A backup quarterback is one of the more misunderstood jobs in professional football. If a player isn’t a starter in waiting, he may go years between game action. When a quarterback’s backing up a clear starter, his job isn’t about pushing for the starting job. His primary goal during the regular season is to serve as an extra set of eyes for the starter. He may also serve as the scout team quarterback so the defense is ready for their next opponent. As he does this, he also needs to maximize extremely limited practice snaps in order to stay prepared since he may be one bad hit away from a starting job.
All these things go on behind the scenes, which makes it difficult for fans to quantify his importance to the coaching staff, roster, and quarterback room. We see the results of game action and evaluate based on that as well as tidbits of information that leak out from those who work with the backup everyday.
This brings us to Brett Rypien, the Broncos’ clear cut QB3.
Brett Rypien’s profile
Weight: 210 lbs
The nephew of Super Bowl XXVI MVP Mark Rypien and my fourth ranked quarterback from the 2019 QB class, Rypien went undrafted out of Boise State and signed with the Broncos, receiving $146,000 guaranteed and $10,000 signing bonus to do so.
Rypien did not make the Broncos’ active roster out of camp his first season in the NFL, but landed on the Broncos’ practice squad. After Joe Flacco suffered the season-ending injury that ended his career in orange and blue, Rypien was signed to the active roster to backup starter Brandon Allen. When Drew Lock was brought off of Injured Reserve at the end of November, Rypien was waived again and found his way back to the practice squad.
Just as during his rookie season, Rypien did not make the Broncos’ active roster out of camp in 2020. He landed on the practice squad until Lock suffered what looked like a season-ending injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers. With Lock out indefinitely, Jeff Driskel needed a backup, so Rypien was signed to the active roster on September 25th. He attempted his first NFL pass two days later when Driskel was benched against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Hypothetical question:— Joe (R-E-L-A-X) Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) October 1, 2020
How good would Brett Rypien have to look for you to consider him for the rest of 2020? pic.twitter.com/JdqCDWG2Gy
Beyond what we can see on film, the fact two offensive staffs have thought highly enough of Rypien to keep him around suggests he provides plenty of value behind the scenes. George Paton currently has three quarterbacks on the Broncos’ roster, which means there does not appear to be any sort of real threat for Rypien’s job barring a disastrous preseason.
Based off the very limited tape he has in the NFL, Rypien displays solid competitive toughness as evidenced by how he displays a short memory. He’s also shown the ability to step in cold and perform against the Bucs. He’s effective at executing the play call as designed and does a solid job of identifying where he needs to go with the ball pre-snap for such an inexperienced player.
A pocket passer through and through, Rypien maintains good mechanics when he stays on platform. This helped him display solid ball placement from the pocket to the short and intermediate areas of the field and while his overall arm talent is below average, Rypien was capable of delivering strikes downfield to Tim Patrick against the New York Jets. He also displayed good poise, as he doesn’t shy away from delivering a pass with a defender bearing down on him.
When you combine so-so arm talent and athleticism into a 6’1 frame, it creates obvious limitations an offensive play caller needs to try to mitigate. I suspect if Rypien is forced to play for an extended period of time the Broncos would be forced to deal with a few batted balls at the line of scrimmage since defenders can anticipate his launch point. Without the ability to adjust his arm angle while maintaining accuracy or the ability to effectively throw off platform with any consistency, it’s hard to imagine this changes a great deal over time.
Across the 83 snaps we’ve gotten to see Rypien play in the NFL, he’s looked very reliant on his first read. A quarterback who is merely adequate at working through progressions puts stress on Shurmur to win with a play call and creates situations where the quarterback can leave yards on the field or force bad throws. The hope is another year in the Shurmur offense with additional reps through OTAs and the preseason help Rypien improve in this area.
Brett Rypien’s roster status with the Broncos
If we assume the Bronco’s current quarterback room is what will remain on the roster through the preseason, I find it hard to believe Brett Rypien doesn’t stick around. Shurmur typically carries three quarterbacks on his final roster and given Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater’s injury histories it pays to have a backup who is familiar with the system.