We're kicking off a new content series on NFL.com with a look at the most important position in the league.
The starting quarterback is undoubtedly the most important player on any NFL team. Or is he? Perhaps there is one player who is of greater importance and who can often be called upon to save a season. And that is the backup quarterback.
Think about it for a second. How many times have we seen seasons fall apart when a starting passer goes down? Far too often. A reserve who can come in, not be a total disaster and keep some wins coming is worth his weight in gold.
Teddy Bridgewater would be the perfect example from the 2019 season as he won five of five starts in relief of the injured Drew Brees, keeping the Saints on course until the starter returned to finish off the good work carried out by his understudy.
With that in mind, here are my top 10 backup quarterbacks in the NFL.
1. Andy Dalton | Dallas Cowboys
After nine seasons starting in Cincinnati, Dalton might be the ideal backup quarterback now he has joined the Cowboys. He is a team-first player who is unlikely to create a stir in the locker room. Dalton is good enough to keep a season on track with more than 30,000 passing yards and 200 touchdowns to his name, but not good enough to offer a challenging distraction to Dak Prescott. Perfect.
2. Jameis Winston | New Orleans Saints
His 30 interceptions from last season are, of course, a major worry but there is no doubt that Jameis is a prolific reserve who could thrive in Sean Payton's attack. Winston threw for 5,109 yards last season and also topped 4,000 passing yards in the 2015 and 2016 campaigns. He has the talent to do much more than simply hold down the fort if called into action.
3. Jacoby Brissett | Indianapolis Colts
It may not have been perfect in 2019, but Brissett displayed just what you need from a backup quarterback – an ability to step into the breach at a moment's notice and to suddenly become 'The Man' on your team. Brissett has twice stepped in for the Colts at short notice – he subbed for the injured Andrew Luck in 2017 - and he can do so again if Philip Rivers goes down.
4. Marcus Mariota | Las Vegas Raiders
Like Winston, Mariota is a high draft choice from 2015 looking to rebuild a career away from the team that selected him. Mariota brings experience to the Raiders with 61 starts to his name. And let's not forget he was a growing NFL force before a series of injuries struck. Mariota's mobility could be a big plus because timing can be off with a reserve QB and positive things must happen when a play breaks down.
5. Nick Foles | Chicago Bears
While it is a label he might prefer to avoid, Foles might be the greatest backup quarterback in NFL history. His famous ride to the rescue in 2017 resulted in the Philadelphia Eagles being crowned Super Bowl champions and Foles being named the game's Most Valuable Player. He repeated the rescue act a year later and guided Philly back to the playoffs when Carson Wentz went down. Foles is also an unselfish team player which is ideal for a backup role. Mind you, he may end up the starter in Chicago!
6. Case Keenum | Cleveland Browns
If Baker Mayfield falters in any way in 2020, the Browns can turn to a veteran presence who won't find the stage too big. Keenum took the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship Game in 2017 and has provided value at almost every stop in his nomadic NFL career.
7. Tyrod Taylor | Los Angeles Chargers
I'm basing this selection on the belief that Justin Herbert will win the starting job for the Chargers this summer. That will push Taylor – who has 46 starts in the NFL – down to the number two spot. Taylor started three straight years in Buffalo and showed an ability to bring a team back from behind and to deliver in the fourth period. Both are useful traits for a backup passer.
8. Tua Tagovailoa | Miami Dolphins
This selection is based off a highly-touted rookie 'not' starting right away in the NFL. I expect Tua Tagovailoa to sit on the bench behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, at least for the first few weeks of 2020. If that proves to be the case, having a player of Tua's quality in reserve is a huge plus; especially as any move to him can come with little or no controversy. He is the future of the franchise, after all.
9. Nick Mullens | San Francisco 49ers
Mullens may not have the name recognition of many other players on this list, but he has proven himself a reliable reserve to the Niners in the recent past. In 2018, Mullens was forced into action when Jimmy Garoppolo tore his knee ligaments and surprised a few people as he threw for 2,777 yards and 13 touchdowns in eight starts. That performance was good enough for a 90.8 quarterback rating. Hardly a disaster.
10. Robert Griffin III | Baltimore Ravens
There may be more talented passers in reserve roles around the NFL but RGIII makes this list because he has the athletic skills to mirror the man he would be called upon to replace – Lamar Jackson. It makes sense for the Ravens to run out a similar-style quarterback. I remember, years back, when Cam Newton was backed up by Derek Anderson. You could not get two more contrasting quarterbacks and that made no sense to me. RGIII allows the Ravens to stick with their same offense, no matter what.