NFL

NFL AM: Best Backup QB Situations

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The backup quarterback position in the NFL is the ultimate, “in case of emergency break glass” situation.

As stingy as NFL teams may be, they always hope to “waste” $3 or so million on their backup quarterback, seeing him only take snaps in the preseason.

Of course the reason why these teams pay their backups is because they never know when they’re going to be required to step in and hold down the proverbial fort for a quarter, a game or a month.

We’re going to look at which teams will be in the best shape if their starting quarterbacks go down.

Philadelphia Eagles

This may be taken as an indictment against starting quarterback Sam Bradford, but the Eagles won’t be in terrible shape if and when the former No. 1 overall pick goes down.

In fact, they might be in better shape on a number of fronts.

Bradford is the lamest, lame duck quarterback with the trade and subsequent drafting of Carson Wentz.  The Eagles are ready to move on to the future and the incumbent is ready to move on to another team.  A divorce would be the best for both parties, but Bradford’s $18 million salary makes that an impossibility.

The plan is to sit Wentz for 2016 no matter what, and they can realistically do so regardless of Bradford’s health and performance due to having Chase Daniel.  The former Kansas City Chief played under the tutelage of new Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and knows his system better than anyone on the current roster.  On top of that, Daniel is a very solid, professional who can run an offense and has underrated mobility.

“The one thing I see, obviously, and most people don’t see — I had the chance to work with him for three years — I see the leadership ability that he has on and off the football field,” Pederson said of Daniel. “I see how well he interacts with the players, I’ve seen what he’s done, not only at practice, but in limited game situations. … I just think he’s in a position in his career where, given the opportunity and his work ethic, puts him in a position to become a starter.”

We are about 95 percent certain that 2016 will be Bradford’s last in Philadelphia, regardless of how he performs.  Considering his salary, the former No. 1 pick is probably the most expendable quarterback in recent NFL history.

New England Patriots

Are we really suggesting that it’s going to be easy to replace the best quarterback in NFL history? Of course not.

But with the brilliant coaching of Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and everyone else in the Patriots organization, they will be just fine without Tom Brady for a short period of time.

We may find that out sooner rather than later as New England is scheduled to play their first four games of the season without Brady due to the courts “Deflategate” ruling.

Again, this isn’t because we feel so strongly about the abilities of Jimmy Garoppolo, but more that the Patriots have proven the capability as an organization to change strategies on the fly and get the absolute most out of every single player on the roster.  The early transition won’t be seamless, but there’s a reason why New England took Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Eastern Illinois and he has the raw abilities to be a more than functional NFL quarterback.

“Jimmy has made great strides for us,” Belichick said during the Patriots playoff bye week back in early January, via ESPN.com‘s Mike Reiss. “The reps that he’s gotten on the field in preseason games and in practice, I think he’s shown a lot of development — better understanding, quicker recognition and reading of the defenses, more awareness of what’s happening on the defensive side of the ball, better communication, better understanding of the offense — really everything.

“He’s a hard-working kid who’s always prepared. It’s a tough position to be in when you don’t know if you’re going to play or not, but he prepares hard to play, we push him hard to be ready to play, and he’s made a lot of progress this year. As a football player, I think everybody has a lot of confidence in him based on the opportunities that he’s had to show what he can do and how he’s working.”

There’s no reason to believe that this is the end for Brady, even if Garoppolo lights it up during the first quarter of the season, but for a short amount of time New England will be more than okay.

Cleveland Browns

As we sit a few weeks prior to training camp, there has been no “official” starting quarterback named by Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson.

“When the time is right, trust me, you guys will be the first to know,” Jackson said as Cleveland wrapped up their OTAs.

We have a more than sneaky suspicion that Robert Griffin, III will eventually win the competition as he was brought in by Jackson and company, and he’s also the highest paid quarterback on the roster.

“He’s made tremendous strides,” Jackson said of RG3. “He’s getting better every day. See glimpses of him being extremely good.”

Assuming Griffin does indeed capture the starting job, the dropoff to No. 2 isn’t severe, assuming that there’s one at all.

Josh McCown was very solid last season on a bad team with virtually no weapons.  Although the weapons don’t look considerably better this season (with the exception of first-round pick Corey Coleman), McCown is a pro’s pro who has shown the ability to run a pro-style offense, something that Griffin, the former No. 2 overall pick is yet to do.

“You don’t play in this league for 15 years having not been very good at what you do. He provides us with a really good quarterback, obviously a veteran presence and I am just excited to work with him,” Jackson said of McCown.

“As far as what is going to happen in the future? I’m not concerned about that and having talked to Josh (about that), he isn’t either. What we are worried about is getting better each and every day when we walk in this building. That goes for our coaches to our players. When we get out of our cars we have one thing on our mind and that is to get better.”

If both Griffin and McCown falter, the team also drafted former USC signal caller Cody Kessler in the third round of April’s NFL Draft and he can even play into that eventual starting quarterback decision.

“He almost completed 68 percent of his passes. The guy has had a tremendous career,” Jackson said. “I understand where everybody is coming from, but you’ve got to trust me on this one. This is a guy that we feel very comfortable with, and we think he’s going to have an opportunity to ascend.”

Let’s be real for a moment.  If RG3 starts and plays well this season the Browns will likely not win more than six games.  How much of a dropoff can it really be to McCown or even Kessler?


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.