Ranking the NFL’s 12 best backup quarterbacks
9. Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars: Talent-wise, Henne should be higher, and he may wind up starting from Week 1 in Jacksonville. It’s a little hard to ignore, however, that Henne is a combined 14-23 as a starter and has six more interceptions in his career (48) than touchdowns (42).
8. Jason Campbell, Cleveland Browns: Campbell’s still a steady hand in this league. And you can pretty much throw out his subpar relief appearances of Jay Cutler last season, because he was thrown to the wolves against Houston and San Francisco. Campbell has a career passer rating of 82.5, better than guys like Matt Hasselbeck, Sam Bradford, Alex Smith and Kyle Orton (who’s yet to come on this list).
7. Shaun Hill, Detroit Lions: Much to the Lions’ delight, Hill has not needed to start in either of the past two seasons. When he last replaced an injured Matthew Stafford, in 2010, he won just three of 10 starts but threw for almost 2,700 yards, completed 62 percent of his passes and had 16 touchdown passes (to 12 interceptions). Briefly forced into action last season, in Week 3 at Tennessee, Hill fired two TD passes, including a game-tying Hail Mary at the buzzer. In Detroit’s offense, with his ability to wing the ball around, Hill’s more than adequate.
6. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins: Cousins is a tough one to judge. He picked apart Cleveland to the tune of 329 yards and a touchdown during a critical Week 15 win last season … and that’s pretty much it. He was a combined 10-for-21 other than that (a late playoff relief appearance included), with an important TD pass against Baltimore. Other than that, the verdict is very much out here, even if the Redskins believe they’ve got the league’s next great backup QB.
5. Matt Cassel, Minnesota Vikings: I know, he was awful in Kansas City last season. Which Chief wasn’t? Under better circumstances, like in 2010, he guided the Chiefs to a 10-win season. He did the same in 2008 as — you know this — a backup, after Tom Brady fell to injury. A lot of time has passed since then, but Cassel has more on-field NFL success than just about anyone on this list.
4. Matt Hasselbeck, Indianapolis Colts: Yes, Hasselbeck’s still in the league. As the 2012 season showed, he no longer can get it done on a regular basis as a starter. He’s likely still more than capable of stepping in, in a pinch. Even better for the Colts, his extended NFL experience makes him the perfect No. 2 behind Andrew Luck, who could use someone to help him pick through strategies on the sideline.
3. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans: The days of counting on Fitzpatrick as a starter likely are gone — he finished 19-31 over four seasons in Buffalo, with a whopping 64 interceptions. On the flip side, he did top 3,000 yards passing each of the past three years. The Titans will not hesitate to get him on the field should Jake Locker stumble. Fitzpatrick’s results may not be pretty, but he at least could give the Titans a shot.
2. Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins: Maybe I’m giving Moore way too much credit for his 2011 performance, wherein he took over an 0-4 Miami team and mustered a 6-6 finish, while throwing 16 touchdown passes and just nine interceptions. Most of the times Moore has had to come to the rescue, though, the results have been solid. Had he opted to test the free-agent market rather than re-sign as Ryan Tannehill’s backup in Miami, he likely could have found somewhere to compete for a starting gig. He may end up with one anyway, depending on how Tannehill plays.
1. Kyle Orton, Dallas Cowboys: Three teams have tried Orton as a starter, and three teams have reached the same conclusion — that he’s not a starter. That said, there is not a team in the league that would be in a more comfortable situation than Dallas if something happened to its starter. Orton, 30, has a few years left in him and a 35-34 career record proves that he’s at least an average QB in this league. That’s all you can ask for from a backup.