Backup quarterbacks are seldom looked at until called upon to relieve an injured starter or fill in during a complete blowout. Throughout the past few decades, there have been many success stories of backup quarterbacks coming off the bench to lead his team to victory. Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young is probably the most notable backup quarterback story in NFL history. Controversy surrounded Young when San Francisco 49ers head coach George Seifert decided to retain Young as the starter after he led the 49ers to the playoffs in 1992. After the conclusion of the 1992 season, Seifert released legendary 49er quarterback Joe Montana. The result worked out for Seifert as Young lead S.F. to a fifth Super Bowl Championship in 1995, broke several team and NFL passing records, and was enshrined into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2005. Young is only one example of a backup gem, but who is the modern day gem? Which backup quarterback will get his chance to prove his mettle in 2012? Which backup has the most potential to become a consistent starter in the NFL?
I'll start by looking at the 2012 AFC East backup quarterbacks.
Buffalo Bills – Tyler Thigpen, *8/3/25/0/1/6.8
Tyler Thigpen only saw a handful of plays in 3 games during the 2011 season for the Bills. In fact, Thigpen has not seen a significant amount of playing time sine the 2003 season when he played for the Kansas City Chiefs. In 2003 Thigpen played in 14 games, but after posting a 76.0 passer rating, he found himself in a backup role again. It would be highly unlikely that Thigpen would be able to step in for starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and lead the Bills to the playoff in 2012.
New England Patriots – Brian Hoyer (RFA), *43/27/286/1/1/80.2
Brian Hoyer has seen extremely limited playing time while playing in New England. In 2011 he only threw 3 passes and had only 1 completion for 22 yards. Backing up Tom Brady isn't exactly the ideal place for an aspiring NFL quarterback, but you have to imagine Hoyer is learning a lot from Brady and Bill Belichick. In the past Belichick has produced some quality backup quarterbacks; most notably Tom Brady. Brady became New England's starter when Drew Bledsoe was injured against the Jets in week 2 of the 2001 season. We all know how Brady, who was a 6th round pick in the 2000 NFL draft, turned out. Brady has earned multiple NFL and Super Bowl MVP honors. Hoyer, who will be a restricted free agent when the 2012 season starts on March 13th, will have to wait and see if the Patriots tender him or resign him, so his value remains to be seen. But it is safe to say that because he is Brady and Belichick's student, teams will keep an eye on him if he becomes available. The Patriots also have Ryan Mallett under contract in 2012, but Mallett has yet to see the field. As a highly scouted quarterback coming out of Georgia, Mallett could see his role expand if Hoyer leaves, and Brady gets injured. Mallett was a decent college quarterback, but it remains to be seen how his skills have transferred to the NFL.
Miami Dolphins – Pat Devlin, No Career Stats Available
The Miami Dolphins have a roster full of backup quarterbacks. The problem is Miami only has two quarterbacks, Matt Moore & Pat Devlin, with contracts lasting through the 2012 season. Although I fully think Miami will address their quarterback situation in free agency (Peyton Manning?) or the Draft (Ryan Tannehill?), Devlin is the current backup. Devlin, who was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent and played for Miami's practice squad for the majority of the 2011 regular season, started his college career as a red shirt freshman at Penn State. After 2 years and minimal playing time at Penn State, Devlin left and finished his college career playing for the University of Delaware Fighting Blue Hens. In his 2 years at Delaware, Devlin was able to compile 506 completions for 6,155 yards, 42 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Devlin was a highly touted quarterback coming out of Delaware, and was rank as a top 10 quarterback prospect before the 2011 NFL draft. It would be safe to assume that at 6'3", 225 pounds, Devlin has the size and intangibles to be developed into an effective NFL quarterback. Devlin may never get that chance, though, if Miami picks up a top name quarterback in free agency or the draft.
New York Jets – No Backup Under Contract for 2012
The New York Jets' backup quarterback situation is an interesting one. With only starter Mark Sanchez , who posted career numbers in 2011, under contract when the 2012 season starts on March 13th, the Jets should be extremely active in searching for a new backup. Here are a couple of scenarios that the Jets could look at for 2012. The Jets could consider bringing back Mark Brunell (if he doesn't retire) or Kevin O'Connell to backup Mark Sanchez for the 2012 season. Brunell has had an interesting career, but is clearly nothing more than a player/coach for Sanchez at this point, and not an effective starter. O'Connell has been in the league for 4 years, but has posted a modest 4 completions for 23 yards. Neither Brunell nor O'Connell are ideal backups for a team looking to bounce back in 2012. The Jets should consider bringing in a backup option that has the ability to lead the offense in the event that Mark Sanchez gets injured. Soon to be free agent Jason Campbell, who was replaced by Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer after breaking his collar bone, would be a great option for the Jets in 2012. Campbell will be an unrestricted free agent in 2012, but will try to catch on as a starter somewhere. I don't think that should stop the Jets from pursuing him as a backup to Mark Sanchez. The Jets need a competent backup quarterback in the event Sanchez gets injured. Campbell was effective during his time in Oakland, and would make a great backup game manager for any team.
COMING SOON: Backup Plan Part 2 - NFC East.
*attempts/completions/yards/touchdowns/interceptions/rating stats are career stats