Some would say the second-most important position on an NFL roster is the backup quarterback. Injuries happen in football, especially at quarterback, and if you’re not stocked with viable starters, your season could be derailed quickly. The Dallas Cowboys learned that the hard way last season, as did the Indianapolis Colts. Entering this season, there are still several teams lacking talent at No. 2 on the depth chart, and they’ll need to hope and pray their starters remain healthy. These are the five worst backup quarterback situations in the NFL. (Just missed: Cowboys, Giants)
Detroit Lions: Dan Orlovsky, Jake Rudock
Lions fans have gone through weeks with Dan Orlovsky under center, and it wasn’t pretty. The 11th-year player has started 12 games in his career, losing all but two of those – including zero wins with the Lions as the starter. He’s a journeyman quarterback with experience, but a serious lack of wins and arm talent. There are certainly worse options out there, but Orlovsky isn’t a guy you want as the No. 2 option behind Matthew Stafford. He’s joined by rookie Jake Rudock, who was selected in the sixth round this year. The Lions hope Rudock can be the quarterback of the future for them, but he’s far from that at this point. He looked good in his NFL debut, completing 8-of-11 passes for 72 yards, but that doesn’t exactly ease the Lions’ concern at quarterback. He needs time to develop.
Getty ImagesMike Hewitt
Houston Texans: Tom Savage, Brandon Weeden
Tom Savage is a player who coaches have raved about in the past, talking up his arm strength and potential in the NFL. He hasn’t gotten an opportunity to strut his stuff, and there’s a reason why: He’s not a starting-caliber quarterback. If he was, the Texans wouldn’t have handed Brock Osweiler a lucrative contract. He’ll be Osweiler’s primary backup this season, unless former first-round bust Brandon Weeden somehow proves he can be more than a dink-and-dunk quarterback, which he was for the Cowboys last season. Regardless of who wins the backup job, the Texans should pray that Osweiler remains healthy for all 16 games. Otherwise, Lamar Miller is going to see a lot more carries and DeAndre Hopkins will see his targets plummet.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY SportsTim Heitman
Pittsburgh Steelers: Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones
The Steelers were dealt a blow at backup quarterback this week when it was revealed that Bruce Gradkowski suffered a “sizable hamstring tear.” The injury puts his playing future into question being 33 years old and a perennial backup. Without Gradkowski, the Steelers are left with Landry Jones. He started two games for the Steelers last season, playing in seven games. He completed just 58.2 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and four interceptions, proving that he’s not ready for the big stage. If Gradkowski is forced to retire or miss significant time, the Steelers would be wise to add a veteran to the depth chart to avoid having to go with Jones again this season. Unfortunately, there aren’t many options out there right now, though Mike Vick is still on the market after playing for the Steelers last season.
Indianapolis Colts: Scott Tolzien, Stephen Morris
Andrew Luck missed nine games last season due to injury, which caused the Colts’ season to go off the rails. Fortunately, though, they had a veteran in Matt Hasselbeck second on the depth chart. He retired following the 2015 season, leaving the Colts to look elsewhere for Luck’s backup. They eventually landed on Scott Tolzien, signing him during free agency. He has two career starts and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 1-to-5, which is far from good. After seeing Luck miss most of last season, one would think the Colts would have addressed the position more definitively in the offseason, but that wasn’t the case. Stephen Morris, whom the Colts added in December, could push Tolzien for the No. 2 spot, but Tolzien’s experience will ultimately win out – which is telling of how bad the situation is.
Seattle Seahawks: Trevone Boykin, Jake Heaps
The Seahawks have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Russell Wilson, but if he goes down, Seattle is dead in the water. Undrafted rookie Trevone Boykin is currently his backup, and while he offers a similar dual-threat skill set, he’s far from a polished product at quarterback. Boykin relied on his legs far too much at TCU, which won’t translate to the NFL. He’ll need to prove he can succeed from within the pocket, which he has yet to do. That’s part of the reason why he wasn’t drafted. Jake Heaps is also a rookie with no NFL experience, and he’s just as big of a question mark as Boykin is. At the very least, Boykin can bring a spark to the offense with his scrambling ability, but Heaps is far from a capable backup. The Seahawks must add a veteran to the mix.