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9/11/2008 03:06:00 PM

Greatest Performances by a Backup

Matt Cassel
Will Matt Cassel make the most of his golden opportunity?
Photo by AP
By Lang Whitaker, SI.com

As if Boston fans didn't have enough to worry about, what with the Red Sox about to head back to the postseason and the Celtics prepping to defend their NBA title. But now Tom Brady is injured, and New England turns its lonely eyes to one Matt Cassel (no relation to Celts PG Sam Cassell). Perhaps Cassel can turn in a performance for the ages, and join the greatest performances by a backup in sports history...

1. Lou Gehrig: In 1925, Yankees first baseman Wally Pipp went down with a headache, and Gehrig filled in that day...then went on to play in every game for the next 14 years.

2. Tom Brady: During the 2001 season, after Patriots starter Drew Bledsoe was injured with internal bleeding, Brady stepped in, finished the season 11-3, and led the Pats to a Superbowl victory.

3. Robert Horry: Since the 1999-2000 NBA season, the most games Robert Horry has started in a season is 26, but he still always seems to come up big in crunch time.

4. Frank Reich: Most people forget that when the Bills came back from a 35-3 deficit to beat the Oilers, it was Reich, not Jim Kelly, who led the way.

5. Magic Johnson: OK, so Magic was really a starter (at point guard), but with the 1980 NBA Finals on the line, he filled in for an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and posted 42 points, 15 boards and 7 steals and led the Lakers to the NBA title.

Which backups do you think have turned in the best performances? Let us know below...

Lang Whitaker is the executive editor of SLAM magazine and writes daily at SLAMonline.com
posted by SI.com | View comments |


Posted: September 11, 2008 7:52 PM   by Anonymous Raymundo Davalos
What about Earl Morrall of the perfect 1972 Dolphins? He started 11 games for them when Bob Griese went down early in the season.

Raymundo Davalos
Durango, Mexico
Posted: September 11, 2008 7:56 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
how could you forget another backup who went in to start every game for the next 16 years, Brett Favre
Posted: September 11, 2008 9:04 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Trent Dilfer taking over for Tony Banks and winning the Super Bowl. Repaid for his effort by not being resigned.
Posted: September 11, 2008 11:14 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
steve young, kurt warner, tony romo, brett farve and earl morrall.
Posted: September 12, 2008 8:41 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
You forget about Kurt Warner. Trent Green goes down, and the best backup ever goes on to win the Super Bowl.
Posted: September 12, 2008 9:32 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
ummm...Kurt Warner anyone? 1999 Rams? Maybe you remember them?
Posted: September 12, 2008 10:58 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
How about Doug Williams, who led the Redskins to a Superbowl victory, and Jeff Hostetler, who did the same for the Giants, subbing for Phil Simms?
Posted: September 12, 2008 11:02 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
What about Brett Favre coming in for Don Majkowski? That turned out OK for the Packers.
Posted: September 12, 2008 11:02 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Doug Williams? Jeff Hostettler?
Posted: September 12, 2008 11:03 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Jeff Hostetler winning Super Bowl XXV
Posted: September 12, 2008 11:22 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Rookie Patrick Roy started the 85-86 season on the bench for the Habs, led them to the Stanley Cup, won Rookie of the year, the Conn Smythe, etc...
Posted: September 12, 2008 12:14 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
I would think that Roethlisberger's performance should have been on this list just after Brady considering as a rookie he started the preseason as the #3 QB but ended up stepping in and going 13-0 as a starter in the regular season.
Posted: September 12, 2008 1:08 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
There was this brash kid named White who stepped in as Dallas Cowboys QB and threw a perfect long pass to win the game on his first play as a pro... Anybody remember him?
Posted: September 12, 2008 3:38 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Cam Ward coming off the bench to win the Conn Smythe. Think about it, he led the CAROLINA HURRICANES to the Stanley Cup.
Posted: September 12, 2008 4:08 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
what about roy hobbs after bumb bailey tragically died running down a fly ball into the fence? that turned out ok!
Posted: September 12, 2008 4:40 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Billy Volek replacing injured Philips Rivers and leading the San Diego Chargers to a win in Indianapolis during last year's NFL playoffs, scoring himself a touchdown.
Posted: September 13, 2008 1:58 PM   by Anonymous Bill West
How about Magic Johnson taking Kareem's place at center in the 1980 Finals? The kid did OK...
Posted: September 14, 2008 10:17 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Max McGee of the Packers, who became the MVP of the first Super Bowl, as a last minute sub. He had caught only 4 passes during the regular season.
It isn't quite hockey season (OK, it is never hockey season in AZ, where I live), but how could you forget Ken Dryden? He came up at the end of the 70-71 season, played in a few games (six?), then led the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup title while winning the Conn Smythe trophy as MVP of the post-season. Oh, and then he won the Calder trophy as Rookie of the Year the following season. But he began as a late-season backup.
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