It is arguably the most important position in sports. This player commands the entire offense and for the most part are the face of the team. A good one usually leads to team success, while a subpar player here could end up deadly for the franchise. It is, of course, the starting quarterback. But what about the man behind him? It’s the most important bench spot of all-time, the backup quarterback. Many are unknown by common NFL fans, until of course their team’s starter goes down. Then its their time to step up. These players know how to step up when the pressure is on. Here is a list of the top 10 backup quarterbacks in the NFL.
Top 10 Backup Quarterbacks in the NFL
10. Ryan Mallett, Baltimore Ravens:
Mallett, a third round pick by the New England Patriots in 2011 out of Arkansas, was thought to be the replacement for future hall of famer Tom Brady when the Patriots took him. However, after three years of backing up Brady, New England traded Mallett for a late round pick after drafting Jimmy Garoppolo. Many thought that he could be the answer to the Texans quarterback problem, but he only started a handful of games in 2014 before tearing his pectoral muscle. In 2015, he lose a battle with Brian Hoyer for the starting job. He was later released by Houston and signed by Baltimore. Mallett has never truly gotten a chance to show what he is made of, making him a very interesting backup to Joe Flacco. When Flacco tore his ACL in 2015, Mallett was average, throwing for 1300 yards and five touchdowns in eight games. While Mallett, 29, may of lost his chance to be an NFL starter, he can still be a very capable backup.
9. Drew Stanton, Arizona Cardinals
As reliable as reliable can get, Stanton is the classic backup. He is a useful player if Carson Palmer goes down with an injury, and he can really get a sideline excited. Stanton was drafted 43rd overall by the Detroit Lions in 2007, staying in Detroit until 2011. He then played for the New York Jets and the Indianapolis Colts, before winding up in Arizona.
Stanton’s most productive NFL season was 2014, when he filled in for Palmer for eight games, winning five. He threw for over 1700 yards and seven touchdowns. Stanton is already 32 and probably saw his better days spent on the bench, but if Palmer gets hurt again, he has already proved he can be a very capable fill in spot starter.
8. Mark Sanchez, Chicago Bears
Despite all the jokes made about Sanchez, he is a very good quarterback to have on an NFL roster. He is a nine-year veteran and has playoff experience, making it to the conference championship in his first two season in the league. Sanchez started for the Jets until 2013. He then spent time in Philadelphia and most recently in Dallas. The Bears picked him up this off-season to back up their new starting quarterback, Mike Glennon.
“I see him [Sanchez] as a really good solid No. 2 quarterback,” Bears GM Ryan Pace told the Chicago Tribune. “I like him in this role for a lot of reasons, and one of them is the experience that he has. He’s been through the highs and lows of our league.” While Sanchez may not be a capable starter anymore, his experience is crucial to the development of the younger Glennon, making him incredibly valuable.
7. Geno Smith, New York Giants
Geno Smith. Where to begin? Smith was selected 39th overall by the Jets in the dreaded 2013 NFL draft. He was named the team’s starter after the formerly mentioned Sanchez left. The season was inconsistent for Smith, who threw for over 3000 yards and 12 touchdowns, but 21 interceptions. He entered 2014 as the Jets starting quarterback, a season that saw him in trouble with the team and the league. In week four, he was fined for yelling profanity at fans during halftime and he missed a team meeting in week five, because he went to a movie. Smith finished with an unproductive 2014 and in 2015 got into a locker room fight in which he broke his jaw. He was out for eight weeks and Ryan Fitzpatrick took over.
The Giants picked him up on a short term deal this off-season, possibly as a long term backup answer. Eli Manning will be a great role model for the younger Smith to have and to learn from. If Manning goes down with an injury, Smith will have plenty of talent around him to be able to fill in, much more talent than he ever had with the Jets. He is back with his former teammate brandon Marshall as well. Smith is no Manning, but he could do the job just fine.
6.Derek Anderson, Carolina Panthers-
Backing up a former league MVP cannot be easy, especially when it is someone as versatile as Cam Newton, but Anderson has done a great job. He does what a backup is supposed to do, but not much more. Anderson keeps the Panthers in a position to win when Newton goes down. He has only started a handful of games for Carolina, and has been about even in wins and losses. He is just about as reliable as you are going to get from a backup quarterback who is already 33. Anderson won’t be the one dodging defenders and running like his starter and his arm isn’t a cannon, but he is a safe bet to keep the Panthers in one piece if Newton does go down.
5. Colt McCoy, Washington Redskins
McCoy’s road to the nation’s capital isn’t a normal one for an NFL backup. As a dual threat in college, he set records and eventually would have his jersey retired by the Texas Longhorns. He fell to the third round in the 2010 NFL draft due to his “lack of size” and the fact that he was injury prone. The Cleveland Browns selected him with the 85th pick. McCoy finished his first year with six touchdowns and nine interceptions, but he entered 2011 as the Browns starting quarterback. He played decently for Cleveland, until he suffered a concussion late in the season. McCoy never would get back to starter level in Cleveland, and he made a brief stop in San Francisco before arriving in D.C. to play behind Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins.
McCoy has shown in certain games as a Redskin that he still has the ability to contribute as a starter. He started four games in 2014, throwing for 1057 and four touchdowns before suffering a neck injury. If he had not suffered the injury, it’s possible that he could still be starting in Washington, however Cousins took his chance and never looked back. The good thing for Redskins fans is that if their emerging star ever does go down, they have a very capable backup in McCoy.
4. Chase Daniel, New Orleans Saints
One of the hidden jewels in this year’s free agency, Daniel was thought to go somewhere to compete for a starting job before signing with the Saints. Daniel’s underdog story is one of the better in the league. As a two-time Heisman candidate at Missouri, Daniel still went undrafted in the 2009 draft. He was signed by Washington as an undrafted free agent, but never played a regular season game in their uniform as he was cut before the season started. He was picked up by the Saints and put on their practice squad the very next day, but was later cut. He was re-signed to New Orleans practice squad a week later, then was cut again the next day. A couple months later, he was signed AGAIN by the Saints, only to be released AGAIN in early December. Finally, he was re-signed by the Saints two days later and made it onto the active roster for their Super Bowl run. He stayed with the Saints as a backup to future hall of famer Drew Brees for the next three seasons. He then spent three years in Kansas City backing up Alex Smith, and signed with the Eagles last season, backing up Nick Foles.
Daniel was a trendy sleeper for a starting position this off-season, even though he had only started two games in his career. He came full circle and, again, re-signed with New Orleans. Daniel will continue to backup Brees as he enters the final years of his playing career. While Daniel, 30, is a little too old to be his replacement, he is the perfect age to be a transition quarterback from Brees to whoever the Saints bring in. He also is a great mentor for the new young quarterback, whoever it will be, considering all that Daniel has gone through in his playing career.
3. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
If you want a “what happened to him?” story, just look at Nick Foles. Selected in the third round of the 2012 draft by the Eagles out of Arizona, Foles would get his first start in week 11. He started the rest of the season, throwing for 1700 yards and five touchdowns. In 2013, Foles started the season as a backup for Michael Vick. Foles got his first start in week six, throwing for 300 yards and four touchdowns, but this was just the start. In week nine, Foles had one of the best single game performances in NFL history, becoming one of three quarterback to ever throw for seven touchdowns without an interception in a single game. He finished the season with one of the best touchdown to interception ratios (27:2) and one of the best passer ratings (119.0) in NFL history. He made the pro bowl as an alternate and was named Offensive MVP of the game.
In 2014, Foles suffered a broken collarbone halfway through the year. That off-season, the Eagles traded Foles to the Rams. He started just 11 games for at the time St. Louis, playing mediocre at best. When the Rams selected Jared Goff, Foles requested a release. He spent last year in Kansas City, backing up previously mentioned Alex Smith. This off-season, he returned to Philly to backup Carson Wentz. Foles is just about as good as a team can get as a backup quarterback, having plenty of experience in case Wentz ever goes down. If Wentz struggles even, the Eagles could consider giving Foles a shot, hoping that he returns to his 2013 form.
2. A.J. McCarron, Cincinnati Bengals
A.J. McCarron is a winner. As a four-year starter at Alabama, McCarron won back-to-back national titles in 2012 and 2013. In that first championship season, he threw 30 touchdowns. McCarron was projected as a day one or at the lowest early day two draft pick in the 2014 draft, but fell to the fifth round, being the ninth quaterback taken. He was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 164th pick. McCarron started in three games for the injured Andy Dalton and played in seven. He finished 2015 with a loss in a playoff game against Pittsburgh, where he threw for 212 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
McCarron did not see the field in 2016. He is only 26 years old, however, and was talked about as one of the hottest trade targets by multiple teams this off-season. So far, nothing has come of it. While McCarron has not done a lot in NFL to prove he is a capable starter he has done nothing to disprove it. If the Bengals decide that they want to move on from the 29-year-old Dalton or if he gets hurt, McCarron is the player they will turn to. If they do not do something with him soon, he could become similar to Ryan Mallett, and have his entire career as a backup. He is a great backup to have however, being able to not just fill in, but to take over a team and lead it. If it wasn’t for this next guy, McCarron would be number one on this list.
1. Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots
It’s really not fair that the team with arguably the best quarterback of all time should also have the league’s best young backup. Garoppolo was drafted the same year as McCarron, 2014, but in the second round. Out of Eastern Illinois, Garoppolo had won the Walter Payton Award, which went to the best player in the Football Champion Subdivision(FCS). Garoppolo has been the talk of trades for quite awhile now, but they really picked up this past season, when Garoppolo started the year as the Patriots starter due to Tom Brady’s deflategate suspension. He threw for 264 yards and a touchdown in his first game against the tough Arizona Cardinals defense. He then torched the Dolphins defense in the first half of week two, throwing for 234 yards and three touchdowns before going out with an injury in the second quarter.
Garoppolo showed NFL teams what he was capable of in that short span, which led to rumors that the Patriots would send him away. No such moves have been made yet. Garoppolo is the perfect backup quarterback, for now. He is young and quick enough to make plays that leave fans speechless. He has great arm strength and he has trained under Tom Brady for the last three years. However, Garoppolo is in danger of becoming another talent wasted if he doesn’t play soon, with Brady showing no signs of slowing down. He is only 25 years old, but if Brady plays for 6-7 more years like he plans, Garoppolo’s prime years will be wasted. For the Patriots, he is a great asset as not only insurance for the first ballot hall of famer, but also has trade bait. Do not be surprised if Garoppolo is the focal point of either a draft day trade or of a trade later on. As for now, he is just going to have to accept his spot as the league’s top (and most coveted) backup. He could become a free agent next year.