Backup QB Questions…

If the last NFL season taught teams any lessons, one of them had to be that backup QB is an important position on the roster.  Jake Browning, Tommy DeVito, Josh Dobbs, Drew Lock, Nick Mullens, and Gardner Minshew all saw plenty of action and varying degrees of success in backup QB roles last year.  Joe Flacco came off his living room couch to lead the Brows to a playoff slot and won the Comeback Playeer of the Year award.  [Aside:  I still maintain that the Bills’ Damar Hamlin was the real Comeback Player of the Year but there is no need to relitigate that.]

Well, if that lesson was well received, I am not sure that I would be happy with the backup-QB situation with four contending teams.  Look, the NFL strives for parity which means a team or two every season defies previous performance(s) and goes on a tear often making the playoffs.  I am not about to try to comment on all 32 backup QB situations.  But there are four teams that have legitimate shots at making the playoffs and then advancing in those playoffs in 2024 whose backup-QB position looks questionable to me.

  1. Dolphins:  The Dolphins’ record in 2023 was 11-6-0 – – good enough for an AFC playoff slot; the Dolphins then lost to the Chiefs in the wild-card round.  Tua Tagovailoa had a fine season in 2023 but it should be front and center in the mind of any Dolphins’ fan that Tua has a history of injuries.  Looking at the depth chart this morning there are three backups there – – Mike White, Skylar Thompson and Gavin Hardison.  White saw a little action with the Jets in 2021 and 2022 but nothing to write home about.  Thompson appeared in 7 games for the Dolphins last year, starting twice.  Hardison has been signed this year as an Undrafted Free Agent out of UTEP where he missed half of his senior year recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Granted that both White and Thompson have “game experience” here, but still …
  2. Lions:  The Lions made it to the NFC Conference Championship Game last year and only lost that game to the Niners by a field goal.  Jared Goff had an excellent year as the starter and there is no reason to believe that his career is going to tank in 2024.  But there are injury risks in the NFL and the Lions’ two backups as of this morning are Herndon Hooker and Nate Sudfeld.  Hooker has never taken a snap in an NFL game; he spent last year on the team but also on the shelf as he recovered from an ACL injury and surgery.  Sudfeld has been in the NFL since 2016 but has never started a game and has only participated in 6 games.  Hooker was highly regarded in his college career until tearing up his knee; nevertheless, it appears to me that the Lions’ backup QB situation is a tad “precarious” right now.
  3. Packers:  The Packers’ regular season record in 2023 was only 9-8-0 but that earned the team playoff participation.  The Packers demolished the Cowboys in the wild-card round and then lost to the Niners by a field goal in the divisional round.  Jordan Love was one of the bigger surprises of the year with his play at QB for the Packers.  The Pack shows two backup QBs on the roster this morning – – Sean Clifford and Michael Pratt.  Clifford appeared in 2 games in 2023 attempting zero passes.  Michael Pratt was a 7th round pick by the Packers in the 2024 Draft; he played in college at Tulane and led the Green Wave to an 11-1 record last year.  Clifford had success at QB in college at Penn State as well.  However, for a team looking to return to the playoffs in 2024, it would be comforting to have at least someone who had thrown a pass in an NFL game at least once ready to go if necessary.  No?
  4. Ravens:  The Ravens went 13-4-0 in 2023 and made it to the AFC Conference Championship Game where they lost to the Chiefs 17-10.  Lamar Jackson won the NFL MVP award last year, so the Ravens are in good shape at QB – – so long as Jackson is upright.  Given Jackson’s level of performance, it is to be expected that there will be a significant decline in ability with just about any backup situation, but the Ravens’ depth chart today reads – – Josh Johnson, Devin Leary, and Emory Jones.  Johnson has been in pro football since 2009, including two years in various Spring Football Leagues; last year he appeared in 2 games for the Niners and attempted only 2 passes.  Leary was a 6tth round pick in the 2024 Draft out of Kentucky and Jones was an Undrafted Free Agent signed this year after a career at Cincy, Arizona State and Florida.  As I said, a drop in performance is to be expected should Lamar Jackson get hurt, but the expectation of the drop off here seems a bit much to me.

It seems to me that these four teams – – all of whom could aspire to their Conference Championship Game – – are following the advice given by Andrew Carnegie to students at a college almost 140 years ago:

“’Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ is wrong I tell you.  Put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket.”

Staying with NFL stuff for one moment, I ran across a stat that startled me.

  • The Carolina Panthers had a record of 2-15 last year.  They also were the only team in NFL history never to have held the lead in the 4th quarter of a game in a season.  The Panthers beat the Texans with a field goal as time expired and later in the season the Panthers beat the Falcons with a field goal as time expired.

Finally, for no good reason, let me close with these words from Johnny Carson:

“If it weren’t for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, we’d still be eating frozen radio dinners.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “Backup QB Questions…”

  1. Question: is it better to have a superstar under center–followed by a scrub at the #2 QB roster spot? Or is it more valuable to have two “average” QBs in one’s depth chart?

    All I know is that I love June.

    1. TenaciousP:

      I think the 1960 Philadelphia Eagles had an ideal situation. Norm Van Brocklin was the starting QB; he is in the Hall of Fame and the Eagles won the NFL Championship that year.

      His backup was Sonny Jurgensen who took over in 1961 after Van Brocklin retired and went on to have a Hall of Fame career of his own.

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