NFL Power Rankings: Backup Quarterback Edition
The NFL has changed over the last decade, and teams are only as good as who they have under center.
While it may be hard for teams to convince talented quarterbacks to assume a backup role, when they can it pays off for both the team and the player.
Despite having 10-plus wins, the Patriots missed out on the playoffs but Cassel was more than competent in his audition for a starting job.
Cassel was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs the next season and has assumed the starting role since.
Having a solid No. 2 QB could be the difference for a team on the border between making the playoffs or sitting on the couch watching them.
Here are the rankings of each team's backup quarterback situation.
32. Green Bay Packers, Graham Harrell
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Yes, the team with arguably the best quarterback in football has the worst situation behind him on the depth chart.
Last year the Packers had highly-touted backup Matt Flynn, but he has since moved on to the Seattle Seahawks to compete for a starting job.
Harrell had a stellar college career in the pass-heavy Texas Tech offense, but like many QBs who come out of pass-heavy college systems (see Colt Brennan), he has not proven to be a lock for an NFL roster.
If Rodgers goes down next season, the Packers could be in trouble.
31. San Diego Chargers, Kevin O'Connell
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The backup situation for the San Diego Chargers got hairy real quick.
When Charlie Whitehurst, who is back in San Diego after a short stint as a starter in Seattle, went down with an injury, the team decided to sign veteran Kyle Boller.
Boller retired after just one day with the team, leaving 2008 third-round pick Kevin O'Connell as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart.
O'Connell has been cut by both the Jets and Patriots in his short NFL career.
Six pass attempts is the extent of O'Connell's regular-season NFL action.
Whitehurst may be ready by the start of the regular season, but he is not a great option either.
30. Denver Broncos, Caleb Hanie
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Caleb Hanie was almost single-handedly responsible for the Chicago Bears missing the playoffs last year, yet he is now listed as the No. 2 quarterback behind Peyton Manning in the Denver Broncos organization.
The uncertainty of how Manning will hold up during the season makes the situation in the Mile High City even more concerning.
In six games last year Haine threw for 603 yards, three touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also had an abysmal 50 percent completion percentage.
Brock Osweiler was drafted by the team as a future QB project, but it is unlikely he will assume the No. 2 role.
There is a chance former Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber will beat Haine out, but no one behind Manning seems like a good option.
29. St.Louis Rams, Kellen Clemens
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Since then he has been with the Redskins, Texans and, most recently, the St.Louis Rams.
Clemens appeared in three games last year with the Rams, passing for 546 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Clemens looked inconsistent in the Rams' first preseason game and he could eventually end up losing out on the No. 2 spot to undrafted free agent Austin Davis.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dan Orlovsky
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Ask Detroit Lion fans about Dan Orlovsky and they may break out in tears.
While all the blame for the Lions' 0-16 season cannot be placed on Orlovsky, he may have had the defining play of the 2008 winless season when he ran out of the end zone for a safety.
The Bucs are young and should do well next year. However, that could all change if Josh Freeman goes down due to injury.
Orlovsky may be able to mange for a game or two, but the Bucs' season would go down the drain without Freeman under center for longer than that.
27. Kanas City Chiefs, Brady Quinn
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The 22nd pick of the Browns in 2007 hasn't found a lot of success in the NFL after being a top college quarterback.
In two seasons with the Broncos, Quinn did not play in a single game.
In the Chiefs' first preseason game Quinn completed seven of 13 passes for 81 yards.
Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel is giving Ricky Stanzi a shot with the second unit in the team's next preseason game.
Like most other teams with guys battling for the No. 2 quarterback spot, neither seems like a great option.
26. Pittsburgh Steelers, Byron Leftwich
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Remember when Byron Leftwich was the franchise quarterback in Jacksonville?
Whew, does that seem like a long time ago.
Leftwich has since been haunted by injury and inconsistent play, and now finds himself in the backup role with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I would not feel too comfortable if I were a Steelers fan and my season rested in the hands of Leftwich.
If Leftwich were to struggle in a backup role, the Steelers always have the option of bringing in lifetime backup Charlie Batch.
25. Atlanta Falcons, Chris Redman
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Chis Redman has one of the more interesting stories in the NFL.
He went from winning a Super Bowl ring as Trent Dilfer's backup in 2000, to signing on to be an Arena Bowl quarterback, to insurance salesman—and then made his return to the NFL.
He even started some games in 2007, and played well.
Redman has to be respected for his persistence and veteran presence, but the Falcons would struggle with him under center.
Matt Ryan may not have won a playoff game yet, but Redman would not have any better luck.
24. Baltimore Ravens, Tyrod Taylor
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Tyrod Taylor is an athletic quarterback who may use his feet too often when faced with pressure.
His speed may be his best weapon right now, as he is adept at hitting his targets on the run and picking up first downs with his feet when needed.
“I don’t know if you’re ever comfortable with a second-year quarterback because they are just learning so much as they go,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron told the Baltimore Sun. “There is so much they don’t know. There is a lot they know, but there is a lot that they haven’t experienced, and there’s no substitute for getting out there and getting the game experience.
Game experience is exactly what Taylor will need if the Ravens hope to develop him into a viable backup option.
Taylor could do well given the chance, but once teams figure out how to contain his speed, the Ravens would be in trouble.
23. Indianapolis Colts, Drew Stanton
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Drew Stanton may have had the craziest offseason of any quarterback.
Stanton signed a deal with the Jets to be Mark Sanchez's backup, only to find himself the odd man out in the Tim Tebow trade.
Stanton was traded by the Jets to the Indianapolis Colts for a seventh-round pick after Tebow arrived in New York.
Stanton will now back up the overall No. 1 pick, Andrew Luck.
While he has never been a full-time starter in the NFL, Stanton played well in relief of Matt Stafford during the 2010 season.
In six games in 2010, Stanton threw for 780 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.
Luck is expected to compete for Rookie of the Year in 2012, and Stanton will be there with his clipboard.
If the unimaginable happens for the Colts and Luck goes down with a long-term injury, Stanton would be a solid game manager.
However, with the lack of overall talent left in Indianapolis, it is questionable how many games the team would win without Luck, their marquee offensive player.
22. New England Patriots, Brian Hoyer
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Not enough is known about Brian Hoyer to truly give him a rating as an NFL quarterback.
That alone is not a good sign.
In his one pass attempt in the regular season last year, he threw a 22-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski that gave Gronk the record for receiving yards by a tight end.
Hoyer is reportedly a good practice player and has retained his role as Tom Brady's backup despite the team drafting Ryan Mallett.
You never want to doubt a guy who plays behind a quarterback like Brady. You have to think during their time in the film room and practice he has learned some tricks of the trade.
Mallett is a solid No. 3 guy and was expected to be a high draft pick before his stock plummeted in the 2011 draft.
If the Patriots were forced to bring in a backup quarterback and if Hoyer struggles, Mallet could possibly see time.
21. Carolina Panthers, Derek Anderson
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After watching the dynamic performances Cam Newton put on for the Carolina Panthers last year, it would be strange to watch the offense with Derek Anderson under center.
Anderson would be a viable option at the No. 2 spot for the Panthers, having started 43 games in his career. He even made the Pro Bowl in 2007.
He may not bring the production with his legs that Newton does, but he could toss the ball around if the Panthers needed his services.
The Panthers could possibly skip by for a few games with their starting quarterback injured, due to the depth of their backfield.
DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and newly acquired Mike Tolbert could carry most of the load with Cam out.
20. Detroit Lions, Shaun Hill
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Shaun Hill has the talent of a lifetime backup. He will make good money, but will never be seen as a No. 1 guy.
He had a solid year in 2010 in relief of Matt Stafford, passing for 2,686 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 10 games.
Later that season he was injured.
Hill has the trust of the coaching staff, and it does not take a lot of talent to be able to put the ball in the vicinity of Calvin Johnson so he can go get it.
However, it would be a shame to see Stafford go down to injury. He is one of the great, young quarterbacks the league has to offer.
19. Philadelphia Eagles, Mike Kafka
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Mike Kafka ended up having a nice senior season at Northwestern, which led him to being drafted in the fourth round by the Eagles.
While Kafka has shown flashes of brilliance in the passing game during preseason games, when called upon in the regular season he has struggled.
In only 16 attempts last year, Kafka threw two interceptions. That's not a very good average.
Kafka faced a setback in the Eagles' first preseason game where he broke his left hand. He is now expected to miss three weeks, and rookie Nick Foles out of Arizona has been taking second-team snaps.
Foles backing up Vick would be a big departure from Kafka. Kafka has proven he can use his legs to escape pressure. Foles ran a 5.14 40-yard dash at the combine.
However, while Kafka struggled Thursday night against the Steelers, Foles flourished.
Foles completed 6 of 10 passes for 144 yards and 2 touchdown passes.
With Kafka out, Foles may have the upper hand and controls his own destiny with his play on the field. They bring different skill sets, but both should be prepared to come in for Vick.
And Vick will need a backup.
He has not played a full season since his return to the NFL, and there is no Vince Young standing around talking about "dream teams" (h/t Yahoo! Sports).
18. Jacksonville Jaguars, Chad Henne
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Jacksonville may have the messiest quarterback situation in the NFL, seeing that the two quarterbacks they are choosing from are not very talented.
Gabbert was given the keys last year and was not impressive. He finished with 2,214 yards, 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Chad Henne was equally unimpressive during his time as the three-year starter with the Dolphins.
Henne threw 31 touchdowns to 37 interceptions with the Miami. When he went down with a season-ending injury last year, it became certain the Dolphins would go in a different direction.
While Henne may not have amazing numbers, he may be a better option than Gabbert. If Gabbert struggles early, expect Henne to see some time under center.
17. San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick
For the first time in a while, one thing will be certain in San Francisco—the starting job belongs to Alex Smith.
However, there is a battle for the second spot. According to the Reno Gazette Journal, Colin Kaepernick is in the driver's seat to be Smith's backup.
He is competing with Scott Tolzien and Josh Johnson.
Kaepernick is 6'4", 230 lbs. and can really take off with his feet. Just check out the video with this slide. The guy has crazy breakaway speed.
The offense would change with the Nevada alum in, due to his tremendous running ability. However, he would still be able to take advantage of the great receiving core the 49ers have assembled.
16. New Orleans Saints, Chase Daniel
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Saints fans were holding their breath the summer when All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees was holding out due to a contract dispute. The Chase Daniel era is not something the people of New Orleans want to be ushering in anytime soon.
Daniel went undrafted in 2009 but has found a way to remain Brees' primary backup.
So far in the preseason Daniel has looked good. In the Hall of Fame game he was 15-20, throwing for 203 yards and a touchdown. However, he also threw an ill-advised interception.
Daniel still needs time to develop into a starting quarterback, but under the tutelage of Brees he could become a solid quarterback No. 1 option one day.
15. Cleveland Browns, Colt McCoy
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When Brandon Weeden was announced as the starter in Cleveland, it was not surprising. Despite being drafted this year, he is still three years older than Colt McCoy at 28 years old, and the Browns need to use him now if they hope to get the full value out of him.
Colt McCoy is listed as the No. 2 quarterback right now, but there is speculation he will be used as trade bait.
Seneca Wallace sits behind McCoy on the depth chart, and could take over as the No. 2 quarterback before the end of the preseason.
McCoy will be much easier to move than Wallace, as well. If the team is comfortable with Wallace backing up Weeden, McCoy will surely have a new home this season.
McCoy has proven he can win big games, beating the Saint and Patriots in 2010, but he has not done much more than that during his NFL career.
Wallace has the benefit of being very athletic and an adept passer.
Both would be solid options for the Browns, but it is more than likely only one of them will be on the roster come Week 1.
14. Oakland Raiders, Matt Leinart
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Then Warner retired, and Leinart was expected to get a shot.
But then he was cut and picked up by the Houston Texans.
He was then buried in the depth chart, only to get a chance in late November to start after Matt Schaub went down with an injury.
Just one quarter into the his first start in two years, Leinart left the game with a shoulder injury. He was done for the season.
In the offseason, Leinart decided to team up with fellow USC alum Carson Palmer in Oakland.
Palmer and Leinart are good friends. Leinart should feel comfortable for the first time in a while playing behind Palmer.
Leinart looked good in his preseason debut, going 11-16 and hitting a lot of short passes. However, he is fighting for the No. 2 spot with the electric Terrelle Pryor.
Pryor dubbed his performance "dog crap" after the Raiders' first preseason game, but fans may clamor to see the former Ohio State quarterback under center before Leinart.
13. Tennessee Titans, Matt Hasselbeck
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The Jake Locker era may not have started yet, but there is a feeling that it is close.
Veteran Matt Hasselbeck started the team's first preseason game, but Locker is being listed as the starter in Week 2.
It seems to be Locker's job to lose right now.
Hasselbeck threw two picks in his preseason debut and did not look like the quarterback who was the franchise guy in Seattle.
That goes without saying that if Locker struggles or is injured, Hasselbeck has enough starting experience and skill to come in and be effective.
12. Minnesota Vikings, Joe Webb
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Joe Webb is not a conventional quarterback, but he is capable of sparking a team with his athleticism.
Christian Ponder is young, but the Vikings are willing to let him develop. They are also willing to see if Webb can develop into a No. 2 quarterback.
"We know as quarterbacks sometimes you've got to throw when you can't step into it,"Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said Tuesday. "We're doing a bunch of drills this week to help Joe in that regard. I just think Joe will get better and better."
Webb has performed when called upon and will only get better with time, as long as the Vikings don't lose faith in him.
Webb would be better suited at wide receiver than quarterback, and the team should find a way to use him while he assumes the backup role due to their lack of depth.
11. Arizona Cardinals, Kevin Kolb
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Neither Kevin Kolb nor John Skelton have been declared the starter, but ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that Skelton has the edge and it's his job to lose now.
Kolb had a disastrous start to the preseason, throwing an interception and going down with a rib injury.
That really opened the door for Skelton to build some momentum. However, Skelton really did nothing to set himself apart.
The two quarterbacks have been alternating starts, as planned by head coach Ken Whisenhunt, but eventually a decision will have to be made.
Whoever is named the starter will not be the starter for long if they do not perform well.
Kolb had a better statistical year last season, but didn't lead the team to wins and showed that he is made of glass.
Skelton may not have been as impressive on the stat sheet, but led the team to wins.
It is going to be a rough ride under center for the Cardinals, but whoever ends up being the No. 1 quarterback in the desert should find solace in the fact that they get to throw the ball to Larry Fitzgerald.
Whoever comes in as a backup should find comfort in that same fact.
10. Cincinnati Bengals, Bruce Gradkowski
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Very quietly, Bruce Gradkowski has made a nice career for himself in the NFL.
His play in 2009 showed the Raiders how out of shape JaMarcus Russell truly was, eventually leading to the former No. 1 overall pick being released.
Gradkowski ended up starting six games for the Raiders, throwing for 1,702 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Andy Dalton made the Pro Bowl last year as a rookie, and his starting job is not in jeopardy.
However, if Dalton does go down due to injury, Gradkowski is more than capable of taking the reins.
9. New York Giants, David Carr
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David Carr was the top pick in the 2002 draft by the Houston Texans, but to put in nicely, things did not pan out.
Since then, Carr has taken the fall gracefully and developed into a solid, veteran No. 2 quarterback for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
"I've gained so much knowledge, so much experience in the last decade of playing that it would be a shame for me to just be an angry old man and not share any of it with my guys," Carr said in a Wall Street Journal interview.
Carr should be praised for his attitude and poise. He has gained the trust of his locker room during his time with the Giants, and the team would respond well to him if starter Eli Manning went down with an injury.
8. Washington Redskins, Rex Grossman
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After the year that Rex Grossman had last year, it is easy to forget that he quarterbacked the Redskins to two wins over the Super Bowl-champion Giants.
Grossman is open to playing second fiddle to Robert Griffin III next season, while maintaining a veteran presence at the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.
“It’s a lot easier knowing that you’re the guy,” Grossman said in The Washington Times. “That’s what I would want.”
Rex's stats were abysmal last season (16 touchdowns, 20 interceptions) and he knows that. However, he has a grasp on Kyle Shanahan's system, and that would be invaluable if RG3 went down.
He should be able to manage the offense if RG3's risky style of play gets him injured during his rookie campaign.
7. Miami Dolphins, Matt Moore
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While most of the talk around the Dolphins has been around the release of Chad Johnson, Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill have been battling for the starting spot at quarterback.
The decision got a little simpler for coach Joe Philbin when veteran David Garrard went down with a knee injury that will keep him out for most of the preseason, but he still has to decide between Moore and the rookie Tannehill.
Moore went 4-1 as a starter for Carolina with a 98.5 quarterback rating, but he was sent out of town when the drafted Jimmy Clausen.
Then last year Moore was named team MVP, leading the team to six wins in their last nine games as the starter, but they still decided to draft Tannehill as the quarterback of the future.
"I'm never the guy until I absolutely have to be," Moore said Tuesday, per TheLedger.com. "I've had plenty of opportunities to play, and I've done pretty well in those opportunities.
The starting role seems to be Tannehill's to lose, but Moore will be more than ready if he is called upon by the Dolphins coaching staff.
6. Houston Texans, T.J. Yates
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T.J. Yates did not win anyone a fantasy league last season, but he well outplayed his fifth-round draft pick expectations in an emergency situation for the Texans.
Yates did something that no other quarterback has done in the history of the Texans franchise last year: He was not only the first Texans quarterback to play in a postseason game, he was also the first to capture a win in one.
Yates' story last year is more than enough of a resume to land the Texans at the No. 6 spot on this list. They have a quarterback in Yates who is trusted by his teammates and the fan base.
5. New York Jets, Tim Tebow
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Tim Tebow. Have you heard of him?
The New York Jets turned their season into a circus when they traded for Tebow, and now they have the biggest quarterback controversy in the league brewing.
Tebow may not put up the big numbers in the passing game, but as everyone saw last year as Tebowmainia grew—he wins games.
Right now he is doing what he is asked. Standing in as a personal protector on punts. Running the wildcat in the red zone. Heck, he would probably even kick extra points if Rex Ryan asked.
I forgot among these duties Tebow's primary one—to back up the often-criticized Mark Sanchez.
Some people have Tebow taking over before Week 1. Other are saying by midseason. Some don't think Tebow should even get a shot and changing positions.
Everyone has an opinion on the NFL's golden boy.
Right now, Sanchez is No. 1 and Tebow No. 2.
This may change as the season progresses, but Jets players, fans and coaches know that they will get Tebow's best effort when called upon.
4. Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson
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Seattle has more options at quarterback than the team can handle.
Tarvaris Jackson, who started 14 games for the Seahawks last year, may be on his way out of town, barring injury to Russell Wilson or Matt Flynn.
Carrol did say that Jackson was still in the mix, however he seems like the least likely to start this year for Seattle.
Flynn has got the nod as No. 1 in the team's first two preseason games and Wilson has played well when given the chance.
Flynn only missed two passes, going 11-13 for 71 yards and an interception, while Russell Wilson went 12-16 for 124 yards. Wilson also had an interception and a touchdown pass.
Meanwhile, Jackson did not take a single snap in the teams first preseason game.
All three quarterbacks would be operable (not great, but operable) options as starter, let alone as No. 2.
More than likely, Flynn will be the starter with Wilson backing him up when Week 1 comes around.
3. Buffalo Bills, Vince Young
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Vince Young has made two Pro Bowls since being drafted third overall in the 2006 draft, and would probably still be the starter in Tennessee if it was not for off-field issues and butting heads with coach Jeff Fisher.
Young signed a one-year deal last season and spent time behind Michael Vick in Philadelphia.
He signed another one-year deal this this season to backup Ryan Fitzpatrick with the Buffalo Bills.
It seems Young has learned that you only have so many shots to succeed in the NFL. He is said to be in the best shape of his career and at some point in the near future he will secure a starting job again.
For now he will back up Fitzpatrick, but if the Bills need a change under center, Young will be ready.
2. Chicago Bears, Jason Campbell
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The Chicago Bears learned an important lesson last year when Jay Cutler went down: have a solid No. 2 option at quarterback.
When Cutler went down, so did the Bears' playoff hopes.
Campbell was a five-year starter with the Redskins and had the Raiders on their way to a solid season before going down with a broken clavicle.
The acquisition of Campbell may not have been the Bears' most publicized move of the offseason, but it may have been the most important.
The choice to put the Bears at No. 2 on this list was an easy one.
1. Dallas Cowboys, Kyle Orton
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The Cowboys signed Kyle Orton to a $5-million contract in the offseason, and it went relatively unnoticed.
What would have happened if David Carr or Rex Grossman would have gotten a contract like that? There would have been utter chaos around the league.
Orton is that good and that reliable. He has a career-winning record as a starter (35-34).
Orton had a great year in 2010 with the Broncos (3,653 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions) before being engulfed by Tebowmania and cut, ending up in Kansas City.
If Tony Romo goes down with an injury, the Cowboys have the best backup in the league to come in and run the offense.
What do you think? Did we get anything wrong? What did you like?
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