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Do backup NFL quarterbacks ever beat good teams?


In 2019 Brandon Allen began three games for the Broncos. The Broncos won one in every of those – against the Browns by a rating of 24-19. The 2019 Browns finished the season 6-10.

In 2020 Brett Rypien began one game for the Broncos. It was against the Jets and the Broncos won the sport 37-28. The Jets finished that season 2-14.

During the last three seasons when the Broncos have had to start out the backup QB, the team is 2-7. This doesn’t count the ultimate five games in 2019 when Drew Lock began, since he was the starting QB at that time and never the backup. You possibly can count them in case you wish, but I believe that they don’t belong on this study.

This study goes to deal with how teams do after they have to start out their second or third string QB. How often do they win? How often do they win against good teams? Each questions will likely be answered. I define “good” teams as teams that finish the regular season with eight or more wins.

It’s a truth within the NFL that good teams beat bad quarterbacks. So I went into this study expecting to seek out only a few instances when bad backup QBs beat good teams (and that’s what I discovered). I define bad backup quarterbacks as guys who never get a gig as an everyday starter within the NFL. They’re good relative to you and me, but they’re bad relative to Peyton Manning or Drew Brees and even Geno Smith. Bad on this context just signifies that they will not be able to being regular NFL starting (or not anymore in the event that they were sooner or later).

I checked out every QB this century who has began between one and sixteen NFL games. Once I had removed the blokes who entered the league in 2021 and were starters or should/could turn into starters (Justin Fields, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance), I used to be left with 133 quarterbacks a few of whom were on the tail-end of their long careers (Warren Moon, Troy Aikman, Randall Cunningham, Jim Harbaugh, and Jeff George) and others who were or are only starting theirs throughout the past two seasons.

These 133 QBs have combined to start out 811 games this century they usually have a combined record of 210 wins and 601 losses – meaning that their teams have won 26 percent of their starts. I at all times give the caveat that QBs get far more credit they deserve when their teams win or lose, but let’s run with the win-loss stats.

I didn’t take a look at the strength (or weakness) of the team on which each QB was starting. Obviously a backup QB forced to start out for team, has a a lot better likelihood of winning (despite his play) than a backup QB who’s forced to start out on a nasty team. We are going to see a few of this later.

If you happen to zoom in on the 72 guys with five or fewer starts of their careers, you discover that their teams are 50-134 of their starts. That’s a win percentage of 27 percent – which is nearly an identical to the entire data set. So I made a decision to deal with those 50 wins to find out how lots of those wins were against teams that finished the season with record (no less than 8-8). In other words, how often did these “bad QBs” beat “good” teams.

First we discover that only 32 of those 72 QBs actually “won” a game – they began a game that their team ended up winning. Below are the 32 with what number of wins they’ve this century and the way lots of those wins were against good teams.

QBProfession Wins (2000-2021)W’s against Winning teams
Todd Collins43
Randall Cunningham32
Landry Jones30
Craig Krenzel30
Chase Daniel21
Kent Graham20
Scott Mitchell20
Quinn Gray22
A.J. McCarron20
Danny Wuerffel21
Neil O’Donnell21
Dennis Dixon21
P.J. Walker21
Tim Hasselbeck10
Ryan Finley11
Tyler Huntley10
Paxton Lynch10
Tyler Palko11
Nathan Peterman10
Kurt Kittner10
Joe Webb11
Mike White11
Max Hall11
Koy Detmer11
Clint Stoerner10
Stoney Case11
Stephen McGee11
Cooper Rush10
Brett Rypien10
John Wolford11
Scott Covington11
Drew Henson10

So these guys began and won 50 games, but only 22 of those were against teams that finished the season 8-8 or higher. Let’s take a look at those 22 victories in depth – roughly chronologically.

Randall Cunningham began three games for the Cowboys in 2000 (winning one) after which two games for the Ravens in 2001 (winning each). The lone win for the Cowboys in 2000 was against a Washington team that will finish 8-8. The next season he was the backup QB on the Ravens. In case you might be too young to recollect, the Ravens defense on the turn of the century was among the best the sport has even seen. In Cunningham’s two starts for the Ravens in 2001, Randall simply needed to “not lose” the sport and let the defense win it. The Ravens beat the Jaguars who finished 6-10 that yr and the Steelers who finished 13-3. The rating vs the Jags was 18-17 and the rating vs the Steelers was 13-10. The lone TD that the Ravens scored in that victory over the Steelers was on a pass from one Hall-of-Famer to a different, Cunningham to Shannon Sharpe. Wait, Randall Cunningham will not be within the Hall-of-Fame. That’s BS. He needs to be. {end of short rant}

Stoney Case was the backup QB for the Lions in 2000. He began one game for them that yr (game 1) and the Lions would beat the Saints 14-10. The 2000 Saints finished the season 10-6 with Jeff Blake and Aaron Brooks as their QBs. Case could have not had a protracted profession within the NFL, but he’ll at all times have among the best names in NFL history.

Like Cunningham, Neil O’Donnell was also still hanging across the league as a backup on the turn of the century. He was the backup QB for the Titans in 2000 and he began one game for them, against the Steelers, who would finish the season 9-7. The Titans won the sport 23-20, but Neil played poorly completing 13 of 27 passes for 237 yards but with 3 interceptions.

Danny Wuerffel was also still hanging on within the NFL in 2002 as a backup QB. He began 4 games for his old college coach, Steve Spurrier, while in Washington that yr winning one against the 2002 Titans who finished the season 11-5. Washington won the sport, 31-14, but that wasn’t Wuerfful’s doing. He only threw three passes in the sport. Former Bronco, Patrick Ramsey would play the vast majority of the sport at QB for Washington and play fairly well. Ramsey had too many starts in his profession (24) to be included on this study.

Scott Covington had a brief profession as a backup QB within the NFL. He was allowed to start out the week 17 game for the Rams against the 49ers in 2002, but he was pulled for ineffectiveness after completing 2 of 5 passes for 7 yards. Jamie Martin would play the vast majority of the snaps at QB for the Rams on this meaningless 38-17 victory.

Also in 2002, Koy Detmer got a likelihood to start out for the Eagles against the 49ers, who would finish the season 10-6. Oddly enough, Detmer would get hurt within the second half of the sport and get replaced by third string QB, A.J. Feeley. Feeley would start 5 games in 2002 for the Eagles before he can be replaced by the unique starter, Donovan McNabb, once the Eagles reached the playoffs. With 18 profession starts this century, Feeley just missed being included on this study.

Todd Collins had one season as a starting QB within the NFL (1997), but he was within the league for twelve seasons mostly as a backup. This century, he began three games in 2007 for Washington and one game for Chicago in 2010. His team won all 4 games. What’s amazing is that only one in every of those wins was a against a nasty team (the 2010 Panthers who were 2-14). The three wins against good teams were all in 2007, against the 10-6 Giants, the 8-8 Vikings and the 13-3 Cowboys. The Giants won the Super Bowl that season. Collins was playing for a Washington team that finished the season 9-7 despite having the outdated Joe Gibbs at head coach and the overmatched Jason Campbell as the first starting QB.

Quinn Gray began for the Jags and beat each the Bucs and the Titans in 2007. The Bucs finished the season 9-7 and the Titans finished 10-6. Gray’s play in each games with not superb (7/16 for 100 yards and 1 TD, 13/23 for 101 yards and 1 TD), but he didn’t lose either game by turning the ball over. The Jags won 24-23 over the Bucs and 28-13 over the Titans.

The 2010 season saw 4 “good” teams lose to “bad” backup QBs.

Dennis Dixon led the Steelers to a game one victory over a Falcons team that will finish 13-3. The Steelers D deserves the credit for the win though, but holding the Falcons to 9 points. Dixon was starting instead of suspended Ben Roethlisberger, who received a four-game suspension for rape.

Joe Webb led the Vikings to per week 16 victory over the Eagles who would finish 10-6 on the season. The Vikings won the sport 24-14 but a number of the credit for the win has to go to the Viking defense which forced three turnovers. Webb actually played fairly well, but this may be one in every of only 4 starts during his ten yr profession as a backup.

Max Hall led the Cardinals to a 30-20 victory over the Saints who would finish the season 11-5. The Cardinals’ offense would only be accountable for one TD throughout the game and that will be on a two yard drive. So while Hall didn’t pay terribly, he definitely didn’t “win” the sport for Arizona. The opposite two Arizona touchdowns can be a fumble return and a pick-six.

The fourth backup to beat team in 2010 was Stephen McGee. This one comes with an enormous asterisk. McGee was given the week 17 start for the Cowboys against the Eagles who would don’t have anything to play for since their playoff spot and seeding was already secured. Neither team played many if any starters. The Eagles similarly began their backup QB, Kevin Kolb. While the Cowboys would win 14-13, McGee would have little to do with the victory. He accomplished 11/27 passes for 127 yards and 1 TD. The opposite Cowboy touchdown in the sport would come from a DeMarcus Ware fumble return.

Tyler Palko can be forced to start out 4 games for the 2011 Chiefs, who would fire Todd “handshake” Haley throughout the season. Matt Cassel was the first starter, but former Bronco, Kyle Orton, would also start three games for them that season (and beat Denver in one in every of them). Palko’s lone “win” was a 10-3 victory over the Bears who would finish 8-8. Palko would only complete 17 of 30 throws in the sport, but he can be accountable for the sport’s only TD hitting Dexter McCluster on a 38-yard throw as clock expired at the top of the primary half.

It’ stretching it a bit to call Lovie Smith’s 2011 Bears a “good” team. Not only did they lose to the Tyler Palko-led Chiefs, but they lost in time beyond regulation to the Tim Tebow Broncos. The 2011 Bears were an odd team, winning five straight games at one point after which losing five straight. They’d finish the season third within the NFC North and miss the playoffs.

Chase Daniel had one game where he began and beat a “good” team. That may be in 2014 when he began for the Chiefs against a Chargers team that will finish the season 9-7. But here’s the catch, it was week 17, and KC had nothing to play for having already secured their spot within the playoffs. They began Daniel and let Alex Smith rest. Daniel didn’t do anything to win the sport, but he also didn’t really do anything to lose the sport as KC won 19-7 largely on the strength of their defense which turned the Chargers over thrice in the sport.

You have got to go all of the strategy to 2020 before you discover the following instance this century of a nasty backup beating team, however it happened twice in 2020. Ryan Finley made one start replacing injured former Bronco Brandon Allen, who was replacing injured Joe Burrow. Finley began in a game that the Bengals would win 27-17 over the Steelers who would finish the season 12-4. Finley would complete 7 of 13 passes for 89 yards and one TD, but he would run for 48 yards and one other TD. The Bengals defense would hold PIT to 244 yards of offense and force three turnovers.

That very same yr, John Wolford would get per week 17 start for the Rams against a Cardinals team that will finish the season 8-8. Wolford would play okay, but this an one other game that actually needs an asterisk as neither team played their starters much if in any respect. Kyler Murray only played a number of series for the Cardinals. Wolford would finish with with 231 passing yards, 1 INT and 56 rushing yards because the Rams would win 15-9 in a game that had nearly as many penalties as points. Neither team had anything to play for on this one and the sport was treated as such.

That bring us as much as 2021, a yr during which we saw two backup QBs beat good teams.

Mike White led the Jets to a 34-31 victory over the AFC champion Bengals that finished the regular season 10-7. White accomplished 37 of 45 throws for 405 yards, 3 TDs and a couple of picks. This was per week after he got put in during garbage time when Zach Wilson imploded. Like most backups who’ve an awesome game (and even game), White was exposed two weeks later when he threw 4 picks in a 17-45 loss to the Bills.

One other backup who had his “one shining moment” in 2021 was P.J. Walker. Walker would make his second profession start against the Cardinals in week ten of last season. Walker’s Panthers would stomp the Cardinals 34-10, but a lot of the credit should go to the Panther defense which held the Cardinals to 169 yards of total offense and compelled two turnovers. Walker would complete 22 of 29 throws for 169 yards and one pick, however the Panther ground game and defense would rule the sport. Oddly enough, Cam Newton can be the red zone QB on this game account for 2 touchdowns (one passing and one rushing).

While this may have been impressive if the Panthers defense had been capable of do that to Kyler Murray, they didn’t. Murray was hurt so the Cardinals were starting Colt McCoy at QB. When it turn into a blowout, they even played their third sting QB, Chris Streveler.


So while untested backup QB beating “good” teams has happened more often than I expected, lots of the 22 instances when this has happened this century require an asterisk. So the truism still holds – backup QBs don’t beat good teams within the NFL, with very rare exceptions.

The opposite side of that is that if this happens to your team after they are “good”, the terrible memory of the sport gets seared into your brain. Take into consideration Orton leading the Chiefs to victory over the 2011 Broncos when the playoffs were on the road in week 17. In case you don’t remember, the Broncos lost 7-3 with Tebow completing 6 of twenty-two throws for 60 yards with one interception. The Bronco offense had 216 rushing yards and 50 net passing yards. While the Broncos stilled one way or the other backed their way into the playoffs, that loss was painful.

One other game that was similar and may also be seared into your brains prefer it is in mine was the 2019 loss in Denver where Patrick Mahomes hurt himself and Matt Moore got here in and led KC to a snug 30-6 win.

In fact you may also remember the sport from last season, during which, former Bronco, Case Keenum, who was the backup to Baker Mayfield, led the Browns and their fifth string RB to a 17-14 victory over the Broncos. D’Ernest Johnson got here into that game with 120 total offensive snaps in his profession and embarrassed the Bronco run defense to the tune of twenty-two carries for 146 yards. The Browns dominated the time of possession (36-23) largely as a consequence of the Bronco’ defense’ inability to stop the run.


Which QB would you somewhat have because the backup QB in your team?

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    The old veteran who can’t cut it as a starter anymore but could up to now

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    The highly drafted bust who never made it as a starter

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    The mid-to-late round draftee who never got an actual likelihood to be “the guy”

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    The undrafted QB who has been living on practice squads or playing within the USFL

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