Backup quarterbacks in the NFL are a lot like having a premium insurance policy. While you hope you never have to use it, it is still quite necessary in case anything happens and you really need it. Most of us don't want to shell out lots of money for something we hope we will never use, and to NFL teams, backup quarterbacks are the same way.
With 32 starting jobs in the NFL, if any of these guys were actually good enough to start, they probably would be. All of the backup quarterbacks on this list are the #2 guys for the squads, so if something happens to their starters they will be the first to come in. Most of these guys have started at some point in their careers, and were benched either because they weren’t good enough or because the guys above them on the depth chart came back from injuries.
When Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season, the Minnesota Vikings didn’t even feel comfortable with Shaun Hill, who is actually one of the more proven backups in the league. That just goes to show how most backup quarterbacks really aren’t good enough to became the #1 guy on their team, and these guys are the worst of the worst.
15 Colin Kaepernick – San Francisco 49ers
Putting aside all of his personal and political beliefs and off the field controversy, Colin Kaepernick has been quite an average quarterback during his career. Kaepernick played his college football at Nevada where he was good enough to be drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He has spent his entire career in San Francisco and actually has a good touchdown to interception ratio at 56:26. He also has a winning record overall, but seemed to hit a wall after his third season in the league, going 8-8 in 2014. When new head coach Jim Tomsula came to the 49ers, Kaepernick really struggled, posting a 2-6 record and getting benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert. Colin battled it out with Gabbert in what new coach Chip Kelly called an open competition, but Gabbert got the job and Kaepernick’s antics probably didn’t help him very much.
14 Jimmy Garoppolo – New England Patriots
Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots don’t seem to like spending much money on backup quarterbacks and usually go with young unproven talents. In the past that paid off when Tom Brady was injured during the 2008 season and Matt Cassel did a serviceable job as his backup. When Brady’s four game suspension was finally upheld, it meant that Jimmy Garoppolo would be starting those first four games of the 2016 season. Jimmy G. did well at Eastern Illinois where he broke records held by Tony Romo and won the Walter Payton Award. He was drafted by the Patriots in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL Draft and has never had to make a start yet, although he has played in 11 total games, mostly in garbage time throwing 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions. Garoppolo won a Super Bowl ring riding the bench and it seems that Patriots fans will be happy as long as he manages to win two or three games and give the reigns back to the “Golden Boy”.
13 E.J. Manuel – Buffalo Bills
At one point it looked like E.J. Manuel would become the new starting quarterback for the Buffalo Bills until Tyrod Taylor took over. At Florida State Manuel only had six passing touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions during his first two seasons. He was drafted #16 overall by the Bills in the 2013 NFL Draft and started 10 games during his rookie season where he had a 4-6 record with 11 TDs and 9 INTs. The next year he only started four games and had a 2-2 record with 5 TDs and 3 INTs. Manuel started two games during the 2015 season and went 0-3 with 3 TDs and INTs. Manuel is a decent backup but hasn’t been able to prove that he is starting material and will likely never have a starting job unless it comes via injury to Taylor or by being traded to another team that is desperate for a QB.
12 Matt Moore – Miami Dolphins
Matt Moore is a veteran in the league although he has never really done much to prove himself. The guy isn’t even the most popular Matt Moore in sports, with the baseball player taking that honor. Moore played at UCLA and wasn’t even drafted. He was signed by the Dallas Cowboys briefly and then joined the Carolina Panthers. He started 13 games over three years in Carolina and went 7-6 with 16 TDs and 17 INTs including going 1-4 with 5 TD and 10 INT in 2010. Moore joined the Dolphins in 2011 and was their started for 12 games where he went 6-6 with a career high passer rating of just over 60. Since 2012 he has not started and only played in six games with 1 TD and 2 INTs. Moore can be considered a “rusty” veteran at best and has not earned his stripes or the $3.5 million the Dolphins paid him in 2016.
11 Geno Smith – New York Jets
Geno Smith had a successful collegiate career at West Virginia and was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. He became an instant started in the 2013 season and had an 8-8 record with a poor showing of 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Smith seemed to get worse in 2014 and although he had 13 TDS and 13 INTs, his record was only 3-10 in those 13 games. Smith only played 1 game in 2015 with Ryan Fitzpatrick taking over the starting duties. Somehow Geno managed to set records for most passing yards in a single season by a rookie QB as well as highest completion percentage by a rookie quarterback in a single season with the Jets. Jets fans are hoping nothing happens to Fitzpatrick and that they can find another young QB to take over for him soon and hopefully that won’t be Geno.
10 Derek Anderson – Carolina Panthers
Derek Anderson is another journeyman veteran who simply isn’t very good at his job. Anderson played his college football at Oregon State and wasn’t drafted until pick #213 in the 6th round by the Baltimore Ravens who ended up waving him. He played for the Cleveland Browns from 2005 to 2009 and actually started 3 games in 2006, 15 in 2007, 9 in 2008, and 7 in 2009. Anderson had one winning season which was in 2007 when he started almost every game. During that time he threw just about as many picks as he did touchdowns. Anderson started nine games for the Arizona Cardinals in 2010 where he went 2-07 with only 7 TDs and 10 INTs. He joined the Carolina Panthers in 2011 and barely played until he started two games in 2014 and won them both. His overall starting record in 20-25 and if anything were to happen to Cam Newton, the Panthers could be in some pretty big trouble.
9 Ryan Mallett – Baltimore Ravens
You could do a lot worse than Ryan Mallet as your backup quarterback, but you could certainly also do a lot better. Mallet played at both Michigan and Arkansas in college was drafted by the New England Patriots in the 3rd round of the 2011 NFL Draft. During his three years with the Patriots he only had to throw four passes backing up Tom Brady. Mallett played for the Houston Texans from 2014 to 2015 and joined the Baltimore Ravens in 2015. He started Week 11 for Houston in 2014 and actually threw his first touchdown to J.J. Watt. Mallett tore his pectoral muscle which ended his season and he entered the 2015 in a competition with Brian Hoyer in Houston which he lost, but ended up replacing Hoyer in Week 1 and became the starter until Week 4. Mallet was released and signed with the Ravens due to injury. For his career he has a total of 7 career TDs and 9 INTs.
8 Tom Savage – Houston Texans
Tom Savage has had a very average football career at all levels he has played at. As a starter during his senior season in high school he only threw for 10 touchdowns. He had a good freshman season at Rutgers but became injured as a sophomore. Savage announced a transfer to Arizona but had to sit out for a season under NCAA rules. Savage then announced he was leaving Arizona after they hired Rich Rodriguez and transferred to Pittsburgh after not being allowed to transfer back to Rutgers. After all that he was drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans and got to play when starter Ryan Fitzpatrick broke his leg in late 2014. Savage ended up getting hurt as well and has not thrown a touchdown and only has 1 interception during his career. This guy has been through a lot of drama with absolutely nothing to show for it.
7 Scott Tolzien – Indianapolis Colts
Scott Tolzien was a starter in his last two years at Wisconsin and even won the Johnny United Golden Arm Award in 2010. He went undrafted in 2011 but signed as a free agent by the San Diego Chargers before being released in final cuts. Tolzien was picked up by the San Francisco 49ers as their third string quarterback and signed with the Green Bay Packers in 2013. He had two start two games in 2013 when both Aaron Rodgers and Seneca Wallace were injured. Tolzien had a 61% completion percentage and threw only 1 TD with 5 interceptions. He didn’t have to play in 2014 but threw one single pass in 2015. Packers fans were relieved when he signed with the Indianapolis Colts in 2016 for $3.5 million, but Colts fans better hope that Andrew Luck can stay healthy and on the field or they might be in trouble again.
6 Matt McGloin – Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders are lucky they found a great young starting quarterback in Derek Carr because their backup Matt McGloin is certainly not very good. He set all kinds of records at Penn State but managed to go undrafted in 2013. McGloin was signed as a free agent by the Raiders and started out as 3rd on the depth chart behind two guys that flopped, Terrelle Pryor and Matt Flynn. He was promoted to back up after Week 4 and made his first appearance against the Eagles in 2013. McGloin became the starter for the Raiders in November 2013 and started six games, posting a record of 1-5 with 8 TDs and 8 INTs. He got demoted back to third string for the 2014 season behind Derek Carr and Matt Schaub. Now McGloin is the #2 QB in Oakland behind Carr as he also was in the 2015 season, but if the Raiders have a chance of living up to their potential he won’t be on the field at all unless they are blowing someone out.
5 Chad Henne – Jacksonville Jaguars
Chad Henne had a good college football career as a four year starter at prestigious Michigan. He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins and briefly appeared in three games during his rookie season. Henne became the starter in Miami in 2009 and had 12 TDs and 14 INTs that year and 15 TDs and 19 INTs in 2010. During those seasons he boasted a 13-14 record before going 0-4 in 2011 and getting hurt. Henne signed with the Jaguars in 2012 and started the last six games after Blaire Gabbert was injured. In 2013 he started 13 games after Gabbert was benched and helped the Jags achieve a 4-12 record for the season. For some reason the Jaguars gave him $8 million in 2014 for two more years until he was benched in favor of rookie and future franchise QB Blake Bortles. Henne didn’t play in 2015 but signed another two year deal for $8 million more in 2016.
4 Mark Sanchez – Dallas Cowboys
Mark Sanchez, once called “The Sanchize”, played for three years at USC as a primarily a backup although he did start 16 games during that time. He was drafted #5 overall by the New York Jets in the 2009 NFL Draft and was their full time starter for four years. Sanchez had 12 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 2009 and 13 TDs and 18 INTs in 2012. Overall during his four years starting for the Jets he had 68 TDs and 69 INTs and a record of 33-29. Sanchez got hurt in the preseason of 2013 and then signed with the Eagles in 2014 where he started 8 games with a 4-4 record. Sanchez started two games behind injured Sam Bradford in 2015 and went 0-2. He was traded to the Denver Broncos in 2016 where he competed for a starting job but lost out to Trevor Siemian. Sanchez was then traded to the Cowboys when Tony Romo was injured and will backup rookie Dak Prescott which doesn’t say much for his career. He will also never be able to live down his infamous “butt fumble” with New York.
3 Mike Glennon – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Glennon hasn’t been in the league very long, but he has had ample opportunity to prove how bad he really is. He played his college football at North Carolina State and was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 NFL Draft by Tampa Bay. After Josh Freeman went 0-3 to start the season, Glennon became the Buc’s starting quarterback for the next 13 games. During that time he posted a 4-9 record on a team that was “rebuilding”. Glennon started the first five games of the 2014 season going 1-4 and has an overall record of 5-13. Once Jameis Winston was drafted his chances to start in Tampa disappeared. Even though is still young, it doesn’t look like Glennon will get another chance to start, and even if he signs with another team he would likely only be their 2nd or 3rd quarterback at best.
2 Luke McCown – New Orleans Saints
Luke McCown is somewhat of a journeyman quarterback who is somehow still a #2 QB in the league at this point. McCown set records at Louisiana Tech, although he wasn’t that great with both 19 touchdowns and interceptions in the 2002 season. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns and started four games that year, going 0-4 with 4 TDs and 7 INTs. McCown was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after one season in Cleveland, but he didn’t see playing time until 2007 when he started three games going 1-2. He was then traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars and managed to go 1-1 with 0 TDs and 4 INTs in 2011. McCown has also played for the Atlanta Falcons and is now with New Orleans. He started one game for the injured Drew Brees in 2015, and is clearly not the answer once Brees retires in the Big Easy. With an overall record of 2-8 with 9 TDs and 15 INTs, McCown is clearly one of the worst backups in the league.
1 Dan Orlovsky – Detroit Lions
The “honor” of worst backup quarterback in the NFL goes to Detroit’s Dan Orlovsky. This guy actually set several records playing at Connecticut and at one point was considered the face of UConn. Orlovsky was drafted in the 5th round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions and didn’t start until 2008. He took over for the injured Jon Kitna during the Lions’ infamous 0-16 season, starting seven of those games and throwing 8 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. After going 0-7, somehow he was signed by the Houston Texans who gave him $9 million for three years in 2009 and he sat on the bench as their #1 QB. Orlovsky then signed with the Indianapolis Colts in 2011 and started five games when Curtis Painter was benched, while the Colts were stuck in between the Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck eras. That Colts team started off 0-13 until Orlovsky finally got off the schnied with his first win and actually managed to win two games. He was then part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012 and 2013 and barely saw any action. For some reason the Lions signed Orlovsky once again in 2014 and resigned him in 2016 as a backup to Matthew Stafford. With a career record of 2-10 and being part of teams that went 0-16 and another that started 0-13, Dan Orlovsky is clearly the worst backup quarterback in the NFL.
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