NFL depth chart: Analyzing best, worst backup QBs
Friday, Jun. 25, 2010
The surprise arrival of Marc Bulger in Baltimore on Wednesday gave the Ravens a new backup quarterback. More importantly, it gave me an idea for a slow-time column topic.
We know that, every year, injuries will happen. We never know exactly when, where, or (most importantly) to whom they'll occur. When a starting quarterback takes a knee to the head or a head to the midsection, the most popular guy in town suddenly is forced to pull the iPod buds out of his ears and say, "Did somebody call my name?"
So which teams have the worst and best situations at backup quarterback? Let's take a look.
1. Indianapolis Colts. Aside from Peyton Manning, the Colts have four quarterbacks on the roster. And they'd better hope that none of them ever has to take a snap in a game that counts.
Curtis Painter impressed no one during his garbage-time duty in 2009, and no one expects anything from Tom Brandstater, Drew Willy, and Tim Hiller.
So if Peyton goes down, it's pretty much over in Indy. Instantly.
2. New Orleans Saints. The same can be said in New Orleans. Mark Brunell became a free agent, and he reportedly plans to sign with the Jets in late July. And the backups currently are Chase Daniel, who has never played in a regular-season game, and Sean Canfield.
But they may have a secret weapon in former Duke basketball player Greg Paulus.
In other words, if Drew Brees goes down, it's pretty much over for the Saints.
3. Chicago Bears. Behind Jay Cutler, the Bears have no one. They could have had Marc Bulger, but they have opted to stand pat with Caleb Hanie and rookie Dan LeFevour.
Now that Bulger, whose knowledge of offensive coordinator Mike Martz's system could have put the former Rams starter in position to bump Cutler to the bench if the team gets off to a slow start, has picked the Ravens, the Bears are free to sign a veteran backup without facing relentless questions regarding the omission of Bulger from the search process.
The only problem? There really aren't any available veterans who can get the job done if Cutler can't — or if something on him breaks.
4. Arizona Cardinals. When Kurt Warner retired, the Cardinals faced a tough choice. Stand pat with Matt Leinart or try to upgrade.
They had a shot at Donovan McNabb, but opted not to make a move. Then, Arizona pounced on the underachieving Derek Anderson to be Leinart's backup, taking it out of the market for Bulger, once he became available.
Despite denials, the Cards had interest in Bulger. But they never, ever would pay him the same $3.8 million that the Ravens offered — especially after paying Anderson.
5. Philadelphia Eagles. As expected, the Eagles have traded Donovan McNabb. As not expected, they've kept Mike Vick. And, amazingly, the Wildcat gimmick currently serves as the primary backup to Kevin Kolb.
The Eagles need more protection behind Kolb. They reportedly aren't interested in Jeff Garcia, but there's currently no one else out there who can provide the kind of insurance the Eagles need.
1. Baltimore Ravens. With Bulger on board, the Ravens now have a solid two-deep depth chart at quarterback. If starter Joe Flacco gets injured, Bulger will enjoy something he didn't have for his last couple of years in St. Louis — an offensive line actually capable of blocking defenders on a consistent basis.
This latest transaction strengthens the Ravens' chances for 2010, putting them among the best teams in the AFC. And with several other teams in need of a quality backup, they may be able to give Troy Smith his wish and trade him to a new city.
2. Tennessee Titans. Two years ago, Titans starter Vince Young flamed out in Week 1, and Kerry Collins led the team to a 13-3 record. Now, when Collins found himself yanked for Young after a disastrous start to 2009, Young has shown signs of another potential meltdown, and Collins remains in place, mop and bucket at the ready.
Over the long haul, the Titans may need not only a new backup but also a new starter. For now, though, they've still got one of the best No. 2's in the NFL, and they could need him sooner than anyone realizes.
3. Miami Dolphins. When Chad Pennington suffered yet another shoulder injury last year, it appeared his two-year stint with the Dolphins had ended. After all, why would Pennington want to come back once backup Chad Henne has become the starter?
But Pennington opted to return as the No. 2. And that gives the Dolphins plenty of protection in the event Henne gets injured. With Pat White simply not ready to take over (now or possibly ever), keeping Pennington keeps the Fins in play — unless and until he gets hurt again, too.
4. Washington Redskins. Sure, the 'Skins made a major play by landing Donovan McNabb via trade. But McNabb has missed at least one game in five of the past six seasons.
So the team needs a quality backup. And though some may not think Rex Grossman is a quality backup, consider a few facts: First, he spent a year in the system the Redskins have adopted, with new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Houston. Second, Grossman made it to the Super Bowl in Chicago under offensive coordinator Ron Turner, who barely coaxed mediocrity out of Jay Cutler before getting fired after last season. Third, Grossman still possesses a live arm — and the Shanahans know how to refine raw talent.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers. During Ben Roethlisberger's upcoming suspension, the Steelers will have three good-but-not great quarterbacks available to help move the offense in the right direction. And when he comes back, whoever plays while he's gone will be even better prepared to back him up.
That is, if Roethlisberger automatically is re-installed as the starter. If he isn't, then the Steelers automatically have one of the best backup quarterbacks in the history of the league.
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