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Drafting an early-round backup quarterback: Analytics or stupidity?

In the wake of Covid-19, NFL training camp must operate differently. Who knows what the official offseason process for all 32 teams will entail, but the current method is virtual meetings and training sessions.

Meanwhile, in an effort to get to know new players and start throwing, many quarterbacks have been kicking the tires on inviting players to “players-only” style offseason workouts.

Jordan Love will soon be invited to the Green Bay Packers’ players-only workout, led by Aaron Rodgers.

In his beautiful mansion set on the picturesque Lake Tahoe, Rodgers will gather many key members of the Packers offense for a bonding week of fun and football; A combination of a “get to know you”, “get ready for the season”, and a “get me another f-ing ring” type of week.

In the early hours of the first full day, Rodgers wakes up Jordan Love and invites him on the coveted first fishing venture of the week. He directs Love to go down to the docks and shove off with Jordy Nelson, who will be waiting for him at the boat. Rodgers says he will meet him on the lake; he just has to get the rest of his gear ready.

Rodgers then goes to brood in his favorite chair as Jordy Nelson takes the boat to the center of the lake and shoots Jordan Love in the back of the head.

Wait, or is that The Godfather Part 2?

While the jury is still out if Jordan Love is the “Fredo” in this scenario (that title could also be awarded to Packers GM Brian Gutekunst or Head Coach Matt LaFleur), Aaron Rodgers is most definitely Michael Corleone.

Rodgers is confused, he’s angry, and most of all, he has been betrayed.

Brett Favre recently went on the Rich Eisen Show and said Rodgers was surprised and disappointed the Packers drafted a first-round quarterback, adding “at some point [the Love-Rodgers clash] will rear its ugly head (…) I think [Rodgers] will play somewhere else.”

Let’s take a moment to applaud the Packers organization for pissing off YET ANOTHER Hall of Fame quarterback at the end of his career.

Aaron Rodgers is a Hall of Fame quarterback with maybe two great years left. He just led the Packers to a 13-3 record and a trip to the NFC Championship Game last year. And now, rather than drafting offensive talent to make one or two last Super Bowl runs, the Packers draft Rogers’ replacement and fail to draft an offensive weapon in the first round for the 15th straight year.

Don’t get me wrong, as a Vikings fan I am ecstatic the Green Bay Packers organization is having a stroke in front of our very eyes, but drafting Jordan Love right now is a stupid move regardless if he turns into a Hall of Fame quarterback or not.

But wait; do I need to walk this opinion back? I say that because the Philadelphia Eagles did essentially the same thing.

They drafted Jalen Hurts in the second round of the draft when they have 27-year-old Carson Wentz, their alleged franchise quarterback whom they have backed and called “their guy” time and time again.

Are we missing something here? Two organizations with alleged franchise quarterbacks just drafted a backup quarterback in the very early rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft. 

Are the Packers and Eagles on the cutting edge of a new wave of backup quarterback analytics? Or are their head coach/GM combos Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas?

The quarterback position is undoubtedly the most valuable in the NFL, and maybe the benefits of a quality back up are understated. Maybe the QB2 is a position that has as much value as, say, a WR3 or CB3? Everyone saw last year how Matt Moore for the Kansas City Chiefs and Teddy Bridgewater for the New Orleans Saints came in and propped up their teams’ respective seasons by performing admirably when their starting quarterbacks were injured.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. What is the point of football? Say it with me now: to win the Super Bowl.

And you don’t win a Super Bowl with a backup quarterback.

There have been five backup quarterbacks that have replaced an injured starter at some point in the year and led their team to a Super Bowl victory.

  • Jim Plunkett – Replaced the injured Dan Pastorini after week five and led the Oakland Raiders to the 1980 championship.
  • Jeff Hostetler – Replaced the injured Phil Simms after week 15 and led the New York Giants to the 1990 championship.
  • Kurt Warner – Replaced Trent Green in the preseason and led the St. Louis Rams to the 1999 championship.
  • Tom Brady – Replaced Drew Bledsoe after week two and led the New England Patriots to the 2001 championship.
  • Nick Foles – Replaced Carson Wentz after week 13 and led the Philadelphia Eagles to the 2017 championship.

Kurt Warner and Tom Brady are, of course, Hall of Fame players. In that sense, they shouldn’t be classified as backup quarterbacks per say, because they just didn’t get their chance to shine at that point in their career.

That leaves Jim Plunkett, Jeff Hostetler, and Nick Foles.

In other words, in the past 54 Super Bowls, true backup quarterbacks have only won three of them. In other (other) words, if your starting quarterback goes down for the year *ahem* YOU ARE SCREWED.

Clearly a team needs a competent backup – but not someone elite. Someone is needed to weather the storm for a few games. Someone who can come in, make short passes, not turn the ball over. And guess what? Those players are widely available via free agency or minimally invasive trades.

Going back to the case studies of the Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints from last year, the Chiefs acquired Matt Moore via free agency and the Saints acquired Teddy Bridgewater via trade with the New York Jets, swapping a third-round pick for a sixth-round pick in the process.

Notice how they didn’t waste a first or second round pick for their backup quarterback? Notice how they didn’t draft a backup thereby neglecting other positions of need?

The point is this: An organization with a franchise quarterback drafting a backup in the early rounds when there are other glaring positional holes to fill is stupid.

This has led me, of course, to the Minnesota Vikings.

I’ve seen a lot of grief from fans on Vikings Twitter and other message boards regarding the team not drafting a quarterback sooner than the seventh round. As we have discussed, drafting a backup quarterback in the early rounds is not what you should do when your team already has a franchise quarterback. And, like it or not, Kirk Cousins IS the franchise quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.

I could go on and on about why Cousins deserves to be the unequivocal and unanimously-viewed current franchise quarterback, but that is worth another article entirely.

I could bring up how Cousins disproved the “choker” narrative and single handedly won a playoff game in New Orleans, but I won’t.

I could bring up how Cousins just had the best passer rating of his career, good for 4th in the league, but I won’t.

I could bring up how Cousins had a better 4th quarter passer rating last year than: Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, and Aaron Rodgers. But I won’t.

Sure, current backup quarterback Sean Mannion showed he isn’t the guy, and maybe new draftee Nate Stanley isn’t the guy either, but Kirk Cousins IS the guy, and using valuable draft capital to select his backup is the wrong move.

So please, don’t turn Cousins into Michael Corleone. We all know he’s too nice and well mannered to get a guy whacked.

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Ben Lyso

Contributor from Texas, but Minnesota born and raised. The Vikings will be the death of me but I wouldn't have it any other way. SKOL.

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