Jay Cutler or Caleb Hanie? Top 10 Backups Who Deserve a Shot at a Starting Job

Mike OsterbergCorrespondent IJanuary 25, 2011

Jay Cutler or Caleb Hanie? Top 10 Backups Who Deserve a Shot at a Starting Job

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    Jay Cutler has been at the center of a media firestorm this week after failing to complete the NFC Championship.

    Due to a serious knee injury, Cutler was yanked, leading many of his peers to question the heart and toughness of the Bears' starting signal caller. 

    Todd Collins was an abject failure when he came in, but Caleb Hanie looked impressive considering the situation into which he was thrust. 

    While Hanie won't take the starting job from Cutler, the rest of the league got a good look at the type of talent that the Colorado State product has to offer.

    He can't be the only backup in the NFL just waiting for his shot, right?

    Tom Brady and Tony Romo took similar paths to stardom, and there are a few others out there who just need a chance to show their skills. 

    While many of the following players are on teams with stability at the quarterback position, that's not to say that they couldn't ply their trade elsewhere in the league.

    Here are 10 quarterbacks from around the NFL who deserve a shot at a starting job.

No. 10: Josh Johnson

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    The first prospect on the list is more of a project than the others, but Josh Johnson, with a little more development, has the height and arm strength to give his team a chance to win.

    His Mike Vick-esque skill set got him drafted in the fifth round in 2008, and he's been on the bench for much of the time since.

    He got a look in the 2009 season as the starting quarterback for the Bucs and, while he didn't blow anyone away, he certainly showed promise. 

    Johnson has the ability to create with both his arm and his legs, as he posted a 4.44 40-yard dash time at the 2008 NFL Combine and sports one of the highest passer efficiency ratings in NCAA D-I history.

    The former FCS star at the University of San Diego may not be the next Tom Brady, but with a good supporting cast and the right system, Johnson could certainly contribute at the NFL level. 

No. 9: Dan LeFevour

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    Dan LeFevour, a star at Central Michigan, has yet to see any reps in a regular season NFL game. Waived by the Bears in the final cuts of the 2010 preseason, LeFevour was picked up by the Bengals.

    With Carson Palmer asking to be shipped out of town and instability at the position, LeFevour could get a shot at the job. 

    He's got prototypical size and great mobility, skills that could come in handy when he's trying to elude the grasp of fellow AFC Northers like James Harrison and Terrell Suggs. 

    Like Johnson, he's more project than Pro-Bowler at this stage in the game, but he's certainly got potential. 

No. 8: Chase Daniel

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    Chase Daniel just finished up his second year in the league, but he's only attempted three passes in an NFL regular-season game. 

    Much of his time has been spent toting the clipboard and holding kicks, though that's not a bad thing.

    All of this time on the bench has been spent behind Drew Brees, one of the smartest quarterbacks in the game today.

    Daniel, a college star at Missouri, has been studying and learning the position under the tutelage of Brees and head coach Sean Payton, and he could still develop into a solid NFL starter if someone gives him a chance.

    The former two-time Heisman Trophy candidate may not have ideal size for an NFL quarterback, but then again neither does Brees.

    If Daniel gets a shot, he has the potential to blossom into a consistent NFL quarterback. 

No. 7: Stephen McGee

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    Stephen McGee, the second-year man out of Texas A&M, got a chance to play in the final two games this season after both Tony Romo and Jon Kitna went down with injuries. 

    In those two games, McGee showed that he deserves a second look. While he won't be taking over for Romo anytime soon, he showed tremendous potential. 

    Relieving Kitna against the Cardinals on Christmas Day, McGee went 11-of-17 for 111 yards and a touchdown as he nearly engineered a come-from-behind victory. 

    The next week, he did just that against the Philadelphia Eagles, throwing a touchdown to Jason Witten with only 55 seconds on the clock as the Cowboys stole a victory. 

    He has impressed with his arm and he's even shown the ability to get outside the pocket and scramble for extra yards. At 6'3" and 222 pounds, McGee has the measurables and the moxie to make it at the NFL level. 

No. 6: Seneca Wallace

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    Seneca Wallace has had his chances as a starting quarterback, but he's always been more of a placeholder than a bona fide starter. 

    He's shown flashed of brilliance during his eight-year career as a spot starter, but I think Seneca has the goods to be a consistently productive starting QB in the NFL.

    With a career passer rating of 83.8, it's clear that Wallace can play the position, but for one reason or another, he's never really gotten a true chance.

    Sure, he competed for the job this year, but it was clear that at the first sign of trouble or injury that he was losing his spot to Colt McCoy. 

    Perhaps his freewheeling style and scrambling nature have been his worst enemy as he's suffered multiple ankle injuries, but even at the age of 30, it seems that Wallace never really had a chance to be the leader of a team.

    Despite his enormous athletic gifts, Wallace has never been anyone's No. 1 option, though he deserves it as much as anyone. 

No. 5: Tyler Thigpen

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    Tyler Thigpen has shown flashes of individual greatness in his fledgling NFL career, most notably during his time starting for the 2008 Kansas City Chiefs. 

    During that season, this dual-threat quarterback scored 18 passing touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns and even one receiving touchdown in just 11 games.

    It was clear that the offense was clicking with Thigpen under center.

    The only problem was the team went 1-10 with him as the starter. 

    While the poor record may have sullied his reputation, it's obvious that he has talent. 

    In the few chances he's gotten since being traded to Miami, Thigpen has performed admirably. With the uncertainty at the quarterback position in Miami, expect Thigpen to be a major candidate for their starting job in 2011. 

No. 4: Brian Hoyer

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    Bill Belichick seems to have a knack for finding diamonds in the rough when it comes to quarterbacks, and chances are that Brian Hoyer is no different from Tom Brady or Matt Cassel. 

    At this point it's impossible to say that Hoyer will win multiple Super Bowls like Brady or even perform near the level of Cassel, but maybe he just needs a chance. 

    Hoyer, unlike late-round picks Brady and Cassel, was undrafted out of Michigan State. 

    He was one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten during his career, and he's spent the past season learning from the NFL's version of Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi. 

    Perhaps if Brady goes down at any point next season, we'll see the third coming of Belichick's genius when it comes to selecting quarterbacks. 

No. 3: Caleb Hanie

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    At No. 3 we have Caleb Hanie, the little-known third-stringer for the Bears who nearly caused the Internet to break Sunday night as fans furiously scrambled to Google his name. 

    For those who don't already know, Hanie was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Colorado State in 2008 by the Bears and has been toiling as the third-string quarterback ever since. 

    For some reason, he was below Todd Collins on the depth chart, though I suspect that will change next season. 

    Hanie showed real promise in the NFC Championship as he nearly brought the Bears from behind before a late-game interception sealed the team's fate. 

    Despite that, the team has to be proud of the young QB's perseverance and overall talent in the face of one of the best defenses in the league in a playoff atmosphere.

    Hanie is the real deal and it's only a matter of time before he gets his chance. 

No. 2: Matt Flynn

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    Matt Flynn got a few shots this season as Aaron Rodgers went down with concussions, and he certainly showed potential. 

    On the season, Flynn compiled a quarterback rating of 82.5 while showing that he can make all the throws at the NFL level. 

    Does he need a bit more polish? Sure, but the three touchdown game he posted at New England showed that, on any given day, Flynn can hold his own as a starting QB. 

    The 2008 national championship-winning quarterback from LSU was a star in college and was drafted in the seventh round by the Packers that same year.

    Even though they already had Aaron Rodgers, they clearly saw something in him that others did not. 

    While he won't be taking the starting job in Green Bay from Rodgers any time soon, Flynn proved that he deserves a second look somewhere down the line. 

No. 1: Kevin Kolb

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    While this may seem like a no-brainer for the No. 1 spot in the rankings since he's already been named a starting quarterback to start a season in his career, remember that the Eagles seem content to let his talents waste away on the bench as the backup to injury-prone Mike Vick. 

    That would not be fair to Kolb, as he has proven himself to be a solid NFL quarterback.

    While he doesn't possess the unique skill set of Vick, he's got an NFL arm and he's shown the ability to win games. 

    The former second-round pick from the University of Houston deserves a shot at being a starter without someone breathing down his neck.

    When he gets that chance, and he definitely will, I expect Kolb to quickly solidify himself as a top flight quarterback.

    Mike Osterberg is a student at Penn State University and Featured Columnist for the New York Giants. Follow him on twitter @Mike_Osterberg.