I have always hated the saying “If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one.” I don’t think it was bad for the San Francisco 49’ers to have Joe Montana & Steve Young. When Montana went down, Young stepped in & went on to a Hall of Fame career. It was tense at times when Aaron Rodgers backed up Brett Favre & it ended poorly, but can anyone say having the two of them on the team meant that they didn’t have a good quarterback?
Having a solid backup is important. It is rare for something to work out like Tom Brady coming off the bench when Drew Bledsoe was injured or Kurt Warner coming in for Trent Green. You definitely need at least a Matt Cassel in 2008 level backup if you have a team that wants to compete for the Super Bowl (& that team didn’t make the playoffs).
This week we have seen two teams that didn’t have a competent replacement & one that did. Case Keenum will probably never be an All Pro, but he is a competent quarterback. Seeing the Vikings win this year with essentially their 3rd stringer is a testament to their team, their coaching, & their front office. It isn’t always pretty, but Keenum is completing 63.9% of his passes & while he only has 7 touchdown passes, he only has 3 interceptions. He’s on pace to pass for a little more than 3,000 yards. That won’t win any personal awards, but it keeps the team in games & as good as their defense is, they will always have a chance.
On the other side of the spectrum, I watched Tom Savage & Brett Hundley play this week & they both failed to pass a basic eye test of quarterback competence. They both took too long to get the ball out. They both threw balls far enough out of bounds that they didn’t give their receivers a shot at catching the ball. They both threw late & behind the receiver. Savage is probably more disappointing because he got starter snaps during the preseason & started the first Texan game. It truly makes me wonder what the Texans were seeing in preseason. How could they have seen this & thought for a second that Savage was the best option. Deshaun Watson had the team averaging over 30 points a game before he got hurt & the rest of the starting cast is basically the same. Football is a team sport & you never want to give one player too much credit or too much blame, but it is pretty easy to see where the problem is here. The Hundley situation is a little different. Rogers got most of the reps & Hundley was never expected to play. The result is the same though. Both teams had a chance at some post season success & losing one player seems to have doomed them (obviously the Texans have lots of injuries, but they looked like a playoff team until this week).
As awful as the Colts are, they now have a solid starting quarterback with starter Andrew Luck gone for the season. I certainly think they should have acted sooner, but after seeing Scott Tolzein in action for one game, they traded for Jacoby Brissett. Brissett would have been better with more prep time. He went from 3rd stringer for the New England Patriots to starter for the Colts. He has passed the eye test. Even though he hasn’t had the time to develop connections with his receivers, he is still playing fast & has completed 61.1% of his passes with 7 touchdowns & 4 interceptions. He has an 85.6 passer rating & is on track to throw for 4,000 yards. The Colts were wrong to go into the season thinking Tolzein would work, but at least they owned up to it.
The Texans haven’t. They signed Matt McGloin & T.J. Yates to back up Savage. Neither is particularly impressive. Yates has a background with the Texans & his claim to fame is that he quarterbacked the team to its first ever playoff win. The truth is that he was terrible in that game & played terrible in losing the playoff game the next week. He has a 72.8 career passer rating & has thrown 2 more interceptions than touchdowns in his career. Matt McGloin played for coach Bill O’Brien in college, so he had familiarity. It didn’t help. He was cut. Recently, when asked about Colin Kaepernick, coach O’Brian said “Colin Kaepernick is a good football player, hasn’t played in a while.” Now they have signed Josh Johnson, who last threw a pass in an NFL game in 2011. Johnson sports a 54.2% career completion rating, which is similar to his 57.7 passer rating. He has thrown 5 touchdowns & 10 interceptions for his career.
I was never really a Colin Kaepernick fan. I felt like he had regressed to a one read & then run quarterback. He is a 59.8% career completions passer with 60% considered the minimum for a quality quarterback. With Hundley at 55.1% for his career & Savage at 55% (45.6% this year), though, 59.8% is starting to look good. On the political front, while I agree with some of Kaepernick’s positions, I thought his protest was poorly done & I can’t respect someone who doesn’t like election results, but refuses to vote. “I think it would be hypocritical of me to vote,” Kaepernick said. “I’d said from the beginning I was against oppression, I was against a system of oppression. I’m not going to show support for that system. And, to me, the oppressor isn’t going to allow you to vote your way out of your oppression. (CSN)” That being said, he has donated a million dollars to good causes & being a dumbass has never been an impediment to a job in the national football league.
Kaepernick is a slightly above average quarterback who can make some plays with his legs. If he is your starter for a year, he will throw for a little more than 3,000 yards & he will get you a 7/3 touchdown to interception ratio. His career passer rating is 88.9. The league average is 83.2. Despite coming close to winning a Super Bowl, you probably shouldn’t count on him as the key factor to get you to one. He won’t hurt you though. Right now, I think that he is better than 11 quarterbacks who are currently starting. That sounds about right for his talent level. He is someone who would hover between the 20th -25th best quarterback in the NFL. That’s not great, but it beats the alternative. It really tests my belief in the NFL as a meritocracy that no one will sign him.
I think that the best move would be for the Houston Texans to sign Kaepernick. I know that many Texans fans hate him because of his political beliefs & would make a lot of noise about boycotting games (which are already sold out). I’m sure someone would get on local TV burning some Texans gear. That’s a given. There are a lot of fans that might be conservative, but hate to see their team lose. I think that if Kaepernick came in & played average for him, that the Texans have a solid chance to win 5 more games & possibly 6. The offense that the Texans were running with Watson was somewhat simplified & Watson was able to use his legs when protection broke down. That sounds like a prescription for Kaepernick to succeed. They have won the division twice in a row at 9-7 & it could happen again. That would mean more money for the owner & a lot more fun for the fans. Speaking of the owner, this could be a positive move for him. First, it would probably be a get out of jail card (so to speak) for his bad image thanks to his recent “can’t have inmates running the prison” quote. It would also most likely shut down Kaepernick’s collusion lawsuit against the NFL. It would be hard to prove collusion if he gets a chance to start for the Texans. I don’t know if McNair would get anything besides a pat on the back from the other owners for ending the lawsuit, but it couldn’t hurt.
The nice thing here is that this could be a win/win for everyone. Kaepernick would get a legitimate chance to show that he can still be an effective NFL starter. If he wins, he can go somewhere else next year with a chance to start, or stay & make decent money as a backup & the Texans won’t have to worry about screwing up the position if Watson has trouble coming back from his second ACL tear. On the other hand, if he plays poorly, Bob McNair & the Texans can say that they did their best to field a winning team, the collusion lawsuit goes away & takes Kaepernick with it. Then we can all quit reading about how he deserves a chance because he will have gotten one.
I’m not advocating this because I have strong political beliefs about Kaepernick. I don’t. I have strong feelings about football though, & watching Savage & Hundley play this week was just miserable!
One final thought on quarterbacks & miserable football; wow the Browns suck. Having two good quarterbacks doesn’t mean that you don’t have one. Having three crummy quarterbacks that you regularly yank from games means that you don’t have one good one, or that your coach has no clue, or both. At least the Packers & Texans can take consolation in knowing that they will never approach the futility of the Cleveland Factory of Sadness.