2013: The Year Of The Backup Quarterback

Chicago Bears quarterback Josh McCown
Chicago Bears quarterback Josh McCown
Dec 9 2013 Chicago IL USA Chicago Bears quarterback Josh McCown 12 gestures at the line of scrimmage during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field Andrew Weber USA TODAY Sports

Injuries have always been an unfortunate staple in the NFL. That is certainly nothing new. However, the sheer volume of quarterbacks sidelined by sustaining them in 2013 has been somewhat staggering.

Through Week 14, there have been 13 teams whose starting signal caller is now hanging out on the sideline in sweatpants watching the action due to an injury.

The backup quarterback role has always been one of the cushiest gigs out there. Guys get paid an exorbitant amount of money to carry around a clipboard and be the team’s contingency plan. This season, the second guy in line under center has become much more valuable to NFL teams and should be considered so moving forward.

The concept of a backup quarterback stepping up, excelling and earning themselves a starting role is certainly not a foreign one. There have been a handful of guys who began their careers as second fiddle, were scouted to probably remain there but propelled themselves to a starting role when their number was called due to injury.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was the clipboard jockey for Drew Bledsoe in 2001 after being drafted in the a sixth-round that previous year. After Bledsoe sustained an injury in the second game of the season, Brady was given the starting role. He didn’t exactly shine in his first two starts under center; however hit his stride by Week 5. Brady has since remained the signal caller in New England, winning three Super Bowls, two league MVP awards and been elected to eight Pro Bowls.

Kurt Warner went undrafted after college and bounced around trying out for several NFL teams. Not able to generate any interest, Warner turned to the arena league where he played for several years before finally being signed by the St. Louis Rams. In 1999, Warner was the backup to Trent Green heading into the Rams’ season. Green suffered a torn ACL during the preseason, opening the door for Warner as the starting signal caller.

He went on to lead one of the most productive offenses in NFL history which included one hoisting of the Lombardi Trophy in two Ram Super Bowl appearances, 1999 and 2001. Warner also was the quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals when he returned to the big game in 2008, however was unable to come out victorious against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This season, some of the replacement guys under center have been decent, a band-aid if you will until the starter can return healthy to the field. Some backups and been just plain awful. However, there have been a few that have taken full advantage of the opportunities presented to them and have made a name for themselves as potential starters in the NFL.

In Philadelphia, Michael Vick went down with a hamstring injury leaving the job to NFL sophomore Nick Foles. Since becoming the starter, Foles has taken the Eagles to a 7-1 record and is accumulating quite the list of impressive stats in Vick’s absence. During the crazy snow game against the Lions in Week 14, Foles finally threw his first interception since taking the helm from Vick in the sixth week of the season.

In Chicago, the success of backup Bears quarterback turned starter Josh McCown is another success story for former clip board holders everywhere. Since taking over for Jay Cutler after he suffered an ankle injury, McCown has thrown for 1,809 yards and 13 touchdowns, completing 147 of 220 passes. While some say there will be a quarterback controversy once Jay Cutler is healthy enough to take the field, either way, McCown has done an impressive job at proving he is worthy of a starting job in the league.

After witnessing 13 teams’ need to utilize their bench at the quarterback position this so far this season, it seems that the role of the backup may gain significance when considering drafting and building rosters through free agency in the future.

A position once considered somewhat of a throw away, or not as significant as others, has shown us this season that it needs to be taken more seriously. As has been proven in 2013, a backup needs to be ready to go at any given moment and should consider it an opportunity to shine and audition for that elusive starting quarterback role.

Starting Quarterbacks and their Replacements in 2013 through Week 14:

Buffalo Bills – EJ. Manuel – Jeff Tuel-Thad Lewis

Chicago Bears – Jay Cutler – Josh McCown

Cleveland Browns -Brandon Weeden- Brian Hoyer- Jason Campbell – Alex Tanney?

Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers – Seneca Wallace -Scott Tolzien- Matt Flynn

Houston Texans- Matt Schaub – Case Keenum

Jacksonville Jaguars- Blaine Gabbert – Chad Henne

Minnesota Vikings – Christian Ponder – Matt Cassel

Oakland Raiders – Terrelle Pryor – Matt McGloin

Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Vick – Nick Foles

St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford -Kellen Clemens

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Josh Freeman – Mike Glennon

Tennessee Titans – Jake Locker – Ryan Fitzpatrick

author avatar
Jennifer Eakins
Jennifer Eakins is a sports analyst and proud alumna of the University of Georgia Grady School of Journalism. She is a wife and mother who attempts to juggle it all while maintaining sanity. You can follow her on Twitter @themondaymommy.