NFL Free Agency 2011: 5 Backup QBs Who Can Be Starters and Those Who Can't

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NFL Free Agency 2011:  5 Backup QBs Who Can Be Starters and Those Who Can't
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Stepping Up in the NFL

Matt Leinart, Vince Young and Tyler Palko are thrust into the NFL spotlight as starting quarterbacks drop like flies. Here are the League's backup signal-callers rated by competence and future starting potential.

When I took on this article, I thought that I’d certainly be able to come up with seven or eight backup signal callers ready for the spotlight. But, then, examination of this subject always seems to bear out Parcells famous “1 (800) QUARTERBACK” comment.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was the backup when Chan Gailey took over the Bills, but became the starter in Week 3 of last season. Fitzpatrick acknowledges that the head coach began to immediately modify the Buffalo offense as soon as he became the starter and completely re-designed it this off-season to fit No. 14’s strengths. He credits this strategical flexibility with his success.

The result? They may not be ready to storm the AFC Championship game, but the 2011 Buffalo Bills are a legitimate pro franchise.

Aside from the Amish Rifle, who in today’s game is a winning QB who came from the backup ranks?

1. Well, there’s Matt Schaub. Poor Matt Schaub. Just when he's a Pro Bowler with a winning team, it's over for the year. Ugh. See the Backups with Potential slide for my take on Leinart.

Schaub in Atlanta was always a mystery to me. I would think it would be advisable for the backup quarterback to play in a style at least somewhat similar to the starter. Matt Schaub backed up—Michael Vick. Go figure

Now, Mr. Schaub has quite the arm and is calm, cool, and accurate. But a smooth running gazelle he is not. You’ve seen those rushing TDs from Weeks 8 and 9, right? Really ugly.

2. Matt Cassel?  No. 7 is out for an extended period of time. But even before the hand surgery, I was not completely sold on him.

In three years in KC, Cassel's QB rating has been above 78 exactly once. This was last year, when they were the dark-horse AFC West Champs and Cassel came out with a 93 rating. This season, it’s 77.8.

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say we should wait for his performance in the future. Get back to me in a couple of years.

As for Tyler Palko, I frankly had considered the Kansas City Chiefs to be a team without a backup QB.

This is what I wrote the last time that Matt Cassel was injured.

His name is Tyler Palko. Who? Yeah. From Pittsburgh, he is a former undrafted free agent now in his third year and acquired from the Steelers. He has bounced around, including a stint in the CFL. Actually, it could be worse. The kid has managed an average of a 60% completion rate in the pre-season. However, I had to go look him up because he wasn’t even included on my draft preview.  But, it’s all good – the third string QB is a rookie. Did I say uh-oh?"

3. Kevin Kolb? Please. I wasn’t impressed when he was an Eagle.

4. Matt Moore. Aside from the fact that he and Cassel look like were separated at birth, I generally like him. And let’s give Mr. Moore credit: in Week 9, he was the AFC Offensive Player of the Week and completed 74 percent of his passes in the win. I’d be more impressed, but I watched him in Carolina, where he was a star-in-the-making in 2009 and fell apart in 2010. 

When it comes to QBs named "Matt," I think the jury is still out. And now we'll have to wait until 2012 for Cassel's next review.

So, who is poised to take the next step?

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