Backup power: Ranking all 32 NFL team's No. 2 quarterbacks
Oakland Raiders have the game's best backup QB in Jeff Garcia
Daunte Culpepper gives the Lions a nice safety net behind Matt Stafford
Jay Cutler needs to stay healthy as the Bears have little depth behind him
I don't know if you've noticed, but the backup quarterback position has really been in the news of late around the NFL, what with Michael Vick landing as an Eagle in Philadelphia and a certain No. 4 making potential No. 2's of a couple of guys who had been fighting it out for No. 1 in Minnesota. (Did you follow that?)
All in all, it seems an excellent time to update my now annual ranking of the league's backup quarterbacks, from 1 to 32. While this is an up-to-the-minute assessment of where things stand, obviously my list requires some projection given that several starting or backup quarterback competitions remain fluid and ongoing as we enter Week 2 of the preseason.
But I have fearlessly assigned winners of those battles as I see them unfolding, and thus identified my projected backup quarterback in each case. While this is inherently an exercise inviting debate and disagreement -- that is whole point of the Internet, right? -- my bottom-line standard for assessing a No. 2 QB's value is whether or not you can win with him on the field.
One caveat: After the top 10 or so, this list is a collection of quarterbacks who have either never proven they can do it in the NFL (see Leinart, Matt), or they're just career journeyman in the Josh McCown mold. As always, your results may vary.
1. Jeff Garcia, Oakland -- Though the Raiders are his sixth team in the past seven seasons, there's a reason Garcia keeps getting jobs: He's pretty good. In the past three seasons, he has helped two of his teams to the playoffs, and thrown 35 touchdown passes with just 12 interceptions, posting passer ratings of 90.2 or higher each time. Does anyone doubt he'll start at some point this season in place of JaMarcus Russell?
2. Michael Vick, Philadelphia -- After two years away from the game, Vick is such an unknown quantity at this point, and it's difficult to assign his value when he was clearly brought to Philly as more than just a traditional backup. But I can't see the Eagles turning to A.J. Feeley or Kevin Kolb before him if anything happened to Donovan McNabb, and Vick was one of the game's most gifted playmakers not all that long ago. He gets our No. 2 slot based on his potential "wow'' factor alone.
3. Daunte Culpepper, Detroit -- It's entirely possible, and maybe even likely that Culpepper could wind up beating out Matthew Stafford and starting for the first month of the season or so in Detroit. But at some point this year, the Lions are going to be tossing the keys to the No. 1 overall pick and that means Culpepper will be headed for backup-dom. Having shed 30 pounds this offseason and gained some of the mobility back that he hasn't had since his 2005 knee injury, Culpepper looks good again and is an easy top-five choice when it comes to No. 2's.
4. Sage Rosenfels, Minnesota -- This is no sympathy ranking in response to the old-bait-and-switch job that the Vikings pulled on Rosenfels this season, trading for him with the promise of a starting competition with Tarvaris Jackson and then spending four months pursuing Brett Favre. Though he may never outlive that unfortunate John Elway-whirlybird imitation he did last year against Indy, costing the Texans a win, Rosenfels was 2-3 as a starter last season, and he's 6-4 over the past two years. That's not shabby.
5. Seneca Wallace, Seattle -- I'm no Donnie-come-lately on Wallace, because I had the Seahawks veteran No. 6 in my backup rankings last season. He got substantial playing time last season, starting eight games in place of the injured Matt Hasselbeck, and even though Seattle didn't win much, it wasn't Wallace's fault. The former Iowa State star completed 58.3 percent, with 11 touchdowns, three interceptions and a more-than-solid 87.0 passer rating. There are a handful of teams Wallace could start for.
6. Todd Collins, Washington -- Collins was our top-rated backup last year at this time, coming off that big late-season playoff run he led for the Redskins in 2007. But after Washington prioritized his re-signing, he never appeared in a game last season as Jason Campbell went the distance. Now Skins fans are making No. 3 Colt Brennan the people's choice, but we're not penalizing Collins and dropping him too far down our list due to inactivity. He still runs Jim Zorn's offense better than any other quarterback on the roster.
7. Billy Volek, San Diego -- Chargers starter Philip Rivers took every snap last season, so we have no fresh reminders of Volek's value in San Diego. But he has played well when given the opportunity, and had a strong start to his preseason Saturday night against Seattle. And who can forget his stellar relief win in the playoffs at Indianapolis in January 2008?
8. Jon Kitna, Dallas -- I just realized that last year's Lions team was a hotbed of backup quarterbacks, with three veterans of that club making our current list: Kitna, Houston's Dan Orlovsky and Detroit's Culpepper. But that might have been the problem. All three started games for 0-16 Detroit in '08, and some would say going winless was no coincidence. Kitna at least gives the Cowboys a No. 2 capable of keeping the chains moving, but he better not have to play more than a game or two.
9. Chris Simms, Denver -- This is showing considerable faith in a quarterback who has barely played in almost three years, but my sense is Simms is going to be pushing Kyle Orton for the Broncos starting job inside of a month -- if that long. Though the rust he accumulated during his long layoff in the wake of that ruptured spleen is still present from time to time, Simms is starting to come around and he's still only 29.
10. Derek Anderson, Cleveland -- I believe the Browns want Brady Quinn to win their quarterback derby, and things are definitely leaning towards their 2007 first-round pick doing just that. That leaves Anderson in the backup role and waiting for the worm to once again turn, as it did a couple times in 2008. Anderson's decision-making has been poor in games, but he's not too far removed from making the Pro Bowl in that breakthrough 2007 season.
NFL Truth & Rumors