Home > NFL Time > The Importance of Preparing Backup Quarterbacks

The Importance of Preparing Backup Quarterbacks

Quarterbacks are obviously important in any offensive scheme. They are the managers of the ball and clock. They move the ball yards further in a shorter time than traditional run plays.

So when a starting quarterback goes out whether benched or from an injury, how well do the backups perform? Can they handle a first-class defense? Can they handle managing the clock correctly? Can they handle leading their team? You would think these would all be answered yes considering quarterbacks typically play the position for 3 or 4 years of college football.

The alarming fact is that backup quarterbacks typically aren’t prepared for the fast pace of the NFL. Whether it is mistakes regarding the clock or timeouts or the inability to successfully read the defense, backup quarterbacks perform at a far lower level than starting quarterbacks.

Why is it that backups only get reps with the 2nd and 3rd string offense? True you want your starters to be prepared to the fullest. You want the starting squad to be a unit. But how much would it hurt the 1st string offense to give the 2nd string quarterback some reps with the starters?

Typically these would be completely useless questions. Starting quarterbacks rarely going out with an injury or getting benched. But not all starting quarterbacks are stars and not all backups are ok with wearing a backwards cap. With teams like the Jaguars choosing to go with their backup quarterback instead of their starter at the beginning of the season, we have at least one instance this season where a mediocre starter got all of the reps with the 1st string offense and was dropped by the team.

Then there are the injuries, which we have seen a lot of this year. Jay Cutler went out and their backup quarterback couldn’t lead a playoff bound team to the playoffs. Matt Schaub went out and their backup quarterback played well enough for the first couple games to secure a spot in the playoffs before losing consistently. Kevin Kolb went out with an injury and his backup John Skelton had played at a mediocre level at worst for the most part.

The Cardinals are a decent example of why the backup quarterback should get some reps with the 1st string offense. Kevin Kolb had proven he could play at least at a mediocre level while with the Eagles so it makes sense he would both need and deserve most of the reps with their 1st string offense considering he came to Arizona as their starter. Once Kolb went out John Skelton took over seamlessly. Well, as smoothly as two quarterbacks of their level could.

The arguement I find most interesting is if John Skelton performed so well especially after getting all the 1st string reps why didn’t anyone notice him sooner and give him his chance? This may just be standard protocol to avoid losing games while discovering the quarterback is a bust. However to put all of your eggs in one basket, especially when the starting basket is only so-so, seems like a not-so-good business decision.

Which may be why coaches are fired after quarterback injuries tank their chances of a postseason. Who knows, maybe switching out linemen between the different strings is enough to prepare the backup quarterback to run the starting squad. One thing is sure, if not preparing is to prepare to fail, then only preparing a little bit is to prepare to succeed only a little bit, and much more likely still preparing to fail.

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