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Clipboard Legends: Ranking The Best Backup QBs in NFL History

Joshua Dobbs - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

Football is a brutal sport where injuries are inevitable and sometimes devastating. When a star quarterback goes down, the team's fate rests on the shoulders of their backup. Some backups rise to the occasion, while others crumble under the pressure. Some made history with their performances.

Backup quarterbacks should be more appreciated as they play a vital role in the success of any team. They must be ready immediately, with little practice time and limited chemistry with the starters. They deal with high expectations, harsh criticism, and fierce competition. It requires patience and mental toughness.

Certain backup quarterbacks have become legends, leading their teams to championships, breaking records, and earning accolades. Others have become folk heroes, stepping up in clutch situations, overcoming adversity, and inspiring their teammates. And some have become both. Let's rank the top 10 backup quarterbacks in NFL history.

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1. Frank Reich

Recently fired Carolina Panthers head coach Frank Reich boasts a remarkable history of leading comebacks in college and the NFL. Reich's unparalleled ability to perform under pressure made him a reliable fallback option for his teams.

Reich led the Bills to the largest comeback in NFL history when they defeated the Houston Oilers after being down 32 points in the AFC Playoffs, cementing his legacy.

Reich solidified his reputation as a clutch performer by demonstrating exceptional skill in keeping crucial drives alive. Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian, who drafted Reich, went so far as to label him the most excellent backup quarterback in NFL history.

 

2. Nick Foles

Nick Foles emerged as a formidable force in Super Bowl LII when he took over for the sidelined Carson Wentz, steering the Philadelphia Eagles to a triumphant win over the New England Patriots. His stellar performance in the championship game earned him the coveted Super Bowl MVP award.

Foles' capacity to shine under pressure and demonstrate prowess in the red zone highlighted his status as an exceptional backup quarterback who outshone the greatest QB of all time on the grandest stages.

 

3. Earl Morrall

Often overlooked during his career, Earl Morrall emerged as a critical player, earning the league MVP award in 1968 when he seamlessly took over for the injured Johnny Unitas. Steering the Baltimore Colts to a Super Bowl, Morrall showcased his prowess throughout his 21-season career.

He secured Super Bowl rings with the Miami Dolphins and the Colts. Renowned for his intelligence and efficiency, Morrall excelled at minimizing turnovers and capitalizing on every opportunity that came his way.

 

4. Doug Flutie

Doug Flutie is a captivating figure in NFL history. His two-decade career left a mark beyond the ordinary. Renowned for his exceptional mobility and imaginative playing style, Flutie emerged as one of the premier scrambling quarterbacks of his era. Yet, his impact extends far beyond conventional metrics, as his unorthodox plays, including a memorable drop-kick extra point, underscored Flutie's unparalleled versatility and innovative approach, setting him apart in the pantheon of quarterbacks who transcended traditional norms and left an enduring legacy on the game.

 

5. Jeff Hostetler

Jeff Hostetler left an indelible mark on the NFL, solidifying his place in history when he steered the New York Giants to an unexpected triumph in Super Bowl XXV. Thrust into the spotlight after Phil Simms' late-season injury in 1990, Hostetler showcased a remarkable blend of reliability and clutch play, earning a reputation as a skilled quarterback who thrived in high-pressure moments. Throughout his 10-year career, Hostetler's ability to deliver in critical situations became his hallmark, transcending mere statistics to establish himself as one of the premier backup quarterbacks in the league.

 

6. Tommy Maddox

Tommy Maddox's remarkable journey in the NFL began in 1992, and after four years as a backup, he temporarily left the league. However, in 2001, he returned triumphantly, securing the XFL MVP award.

The following year, Maddox joined the Pittsburgh Steelers and made an immediate impact, guiding them to a division title and earning the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. Notable for his aggressiveness and efficiency, Maddox's story underscores his resilience and influence as a comeback player.

 

7. Bubby Brister

Despite not being a household name, Bubby Brister significantly contributed to the Denver Broncos' success in 1998 by stepping in for John Elway as needed. While his career numbers might only capture attention after a more thorough examination, Brister was consistent and efficient. His reliability and productivity as a backup quarterback were evident from the importance of his contributions to the team's overall success.

 

8. Charlie Batch

Charlie Batch has two Super Bowl rings from his tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Beyond the hardware, Batch's prowess is evident in his ability to perform under pressure, exemplified by an impressive completion percentage in crucial moments and a knack for efficiency in the red zone. His reliable and clutch performer role significantly influenced the Steelers' success throughout the 2000s and early 2010s, leaving an indelible mark on the team's storied history.

 

9. Steve DeBerg

Steve DeBerg, celebrated for his adaptability and veteran experience, enjoyed a remarkable 17-season career across six teams. As a backup quarterback, he proved invaluable, showcasing precision on the field. DeBerg's talent lay in seamlessly adapting to diverse offensive systems and collaborating with teammates, illustrating his versatility as a quarterback.

DeBerg's adaptability emerged as a defining trait throughout his enduring and successful tenure, leaving a lasting impact on the NFL without relying on statistical measures alone.

 

10. Don Strock

Don Strock's memorable playoff performance in 1982 during the AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Miami Dolphins and the San Diego Chargers highlighted his ability to thrive under pressure. Stepping in for the injured starting quarterback, David Woodley, Strock played a crucial role in guiding the Dolphins to success.

His adept handling of the game showcased a quarterback who could make impactful plays when it mattered most. The significance of his contribution in that pivotal game suggests a knack for delivering under high-stakes conditions.

 

Concluding Thoughts

Deciding on the ultimate backup quarterback in NFL history is undoubtedly subjective as it involves weighing various factors, from standout performances in critical moments to the overall impact on a team's success. As this debate sparks conversations among football enthusiasts, it's essential to consider the nuanced qualities that define a great backup -- adaptability, composure under pressure, and the ability to step into the spotlight when the starter falters seamlessly.

Your perspective on the matter adds a valuable layer to this ongoing dialogue, so don't hesitate to share your thoughts and insights, contributing to the ever-evolving narrative of backup quarterbacks in the rich history of the NFL.



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