Last week, Andy Benoit posted a piece on The MMQB listing his personal rankings of the NFL’s projected starting quarterbacks. His logic was more than sound, but my issue comes with the fact that he only ranked the starters. As any long-suffering fan of an snake-bitten team could tell you, injuries are going to happen, and they’re especially going to happen to the most important players on the team. On top of that, sometimes players just don’t play all that well. Enter: THE BACKUP.
A good backup quarterback is more than the baseball cap and headset donning his dry dome. They bring a certain excitement to the offense. Oftentimes they’re quarterbacks who seemed like legends in college, but whose helmets now seem hilariously oversized. If you’re lucky, they’re a veteran quarterback who knows what they’re doing on the field, knows how to manage a team, and plays relatively mistake-free, if also free of game-changing abilities. Just be able to throw short passes, hand the ball off, and communicate with the guys on the field, and you’ve got it made as a backup.
So who has the best backup quarterbacks in the league? Allow me to rank them, just for you. You’re welcome.
Starter: Eli Manning
Backups: Ryan Nassib (primary) and Ricky Stanzi
I’m not really even sure what I’m looking at here. First of all, both Ryan and Ricky’s last names have got to be made up. They’re from the worst hand of Scrabble I’ve ever seen. Secondly, they both came from schools that have no business pumping out quality quarterback prospects (Syracuse and Iowa, respectively). Finally, they’ve combined to complete four passes in five attempts for sixty yards across both of their careers. Oh wait, those are just Nassib’s numbers… since 2012. Stanzi’s been in the league since 2011… and has never taken a regular-season snap. Stanzi is more famous for his bizarre, not-entirely-fake Twitter following of devotees. Of course, I don’t know how devoted they can be since they haven’t updated since Stanzi played for the Jags, but the fact that they ever existed is very humorous to me.
Starter: Peyton Manning
Backups: Brock Osweiler (primary), Zac Dysert, and Trevor Siemian
Jim Sorgi’s curse strikes again! Named after Manning’s second-stringer from 2004-2009, the curse results in backups never, ever having to play football, but still being continuously employed. Sorgi himself threw for less than a thousand yards over the course of his career, and retired in 2010, but he was steadily employed by the Colts, and dutifully held Peyton’s clipboard while collecting fat stacks of cash. Brock Osweiler is Sorgi 2.0, having attempted only 30 passes over his first three seasons, and is better known for pouting when Peyton refused to come off the field in a Broncos blowout over the Raiders last year. Also, memo to Dysert and Siemian: if you’re third on the QB depth chart behind Peyton Manning, then don’t expect to be around during the regular season.
Starter: Drew Brees
Backups: Luke McCown (primary), Garrett Grayson, and Ryan Griffin
How does Luke McCown keep getting work? In truth, I don’t expect McCown to be the main guy behind Brees for very long. The Saints drafted Grayson after Brees led the team to their second sub-.500 season in three years. Of course, Brees also led the league in passing yards and threw 33 touchdowns to 17 interceptions, but the narrative is already in full swing. At least the Saints drafted a quarterback with a similar cannon-armed style to Brees, unlike the next team on the list.
Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Backups: Scott Tolzien (primary), Brett Hundley, and Matt Blanchard
There’s literally nothing Tolzien has done to earn the spot behind Rodgers other than being someone other than Matt Flynn. Tolzien didn’t play a lick last year, and his only two starting performances in 2013 resulted in five interceptions, a loss, and a tie. A freaking tie! Hundley is your standard dual-threat, Heisman-bait quarterback, but it’ll be interesting to see his development behind the prototypical pocket passer Rodgers. I’ve never been that high on Hundley, due to his thin figure and less-than-impressive output, so who knows how high his ceiling actually is.
Starter: Brian Hoyer
Backup: Ryan Mallett (primary), and Tom Savage
In fairness, I actually have no idea who the Texans starter will be. This is a mess of quarterbacks, so I’m including all three of these guys. Hoyer is the “veteran” here, but he plays like a mentally-broken rookie. Mallett is technically employed as a quarterback, but hasn’t been one due to injuries or, uh, not being good enough. Once again, Hoyer and Mallett are in competition, as they previously had been on the Patriots. Mallett won that time, but now, who’s to say? Savage is the wild card here, which is a sentence I’ve been dying to say. He was so highly rated going into the draft, it’s surprising he didn’t get a shot in the chaos that was the Texans quarterback situation last year. The preseason will be very, very telling for the Texans as to how their immediate future looks on offense.
Starter: Robert Griffin III
Backups: Colt McCoy (primary), Kirk Cousins
HOT TAKE ALERT! HOT TAKE ALERT! SIREN EMOJI! FLAME EMOJI! I think the Redskins quarterbacks are all mentally broken to the point of needing extensive therapy. Like, take a trip to Nepal, hike some mountains, some real soul-searching stuff. I know it seems harsh, but I don’t know what’s going on in the minds in any of these guys. They were all mediocre-to-bad last year, so why get excited about any of them? What makes you believe they can ever be at their best again? Even so, if, and I mean IF, RGIII reaches anything close to what he once was, or if Colt McCoy can perform as acceptably as he did last year, the Redskins might just survive with Alfred Morris having a career year. Maybe. Like there’s a .000001% chance.
Starter: Carson Palmer
Backups: Drew Stanton (primary), Chandler Harnish, Phillip Sims, and Logan Thomas
This has got to be the sorriest lineup of backups I’ve ever seen. This is such an Arizona list of backups. Right up there with Max Hall and John Skelton. These guys can’t throw a ball further than 10 yards, and couldn’t hit a buffet at a casino. That is to say, they are also not the most accurate quarterbacks. Ahem. But if nothing else, the Cardinals more than survived last season with Stanton, Thomas, and Ryan Lindley, so if Stanton or Thomas took any steps forward, and Palmer didn’t take any major steps back (especially health-wise), then things might not be a complete tire fire. But they definitely could be.
Starter: Colin Kaepernick
Blaine Gabbert (primary) and Dylan Thompson
Aw, I made myself sad. I hate to say it for ol’ Dilly-Bo, but he’s in a weird spot in San Fran. For now, he’s third string behind possibly the worst quarterback in the NFL, who is second string behind one of the most hated and overpaid quarterbacks in the NFL. There might not have been a better spot for him to have landed if he wanted to get a chance early. The 49ers could be this year’s Browns, you guys! After all, it took until week 17 for Connor to get his chance, but he still got it! Pray for fire to consume these 49ers, so that our beloved Dylan “Big Ups” Thompson may rise from its ashes, like a phoenix of poor on-field decision-making and check-downs.
Starter: Matthew Stafford
Backups: Dan Orlovsky (primary), Garrett Gilbert, and Kellen Moore
I’m pretty sure Dan Orlovsky just lived in the Lions’ locker room during the spring to trick the GM into thinking he had already been resigned. “Oh, what’s this? I don’t see Orlovsky on the payroll. Must be an oversight.” Boom! Orlovsky gets another payday! Kellen Moore isn’t that smart, and that’s why Kellen Moore is the third-stringer. Garrett Gilbert is only in his second season, yet on his third team. That’s not showing staying power, son. Gotta have a presence in the pocket, and on the roster.
Starter: Philip Rivers
Backups: Kellen Clemens (primary), Chase Rettig, and Brad Sorensen
Chase Rettig and Brad Sorensen sound like a tag team of wrestlers who weren’t good, so they’d always get booked to lose. I’m pretty sure I saw them on an episode of WCW Saturday Night losing in two minutes to the Dungeon of Doom. Side note: the WWE Network is very worth it. Anyways, I was looking up Kellen Clemens’ stats on Pro Football Reference, and was stunned to see that he’s already 32 years old! It seems like just yesterday he was a mediocre rookie undeserving of the chances he got, and how he’s a mediocre veteran who doesn’t deserve anymore chances, period. But he has more than a few games under his belt as a starter, and some of them he actually won! There’s a difference between a veteran like Clemens who has actually played versus, say, a Marques Tuiasosopo.
Starters: Derek Carr
Matt McGloin (primary), Cody Fajardo, and Christian Ponder
I’ll end this first part with a team that a lot of people probably expected to be lower on the list. However, I’m very high on Matt McGloin, especially as an average replacement-level quarterback. He’s proven that he can go into a game, and not let everything fall completely to crap. He has a calming presence and natural-born leadership abilities, which I think played a huge factor into Penn State surviving that first season after the Sandusky scandal. As for Ponder, at least he has experience as a starter, though he probably yearns for a good place to hide after years of scrutiny in Minnesota. Hey, if you’re going to hide, Oakland’s the place to do it. I hope Cody Fajardo doesn’t go anywhere too soon, though. He’s an incredibly exciting player, and a guy who could give the Raiders some different looks during the preseason. I don’t know if he can beat out Ponder for a spot on the team, or even the practice squad, but if he doesn’t stick in the NFL, I fully expect him to light it up in Canada.