PART 5 IN A SERIES:
We hear it every year at this time, the backup quarterback is one of the most important positions on the roster. Whether it is or not is a debate for another time, but it’s under the microscope now more than ever as teams try to justify how many resources, or in some cases how few, they’ve committed to the position….and you hear reports of young QB’s who are just “killing it” in their mini-camps.
The position can either be rendered completely irrelevant: Jim Sorgi never getting his uniform dirty in meaningful situations backing up Peyton Manning from 2004 – 2010. Or franchise altering: The Colts never addressing the position appropriately, team goes 2-14 without Manning in 2011, total housecleaning, first pick, Manning moves on, Andrew Luck now in place.
I thought it would be interesting to take a look at every team’s backup situation. These aren’t grades, just an overall look at the total sum of each team’s outlook if their starter were to go down. I’ll consider the immediate situation and the longer-term picture.
I’ll go in order of my NFL Power Rankings 1.0, published May 10th.
Today, the Baltimore Ravens:
Starter: Joe Flacco (5th Year)
Projected Backup: Curtis Painter (4th Year)
Painter started 8 games last year for Indianapolis, and I think we all remember how that went right? He was terrible, and the Colts lost all 8. Obviously he wasn’t the only reason the Manning-less Colts were bad, but he was a BIG part of it. He was really, really bad. So why would a Super Bowl contender entrust their backup job to someone who went 0-8 with 11 INT’s to only 6 TD’s last year? Experience, and connections. Former Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell landed in Baltimore as QB coach, and Painter has seen more field time than the other 3 backup contenders combined. He’s has good size but lacks the arm to match it. He gets the edge because he weathered the storm in Indy last year and should have a comfort level with Caldwell around.
Projected 3rd QB: Tyrod Taylor (2nd year)
Taylor is an interesting prospect, and could win the backup job with another solid preseason. As a rookie last year, Taylor led the Ravens on a game-winning last-second drive in Week #3 of the preseason, a feat infamous for the reaction Ray Lewis had to it all while being interviewed live on the sideline. He predicted Taylor would pull it off and celebrated like it was a playoff win afterwards. Taylor is a spectacular athlete who only needs to refine his mechanics and develop a better understanding of the offense. If he does that, he could not only ascend to the #2 job in Baltimore, he could set himself up to be a possible starter at some point (for another team) in the future.
Verdict: Raw, But High Upside
Other Contenders: John Brantley (Rookie), Chester Stewart (Temple)
Brantley was highly touted as a prep recruit but never lived up to the hype after succeeding Tim Tebow at Florida. He has a long delivery, an average arm, and lacks athleticism. But he’s a heady player with a lot of high-level college experience, and should easily edge out Stewart for a spot on the practice squad.
Summary: If Taylor can grow up in a hurry, the Ravens backup QB situation could develop into one of the better groups in the league. His upside is extremely high, and he would offer headaches for opposing defenses as a serious change-of-pace if Flacco were to get hurt. Painter as a 3rd QB would be a solid luxury, and Brantley has backup potential long-term. The Ravens have clearly invested in the position, not content to settle for career backups and journeyman. It’s a philosophy that has worked well for teams like the Packers and Patriots.