ESPN’s Field Yates ranked all of the back-up quarterback situations around the league in what had to be the most aggressive study in the history of rankings. Also, based on the URL, it would appear that Patriots and Bengals fans are the most concerned about their back-up quarterbacks because “Jimmy Garoppolo” and “AJ McCarron” made the top billing.
But that doesn’t mean that Yates has Garoppolo and McCarron in first and second place. McCarron ranked 3rd, behind the Eagles’ Chase Daniel and the Cardinals’ Drew Stanton.
Garoppolo ranked 7th.
“We'll have a much better feel for this one by the end of September,” Yates writes. “If Garoppolo plays well, it would strengthen New England's confidence in him if Brady misses future time, while also creating value for Garoppolo as a trade chip after the season.”
All of what Yates says is true. We don’t know how Garoppolo will play. But that level of uncertainty makes him the 7th best back-up in the league? How bad are the rest of the back-ups?
Daniel, the top ranked back-up, has 77 career pass attempts and turns 30 years old on October 7th. He is ahead of Stanton, who has 452 pass attempts and a 69.1 quarterback rating. McCarron looked good in mop-up duty for the Bengals when Andy Dalton was injured and has 119 pass attempts under his belt.
But if you check down the list, you have spot-starters like Mike Glennon, Josh McCown, Matt Moore, and Shaun Hill, and fallen starters like Nick Foles, Brian Hoyer, Matt Schaub, Chad Henne, and Matt Cassel.
All of these players have hundreds, if not thousands, of pass attempts to their names in live action. Some were good, some were awful. I’m not here to debate their individual merits.
But how the heck does Jimmy Garoppolo and his 31 regular season pass attempts ranks seventh in the league? We can be honest here. We hope that Garoppolo is the king of the world in September and that he proves that he can be traded for multiple first round picks in the offseason.
If we’re talking merits, though, I’m taking the proven, older quarterbacks every single time. Schaub might be good for a pick-six every other drive, but at least I know what to expect. There are more than six back-ups with starting experience that I would take over Garoppolo for the first four weeks of the season, including the likes of Hoyer (10th) and Cassel (30th).
Now if we’re discussing “future prospects”, and Yates factors in “long-range outlook for depth-level quarterbacks” to his rankings, then maybe Garoppolo ranks towards the top. But the list is littered with young quarterbacks with fewer than a hundred pass attempts in the NFL. How many of these back-ups are actually ever called upon to be a long term starter?
The job of a back-up is to keep the team afloat for a few weeks until the real starter returns. Maybe they’ll transition into a starter for the Browns for four weeks, before moving back to being a back-up for another team. But I think “future prospects” should be a much less involved variable when grading back-ups.
Garoppolo went 11/18 for 168 yards against the Saints. We’ll see if he really is the 7th best back-up quarterback during the regular season.