More teams going with youth at backup QB

BY foxsports • September 8, 2010

Youth must be served.

And in the NFL, youth, and inexperience, too, must also be serviceable.

At least when it comes to No. 2 quarterbacks.

Although it was hardly a collective intent, a league-mandated imperative, there has been an undeniable greening of the primary backup position this season. And the result, particularly for teams like Carolina and Arizona, is a quarterback depth chart perilously shy of regular-season playing time.

Both the Cardinals and the Panthers each have two rookie backups behind starters Derek Anderson and Matt Moore, respectively. And Moore, the No. 1 guy in Carolina, has registered only eight career starts and 249 pass attempts. But somehow, Panthers coach John Fox, who is entering the final season of his contract, and with no sign of an extension offer, keeps responding with an Alfred E. Neuman expression.

"You can't worry about it," Fox said, when asked about the lack of experience at the quarterback spot. "You pick the best guys, get them ready, and you go play."

Fox is hardly alone. There are eight teams with No. 2 quarterbacks in 2010 who have never started a regular-season game. Four have backups who have never even thrown a regular-season pass. After Carson Palmer, the older brother of No. 2 guy Jordan Palmer, the Cincinnati Bengals have two backups who total seven attempts.

The understudy to Super Bowl most valuable player Drew Brees, Chase Daniel, has zero pass attempts. Peyton Manning's caddy, Curtis Painter, has eight attempts. The Seattle Seahawks traded a package of draft picks for Charlie Whitehurst this spring, then signed him to a two-year contract worth $8 million, and he never threw a pass in a regular-season game in four seasons in San Diego.

Some would suggest it's not a youth movement, as much as it is career suicide for head coaches.

But it's not as if turning the table toward quarterback toddlers was a planned event. In fact, there were only six franchises in the NFL in 2010 who got significantly younger, probably even fewer by conscious design, at the No. 2 spot. That the league skewed toward a younger crowd just kind of happened. But now that it has, the NFL and its coaches are going to have to deal with it.

Said rookie Max Hall of Arizona, who earned the No. 2 spot despite having been an undrafted free agent: "People really don't want to hear about how old you are or how many games you've been in. When you get an opportunity, you have to play (well). The rest of that stuff is just (seen as) an excuse. It's good (copy), but it's not like your teammates are saying, 'Well, he hasn't played, so what can we expect?' "

There are, of course, a few franchises that actually got more experienced at the No. 2 position. Baltimore will back Joe Flacco with Marc Bulger. The Cleveland Browns, who made over their entire quarterback depth chart, will go with Seneca Wallace, who has 14 career starts. Much-traveled veterans such as Mark Brunell (New York Jets), Todd Collins (Chicago), David Carr (San Francisco) and Sage Rosenfels (Giants), changed teams. Chad Pennington (Miami) and Kerry Collins (Tennessee) switched roles last season and are valuable options off the bench.

And relative experience -- as demonstrated by Collins (38 years old, but only three starts and 155 attempts since 1997), Michael Vick (one start and six passes since 2006, despite being 30 years old), Jon Kitna (37, but only four games and no starts since '07), and others -- is not necessarily a function of age.

After all, there are eight No. 2 quarterbacks in the league who have logged 50 or more regular-season starts, three with 100 or more. Eighteen primary backups have at least 500 pass attempts.

On the flip side, 21 of the 32 No. 2 quarterbacks on depth charts around the league for the opening weekend own 20 starts or fewer. There figure to be a lot of coaches holding their breath that their recruits in the Kiddie Korps brigade aren't forced to grow up quickly.



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