The job of an NFL backup quarterback is one that features a variety of career trajectories, and different kinds of players. Some have been relegated to the job of second string because of their age; a once-good player who has regressed, or a young up-and-comer who could potentially fill in for the long-time starter. Because of this, some backup quarterbacks who ended up being Super Bowl-winners deserved their championship honor, and some deserved to be playing for a middling franchise instead.
It's somewhat difficult to rate the quality of a backup quarterback. Indeed, the job of a backup can mean filling in for just a few plays, or becoming the team's full-time starter for a period of time. It's never obvious when exactly they're going to be needed, but when they do enter a game, they can usually hold down the fort until the starter is ready to return. The backup quarterbacks on this list were members of a team that won a Super Bowl, but they themselves didn't have the skills to warrant them being called a champion at the NFL level. Instead, they rode the gravy train driven by their more-talented teammates, and ended up a winner.
Ranked below are eight NFL quarterbacks who deserved their Super Bowl ring, and eight who didn't.
16 DO: Tyrod Taylor
Spending several years as the backup to Joe Flacco was what earned Taylor his current starting job in Buffalo, and in 2012 he was a member of that Super Bowl-winning Ravens team. Not much was known about Taylor at the time, but he's proven himself in the proceeding years to be a very capable NFL starter, who was mixed up with a poor head coach in Rex Ryan during his several seasons as a starter with the Bills. He may not go down as one of the best at the position, but at any rate, he's proven that he earned that Super Bowl-victory, as well as the opportunity to be a long-time starter for an NFL team. Taylor is a good quarterback, and one of the better backups in league history, considering what we know about him now.
15 DON'T: Brock Osweiler
Maybe this one is a little premature, considering Osweiler was just given a long-term deal as a starter, and the Texans did make the playoffs in the 2016 season, but Osweiler is probably going to go down as a failure when it's all said and done. Consider the high-quality offensive personnel the Texans have, and the fact that Osweiler still struggled despite their presence. He was also benched late in the season for a no-name player in Tom Savage for a brief period of time. Osweiler may have been on the Broncos Super Bowl team several years ago, but he probably didn't deserve the hardware. He's been a disappointment so far, and there's little reason to believe that he'll majestically turn it around in 2017. Consider him a failed experiment until proven otherwise, and not a quarterback capable of winning a Super Bowl on his own.
14 DO: Shaun King
At one time, King was supposed to be the Buccaneers' franchise quarterback of the future, but some setbacks got in the way of that projection. He only started one full season in 2000, and produced fairly well, leading the Bucs to a postseason appearance. Still, he remained on the roster as the backup in 2002 when the team won the Super Bowl, and Brad Johnson was under center. The reality was King was probably a better quarterback than people perceived, as he was caught in between coaching changes for Tampa Bay (the switch between Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden), and never really cemented his presence for either regime. He deserved his Super Bowl victory as the backup, and is one of the more talented backups in the history of the league.
13 DON'T: Jason Garrett
The current head coach of the Cowboys, Garrett's meal ticket was being the backup to Troy Aikman on the Dallas dynasty teams of the 90s. He remained in the NFL for six years, and was almost exclusively a backup, starting just nine games in that span of time. Going strictly from a talent perspective, Garrett didn't deserve a ring, and whenever he was forced into a brief amount of playing time, the results were completely forgettable. It's hard to call him the biggest coattail-riding backup quarterback of all-time, considering he never did get much playing time to begin with, but the fact that he was never acquired by another team in need of a quarterback speaks volumes, and ensures that Garrett wasn't an asset at the position. He's faired better as a head coach though; and even then, only slightly.
12 DO: Charlie Batch
Batch was supposed to be the new franchise guy in Detroit, as he was selected in the second round by the Lions in the 1998 draft. Given the team's inept front office of the time, which also failed to build a competent team around Barry Sanders, it never worked out for Batch in Detroit. He was however, able to rebuild his career as a backup, and filled that role for the Steelers on the 2005 Super Bowl team. In his limited playing time, including one start, Batch held down the fort, and wasn't a liability like some may have expected. In the end, he got his ring, which he was worthy of simply for having to endure a football wasteland like Detroit for the early portion of his career. Good on Batch for getting out of a bad situation, and finding a niche with a winning team.
11 DON'T: Tarvaris Jackson
Drafted in the second round of the 2008 draft by the Vikings, Jackson was a franchise quarterback hopeful at one time. While his time in Minnesota is mostly forgotten now, he's better remembered as the backup to Russell Wilson on the 2013 Seahawks Super Bowl team, that featured the best version of the Legion of Boom. Beyond that, his career has been a major disappointment, posting dismal numbers whenever he's seen significant playing time. Now out of the NFL, it's good Jackson went out on the high note of being on a successful team, even though he didn't have anything to do with it. It's fair to say that any backup could have snagged his Super Bowl ring if they were in the same position, and that he was just the one that got lucky.
10 DO: Elvis Grbac
One of the better against all odds stories for quarterbacks of the 90s, Grbac entered the league for the 49ers in 1994, drafted in the eighth round to be the backup to Steve Young. As fate would have it, the 49ers won the Super Bowl that year, and Grbac found himself as a member of a team on top of the NFL mountain at the time. After leaving San Francisco several years later, he had a brief, but quality run as the Chiefs starter in the late-90s, proving that even as a late-round pick, he could contribute positively to a team as the main guy. Grbac may not be one of the all-time greats, but he proved that he could play if called upon, and as such deserves the championship honors he received during his rookie year with the Niners.
9 DON'T: Matt Flynn
One of the true head-scratchers as a far as quarterbacks have gone, Flynn is an interesting case. He started out as a backup in Green Bay, and rode the coattails of Aaron Rodgers to a Super Bowl victory in 2010. For some inexplicable reason, the Seahawks offered him a massive contract before the 2012 season, when they were in between the failure of Tarvaris Jackson, and Russell Wilson. As it turned out, Flynn was terrible as a starter, and he was merely a filler as backup, who most likely would have faltered had be been pushed into starting multiple games. Seattle got burned on the deal they gave him (though they did come out of it with a franchise quarterback in Wilson), and Flynn bounced around the league briefly before retiring. One of the strangest backup quarterback stories in recent memory, but the takeaway was that Flynn was an inept player at the NFL level.
8 DO: Bubby Brister
Brister was already an NFL veteran when he captured a Super Bowl ring with the Broncos in 1998, serving as a backup to John Elways. It was a well-deserved honor for a player who had put in the time, and caught some bad breaks along the way. Brister was a better quarterback than he was given credit for, often playing on bad teams, and dealing with a quarterback rotation. Finally, he got some kind of reward by winning a championship. He contributed to the '98 Broncos as well, starting four games during the season and winning all of them. Managing to keep the ship afloat until Elway returned, he served the role as a backup perfectly, and earned his success the team accomplished during that year. Brister is one of the more overlooked feel-good stories in NFL history, and a better player than the narrative says.
7 DON'T: Ed Rubbert
Rubber is a one hit wonder as a backup quarterback, playing just one season in the league as one of the backups on the 1987 Redskins team that won the Lombardi Trophy. He did start in three games that year, but it became abundantly clear that Rubbert didn't really have a future with the team, and he promptly retired after capturing the Lombardi Trophy. One of the least deserving players ever to win a title, Rubbert should be remembered as such, and he got out of dodge quickly after the one season in the league. There's not much more to say about him other than he was very opportunistic with his career, and that just about every other quarterback in the league at that point would have deserved it more than he did.
6 DO: Jimmy Garoppolo
While he hasn't yet had the opportunity to be a full-time starter, Garoppolo is going to get his shot in the near future, either with the Patriots or another franchise in need of a starter. All of the evidence he's provided on the field so far, including the three games he started with the Pats in the 2016 season, has shown that he has the ability to be a high-quality quarterback in the NFL. It's just a matter of where exactly he's going to get that chance. As it stands, Garoppolo is worthy of receiving the Super Bowl honors in the 2014, and 2016 seasons, since he's contributed in a positive way when he's been given the chance. We'll see if he's able to land somewhere to get the chance as a full-time starter, and prove that he can truly be a great quarterback in the league.
5 DON'T: Trent Dilfer
Dilfer wasn't a terrible NFL quarterback by any stretch of the imagination, but he definitely didn't deserve the honors of a Super Bowl-winner, considering the Ravens defense of the 2000 season was one of the best in league history. Add on to that fact, that Dilfer was the backup for about half of the season, before taking over the reigns full-time. Beyond that, he was nothing more than a journeyman in his career, and he left Baltimore after the 2000 season to meander over to Cleveland and Seattle, where he achieved little success. He certainly deserved to be an NFL backup, but the reality is that anyone could have been the starting quarterback on the Ravens Super Bowl team in 2000 with their defense, and find success. Luckily for Dilfer, he got the call, and reaped the benefits as a result.
4 DO: Jim McMahon
Already a Super Bowl champion with the renowned '85 Bears team by the time he got to the Packers for the 1996 season, which turned out to be his last. Green Bay won the Super Bowl that year under the efforts of Brett Favre in his prime at quarterback. It was a fitting way to bow out for McMahon, who by that point had received a long, eventful career, and had put in his time in numerous situations for bad teams. He deserved to go out a winner in '96, and made the smart decision while retiring while he was ahead. Maybe not one of the all-time great talents at quarterback in league history, but McMahon is an important part of it no less, and was one of the more entertaining players to play the position in the NFL.
3 DON'T: Joe Germaine
Perhaps the best example of a player who rode the coattails of others' successes, Germaine spent one single year in the NFL, and it came as the backup to Kurt Warner, on the Rams team that was dubbed, "The Greatest Show On Turf." Certainly, Germaine was not considered a notable part of that tagline, as he appeared in just three games, and threw more interceptions than he did touchdowns. The Rams went on to win a Super Bowl that year, Germaine got his ring, and then promptly retired. It was a smash n' grab career if there ever was one, and Germaine got the hardware, even though he was only in the NFL for a cup of coffee before departing forever. One of the strangest scenarios in league history, but Germaine was not worthy of being on such a great roster.
2 DO: Jim Plunkett
Plunkett has one of the more interesting stories of any quarterback in league history. A former first overall pick by the Patriots in 1971, he failed to find a good situation with several teams in the NFL, before coming to the Raiders in 1979. Up to that point, Plunkett had seen some ups and downs, but was largely considered a draft bust, or at least the equivalent of what that was at the time. When Oakland starter for the 1980 season Dan Pastorini was knocked out for the season, Plunkett took over and led the Raiders to a Super Bowl victory. It took a long time, but Plunkett finally got at least some of the credit that he had deserved, and it remains one of the best comeback stories in NFL history. He may not have been a top-five all-time quarterback, but for a brief period of time, Plunkett was able to live up to his potential, and captured a championship.
1 DON'T: Jared Lorenzen
Forget bad backup quarterbacks; Lorenzen is one of the worst players ever to put on an NFL uniform. Serving (loosely using that term) as Eli Manning's backup for the '07 season that saw the Giants win the Super Bowl, Lorenzen didn't even look the part of an NFL quarterback, and was dubbed "The Pillsbury Throwboy" in due time. It was just his second, and last, season as the backup in New York, and with a mere eight pass attempts in his entire career, Tom Coughlin was probably breathing a sigh of relief that his dirt cheap option to open up cap space didn't actually have to see the field. In short, Lorenzen was a cost-cutting measure, and a complete joke as an NFL player. Most likely the worst player of all-time to ever appear on the roster of a Super Bowl-winning team.
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