The biggest story of the past NFL season was not the Packers' attempt at a 16-0 regular season, nor was it the Giants' improbable Super Bowl run. It was instead about a man who didn't play a single down in 2011—Peyton Manning.
The chief thing his injury should have taught the teams in the NFL is the value of a backup quarterback.
Backup quarterbacks are a lot like spare tires—you don't think about them until you need them. Then one hot, July afternoon on Florida's turnpike you find your spare inadequate—it's not a good thing.
It wasn't a good thing for the Colts when they found their backups inadequate.
When free agency opens in a few weeks, most teams will focus on signing a running back, wide receiver or defensive stud.
A few will go after Packers backup Matt Flynn, hoping that he can come in as a starter.
Perhaps though this year, teams should focus on signing an adequate backup quarterback.
There are some interesting names among the free agents who weren't full-time starters in 2011.
Kyle Orton: Orton was the odd man out when Tim Tebow became the starter in Denver. After his release in Denver, he finished the season in Kansas City. In Kansas City he was 2-1 as a starter. He led the Chiefs to their upset of Green Bay and also returned to Denver and led the Chiefs to a 7-3 win over the Tebow-led Broncos in the season finale.
Jason Campbell: Just when Jason Campbell's career looked to be trending upward, he suffered a season-ending broken collarbone. Due to the high price the Raiders paid to acquire Carson Palmer, Campbell is probably not in the Raiders' future. Campbell's experience will probably bring offers from some teams, possibly even as a starter for whoever loses the Robert Griffin III/Matt Flynn sweepstakes.
Vince Young: Say what you will about Vince Young, but he does have significant experience compared to others who served as a backup in 2011. He even had 400 yards passing against New England last season. However, for the year, he threw nine interceptions and only four touchdown passes with a miserable passer rating of 60.8.
Donovan McNabb: McNabb is definitely on the downside of his career but might generate some interest. His days as a starter are probably over, but he is a better backup option than many current backups.
David Garrard: Garrard did not play in 2011 after being cut by Jacksonville in the preseason. In retrospect, maybe the Jaguars regret the move. He is good enough to be a suitable backup if not a starter somewhere.