If Super Bowl hero Nick Foles had not turned down a full-time gig in a controversial place, we wouldn’t be writing about him here.
A NFL.com report said that a potential deal was floated that would have seen him go to 0-16 Cleveland for the 35th pick in the draft.
He had veto power on that swap and decided to remain in Philadelphia as Carson Wentz’ back-up, instead of being a sure-fire no. 1 pivot in The Land.
The six-year veteran was a revelation in 2017, leading the Eagles to Super Bowl LII and copping MVP honors in the team’s huge 41-33 victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
As for Cleveland, they traded for Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor and drafted Baker Mayfield first overall to create a little competition in training camp. Good luck to both of them, we say.
Besides Foles, there are 14 other great back-up quarterbacks in the NFL. Here they are, ranked — and in some cases we picked two for one team because the pre-season battles should be interesting.
15. Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III – Baltimore Ravens
The race to be no. 2 in Baltimore will be a neck-and-neck, two-horse event. In one lane is 21-year-old former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson out of Louisville, drafted 32nd overall this year. In the other is 28-year-old former starter Robert Griffin III, who last threw a regular season pass for Cleveland in 2016. Whoever takes the reins behind Joe Flacco, the Ravens have a bona fide second-stringer. Jackson was superb as a three-year starter at Louisville and could be the sleeper of this year’s draft. He finished his NCAA career with 9,043 yards in 38 games, with 69 touchdown passes, 27 interceptions and an overall rating of 142.9. RG III, also a Heisman winner in 2011 and a Pro Bowler in 2012 with Washington, is looking to resurrect a career derailed by injury and a release — thankfully — from the circus that is Cleveland. In 42 NFL games, Griffin has accumulated 8,983 yards passing, 42 TD tosses, 26 interceptions and a 88.4 rating.
14. Paxton Lynch – Denver Broncos
The quarterbacking situation in Denver isn’t fluid, however, expect former first round pick and third-year pro Paxton Lynch to push newly minted no. 1 Case Keenum all the way through camp and the pre-season. The giant 6’7″ QB has bided his time well as understudy to Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler in 2016 and 2017 and must be champing at the bit to take over. Thus far in his fledgling career, the former Memphis University standout has started four games and sports a 1-3 mark and 76.7 rating. Lynch has completed 79 of 128 passes (61.7 percent) for 792 yards and four touchdowns (four interceptions). Those numbers, in a nutshell, are not earth-shattering and have many fans and pundits questioning his viability even as a no. 2. However, all the pressure is on Keenum to lead the Broncos back to the playoffs after a 5-11 season. It’s a football mad town and the quarterback position is the most talked about. Things are about to get interesting in the Mile High City.
13. Mike Glennon and Josh Rosen – Arizona Cardinals
For the first time since 2013, someone other than Carson Palmer — or his back-up — will be quarterbacking in the desert. Free agent pivot Sam Bradford signed for two years and will look to comeback from a lost year in Minnesota that saw him shut down due to recurring knee issues. Also gone are Palmer’s understudies, Blaine Gabbert (Tennessee) and Drew Stanton (Cleveland), leaving the door wide open for veteran Mike Glennon and first round pick Josh Rosen to fill the no. 2 void. It should be a wide open competition, given that 10th overall pick Rosen comes in without the pressure of being a top-3 pick and Glennon hopes to prove to everyone he is not a lost cause after the disastrous 2017 season in Chicago. Rosen sliding to no. 10 should see him throw with a chip on his shoulder in camp. He completed his illustrious college career with 9,340 yards passing in just 30 games, with 59 TD passes, 26 interceptions and a 140.1 rating. Glennon was 1-3 as a starter with the Bears, tossing for 833 yards, four TDs and five picks.
12. Drew Stanton And Baker Mayfield – Cleveland Browns
The quarterbacking carousel in Cleveland did a full revolution this off-season. Gone are 2017 starter DeShone Kizer (Green Bay) and back-ups Kevin Hogan (Washington) and Cody Kessler (Jacksonville). They are all probably much better off, in our estimation. The situation behind center with the Browns is going to involve a heated battle in training camp, as we wouldn’t just anoint Tyrod Taylor as de facto starter (but he is listed first on the depth chart). Locked in a duel, then, to be his sidekick are journeyman veteran Drew Stanton and no. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield out of Oklahoma. Stanton, once a stud at Michigan State, has toiled for three teams in his eight-year career, starting 17 games and sporting an impressive 11-6 mark. He was decent in relief of Carson Palmer in Arizona last year, going 3-1, with 894 passing yards and six touchdowns (five interceptions). Mayfield will provide a stiff challenge, having thrown for a ridiculous 4,627 yards in his senior season, including 43 TD strikes, just six picks and a 198.9 rating.
11. Jacoby Brissett – Indianapolis Colts
Is Andrew Luck really going to be back in 2018? That is the question coming off all the wagging tongues in Indy this off-season as the Colts are in the midst of OTAs. He hasn’t played since 2016 and is coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum. Chances are, then, that Jacoby Brissett is going to get plenty of looks in training camp and the pre-season and could be the starter in week 1. However, should Luck miraculously get back to 100 percent health, Brissett will be hold the clip board. But, he’s no ordinary clip board holder, having played fairly well for an awful Colts team in 2017. And we should mention that by awful we mean their offensive line was horrid, allowing the opposition to sack Brissett a NFL high 52 times. He took a licking and kept on ticking in spite of eating the turf on too many occasions, throwing for 3,098 yards, 13 TDs and seven interceptions in 15 starts. The Colts did use two of their first three picks in the draft to take highly regarded college guards Quenton Nelson (6th from Notre Dame) and Braden Smith (37th, Auburn), so there is that.
10. DeShone Kizer – Green Bay Packers
Nothing like a trade to the land of the Cheeseheads that will help DeShone Kizer forget an absolutely awful rookie season in Cleveland. The former Fighting Irish pivot finds himself third on the depth chart in Green Bay, with a chance to show the Packers why he was so highly regarded coming out of Notre Dame. With the Browns it was a revolving door of receivers on the flanks and not a whole lot else, leading to a stat line that saw him throw for 2,894 yards in 15 games (all losses), 11 TDs and a NFL worst 22 interceptions. He was also dropped 38 times for sacks, making life even more miserable. He must have impressed his new bosses in his best start of the 2017 season, too. On Dec. 10, 2017 he completed 20 of 28 passes for 214 yards and three TDs (two interceptions) in a 27-21 loss where the Packers overcame a 14-point deficit. With time spent watching and learning from a legend in Aaron Rodgers, it will only bode well for his future prospects.
9. Austin Davis – Seattle Seahawks
If there is any more forgotten man in football than Seattle no. 2 Austin Davis, please let us know. Undrafted out of Southern Mississippi in 2012, Davis caught on with Rams and in 2014 had a pretty good debut campaign, going 3-5 in eight starts in relief of starter Shaun Hill. He threw for 2,001 yards, 12 TDs and nine interceptions, finishing with a rating of 85.1. He bounced to Cleveland in 2015 and started two mostly forgettable games for the 3-13 Browns. He was 56 out of 94 for 547 yards and a touchdown. A failed stint with Denver in 2016 was followed by a tryout with Seattle in 2017 and in training camp he impressed enough to become the sole back-up to QB Russell Wilson, re-signing for another year in the off-season. He’ll be in competition with seventh round pick Alex McGough for no. 2 duties this summer.
8. Trevor Siemian – Minnesota Vikings
We will admit it, we have doubts about Trevor Siemian going from starter in Denver to back-up in Minny. However, with a friendly contract that pays him a shade under $2 million in its last year and no pressure to be “the man” with the Vikings, he may end up being one of the best back-ups in the NFL. Kirk Cousins, who inked a massive three-year, $84 million deal, will not only have to live up to expectations but avoid the injury hex that has plagued Minnesota pivots in the recent past like Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford. Siemian was pretty good as a starter for the Broncos in 2016, going 8-6 with 3,401 yards passing, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The 2017 season, though, was unkind to him, seeing his record dip to 5-5 in 10 starts, as well as 14 interceptions (against 12 TD strikes). Minnesota got him on the cheap, dealing away a 2019 fifth rounder to secure Siemian’s services, as well as a 2018 seventh round selection (LB Devante Downs, California).
7. Teddy Bridgewater – New York Jets
Speaking of former Minnesota Vikings pivots, we were also very circumspect about Teddy Bridgewater’s new lease on life in New York with the Jets. For now, the Jets have put their faith in Josh McCown as their starter, signing Bridgewater to a prudent incentive laden contract that could pay him up to $6 million if he meets certain performance targets for passing yards and touchdowns. A former first rounder out of Louisville, 25-year-old Bridgewater had an injury plagued three-year stint in Minnesota, with only one appearance in 2017 after missing all of 2016 too. Otherwise, he was a solid starter in 2014 and 2015, when he made the Pro Bowl. Collectively, he posted a 17-11 mark as a starter, completing an admirable 64.7 percent of his passes for 6,150 yards, 28 TDs and 22 interceptions. His last best start came against rival Chicago in 2015 on Dec. 20, where he completed 17 of 20 attempts for 231 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-17 victory.
6. Matt Schaub – Atlanta Falcons
Matty Ice has been on an incredible run, not missing a start in the last eight seasons and just two in 10 years with the Falcons. And should — football Gods forbid — if he ever sustains a lengthy injury, the Falcons are in good hands with back-up Matt Schaub. His is the most thankless job in football right now, holding the clip board for a virtually indestructible four-time Pro Bowler and NFL MVP. A former starter in Houston and veteran of 145 NFL games (92) starts since being drafted originally by Atlanta in 2004, Schaub just might be the most accomplished no. 2 anywhere. He went to the Pro Bowl twice when he was with the Texans and in 2009 he led the NFL in completions (396), attempts (583) and yards (4,770). Lately, he’s been quite inactive, not throwing a regular season pass with Atlanta in 2017 and only 93 between 2014 and 2016 in stints with Oakland, Baltimore and Atlanta. He’s UFA at the end of the 2018 season, so who knows where he might be in 2019.
5. Landry Jones – Pittsburgh Steelers
There is a wild card in the fight for the back-up job behind Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh and his name is Mason Rudolph III. That is, it is Landry Jones’ job to lose, but we feel the Steelers got the steal of the draft taking the stud pivot from Oklahoma State in the third round, 76th overall. He threw for over 13,000 yards and 90 touchdowns in four seasons with the Cowboys. Jones, also a late pick from hated rival Oklahoma in 2013 (115th overall), should be able to fend off a charge by Rudolph, given that he has seen action in 19 games and has made five starts in relief of Big Ben. And he performed to a fairly high standard in his limited starts, going 3-2. Overall, Jones has completed 108 of 169 passes for 1,310 yards and eight TDs (seven INTs), with a 86.2 rating. He’s proved he’s got some jam in his game too, helping the Steelers overcome a 14-0 deficit to Cleveland in the last game of the 2016 season. He passed for 277 yards and three TDs as Pittsburgh won 27-24 in overtime.
4. Brian Hoyer – New England Patriots
If there is anything that Brian Hoyer can be credited for, it’s adaptability. The New England Patriots no. 2 pivot has worn the colors of six different teams since being signed as an undrafted free agent by those same Patriots in 2009 out of Michigan State. Hoyer didn’t see a whole lot of field time behind Tom Brady from 2009-2011 but became a some time starter in Cleveland, Houston, Chicago and with San Francisco in 2017, before being reclaimed off waivers to back up Tom Terrific for a second time. Overall, Hoyer, who led the NFL in yards per completion with 13.7 in 2014, has appeared in 60 games, making 37 starts and sporting a 16-21 record (with some pretty bad teams). He has 9,894 yards passing, 48 touchdowns and 30 interceptions and a 83.3 rating. He was signed to a three-year contract that pays him $915,000 this year and $2.85 million in 2019.
3. Josh Allen – Buffalo Bills
There is no way, unless rookie Josh Allen breaks his leg, that Nathan Peterman lands the no. 2 role in Buffalo behind A.J. McCarron. In fact, we believe it is a wide open three-way competition between Allen and the very inexperienced Peterman and McCarron. However, if it turns out that Allen, the no. 7 pick in this year’s draft, finishes training camp as the back-up, he’ll be a very good one. Adjudged to have the strongest arm coming out of college football, Allen has the size (6’5″, 240 lbs.) and the tools to be a good NFL quarterback. He’s also got a fire in his belly from being rejected by major college programs like Fresno State before he got on board with Mountain West Conference Wyoming. He passed for 5,066 yards in 27 games with the Cowboys, including 44 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. He was also a great scrambler and rusher, rumbling for 767 total yards and another 12 TDs. The Bills believed in his ability so much they traded up in the draft to get him.
2. Ryan Fitzpatrick – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Amish Rifle is still going strong at 35. Other than Nick Foles, Ryan Fitzpatrick is the best no. 2 passer in football, in our estimation at least. The seventh round (205th overall) pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2005 has made the most of his lengthy career, spent with seven different clubs in a variety of roles. And he’s gotten better as he’s aged, putting in a stellar campaign with the New York Jets in 2015 at the age of 33. He was 10-6 that year as the Jets starter, passing for career highs in yards (3,905) and touchdowns (31). In his career, Fitzpatrick has started 119 of 133 games he’s made an appearance in, throwing for 26,991 yards, 173 TDs and 136 interceptions. Last year, his first with the Bucs, he started three of six games in place of Jameis Winston, tossing the pigskin for 1,103 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. He signed a one-year, $3.3 million deal to stay as Tampa’s no. 2.
1. Nick Foles – Philadelphia Eagles
We can think of at least a half dozen teams — and that’s being conservative — that Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles could be the no. 1 for this year. But, as we said above, he gave the big thumbs down to being traded to Cleveland, where he would easily be top dog, just so he could stay with a winner. Other than one mediocre season with St. Louis in 2015, Foles has been routinely good to excellent in two stints with Philadelphia and one season in Kansas City. Drafted 88th overall by the Eagles in 2012, Foles started 10 games in 2013 and put up noteworthy numbers. He finished with a 8-2 record, 2,891 yards passing, 27 touchdowns (just two interceptions) and a NFL best rating of 119.2. Reacquired by Philly in 2017, Foles was pressed into action late in the season when Carson Wentz went down. Faced with saving the Eagles season, Foles just got better as he went along. After getting yanked in the season finale against Dallas for Nate Sudfeld, Foles grabbed the bull by both horns in the playoffs and took Philadelphia where it hasn’t been in many years. The best back-up in football, bar none.