First of all, this is not a mock draft. I didn't even sneak a mini mock in the middle. Mocks aren't really my thing. They are kind of like turtlenecks. Some people really rock them but I just don't have that kind of swagger. This post is about backup Qb's, and backup QB value. I guess that's more my thing.
On second thought I kind of wish this was a mock.
If you haven't already fallen asleep, stick with me. I used math in this post.
I can't believe I'm writing a post about backup QB's. As I was gathering data for this endeavor I kept trying to think of other topics that I never really saw myself writing about. They included things like the Lacrosse all star game, Australia's finest Victorian Bushrangers, and Bog snorkeling. So I guess NFL Backup QB's rated somewhere behind Bog snorkeling. Amazingly though, it turned out to be rather interesting.
Here in Denver the backup QB position has become a topic of great interest over the past two months since the season ended. Well, to be totally honest the backup QB position has been a topic of great interest for the Broncos since the moment Tebow was selected in the draft. However, for my purposes I'm going to focus on the newest version of this topic, and that is who is the right fit for this team behind Tebow? Or, for the more cynical among us, to beat out Tebow in the preseason.
We've all become very aware that everything with Tebow is a story. Even the non-stories are stories. For example:
Reaction: Why is he not out on the field getting better?
Situation: Tebow hung out with many different celebrities including Maria Menounos in Indianapolis, rumor has it they are planning to elope.
Reaction: Isn't Menounos like 45 and why is Tebow at the Superbowl when he should be on the field getting better?
This could go on and on for days. I'll spare you the rehash.
The real story today is the Broncos need to bring on at least two more QB's over this offseason via Free Agency, trade, or through the draft. The question we've been asked to answer is just who those QB's might be?
The backup QB position is an interesting one. Well, interesting is a strong word. It's a unique one. I can't think of many positions in all of anything where the replacement for the starter seems to have a bigger skill dropoff. It's comparable to the skill dropoff from CBS regular season game coverage to News 4 preseason coverage.
That fact was on full display this last season where 18 teams were forced to or chose to play backup QB's in replacement of their starter at the beginning of the season.
For the purposes of this study I'm considering all QB's that started for their team at the beginning of the year the team's "starter". Any other QB to take over after that I'm calling a "backup". Trust me, I'm well aware that names like McCown and Collins are listed in that "starter" list. I'm telling you, times are tough for QB's and football teams.
Here are some starting QB and backup QB stats to whet your appetite.
- As an entire league starting QB's went 213-178, a win percentage of 55%
- As an entire league backup QB's went 43-78, a win percentage of 35%
Right away the precipitous dropoff in win percentage from a starter to a backup caliber QB becomes clear. When teams are forced to use their backup QB, the situation must be dire indeed. Starting QB's played 75% of the 2011-2012 season games. Roughly only 1 out of every 4 games showcased a backup QB.
Now, considering that the QB position on any NFL team is the most important single position, it makes a fan wonder why teams are so comfortable hiring backup players that simply don't seem able to get the job done. No situation made this more apparent than that of the Chicago Bears. They were 7-3 and a lock for a playoff spot before Jay Cutler went down and the Haney show took them straight into the gutter.
For everything the Bears thought they knew about their backup QB, they somehow missed the part where he couldn't play football. I imagine there was at least one conversation where Lovie Smith looked at his offensive coordinator and simply asked, "What's the deal with our backup?"
That's a great question Lovie. What is the deal with backups? In 2011, 27 backup QB's got a chance to start at least one game. Let's see if there's a story to tell.
The Elite 10 Fill-In QB's (i.e. my real QB got hurt or is too awesome to play right now so they called my number)
Of those 27, 10 started 2 games or less. Those 10 QB's record was a combined 3-10, or a win percentage of just 23%.
These QB's included:
Charlie Batch (1-0), Jake Delhomme (0-1), Jake Locker (0-2), Kyle Boller (0-1), Luke McCown (1-1), Matt Flynn (1-0), Joe Webb (0-2), Josh Johnson (0-1), Stephen McGee (0-1), and Charlie Whitehurst (0-1).
Not exactly a who's who of desirable free agent talent here. Still, there are some intriguing options such as Charlie Batch, Stephen McGee, and Josh Johnson that would make sense on the Broncos. We'll keep them in mind for later.
The Fantastic 10 Near Starters (i.e. for some reason your QB1 can't play for awhile so please for the love of God keep us in this thing)
Of the 17 remaining backup QB's in our study 10 started between 2 and 7 games.These 10 QB's combined for a devastating 10-26 record, a win percentage of 28%.
These QB's included:
This list is far more interesting as the top two QB's here either:
a) Will not be leaving their team (Yates) or
b) have no business being back in Denver (Orton).
Still, a name like Vince Young is one that I've heard tossed around so we'll put him on the backburner for later. The rest can take their bags packing (unless of course you saw enough of Orlovsky to get you excited).
The Near-Starter Caliber QB's and Curtis Painter
20 QB's down, 7 to go. These final 7 started in 8+ games for their team. They went for a combined record of 29-42, a more respectable win percentage of 40%.
These names included (you almost don't even need the names when you see the record):
Curtis Painter (0-8), Yo Gabba Gabbert (4-10), Matt Moore (6-7), Tebow (7-4), Palmer (4-5), Ponder (2-6), and Skelton (6-2).
Curtis Painter should probably never play another snap in the NFL. I've literally wondered if, being Peyton Manning's backup, the Colts really just wanted someone that looked even more un-athletic than Peyton Manning in pads and paid him to stand there.
Out of this list at least 4 will walk into their trainings camps #1 on the depth chart for their respective teams. In Carson Palmer's case he's going to need to take the Raiders to three straight playoff appearances before he pays off his price tag.
Ponder is the exciting future for the Vikings whose fans literally all take shots of something warm to cheer them up whenever they hear that phrase.
Random Stats to Consider
- If the starting QB win threshold percentage is .55, 13 of 32 QB's performed at or better than .55
- If the backup QB win threshold percentage is .35, 10 of 27 QB's performed at or better than 0.35
- If the backup QB win threshold were increased to .55 only 6 of 27 backup QB's performed at or better than .55
- If all QB's win threshold were increased to .60 with a minimum of 3 games only 16 out of 59 QB's make the cut.
What To Make of All This
So that was boring. Sorry about that. The info is important though to get a better picture at just what the backup QB market is like at the moment. The short and long of it? It's not a great one. The league is need of good QB's and the value of the good ones is rising with the demand.
The question the Broncos face is just how badly do they want to replace their incumbent hero? My guess is not that badly.
It seems pretty clear to me that there are a few categories of QB's to consider when talking about Tebow's backup.
We have an elite tier of QB's like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees that if the Broncos were to decide to go out and grab would make Tebow's existence on this team relegated to a great trading chip or an elite goal line back. If the Broncos shock the world and grab one of these guys our QB debate is solved. They are no one's backup. The rest of the solid starting QB's have been wrapped up by their teams for many years.
We have a less than elite tier of QB's that include names like Kyle Orton, Vince Young, and Matt Flynn who are out looking for starting jobs. Obviously, with Orton's history here in Denver he's out of the equation. Vince Young is an interesting choice but I fail to see how taking him out of the Eagles powerful offense and placing him into our Broncos improving, but not yet potent offense would make him better. He was not great on the Eagles, you think he would be better here? Then you have Matt Flynn who made a case for his starting job with one dominant performance against the Lions. The problem with Matt Flynn is that in 4 years he has just that one game, and with the dearth of QB talent available at the moment he's not going to be cheap.
It reminds me of a Kevin Kolb 2.0. Trust me, nobody wanted what Kevin Kolb 1.0 turned out to be and a new version with even more risk factor is not worth his asking price to a team like the Broncos. To Broncos fans, may Flynn continue to just be an annoying character on Glee with an angelic voice (not that I watch Glee or anything I just saw a commercial one time).
We have a backup QB tier that's full of perfectly decent backup QB's... who will remain backup QB's for most likely their entire careers. I'm telling you, if Charlie Whitehurst gets your rocks off imagine him without that flowing Jesus hair and it will fix whatever ails you. If Charlie Whitehurst was as smooth domed as Hasselbeck he'd never step on a football field again. However, names like Josh Johnson and Stephen McGee do offer an interesting twist as they could make absolutely solid backup QB's in the mold of a Tebow offense. Let's be clear here though, neither of those guys should excite us any more than a QB we could pick up in the 3rd - 5th round of this year's draft. They just become another warm body on our depth chart.
Finally, we have a dig deep tier that includes backup QB's on teams with solid franchise QB's. They could be buried as deep as Ryan Mallet or as visible as Mark Brunell. Either way, there is a vast range of raw talent and veteran wisdom here. The most intriguing name on this list to me is probably Brian Hoyer of the New England Patriots (I know, commence verbal onslaught of disagreement). This guy is heading into 2012 as a Restricted Free Agent and being sandwiched between Brady and Mallet the writing on the wall is clearer to him than it was to Daniel of Lion taming fame in Babylon. Once again, heading into camp as a backup he's just another interesting twist... but in no way should he excite us more than the guy that's already in place here. He could be the next Curtis Painter after all.
Here's the deal, no matter how you break down the stats over last season Tebow is almost outshined by one QB, and that guy is John Skelton. The problem with John Skelton is he's always going to be a backup. If you were upset by Tebow's production in 2011-2012 take a look at what Skelton did with the greatest receiver in the game. Now, far be it from me to bag on a guy's hustle but let's get real here, Skelton is a good if not great backup QB. That's his role. That's it.
That's not Tebow.
It's hard for me to understand exactly what we are looking for on the free agent market to either back up or replace Tebow. Even a cursory study of QB's in the NFL right now places Tebow solidly in the middle of the pack of starters. As far as backups go he's got no business with those guys. I think part of what is happening is that as fans we are so close to this team, we are so close to the Tebow story that we have gained the knowledge to critique Tebow on nearly every down he played.
I know some of you guys are just like me and felt our opinion of Tebow rise and fall with every play. You almost couldn't help it. That's how polarizing he is. It's amazing the Tebow still has any mystique left after the ringer we put him through last season. Yet, as close as we are to Tebow we are far away from these other backup options like Josh Johnson and Charlie Batch. I know we are really losing our minds when I hear names like Donovan McNabb being tossed around. Really? We want the guy replaced by Blaine Gabbert? Don't fall for that mystique.
We should be fairly confident heading into training camp with Tebow at the helm. The arguably best realistic Free Agent QB is Kyle Orton and we've been there done that. I say we do what a lot of decent teams do and bring on a vet to do something like what Mark Brunell does for the Jets, who is more than happy to ride the pine for a bit. So what if this vet can't run Tebow's offense? If Tebow goes down, that offense goes with him... if it exists next season much at all anyway. There's no Tebow style offense without Tebow, just like there's no beerfest with beer, Top Ramen without the chicken packet, or bog snorkeling without a snorkel.
It's just like that.
Now we get to the draft. This is where the Broncos have a legitimate chance at making a splash as I don't think they'll buy big into any of the FA QB hype. We all know that to build an offense around Tebow you need a few special pieces. His skillset demands it. A team that is fully invested into Tebow would make those moves. Do you think the Broncos have that kind of investment in him?
Nah, I don't. Not yet at least.
And that's totally okay, as long as the Broncos keep their eye on the future. This team is close in so many ways. Our defense is close. Our WR's are close. Our RB's need a little help. We need some secondary work. The Broncos don't have to go out and find a speed option back to compliment Tebow if they continue to get solid guys on defense. I can't tell you how thrilled I'd be if a guy like Dontari Poe fell to us.
The key is not to rush this thing. If Tebow isn't the answer let him get us into a better position next season to take advantage of a better QB class. Sure the Broncos can go out and get a guy to start developing now if they like, but the strength of this draft class vibes nicely with our needs, but not our QB needs. It'd be a shame to put that to waste reaching for a QB because he's the best available relative to this year's class of talent.
Forget looking for Tebow's replacement on the FA market. That money would be better used getting us some kind of guaranteed impact player. The draft is interesting but dangerous. I know there are tons of questions around Tebow and that they will become more puzzling the more time we are away from games, but the pieces are falling into place. Let's not mess with what we've got.
Compared to a lot of teams, we should feel pretty confident heading into next season. Even at pick #25 we can do some legitimate addition.