If you read my last post, I concluded by advocating that the Packers add an additional backup veteran quarterback to the team. Let’s flesh out that thought.
I like Tim Boyle, but there’s nothing in his background to suggest he’d win many games in relief of Rodgers – he’s a QB without pro experience or great college pedigree (Connecticut and Eastern Kentucky), so he’s likely in need of years of development. Are we going to sit around and wait for the inevitable injury to Rodgers, and then concede the season, as we did in 2013 (almost) and 2017? Or are we going to ACT?
What if the Packers had a veteran backup QB in 2013 or 2017? In 2013, the subs went 2-4-1. Because Matt Flynn, managed to go 2-2 (Scott Tolzien and Seneca Wallace went winless in three games), the Packers lucked into the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record; Rodgers came back for that game, but San Francisco and a guy named Kaepernick prevailed. In 2017, Brett Huntley went 3-6, leaving the Packers with a losing (7-9) record.
NFL teams have about a $200 million annual budget for personnel. Wouldn’t it be a prudent plan, and a low-cost investment, for the Packers to have a seasoned NFL veteran backup QB?
Rather than waiting for reckless Rodgers to suffer another substantial injury, how about some contingency planning? I believe Brian Gutekunst should be searching – right now – for the best available backup quarterback (BABQ). I mentioned a few days ago that Sam Bradford is unemployed – and received the expected blowback. If anyone out there is aware of a better choice than Bradford, I’m all for it.
Let’s acknowledge though, that almost every minimally-competent backup quarterback is already on someone else’s roster. In looking for the BABQ, you’re not going to find an upper-tier guy, and you don’t want a work in progress. You’re looking for an NFL veteran, with the goal being that he can help to win about 50 percent of the games he’s in.
So, what about Sam Bradford? His age (31) is fine. He’s played in eight pro seasons, and been a starter for most of five seasons. More recently, he started two games for the Vikings in 2017 and three games for the Cardinals in 2018.
In the four seasons in which he’s started more than ten games, his passer ratings were: 76.5 (2010, St. Louis), 82.6 (2012, St. Louis), 86.4 (2015, Philadelphia), and 99.3 (2016, Minnesota). In these four years, his teams finished 7-9, 7-8-1, 7-9, and 8-8 respectively – so even with the number one starter these teams were not highly talented.
Bradford’s career passer rating is 84.5, which would be okay by me if he can still match it. In 2013 Flynn’s was 86.1 (Tolzien and Wallace were both in the 60’s). In 2017, Hundley’s was 70.6. In 2018, though DeShone Kizer started no games, he got in enough while Aaron was healing to have 42 throws, for a miserable 40.5 rating.
Wins and losses? In his most recent relief appearances with a competitive team, Sam went 2-0 in 2017 in relief of the Vikings’ Case Keenum – and with a passer rating of 124.4! He also started three games for Arizona in 2018; though the Cardinals lost them all, this was a sub-standard e team that won only three games on the year.
What’s that you say? The Packers wouldn’t be going anywhere in the playoffs with a backup anyway. That’s very likely true, but what if Rodgers goes out for two, four, six, or maybe eight games during this regular season, but then is healthy enough to play by post-season? This happened to be the case in both 2013 and 2017. So The BABQ might very well help the team make the playoffs, by which time a healthy Rodgers is ready to return.
The 2019 QB Injury Train
On Sunday, 42-year-old Drew Brees was injured, and will need surgery to a ligament in his throwing hand. The Saints seemed pretty well prepared, as they brought in Teddy Bridgewater, who went 17 of 30 for 165 yards and a 72.2 passer rating. While they lost convincingly, 27-9, they were playing the powerful Rams in Los Angeles. Bridgewater has a 1-year contract with the Saints for $7.25M. Former Packer Taysom Hill is the Saints’ third QB.
Another aging iconic QB, Ben Roethlisberger, went down with a season-ending elbow injury on Sunday. Mason Rudolph played a little over half that game in relief, but Seattle outscored the Steelers by five points in the second half, to win 28-26. The Steelers picked up Rudolph in the third round in 2018. Though inexperienced, Rudolph went 12 of 19 for 112 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception, and a 92.1 rating. Rudolph was the winner of the 2017 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, for being the country’s outstanding senior college quarterback.
Another big-time QB, Carolina’s 30-year-old Cam Newton, aggravated a left foot injury last weekend, and was not at the team’s practice on Tuesday. I’m writing just prior to the release of injury reports on Wednesday, so I don’t know the extent of Cam’s injury.
Jets’ starting QB Trevor Siemian suffered a serious-looking leg injury on Sunday. Subbing for him was someone named Luke Falk – a round six draft pick in 2018. Sam Darnold was the Jets’ starter in Game 1, but he’s out with mono. This is not what the Jets (4-12 last year) needed.
The Belichick Approach?
Patriots’ coach (and effective GM) Bill Belichick has his own way of doing things. Should 42-year-old Tom Brady succumb to injury, next up is Jarrett Stidham, a 2019 round four pick out of Auburn. Stidham has a four-year deal worth $3.15 million.
The Pats therefore have no effective backup to Brady. However, I suspect that if Brady gets seriously hurt this season, Belichick’s will immediately sign up the BABQ for the rest of the year – he might even go after free agent Bradford.
More likely, though, given Belichick’s past, he would likely trade for a decent backup currently with some team that’s probably not going to the playoffs this season. If it costs him next year’s second-round pick, so what?
As of this week, it appears that Eli Manning qualifies as a backup QB. Belichick is also probably the only one gutsy enough to try to acquire Kaepernick.
NFL Team Backup Quarterback Rankings
Who else is out there? Going into the 2019 season, SB Nation has made bold to rank NFL backup QBs (and supply some snarky categorizations), as shown below.
Note: DeShone Kizer is now a backup with the Raiders.