Best of the Backups: Rating the NFC's Second-String QBs

Neal HowardCorrespondent ISeptember 6, 2007

Picture this scenario: For some reason or another—injury, holdout, dogfighting, whatever—every single starting quarterback in the NFL can't play for the entire season.

How would each team perform? 

Believe it or not, some squads might actually get better. Here's a look at NFC teams that would rise or fall without their starters. AFC analysis to follow.

NFC Winners

Arizona Cardinals

Yes, Kurt Warner is still playing. 

Warner played five games last year, but only started in one of them. While Warner's glory days are definitely over, he could probably do well knowing he doesn't have to face Tom Brady or one of the Mannings.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers may have the most to gain in this scenario—they'd have an excuse to replace Jake Delhomme with newly acquired backup David Carr. 

Carr would probably do much better in Carolina than he did in Houston, first because he'd have one of the league's best receiving corps to work with and second because he wouldn't be on his back all the time.

Chicago Bears

Yes I said it—the Bears. 

With everyone bashing Rex Grossman, few people have taken the time to look at his backup, seasoned vet Brian Griese. Griese is very similar to Jeff Garcia: Pro Bowler one year, bust the next three. But if a guy like Grossman can get the Bears to the Super Bowl, who says Griese can't?

Dallas Cowboys

What if Tony Romo ran away with girlfriend Carrie Underwood?

Don't worry Dallas fans—does the name Brad Johnson ring a bell? 

If it does, you'll know Johnson was the starting quarterback for the Vikings (6-10) last year, and a short-term sensation with Tampa Bay. Could he get to the  Super Bowl again? Who knows.

Washington Redskins

Jason Campbell's starting job isn't guaranteed—he has a lot of backups who could fill his shoes, including 15-year veteran Mark Brunell and rookie Jordan Palmer (Carson's brother). 

Brunell's age might get to him, and Palmer won't ever shine like his brother (I wouldn't even compare him to Eli Manning), but those guys plus Casey Bramlet could give the Redskins a lot of options.

NFC Losers

Atlanta Falcons

Let's just get this one over with—and no, I won't make any dog puns. 

We all know that Vick is out and Joey Harrington is in. But with Harrington gone, who's next? Hmmm...  

D.J. Schockley and Chris Redman are the two candidates. Neither player took a snap last year—nor would either have this year had it been for Vick's trial.

Sorry Atlanta, looks like you should have kept Matt Schaub...although I'm probably one of a million people to say that.

Detroit Lions

Jon Kitna shocked football analysts last year with his big numbers. But what if he goes down? Josh McCown is gone, and Dan Orlovsky replaces him. Orlovsky hasn't thrown a pass since 2005, and rookie Drew Stanton isn't expected to do much better.

Green Bay Packers

Cheeseheads should breathe a huge sigh of relief with Brett Farve still around—because Aaron Rodgers can't live up to to their expectations. 

Rodgers did get his chance last year...only to get seriously injured before he could prove himself. If he's still shaken up this year, don't expect another 8-8 season. 4-12 (à la 2005) will be more like it.

San Francisco 49ers

While some consider Alex Smith overrated (me among them), he's still a better choice for coach Mike Nolan than either Trent Dilfer or Shaun Hill. Dilfer's a seasoned veteran, but didn't get to play at all last season. Hill has gotten to six years...and he never got to throw a pass.

Seattle Seahawks

Seneca Wallace got his chance to play last year, throwing for 1,000 yards in just four games. But if he fills in for Matt Hasselbeck again, expect the Seahawks to do no better than .500—as they did last year with Wallace at the helm. 

That sort of performance would normally be acceptable for a team with a backup under center—but it won't be good enough for a franchise whose fans are demanding another Super Bowl appearance.