Week 10 reminded us of how crucial the backup quarterback role is in pro football.
Rookie Nick Foles had to step in for the Philadelphia Eagles, Colin Kaepernick for the San Francisco 49ers and Byron Leftwich for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Interestingly, all three felt the three possible outcomes of a football game.
Kaepernick was part of San Francisco's 24-24 tie, Leftwich relieved Pittsburgh to victory and Foles fell short despite a valiant effort. On a more ironic level, the results coincide rightfully with each quarterback's NFL experience.
Leftwich is the veteran of the three, so naturally he got the win. Kaepernick is one year ahead of Foles, which leads to the next best outcome—a tie—and the rookie gets the loss. That said, it goes to show experience certainly pays dividends.
Ahead, we breakdown each backup signal-caller and figure out who is currently and will be the better quarterback.
Nick Foles, Eagles
When Foles took over for Michael Vick, the Eagles were tied at seven with the Dallas Cowboys. From there, until the fourth quarter began, Foles played impressively well.
Philadelphia was trailing 10-7 at halftime, but Foles got the Eagles 10 points in the third quarter which made the contest 17 apiece entering the fourth: The rookie had gone 9-of-12 including a touchdown with no turnovers.
Shortly into the final quarter, though, Foles threw a pick six after Dallas had previously returned a punt back for a touchdown. The Cowboys scored 14 points in a span of less than three minutes and it was simply a rookie mistake.
Then again, Brandon Carr is also one of the NFL's better cover corners. For the day, Foles went 22-of-32 for 219 yards and one score to one turnover. Not terrible for being thrust into a must-win situation against a division rival, and the potential is certainly evident.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
Much like Foles, Kaepernick was put in charge of his offense roughly midway through the second quarter. Alex Smith had just gotten the 49ers on the board, but San Francisco was still trailing 14-7.
Well because of his versatility and still developing as a pocket passer, Kaepernick was called on to run the rock quite often. From the time he entered through the third quarter, though, San Francisco's offense punted three straight times and were down 17-7 against the St. Louis Rams.
Then, Kaepernick displayed his composure and poise by leading an 11-play, 81-yard touchdown drive. Thereafter, St. Louis fumbled and San Francisco pulled what the Cowboys did by scoring two quick touchdowns.
The Rams, however, regained the lead and Kaepernick saw less than two minutes on the clock and facing a dire situation. Fortunately for the 'Niners, the second-year quarterback went 3-of-4 for 30 yards on that final drive as well as scrambling for 29.
He tied the game and then also got David Akers in scoring position during overtime. Although the finish was a tie, Kaepernick proved his ability to stare down adversity and provide his team with a chance to win.
Byron Leftwich, Steelers
Unlike the above backups, Leftwich's opportunity didn't occur until nearly halfway through the third quarter. So, roughly almost one full quarter after Foles and Kaepernick.
The good news, however, was the Steelers were playing the 1-7 Kansas City Chiefs. Here, the game was tied at 10 and Leftwich only needed to manage the game. Meaning: no turnover and no sacks, while not losing the field position battle and letting the defense win it.
And that's exactly what Leftwich did. He didn't turn the rock over, wasn't sacked and converted a key third down in the third quarter to keep a drive alive that ultimately ended with a field goal. At some point the Chiefs were going to lose the game themselves, and Leftwich's experience and patience paid off.
Despite only going 7-of-14, he averaged over 10 yards per completion. That level of dependability was a huge impact for Pittsburgh, so it wasn't surprising to see the Steelers improve to 6-3.
Better Backup QB Right Now? Future?
Right now Byron Leftwich is the better and most trustworthy of this group. He won his game in tougher weather conditions, didn't turn the ball over and didn't lose field position on a sack.
It's what you want in a backup quarterback, especially when a elite player such as Ben Roethlisberger goes down. Not to mention, Leftwich's pro experience gives him a significant edge as well. As for the future, though, it's Nick Foles in Philadelphia.
One sole reason is because of Vick's age compared to Alex Smith. Smith is only 28 years old and has proven to be a reliable quarterback in the Bay Area. Vick is 32, turnover-prone and fails to read pre-snap since he just tries to do too much.
Foles must be the future in Philadelphia for 2013 and onward, otherwise the Eagles will continue to underachieve and disappoint.
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