Dec 18, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage (3) throws during the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
The 2016 NFL season is winding down and one surprising fact has come to light about it. Several backup quarterbacks are suddenly vying for starting jobs.
It seems like more than usual too. That might not mean much for the moment but early indicators are it could mean a ton going into 2017. General feelings are some of these backups might have a legitimate shot at locking down the job for next season, which could have a profound impact on how their respective teams attack the coming off-season. So who are the names with the best opportunity?
Tom Savage (Houston Texans)
The latest addition to the growing list. For weeks people have clamored for the Houston Texans to put an end to the Brock Osweiler experiment. His play all year has bordered between average and terrible. It’s become plain that he’d taken advantage of a few good performances in Denver and playing behind Peyton Manning. It’s become clear he just doesn’t have the poise or feel to play quarterback at the professional level.
Tom Savage came in and did the smartest thing possible. He didn’t try to win the game. In other words he managed the action and got the ball to his best players on offense. It’s Football 101 on offense and he executed it well enough to spark the comeback victory. Savage has two more weeks to show head coach Bill O’Brien he can be their guy not only going into the playoffs but long-term. It’s too early to determine anything concrete.
Dec 18, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Matt Barkley (12) drops back to pass against the Green Bay Packers during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Barkley (Chicago Bears)
Jay Cutler was supposed to finally erase the doubts about his viability as starter in 2016 after a rebound 2015 run. Instead he fell right back into his old habits, threw interceptions, took sacks and inevitably got injured. Now his run with the Chicago Bears appears done. His backup Brian Hoyer didn’t fare much better, breaking his arm against Green Bay. Given no other choice the team had to turn to Matt Barkley, who was on their practice squad to start the year.
His numbers aren’t too great with 1,163 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions but the tape shows different. Barkley has played with more poise than anybody had right to expect. He has put the Bears in position to win each of their past four games. If not for a dropped touchdown, two bad penalties and a poor coaching decision away from being 4-0 in those games. He’s not a lock for anything, but he’s done enough to earn calls for being in a competition next year.
Dec 17, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty (9) looks to pass against the Miami Dolphins during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Bryce Petty (New York Jets)
What an unenviable situation that Bryce Petty got dropped into. No young quarterback should have to take over a team that is so clearly spiraling out of control. Ryan Fitzpatrick really poisoned the well from the start with his prolonged contract holdout. Now their veteran group on offense is falling apart due to injuries and Petty was forced to make things happen in spite of that. The results have been fairly predictable.
Petty is playing his first real football of his career. There were going to be mistakes. The question is has he shown enough signs that it might be worth giving him an extended look as the starter? Presuming of course the offensive line situation can be sorted out. Honestly no. He’s got a good arm and some other traits but he really hasn’t shown the kind of calm under fire and leadership qualities this team will need in the months and years to come.
Dec 18, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) passes the ball to running back Shaun Draughn (24) against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the 49ers 41-13. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers)
Chip Kelly has kept his cards close to the vest regarding future quarterback decisions. That shouldn’t be a big surprise. Then again with the team losing like it has, one has to assume a change is coming. Blaine Gabbert wasted his final opportunity. As for Colin Kaepernick, the Kelly offense has done little to erase the reality that he’s just not the same player he was three years ago. Whatever edge he used to have is long gone since he got paid.
That has happened to many a player over the years. Kaepernick seems more focused on politics than football these days. It might make him a good role model, but it also makes him a lousy quarterbacks. Every instinct says the 49ers and he will part ways when the season ends. They will look for a replacement and he will try to latch on with another team. The odds of him remaining the starter are longer than this team winning a Super Bowl next year.