With Tim Tebow on the market, football followers have been checking teams' rosters and assessing backup quarterback situations to see if Tebow would be a fit. It begs two questions: Which NFL team has the best backup plan at quarterback? And which team has the worst?
**Best:** In my mind, you look for two things in a backup quarterback, knowing that most clubs will be up a creek if the starter goes down for the year. First is an ability to come in and pinch hit for, say, a month, and keep the ship steady in the midst of a playoff run. Second is the potential to eventually become a legitimate starter -- to either serve as heir to the No. 1 or provide trade value down the line. And to me, there's one backup in the NFL who checks off both those boxes best: the Washington Redskins' Kirk Cousins. He showed last season that he could be pressed into action in the short term and win. And he also displayed the potential -- he's just 24 years old -- to become much more. In short, for teams employing the Ron Wolf philosophy of drafting quarterbacks in bulk, Cousins represents the model of what they'd like those draftees to become.
Worst: This is a tough question to answer, because there are plenty of variables involved with guys who aren't actually playing, but the contender who would appear to be in the most trouble is Atlanta. For now, Dominique Davis is Matt Ryan's backup. Some in scouting circles really like the upside of David Cutcliffe pupil Sean Renfree, the Falcons' seventh-round pick out of Duke. But there's no doubt that there are a lot of unknowns here. If Ryan were to go down for even a few weeks, the lack of a proven No. 2 could come back to bite the Falcons.
The market for backup quarterbacks skyrocketed this year; the likes of Matt Cassel, Matt Hasselbeck and Ryan Fitzpatrick are set to earn more than $3 million each. More proof that this has suddenly become one of the NFL's most important jobs. It's about finding someone who will bring a solid on-field performance if the starter becomes injured, and it's about getting the best out of your No. 1.
Considering those factors, it seems to me that the Indianapolis Colts are in the best situation. Andrew Luck takes a lot of hits, and if something should happen, Indianapolis can be confident that Hasselbeck will step onto the field and be able to move the offense. With as many systems as he's played in and as many styles as he's mastered, Hasselbeck is the perfect solution. Also, Hasselbeck is never shy about offering his opinion. Luck had a ton of success as a rookie, but more advice is never bad, and Hasselbeck will share it. In short, it's an ideal fit, making for the best backup situation in the NFL.
I'll roll with the New England Patriots having the best backup plan, because they have an intriguing option in Ryan Mallett -- who could also provide value in a trade. Nick Foles also fits that model for the Philadelphia Eagles, while the Colts' Matt Hasselbeck might be the most trustworthy veteran.
Drew Stanton gives the Arizona Cardinals the best backup situation in the league -- which is kind of funny, considering that they also had the worst quarterback situation in general last season. This time around, the Cards are loaded at the backup spot. I'm confident Bruce Arians might even find a way to develop Ryan Lindley down the road.
In an ideal situation, a "great" backup quarterback is someone who has previously started, has had a degree of success and has been in the league long enough to have seen everything. That way, if he's thrust into an active playing role, the team's fortunes don't immediately take a tumble.
There are two situations in the league right now that fall under the "best" category. The best current backup plan belongs to the Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo is the unquestioned starter, but I don't think the Cowboys would miss a beat if they had to turn to Kyle Orton. In fact, should Romo miss a lot of time, I guarantee you Cowboys fans will say, "Why are we paying Romo that kind of money when Orton's playing just as well?" Remember, in 2010, Jon Kitna stepped in during Romo's absence and nearly matched Romo's statistical production. The Cowboys are built with enough weapons to make it easy on a backup to come in and succeed.
The most enviable backup plan belongs to the Washington Redskins, who have a No. 2 with great potential in Kirk Cousins. Robert Griffin III might have injury issues throughout his career, due to his slight frame, and Cousins has already shown he can come in and light up the scoreboard. I wouldn't be surprised if Cousins sees regular action on a yearly basis -- i.e., coming in during a few games and starting one or two. And if Cousins continues to play well? Washington can either keep him or trade him to a quarterback-hungry team -- and likely recoup a second-round draft pick.
The worst backup plan belongs to the Atlanta Falcons. Right now, Dominique Davis is their No. 2. The Falcons like him, but he's never taken an NFL snap. If Matt Ryan were to get hurt early, this Super Bowl contender would suddenly drop into the race for the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. (Just ask Indianapolis what can happen if you fail to have a good enough backup behind your star.) I can't believe this is how the Falcons are going to enter the season -- they need to sign a veteran at some point soon. Maybe they're waiting for Mark Sanchez to become available.