- Peter Keating
THERE ARE TWO kinds of teams in the NFL: teams whose quarterbacks are injured and teams whose quarterbacks will be injured. Sure, some generations produce iron men like Brett Favre and Eli Manning. But sooner or later, most clubs must face the prospect of their most crucial player going down. In Week 10 alone, Jay Cutler, Alex Smith and Michael Vick suffered concussions and Ben Roethlisberger injured his throwing shoulder. At this time last season, seven teams were playing without their Week 1 starters.
Given how often quarterbacks are battered onto the bench, you'd think franchises would be prepared to replace them. But you'd be wrong. Year
after year, the need for a competent backup leaves many coaches and GMs bemoaning their fate like Shakespeare's Richard III: "A quarterback, a quarterback, my kingdom for a quarterback!" Chicago provided a garish example in 2011: When Cutler went down in Week 11 last season, the 7-3 Bears turned to Caleb Hanie, who promptly tossed nine picks and three touchdown passes in four games. If you adjust Hanie's stats for picks and sacks, he threw for barely one yard per attempt. The Bears lost every game he started, destroying their playoff hopes.
In ESPN The Magazine, Peter Keating analyzes the value of -- and need for -- a backup QB. Unfortunately, two would-be Super Bowl contenders have missed the memo.