. He finished that season with a 61.2 completion percentage and an 80.7 passer rating. Yates may not have been highly-regarded coming out of college, but it's hard to argue against a player whose only experience has resulted in playoff success.