New England Patriots: Ranking Tom Brady’s Backups
Ranking Tom Brady's Backups
Being the backup to a franchise quarterback like Tom Brady can be unsympathetic. A gunslinger of Brady’s stature is idolized by the fanbase, and is someone who seemingly can do no wrong. However, when that franchise quarterback goes down and the thoughts of “what are we going to do now?” immediately occur to the faithful, the game must go on.
Enter the backup, who by now has handed off the clipboard, dislodged the customary headset and strapped up his helmet on the way to the huddle. The play-by-play man on television will give a two or three sentence synopsis of the new signal-caller; maybe we know him from his time starting for another NFL team in another life, or maybe we don’t know the new guy, for he has some inspirational Division 1-AA backstory.
Many times when this sequence occurs, the season is lost. At least, that is what our first impulse is. See the 2011 Chicago Bears for example. In 2011, the Bears were 7-3 and in line for an NFC playoff berth until Jay Cutler went down during their Week 12 contest at the Oakland Raiders. Chicago proceeded to lose their next five games with Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown under center, finishing 8-8 and were golfing by January.
The Green Bay Packers of 2013 were another example of the backup syndrome. Aaron Rodgers had his team 5-2 and in control of the NFC North before breaking his collarbone during their Week 9 game against the Bears. Green Bay stumbled to a 7-7-1 record behind the likes of Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn. The syndrome healed before the sickness became deadly, as Rodgers put on his cape and led the boys to the Week 17, NFC North-clinching victory in dramatic fashion.
The bottom line is the backup quarterback is thrown out to the wolves and the fans expect the backup to be a reincarnation of their franchise's biggest star. Fortunately for New England, when the backup has stepped in for the franchise stud, they have not missed a beat. It is how Tom Brady kickstarted his Hall-of-Fame career and how Matt Cassel made millions, but we can still have some fun and rank the guys behind No. 12.
8. Rohan Davey (2002-2004)
Jamaican-born Rohan Davey completed eight passes on 19 attempts in his three years in Foxborough. However, he did win two Super Bowls and a World Bowl (aka the championship of NFL Europe). Now 35, Davey quarterbacks the San Antonio Talons of the Arena Football League, where he competes with former Arkansas Razorbacks QB Mitch Mustin for snaps.
7. Ryan Mallett (2011-Present)
Ryan Mallett was a hot talent with some attitude problems heading into the 2011 NFL Draft. He fell into the third round for the Patriots and has yet to do anything of note in Foxboro, only completing one pass in three seasons.
6. Damon Huard (2001-2003)
Damon Huard's shinning moment in New England came the week of the 2003 AFC Divisional Round, when he practiced as Indianapolis Colts MVP quarterback Peyton Manning. That effort during the week at practice garnered Huard the game ball for imitating the league's MVP.
5. Vinny Testaverde (2006)
Vinny Testaverde signed in November 2006 at the ancient age of 43. During New England's last regular season game, the two-time Pro Bowler hit Troy Brown for six, stretching his NFL-record of consecutive seasons with a touchdown pass to 20. Testaverde laced them back up in 2007 for the Patriots, but was cut during training camp. He later hitched on with the Carolina Panthers, tossing five touchdowns during his final season.
4. Doug Flutie (2005)
Believe it -- there is another 43-year-old backup quarterback to make the list. Doug Flutie's entire season in New England was, like his career, sort of gimmicky. He played in four games for the division winners, but his time back in Foxborough (Flutie was also on the 1987 Patriots) was punctuated by the most gimmicky of all football plays, converting the NFL's first dropkick since 1941.
3. Brian Hoyer (2009-2011)
Brian Hoyer surprised fans when he won the backup role in training camp in 2009 over 2008 third-round pick Kevin O'Connell. The undrafted man out of Michigan State proved to be a valuable asset, completing 27 of 43 passes in New England before getting cut for Ryan Mallett in 2012. Since, Hoyer has even revived hopes for his hometown Cleveland Browns, posting a 3-0 early in the 2013 season before tearing his MCL in his fourth start. Cleveland squandered 10 of their next 11 to end the season 4-12 -- 1-12 when Hoyer did not start.
2. Matt Cassel (2005-2008)
The epitome of a backup is to fill in for the starter and not let the season go to waste. That is exactly what Matt Cassel did in 2008. Tom Brady went down during the first quarter of the first game of the season, but Cassel stepped in and led the team to an 11-5 record while passing for 21 touchdowns and a career-high 3,693 yards.
1. Drew Bledsoe (2001)
Drew Bledsoe, also known as "Red, White and Drew," took the role of backup nicely after he just signed a franchise quarterback deal (Bledsoe signed a then-record 10-year, $103 million contract extension right before the 2001 season). The lasting legacy of Bledsoe came when he entered the 2001 AFC Championship Game after Tom Brady went down, helping lead the Patriots to conference supremacy. The first overall pick in the 1993 draft ended his 14-year career following the 2006 season with over 44,000 yard passing and 251 touchdowns.
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