When commenting on why Peyton Manning’s backups don’t get reps in practices, former Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore famously said, “Fellas, if 18 goes down, we’re f—ed. And we don’t practice f—ed.”
He wasn’t wrong.
After winning at least 10 games in every season from 2002-10 with Manning at quarterback, Indianapolis finished 2-14 in 2011 when Manning missed the entire season due to injury.
A season doesn’t have to be lost when a starting quarterback goes down and recent history supports that. The obvious example is when Nick Foles replaced an injured Carson Wentz in 2017 and led the Eagles to a Super Bowl championship. Last season, Teddy Bridgewater quarterbacked the Saints to a 5-0 record while Drew Brees missed time. The Vikings’ 2017 season wasn’t flushed down the drain when starter Sam Bradford suffered an injury in Week 2. Minnesota went 13-3, won the NFC North and advanced to the NFC Championship Game.
While every team approaches it differently, having a reliable backup quarterback is valuable in the NFL. Given the importance of the quarterback position and its impact on winning and losing games, it’s often disappointing to glance at depth charts and find teams built to win that are one snap away from a lost season because they didn’t prioritize quarterback depth well enough. That’s not the case for these three teams who can claim the best quarterback rooms in the NFL.
New Orleans Saints
Brees might be 41 years old but he’s still quarterbacking at an elite level. In 2019, he set new career-highs for passer rating (116.3) and touchdown percentage (7.1) while posting the second-highest completion percentage (74.3) of his career. With the best offensive line in football and a loaded group of weapons, the Saints are all-in on sending Brees out as a two-time Super Bowl champion.
Backing up Brees is Jameis Winston, who was the starter in Tampa Bay since 2015 after being selected first overall in that year’s draft. While interceptions were problematic, Winston holds the NFL record for the most touchdown passes before his 24th birthday (69), the most seasons of passing for 4,000 yards to begin a career and is the second-youngest player to pass for 10,000 yards in league history.
There isn’t a better starter-backup combination in the league.
Since Dallas drafted Dak Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, he has started every game and developed into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. His growth has been notable and Prescott is primed to reset the market for quarterback contracts in the very near future.
Recently signed Andy Dalton is a dream backup quarterback, especially considering Cooper Rush was scheduled to be the No. 2 behind Prescott; Rush since been released, according to NFL media.
While Dalton’s days of being a solid starting quarterback are behind him, he’s an outstanding fallback option if Prescott were to go down with an injury. With the amount of offensive talent on the Cowboys’ roster, they were wise to sign Dalton after he was released from the Bengals.
One year after trying to keep things afloat after the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck, the Colts are suddenly well-positioned in terms of quarterback depth on the roster. With Philip Rivers scheduled to start, Jacoby Brissett returns as the backup which is a much more suitable role for his skill set.
While neither Rivers or Brissett are long-term solutions, Indianapolis is fortunate to have an experienced starter and reasonable backup. Rivers is aging but still found production behind an atrocious Chargers offensive line. The caliber of blocking he’ll enjoy with the Colts is night and day from the weak unit he played behind in Los Angeles.
Brissett has too many flaws to be “the guy” but he’s a solid backup that can keep the ship above water if Rivers has to miss time.
Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson/Robert Griffin III
Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield/Case Keenum