billy joe

All-time backup QB power rankings

Jun 11, 2013
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The only thing Tim Tebow does more often than saving orphans in Haiti is break the internet. Timmy has the habit of bouncing around the NFL, looking for a home like a blessed, square-jawed hobo. And each time he does, the web falls to its knees. ESPN booted coverage of the NBA and NHL finals off its home page in order to bring us a “BREAKING NEWS TIM TEBOW SIGNS WITH PATRIOTS THANK GOD WE CAN TALK ABOUT HIM FOR THE NEXT TWO MONTHS” headline. That’s a heck of a reaction for guy who will be competing with Ryan Mallett for the honor of holding Tom Brady‘s trendy hats on the sideline.

But that got us thinking at Bro Jackson. Why should Tebow be the only backup quarterback to get any love? There have been plenty of great backups in the NFL over the years. Frank Reich. Rodney Peete. Steve Beuerlein. What about them? Well, let’s spread some of that Tebow spotlight to the other clipboard holders with the Bro Jackson All-Time Backup QB Power Rankings.

Criteria

Backups QBs will be graded on a 1-to-5 scale in five categories:

-Hat-wearing ability (HWA): A good QB2 has gotta look good in a cap.

-Ego-stroking capabilities (ESC): A backup has gotta make the guy in front of him feel good while hiding his own intense jealousy. A sign of a true pro.

-Penmanship (P): When a backup QB signs autographs, it better be legible. Otherwise, that 7-year-old kid is going to forget the day he met Damon Huard.

-Longevity-to-playing time ratio (LPTR): A quality backup spends at least 10 years in the league and starts less than 10 games over that span.

-Strength of Name (SN): Does he sound like a backup? Peyton Manning is not the name of a backup. Steve Walsh sure as hell is.

The Rankings

10. Tim Tebow

HWA: 0 – ESC: 1 – P: 1 - LPTR: 1 (three seasons, 15 games ) - SN: 3

Overall score: 1.2

On the surface Tebow appears to be the perfect backup, since the primary job of a backup QB is to simply not be good enough to be a starting QB; however, he comes with a special set of problems. All of his notes are in Aramaic and this makes his hand signals utterly confusing. When he does speak it’s in confusing parables and he chooses an interesting lexicon (for instance: he views “escapability” as a dark art and he prefers the word “resurrection”). Many players have complained he’s too positive, often encouraging his mentor to throw interceptions as it’s a great way to “give back.” He refuses to wear a hat, maintaining that memories of the ring of thorns he wore for years still pains him. Off the field, his locker room club promoting anti-abortion has been respectful to others, but his anti-dinosaur campaign has become an Ultrasauros-sized distraction. But nothing is worse than when he gets control of the locker room iPod. After all, a man can only tolerate so much of Jars of Clay.

-Ken Griggs

9. Jared Lorenzen

HWA: N/A (can’t find one to fit) – ESC: 5 (He makes everyone feel better about themselves) – P: 2 – LPTR: 1 (Two seasons, zero games started) – SN: 2

Overall score: 2

I loved Jared Lorenzen. If there is anything funnier than a fat quarterback, I don’t know it. Either known ironically as JLo, or the Fat Cat in college at Kentucky, he burst on the scene as a cannoned-arm chubby.

He never really played for the Giants, but dammit if you didn’t smile every time they worked him in to a telecast. I can’t imagine how fun quarterback meetings were with Eli and JLo.

Eventually he was gone from the NFL, and I thought that was the end of this story. Thank God for Wikipedia: “Lorenzen was hired on March, 23, 2010 to become the Quarterbacks coach at his alma mater, Highlands High School, in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. In addition, he will be the General Manager of the Northern Kentucky River Monsters, who played their inaugural season in 2011 at the Bank of Kentucky Center. After the 2011 UIFL season, Lorenzen was named Commissioner of the UIFL.”

From fatty clipboard holder to fatty league commish in less than five years. That’s how it’s done. Somehow, Lorenzen’s NFL days were him at his peak shape: Here‘s what he looked like as a UIFL quarterback.

-Pete Fitzsimmons

8. Earl Morrall

HWA: 1 – ESC: 5 - P: 5LPTR: 1 (20 seasons, 102 game started) – SN: 1

Overall score: 2.6

The only backup QB worth mentioning in the entire history of backup QBs is Earl Morrall, who despite ending up crappy on this scale, LED THE 1972 DOLPHINS TO AN UNDEFEATED SEASON. His status as all-time great backup is cemented by the fact that when he struggled vs. the Steelers in the AFC Championship game in ’72, he was immediately pulled in favor of Bob Griese, who essentially vultured away his Super Bowl victory. He also consoled Johnny Unitas after the Colts lost to Joe Namath‘s Jets in Super Bowl III. He loses points for his (assumed) refusal to never wear a baseball cap and for having the name of a tobacco farmer.

-Kat Gotsick

7. Jon Kitna

HWA: 1 (That bald head doesn’t liked to be covered) - ESC: 5 – P: 3 – LPTR: 1 (15 seasons, 124 games started) – SN: 4

Overall score: 2.8

Second-string quarterbacks are more important than ever because starters run now, concussions are monitored more closely, 1 and pound for pound, no one applies more performance-enhancing horse semen extract than NFL linebackers. The chances of a starter staying upright for a team’s entire fall campaign are, I dunno, ask Frank.

Unfortunately, this has made NFL starters more competent and prepared for action than ever. I miss the days of Gentleman Jon Kitna. His recent retirement 2 signals the end of an era wherein the backup quarterback’s chief responsibility was keeping a rotating mental list of locker room dick jokes. He organized the March Madness pool, accepted the track changes on Word Documents, and found creative ways to write off escorts as “offseason workouts.” The career path used to be simple: play for Ohio State or Michigan, hold a clipboard for five years, and open up a car dealership.

Kitna wasn’t fast, but he was the kind of guy that could pound brewskies, sing like a sailor, and lead, dammit. Guys respected him. Give him more than two consecutive games at the helm and defenses figured him out like a dolphin pushing round balls into circles with its nose. Cincinnati didn’t work out. He started for the miracle 2008 Detroit Lions that lost every game in historic fashion. But give him three quarters and a fresh set of downs, he’d throw his newborn into double coverage.

 -Ramon Ramirez

garrett

6. Jason Garrett

HWA: 3 – ESC: 5 – P: 1 – LPTR: 4 (eight seasons, nine games started) – SN: 3

Overall score: 3.2

Give credit to Garrett for knowing his place. During the Cowboys’ dynasty years he was content to the the backup to the backup, forced to hold the jockstraps of Wade Wilson and Rodney Peete while also being Troy Aikman‘s best bud. But he did make the most of his chances, essentially parlaying one 1994 Thanksgiving win over the Brett Favre and the Packers into a mediocre head-coaching career. What did Peete do? Oh, he married the good-looking gal from “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper” and started an autism foundation? Peete wins again.

Can we also agree that 17 is the most backup-y of all QB numbers?

-Blake Hurtik

5. Sage Rosenfels

HWA: 5 - ESC: 4 – P:  1- LPTR: 4 (10 seasons, 12 games started) – SN: 3

Overall score: 3.4

Rosenfels is a guy whose name at times signifies the way he plays the game and other times his contradicts the play on the field. I assume his clipboard game is on point if he was able to spin his QB2 spot into something close to a QB1’s contract. His penmanship is classic male chicken scratch, but he’s also the only person who could decipher it. He was quick with a back-slap and knew the proper way to turn to the camera and adjust his headset with one hand, his helmet resting atop his close-cropped, immovable hair. Like many great backups before him, he inspired fear and hope in equal measure. He once had his team ahead 17 points with four minutes to go over a hated rival. He was on top of the world. One helicopter spin later, the crash was complete, the game lost. He is the one, the only, Sage Rosenfels, the Superfluous Herb of Backup QBs.

-Eddie Strait

4. Matt Flynn

HWA: 5 – ESC: 3 – P: 2 –  LPTR: 5 (five seasons, two games started) 3 – SN: 4

Overall score: 3.8

Matt Flynn knows how to support from the sidelines. Just ask Russell Wilson, who said after an overtime win against Chicago, “Matt Flynn goes out there to get the coin toss flip, and that was big for us.’’

Does YOUR team have a coin toss specialist? That guy who’s sat for about three hours and makes the pivotal call to win the game? Sure, some of it happened between the hashes, but Flynn set the tone for overtime. Fortunately, the 2012 Seahawks recognized the importance of these clutch duties, signing him to a $19.5 million contract.

Flynn watched Marcus Randall make mistakes and Jamarcus Russell throw from his knees and slurp codeine, before starting in a lone season at LSU. He got drafted by the Packers in the seventh round, then showed off his resilience, ousting second round pick Brian Brohm in a loser-leaves-town match for the chance to back up Aaron Rodgers (a famous former backup in his own right). Flynn steps in for a game, and goes nuts: 480 yards, six touchdowns, both Packers records. Sure, he had the Packers receiving corps and it was a meaningless game against the porous Lions secondary, but look at them raw numbers. That means Seahawks money.

-Matt Lardner

volek

3. Billy Volek

HWA: 5 - ESC: 5 – P: 2LPTR: 4 (nine seasons, 10 games started) – SN: 5

Overall score: 4.2

Touchdown Billy Volek just may be the perfect name for a backup QB. Like any good backup, he stood at the ready with a water bottle and towel at hand to cool off his superior. And when his name was called, he had a pretty good penchant for passing for 400 yards. But instead of commanding Matt Flynn-like money, Volek knew his place. Volek was a backup, the quintessential backup.

-B.H.

2. Alex Van Pelt

HWA: 5 – ESC: 4 – P: 5 – LPTR: 4 (Nine seasons, 11 games started) – SN: 4

Overall score: 4.4

The Wise Old Sage of Buffalo stood on the frigid sidelines of Ralph Wilson Stadium for nine seasons and watched the following parade of quarterbacks play in front of him: Jim Kelly, Todd Collins, Doug Flutie, Rob Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, and Travis Brown. For each, AVP — as he was affectionately called — was known to draw post-game bubble baths, provide foot massages, and pick up their dry cleaning. Over the span of Van Pelt’s career, the Bills went exactly 72-72. Alex Van Pelt: The definition of average.

-B.H.

1. Billy Joe Hobert/Tolliver

HWA: 3 – ESC: 5 – P: 4 - LPTR: 2 (Combined 14 seasons, 64 games started) – SN: 10 (5 for each)

Overall score: 4.8

I’m aware that Billy Joe Hobert and Billy Joe Tolliver are not the same person. Are you? It’s hard to be so sure. Both played for the Saints from 1998-1999 and then never played in the NFL again. Leading the league in Quarterbacks Named Billy Joe for two years is a career well-made. The Saints went 9-23 over that span. Danny Wuerffel was also involved. Hobert and Tolliver both finished their careers with 67 overall quarterback ratings, which can be considered the NFL’s version of the Mendoza line for backup QBs. If you make the Billy Joe line, you’re good. If you fall below it, you’re Jamarcus Russell.

-B.H.

Notes:

  1. This isn’t saying much. Previously, concussion self-diagnoses were met with gay slurs and the phrase, “Who are you, Troy Aikman? Stop being such a Nancy.”
  2. Right?
  3. But soon to plummet if he wins Raiders job

Texas-bred, BBQ, blues and baseball enthusiast.

  • Don D

    this article is not legit without AJ Feely and/or Jeff Gargia

  • luckyhorseshoe

    Earl started in both SB III and V. He played more than Unitas against the Jets

  • Ryan Forbes

    How is Jared Lorenzen’s sig a 2?