The most undervalued position in all of the NFL is the back-up quarterback.
Often dismissed as a waste of resources, some teams have learned the hard way as their seasons have been lost because they failed to have an insurance policy capable of stepping in and winning games if the starting quarterback went down.
Below is a list of quarterbacks who started week one but have missed significant time, some suffering season-ending injuries:
Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler, Michael Vick, Sam Bradford, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, E.J. Manuel, Blaine Gabbert and Terrelle Pryor.
With ten starting quarterbacks suffering injuries, a team’s chance of losing their starting QB is better than one in four. These aren’t freak incidents; quarterbacks take such a physical pounding throughout the season that teams must have a back-up quarterback capable of winning two or three games at least.
The games where backup quarterbacks are forced into action can be the difference between making the playoffs and sitting at home in January. With only sixteen games in a season there is no margin for error.
These are some of the peripheral quarterbacks that have started games this season:
Jeff Tuel, Case Keenum, Matt McGloin, Thad Lewis, Scott Tolzien.
Whilst some of these players have performed admirably teams that are relying on them to win games have failed. They haven’t properly understood that the back-up quarterback is a position that needs to be invested in.
Teams like the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins all have capable veteran back-ups that have proven they win games. Josh McCown in particular has performed exceptionally well.
McCown has replaced Jay Cutler twice after Culter was injured during the game and nearly wins both games. The two games he has started in relief of Culter he has lead the Bears to victories of the Ravens and Packers, and has thrown five touchdowns and no interceptions on the season.
His play has kept the Bears in contention for the playoffs. The Bears know the importance of the back-up quarterback from experience. In 2011, after a 7-3 start they lost Culter to injury and proceeded to lose five games straight with Caleb Hanie under centre.
A similar situation is happening in Green Bay right now. With All-Pro Aaron Rodgers out with a broken collarbone the Packers were forced to turn to first Seneca Wallace and then Scott Tolzien. The Packers were looking like Super Bowl contenders after seven games, now they sit at 5-5 with three consecutive losses and in a dog fight to make the playoffs.
Obviously replacing possibly the best quarterback in the league is impossible, but the Packers, normally a model franchise, failed in providing adequate support in case Rodgers went down.
The league is looking to find ways to keep quarterbacks even safer on the field, they need their most marketable and important players on the field to showcase their talent. Whilst no fan wants even more rules in favour of the offense, but no one wants to see their season lost because Jeff Tuel or Scott Tolzien is behind center. Even if new rules are implemented teams need to invest in the back-up quarterback position.
Thinking your quarterback will start sixteen games is not only naive it’s incredibly irresponsible for the team a whole. Coaches and General Managers are a losing streak and a season without the playoffs away from looking for a new job, so should recognise that finding a back-up capable of winning games can make a massive difference.
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