The Year of the Backup: Second-Stringers Shining Across NFL Action

In the 2018 NFL season, only 19 games were won when a backup quarterback started the game. Just seven weeks into this season, 22 games have been won by backups. Undrafted free agents and late-round rookies alike are leading teams to victory. Last year was defined by stars like Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees lighting up opposing defenses, but this season is the year of the backup. 

From the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck to unfortunate injuries for star signal-callers like Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, and Drew Brees, backup quarterbacks have been put into prime position to prove themselves and shine. Undrafted free-agent quarterback Kyle Allen has lead the Panthers to a four-win streak, the best start for an undrafted free agent quarterback since Kurt Warner in 1999. Former Minnesota Vikings first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater has been given a second chance to revive his career in New Orleans after a season-ending ACL tear back in 2017. In the five games he has played, he has won all five with a near 100 passer rating and nine touchdowns. Both of these quarterbacks have shown the value of the backup quarterback position and why teams are paying players so much to fulfill that role.

Teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts have both found their quarterbacks of the future in former backups. For the Colts, Andrew Luck’s retirement was a huge surprise, but former backup Jacoby Brisset has proven that he has the skills to be a successful franchise quarterback. He’s been able to lead a team that unexpectedly lost their star quarterback to a 4-2 start and prime position to take control of the AFC South.

Another AFC South backup has also made a name for himself this season. Jaguars sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew has been a quality replacement to veteran Nick Foles who was placed on the injured reserve after Week 1. Minshew has given the Jaguars three wins since becoming a starter and has kept them in contention for making a playoff run later on in the season.

Though of course it’s unfortunate so many injuries have kept star quarterbacks off the field, it has been exciting to see lesser-known players like Allen and Brissett shine and give their team a chance even without their starter. Even after just seven weeks, it’s safe to say that the 2019 NFL season can be known as “The Year of the Backup”.

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