Big Question: The best backup QB?

July, 13, 2010
7/13/10
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NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Who's the best backup QB in the NFC North?

Take a few minutes and peruse all the NFL depth charts. Look at the No. 2 quarterbacks for every team. This isn’t a topic that is discussed enough, but it is a putrid group. Not every team has a clear-cut No. 2 and some of the quarterbacks who presently qualify are extremely young and unproven -- such as Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen -- making it hard to comment on their NFL acumen. But overall, the backup quarterback situation in this league is horrendous.

[+] EnlargeTarvaris Jackson
AP Photo/Andy KingBackup QB Tarvaris Jackson has 19 starts -- 12 in 2007 -- in four seasons with the Vikings.
For the sake of this exercise, I am assuming that Brett Favre is the Vikings’ starter. And Favre just doesn’t miss games. But even though he is unlikely to see the field, I give Minnesota's Tarvaris Jackson the nod over Detroit's Shaun Hill, Green Bay's Matt Flynn and Chicago's Caleb Hanie as the top backup in the NFC North.

This is a two-horse race between Jackson and Hill, as both quarterbacks have at least started games in the NFL. Flynn and Hanie fall into that “relative unknown” category at this stage. I do think Flynn is cerebral and would do little to hurt his high-powered offense. In fact, if I saw a little more of Flynn in action, I might tab him the best backup in this division. But there just isn’t enough to go off of right now -- 17 career passing attempts aren’t enough. Hanie might surprise as a nice side project for Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, but again, I just can’t rank him over Jackson or Hill without seeing a lot more from him first.

Trust me, I am not a believer in either Jackson or Hill. They both have a huge flaws. Jackson has proven to be too inaccurate of a passer at all levels. He also consistently tries to do too much -- which he proves to be incapable of over and over again. Hill is very tough and plays with moxie. He has won his share of games as a starter. As the veteran presence among this group of quarterbacks, his contributions most likely will come in the meeting room and off the field. Hill also doesn’t turn over the ball often and is a quick decision-maker. But Hill’s physical tools, namely his arm, will always hold him back from being able to utilize the entire field, which is why he was allowed to leave San Francisco with little in return in a trade.

Jackson can improve and did show positive signs before Favre came to Minnesota. The tools are there. He has a big, strong frame, an excellent arm and great athletic ability. But I don’t think he will ever be a respectable passer in terms of his accuracy -- in fact, he wasn’t even all that accurate at Alabama State.

In the end, I will take Jackson over Hill, Flynn or Hanie. But again, I wouldn’t be excited about any of the options.

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