Friday’s injury to Tony Romo brought home the importance that teams put into the backup quarterback because, while the hope is that the starter will play in all 16 games, the reality is that doesn’t always happen.
The fact is that 15 teams were without their starter for at least one game last year. Fortunately for the Minnesota Vikings, Teddy Bridgewater was available for all 16 games. Unfortunately for the teams in the AFC North, all four of the starters in that division missed significant time.
The Vikings seem content with having veteran Shaun Hill as the next man up in the event Bridgewater gets hurt. The other 31 teams use various options in the event Plan A gets scuttled like it did in Dallas without warning Friday night. Many, like the Vikings, have a veteran backup who has spent most of his career waiting for the call to duty. Others have former failed starters as their backups, while others have spent time grooming young replacements – from rookies to fourth-year guys.
Are the Vikings potentially in trouble with their decision to have Hill as the only experienced backup behind Bridgewater? How would you rank him against the other 31 teams?
Here’s your chance to decide:
THE VETERAN BACKUPS
Arizona – After having a revolving door at QB in the past, the Cardinals have veteran backups Drew Stanton and Matt Barkley behind Carson Palmer.
Atlanta – Former longtime Houston starter Matt Schaub is backing up Matt Ryan.
Carolina – Cam Newton hasn’t had an injury history, but 12-year veteran backup Derek Anderson is waiting in the wings if needed.
Chicago – Brian Hoyer has been a solid starter with Cleveland and Houston, a change from past practice that had little to nothing behind Jay Cutler.
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Cleveland – 13-year veteran Josh McCown is still in the league and is waiting in reserve in the event Robert Griffin III gets hurt or struggles.
Detroit – 12-year veteran Dan Orlovsky is best known for being chased out of the end zone by Jared Allen, but he’s the next man up if Matthew Stafford goes down.
Jacksonville – Chad Henne has proved himself to be a capable backup, so there is reason to believe the Jaguars could survive an injury to Blake Bortles.
Kansas City – Alex Smith is a solid game manager, but when Nick Foles became available, Andy Reid didn’t hesitate to reunite with him when he was released by the Rams.
Miami – The Dolphins believe in Ryan Tannehill, but hedged their bets by signing former Panther and nine-year veteran Matt Moore.
New Orleans – Drew Brees has been healthy for years, but, if he was to go down they have veteran Luke McCown, the lesser of the quarterbacking McCown brothers.
San Diego – Philip Rivers has been an ironman, but the Chargers have veteran Kellen Clemens as the primary backup and former Titan Zach Mettenberger is in the mix as the No. 3 QB.
Tennessee – Marcus Mariota is expected to do big things this year, but if he struggles or gets injured, former Viking Matt Cassel is willing and waiting from the bench.
THE FAILED STARTERS
Buffalo – E.J. Manuel played his way out of the starting job, but remains the primary backup to Tyrod Taylor.
New York Jets – The Jets signed Ryan Fitzpatrick because Geno Smith was so bad, which explains why New York has drafted quarterbacks each of the last two seasons.
San Francisco – Chip Kelly hasn’t made up his mind which failed starter will get the nod – Blaine Gabbert or Colin Kaepernick. There’s a reason why everyone is picking the Niners to finish last in the NFC West.
THE SOMEWHAT EXPERIENCED
Baltimore – Ryan Mallett has bounced from New England to Houston to the Ravens, but is groomed as the potential injury replacement for Joe Flacco.
Indianapolis – If Andrew Luck goes down, failed Green Bay backup Scott Tolzien is the next line of offense.
Washington – Kirk Cousins is on a one-year deal to prove 2015 wasn’t a fluke and he had better do well, because all he has behind him is Colt McCoy.
THE YOUNG GUN BACKUPS
Cincinnati – A.J. McCarron is in his third season and was forced into duty last year when Andy Dalton got injured and showed the coaching staff what he can do.
Green Bay – The Packers are praying Aaron Rodgers stays healthy, because the only QB with any experience behind him is second-year fifth-round draft pick Brett Hundley.
Houston – While the Texans have veteran Brandon Weeden on the roster, the primary backup to Brock Osweiler at this point is third-year pro Tom Savage.
New England – Given Tom Brady’s suspension, we have already learned that Jimmy Garoppolo will be starting the first four games with rookie Jacoby Brissett as the backup.
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New York Giants – The G-Men haven’t found out what fourth-year pro Ryan Nassib can do because Eli Manning has never missed time in his career.
Oakland – Derek Carr has fourth-year pro Matt McGloin as his primary backup, but the Raiders drafted Connor Cook this spring to serve as a long-term backup solution.
Pittsburgh – Ben Roethlisberger has been injured before and there was always a veteran backup like Michael Vick. When it happened last year, then-third-year man Landry Jones had to step in and didn’t play well.
Tampa Bay – Jameis Winston took over immediately as a rookie, replacing 2013 third-rounder Mike Glennon, who likely is waiting for this season to end to become a free agent.
THE ROOKIE SOLUTION
Dallas – When Romo went down, the future became the present as Prescott is being pressed into duty.
Denver – Mark Sanchez is expected to hold off Trevor Siemian for the starting job in Denver, but if either of them gets hurt during the season, first-round rookie Paxton Lynch will likely get the call.
Los Angeles – The Rams used the first pick of the draft on Jared Goff, but, for now, Case Keenum is expected to begin the season as the starter.
Philadelphia – Sam Bradford is the starter and they pried Chase Daniel away from Kansas City in free agency, but when you use the second pick of the draft on a QB – taking Carson Wentz – it’s only a matter of time before he ascends to the top spot.
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Seattle – The Seahawks are praying that Russell Wilson stays healthy because the second-stringer is undrafted rookie Trevone Boykin.
As the Vikings prepare to head into the 2016 season, the hope is that Hill only enters games under mop-up, kneel-down situations at the end of blowout wins. But the Vikings are far from alone with being hard-pressed if their starter goes down.