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Backup QB Mania! (Keeping the American Dream Alive and Well)

The Arizona Cardinals are joining the fray when it comes to costly, experienced starting backups.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Credit the Eagles’ once maligned and exiled GM, Howie Roseman, for having the prescience to waive vogue backup QB Chase Daniel in favor of talking QB Nick Foles out of an early retirement (2 years and $11M.) Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson, once himself the backup QB to Dan Marino, Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb, had an unwavering faith in Foles and urged Roseman to make the switch from Daniel to Foles---for what appeared to be, at the time, an exorbitant cost.

The rest is history, as they say---for Nick Foles led the Eagles to its first ever Super Bowl win while replacing MVP candidate QB Carson Wentz. Foles was so efficient in outdueling Tom Brady that he was named Super Bowl MVP. And now---Nick Foles will likely be one of the hottest QBs heading into free agency in 2019 and may even be acquired via trade this year before the NFL trading deadline, provided that Wentz is back to full strength and productivity.

So what is this backup QB mania all about? Why is it that many backup QBs are being paid more than the majority of the starters on the football team?

First of all, it takes a certain kind of QB to be a good backup QB. In essence a good backup QB serves as an attentive valet to the starting QB. He helps prep the starter all week, while making sure that if the starter goes down, he is ready to step right in and move the team forward.

Secondly, a good backup QB does not make any waves or overtures about wanting to be the starter…. which, as we all know, is antithetical to the normal plight of the determined competitor. The backup must concede that the starter is the team’s best chance to win. He must be able to say with conviction that, for example, “this is Carson Wentz’s team.”

Thirdly, the backup QB must be an eager and willing mentor to the young #3 QB, knowing fully well that if the #3 QB shows promise, the backup QB could be looking for a job in a year’s time.

Fourthly, the backup QB needs to act like another assistant coach in the meeting rooms and on the practice field. The good backup QB has his fingerprints all over the preparations and practice reps. Perhaps this is why several former NFL backup QBs are NFL head coaches: Doug Pederson (Eagles), Jason Garrett (Cowboys), Frank Reich (Colts), Matt Nagy (Bears), Sean Payton (Saints), Gary Kubiak (retired)---or serve as cogent studio analysts like the Hasselbeck brothers (Matt and Tim) at ESPN.

Some could make the argument that an NFL backup QB has one of the cushiest, high-paying jobs (sinecures) in the world. Take Chase Daniel, for example. Daniel has been the backup for four teams and in nine years he has thrown 78 passes, completed 51 (65.4%), for 480 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception for a QBR of 81.1. To date, Chase Daniels career earnings are: $24.3M.

Let’s take a look at Drew Stanton. Stanton is viewed as one of the premier backup QBs in the NFL. Despite a 5-year stat line with the Cardinals that is substandard by any reasonable measure, he went 9-4 as a relief starter. Stanton has said that he only played for the wins and did not care about the stats. His career numbers are: 52.4%, 4,059 yards, 20 TDs and 24 ints. and a 66.3 QBR. Stanton’s career earnings are $25.9M, not including the 2 year $6.5M contract he just signed with the Cleveland Browns (that includes $4.2M guaranteed).

Which makes one wonder, why would the Cleveland Browns, who have won one measly game in two years decide to sign 33 year old Drew Stanton for over $4M in guaranteed money to be the backup for Tyrod Taylor and the mentor to Sam Darnold or Josh Allen? Moreover, the Browns traded two former draft picks in DeShone Kizer (2nd round 2017), Cody Kessler (3rd round 2016) and Kevin Hogan (5th round 2016, KC) to accommodate Taylor and Stanton, neither of whom may be on the roster next year. Do the Browns think they can be contenders now and do they believe that if Taylor goes down, Stanton can be this year’s Nick Foles or Case Keenum?

Or---is it that the Browns value Stanton leadership as a mentor to their rookie 1st round draft pick so much that they are willing to pay him more than their OC Todd Haley and QBC Ken Zampese combined? It seems crazy, right?

As for the Arizona Cardinals, they decided not to re-sign Stanton in favor of sneaking 28-year-old Mike Glennon through the back door on a two year $8M contract with $2M in added incentives. Glennon was once a highly coveted trade target while with the Bucs and just when it appeared he was going to be the Bears’ starting QB, they quickly pulled the turf out beneath him---even embarrassing him on draft night at their draft party when they traded up to draft Mitch Trubisky. Glennon has 22 career starts for two poor teams and his numbers are respectable: 60.6%, 4,933 yards, 34 TDs, 20 ints., and an 83.2 QBR. Yet, now that Glennon struggled as a 5 game starter in Chicago, he is currently perceived as a persona non grata…which is why he came to the Cardinals on what appeared to be a whisper---and with Sam Bradford getting all the attention, Glennon has quietly begun his tenure as the new backup QB---with zero fanfare (no press conference invitations---amidst the ridicule, disdain and the brunt of giraffe jokes from the Arizona media.

Well, a year ago, Nick Foles was in a very similar boat (save the giraffe jokes), so much so that he and his wife were discussing an early retirement. Doug Pederson believed in him and that made all the difference. Steve Keim believes in Glennon; both are North Carolina St. alums and Keim has been anxious to sign Glennon for a couple of years now. After all, the Wolfpack was so anxious to get Glennon in their starting lineup that they were willing to let Russell Wilson go to Wisconsin.

Who knows? Who would have ever thought that Case Keenum, a last minute $2M a year addition to the Minnesota Vikings would take over for Sam Bradford and win 12 games (including the playoffs) and lead the Vikings to the NFC Championship game to the point of parlaying his one year performance into a 2 year $36M deal with the Denver Broncos. Would anyone have ever predicted that Case Keenum would be the apple of John Elway’s eye?

But then again…if the Broncos trade up to #2 to select Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield, could Case Keenum after starting the Broncos’ first 5 games, become this year’s Mike Glennon?

Has anyone heard whether John Elway is inviting Case Keenum to the Broncos’ draft party?

What a crazy QB carousel the NFL has become! Backup QB mania, baby! Backup QBs are the new pioneers of the American Dream!