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Gutekunst Should Pursue the Best Available Backup QB

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.

Tier 1 – Guys who could acceptably start in worse situations: Tyrod TaylorChargers ; Teddy BridgewaterSaintsNick Mullens49ersRyan TannehillTitans.

Tier 2 – Our bridge to the future. Maybe: Daniel JonesGiants; Dwayne Haskins, Washington; Josh RosenDolphins

Tier 3 – Career backups: Brett HundleyCardinalsMatt BarkleyBillsChase DanielBearsAJ McCarronTexans; Brian Hoyer, Colts; Matt Moore, ChiefsTrevor SiemianJets

Tier 4 – Former starters who no longer (or never did) have it: Blake BortlesRamsRobert Griffin IIIRavensMike GlennonRaidersBlaine GabbertBuccaneers; Geno Smith, Seahawks

Tier 5 – Holy crap, this guy is still in the league?: Josh McCownEaglesJosh JohnsonLionsMatt SchaubFalconsDrew StantonBrowns

Tier 6 – Possibly in our long-term plans, but possibly not: Ryan FinleyBengalsJarrett Stidham, Patriots; Kyle AllenPanthers; Mason Rudolph, SteelersGardner MinshewJaguars

Tier 7 – Young-ish guys who look in no way ready: Cooper RushCowboysTim BoylePackers; Brandon Allen, BroncosSean MannionVikings

Note: DeShone Kizer is now a backup with the Raiders.


Aaron Rodgers smiles after win over Bears

Sep 5, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) smiles as he walks off the field after defeating the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. NobodysBurfect September 18, 2019

    Yeah – it’s too bad there isn’t a veteran QB available that has super bowl/playoff experience. One who would probably sign as a backup for veteran minimum. One who could easily step into LaFleur’s “run heavy” book, and be able to manage a game with the occasional scramble.

    You seriously want Bradford?

    [Bradford’s ACL explodes as I mention his name]

    1. Jason Parker September 18, 2019

      C. K.

      1. NobodysBurfect September 18, 2019

        Case Keenum’s illustrious track record when he didn’t have all world defenses playing with him speaks for itself. He’s Blaine Gabbert with more opportunities.

        1. PF4L September 18, 2019

          Keenum would be a great back-up guy imo. but he’s a starter now and he’s 0-2 this season. Which i don’t believe is on him anyway.

        2. Howard September 18, 2019

          Might want Jason to clarify who C.K is? Could also be Colin K.

          1. Jason Parker September 18, 2019

            Seemed to me he was describing Colin

  2. PF4L September 18, 2019

    We may or may not be turning that corner to where this team could win games without Rodgers, Time will tell (no, two games doesn’t turn a corner).

    So imo… unless we get to that point, it doesn’t matter who the back up is. But Rob is correct, certainly we could be doing better than what Big Ted has offered and Gute has displayed thus far.

    In other News….Trevor Davis is a Raider. No loss in the mind of this Packer fan.

    1. Robster September 18, 2019

      Davis to the Raiders? Hope it wasn’t for DeShone. The Packers’ stock of receivers is dwindling: J’mon, then St. Brown, and now Davis. I think we all want to see more of Kumerow.

      1. Jason Parker September 18, 2019

        6th round pick it seems

  3. Mitch Anthony September 18, 2019

    For those who mention “CK” , I will not dispute that he could probably still play and maybe play well enough. He certainly played very well enough against the Packers a few times. If I had to look at this through the eyes of a GM this is what I would look at.

    1) Still in shape, still the athlete, and probably still can play. That’s easy.
    2) That thing he does. Personally I believe he took liberties with workplace speech but that’s me. Now he’s dealing with having plenty of time for personal time freedom of speech. That being said, would the majority of Packer fans be okay with the move? I just don’t really think so. This is not an LA, Seattle, or Northeast US market where the majorities are solidly of the progressive mindset. You have to respect your fan base and Marty B. laid some groundwork that would make a lot of fans say – Not this again.
    3) At what price? Money wise. If it costs too much, you play for the draft pick and keep your folding money crisp.
    4) Let’s say you could make it work. Let’s say you take a flyer and pick him up. What if it doesn’t work out? What if it does for a while, but then QB1 comes back. What happens the day this person, like any other NFL player, becomes surplus? Good luck being the GM who faces the SJW crowd and the SJW media for the cut or release. Whatever rational and pragmatic reason you give, it ain’t gonna be good enough, or believable enough, to please those folks. Heartburn ensues.

    I think that last one is what is keeping him from a job more than the other stuff and probably for that reason alone, I’d pass.

    1. Jason Parker September 19, 2019

      Good job articulating that clearly instead of the usual “respect muh flag hurr durr”.

      1. PF4L September 19, 2019

        There are two or three main problems with CK.
        1) He’s a liar…. His whole premise of the NFL not allowing him employment is a bold face lie, He quit, then turned down contract offers. If i’m an owner, that;s not who i want representing my business.
        2) He’s good enough to be a back up QB in this league. But…he’s not good enough….to want to have to deal with the circus surrounding him like some teams may do with generational talent.
        It’s that simple. This is pretty basic stuff.
        I would also question his motivation. When did he start sitting during the anthem? After he was benched and lost his starting job. Why didn’t he sit when he was a starter?
        When i say he sat….that’s because that’s what he did, until someone told him kneeling will look more respectful. In other words, someone has to tell this grown Stanford educated man, how to act. That’s not a leader.
        It seems some people respect this man. I think he lacks character. But that’s just my opinion.

  4. MJ September 19, 2019

    Good points, Rob. Yeah, with a backup QB one should be happy if he scrapes a victory or two while the starter recovers from a short term injury. An injury requiring a recovery of half a season will normally mean “kiss playoff hopes good by”. Steelers and Saints are screwed for this year.

  5. MJ September 19, 2019

    Only a true legend can save us now… do we still have Matt Flynn’s number?

  6. Jesse September 19, 2019

    As an in day coach said years ago… let’s face it if Peyton Manning goes down, we’re F’d— we don’t practice F’d! No different here. One thing not mentioned about Bradford is that he has arthritis so Terry Bradshaw May be a better option.

  7. Kato September 19, 2019

    They need to draft a QB next year fairly high. If not for the simple reason of theoretically having a decent backup option if Aaron gets hurt. Ron Wolf never could have enough QBs. As I have made clear, I have had my reservations with Rodgers going forward. I feel as if I have made reasonable arguments, his production has declined since 2016 (arguably since his last MVP year in 2014). Not to mention, his passer rating, production, and most explosive plays have come out of the pocket. I don’t expect him to keep that ability up, it’s unrealistic. He is human and getting older. He has never really demonstrated himself to be pocket passer that can just pick defenses apart methodically with accurate passes, like Brees, Brady.

  8. Robster September 19, 2019

    Add Nick Foles to the list – he underwent clavicle surgery on Monday. I sat with a couple of Packer fans at a sports bar to watch the game Sunday. They were Washington State grads who were also watching Gardner Minshew at the same time. The mustachioed WSU grad played well for the Jags in relief of Folles (97 passer rating, 6 runs for 56 yards). He’ll be back again for the Thursday night game against the Titans. Minshew is a legend east of the Cascades – look for the charismatic 2018 Cougar QB to upset Tennessee, . .Don’t we have enough evidence just from last week’s games that the Packers would be stupid not to acquire a veteran backup QB?

  9. Stiggy September 19, 2019

    Regarding old colin…

    I dont think he should get a job nor do I care if he does. but it has nothing to do with the flag or his protests or whatnot.

    Hes getting paid a nice sum by Nike for his stance…and I believe that he will earn far more profiting from his phony position as a “civil rights leader” via his merchandise contract than he stood to earn as a declining nfl qb.

    Speaking of NFL qb…in what world would any business retain and unprofitable employee who forces them to deal with a bunch of pr. He chose his “platform” and “brand” over his obligation to win games and sell tickets and merchandise for his organization. Of course hes being black balled as any smart business man would in that situation. The billionaire owners of the nfl arent fucking stupid…why would you employ a headache and a pr nightmare? You wouldn’t…unless they have supreme talent…ie top of the line talent… in the mold of Antonio brown etc.

  10. David Nits September 19, 2019

    The smartest move is to sign Colin Kapernick, but I sense the Packers are as
    conservative or even more so, than the rest of the league

    1. Mitch Anthony September 20, 2019

      Sure buddy, let’s get Antonio Brown too. He’s some available supreme talent too. We could have a legit bookend to Davante and a solid BUQB. No conservative stuff there, be bold. That would be the smartest move times two, right?