The case for the backup QB

We’re just over a quarter away through the season and already, 2022 feels like the year of the backup quarterback.  So far we’ve had:

  • Joe Flacco starting the season in place of Zak Wilson due to injury
  • Jimmy Garoppolo replacing Trey Lance after he suffered a season ending injury
  • Jacoby Brissett standing in for Deshaun Watson after his suspension 
  • Teddy Bridgewater coming in for Tua after head and apparently back injuries
  • Teddy Bridgewater gets replaced by Skylar Thompson 
  • Brian Hoyer coming in for Mac Jones because on injury to his ankle
  • And then, Bailey Zappe coming in for Brian Hoyer after a concussion scare
  • Andy Dalton coming in for Jamies Winston due to injury
  • Cooper Rush standing in for Dak Prescott after injury
  • Mitch Trubisky stood aside for Kenny Pickett because he’s bad

Justin Herbert also came close to not starting the last couple of weeks and we even had an appearance for Tyrod Taylor who stepped in for Daniel Jones briefly a couple of weeks ago coupled with Saqon Barkely taking snaps in a wildcat formation to relieve some pressure

Safe to say, that back up quarterbacks are fairly important – they always were but the feeling this year is that is more the case.  And yet, when you look at it teams don’t seem to prioritise paying for quality back ups.

All the data I’ve looked at comes from Spotrac – so blame them if it’s wrong but they rarely are! 

Out of the whole league, the Titans are spending the highest percentage of their 2022 cap on their QB room –  18.75%.  Ryan Tannehill takes up 18.3% with a pay out of $38.6m in 2022 where as Malik Willis will receive $938k.

Unsurprisingly, the Chiefs are next up with 18.5% of the cap against QBs, the skew is only marginally better between Mahomes and Chad Henne.  They’re also carrying a third QB on the roster in Shane Buechele.

In third place is one of the worst teams in the league – the Commanders.  Carson Wentz’s salary takes up 13.2% of total cap space.  Taylor Heinicke and Sam Howell a combined 2%.  Sour reading for Washington fans.

At the other end of the scale are the Texans (1.71%).  Second to last though is the best team in the NFL currently based on their record!  The Eagles are spending a paltry $4.9m or 2.28% of their cap on QBs.  That’s made up of three QBs, the most expensive of whom is Gardner Minshew ($2.5m).  Jalen Hurts will receive $1.6m in 2022 and Ian Book, $825k.

After Jimmy G and Bridgewater, the next best paid backup is Mason Rudolph and as we’ve seen, he’s not even the No.2.  After that it’s Taylor Heinicke.  The likes of Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, Nick Foles and Blaine Gabbert are well below and you’d consider a safe pair of veteran hands – two of those names are Superbowl MVPs after all! 

So what should teams do?  In a league where we seem to be experiencing more and more long term injuries (why that’s happening is another article), teams need to think about upping the investment in backup QBs.  Those in ‘win now’ (e.g. the Rams who seem to always be there) are at huge risk of sinking a whole season based on an unfortunate incident (Rams, with that O-Line have John Wolford or Bryce Perkins backing up Stafford by the way!)

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