Third String Controversy

Can Patriots coach Bill Belichick justify carrying a third quarterback to start the season over a position player? What is the argument?

By Kevin Saleeba

With final roster cuts looming for the Patriots this week, can coach Bill Belichick justify carrying a third quarterback?

Only in New England can there still be a quarterback controversy when future Hall of Famer Tom Brady has a lock on the position for the foreseeable future. The puzzling aspect of the debate has nothing to do with finding the heir apparent for Brady, but whether Belichick should use or "waste" a roster spot on Tim Tebow at third string quarterback.

With Ryan Mallett solidifying the backup spot behind Brady, many Patriot pundits argue that keeping Tebow on the roster as the third quarterback in place of another important position is a mistake. It's a ludicrous argument because carrying a third quarterback is not unprecedented. In the previous 14 seasons as Patriots head coach, Belichick has carried a third quarterback eleven times and he even had four quarterbacks in 2000 and 2008.

"I think that position doesn't really line up with any other position," Belichick told the media Tuesday. "Quarterbacks are quarterbacks. I think other positions can have a play based in the kicking game or offensive formations or defensive personnel groups or whatever it happens to be but quarterbacks … how many you carry, is based on really that position and that position alone. I don't think it has too much to do with some other position. Obviously you can keep somebody else at another position if you only keep two quarterbacks but I think it really just comes down to that position itself."
Belichick and Tebow (Kevin Saleeba / Patriots Insider)

It's safe to say that the most important position in the NFL today is at quarterback. Without a good quarterback, the chance of winning consistently in this league is slim-to-none. So if it comes down to Tebow or Leon Washington as a kick-returner, and Belichick and the coaching staff see some hidden potential the rest of the world does not see in Tebow, Washington will get the ax. It's a lot easier finding a guy to return kickoffs than lead an offense.

With that said, will Tebow make the club? In two preseason games, Tebow has a pitiful completion percentage of 26.3 percent. That's five completions out of 19 attempts for 54 yards, including minus-1 yard his last game. He is the worst quarterback statistically during the entire 2013 NFL preseason.

Off course Tebow should not make the final 53-man roster over a guy like Washington. Tebow is just not a good quarterback and he is a waste of a roster spot because he can't play. But that's an entirely different argument all together.

Quarterbacks on the 53-man roster through the Bill Belichick years:

2000 – 1-Drew Bledsoe 2-Jon Friesz 3-Michael Bishop 4-Tom Brady

2001 – 1-Drew Bledsoe 2- Tom Brady 3-Damon Huard

2002 – 1-Tom Brady 2-Rohan Davey 3-Damon Huard

2003 – 1-Tom Brady 2-Rohan Davey 3-Damon Huard

2004 – 1-Tom Brady 2-Rohan Davey 3-Jim Miller

2005 – 1-Tom Brady 2-Matt Cassel 3-Doug Flutie

2006 – 1-Tom Brady 2-Matt Cassel 3-Vinny Testaverde

2007 – 1-Tom Brady 2-Matt Cassel 3-Matt Gutierrez

2008 – 1-Tom Brady 2-Matt Cassel 3-Kevin O'Connell 4-Matt Gutierrez

2009 – 1-Tom Brady 2-Brian Hoyer

2010 – 1-Tom Brady 2-Brian Hoyer

2011 – 1-Tom Brady 2-Brian Hoyer 3-Ryan Mallett

2012 – 1-Tom Brady 2-Ryan Mallett

2013 – 1-Tom Brady 2-Ryan Mallett 3-Tim Tebow?


Kevin Saleeba is the senior editor and columnist to Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinSaleeba

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