The Philadelphia Eagles were off to their best start in years and sitting atop a surprisingly competitive NFC East when the absolute worst thing happened to them that could happen to a football team. They lost Nick Foles, their starting quarterback, to a broken collarbone for 6-8 weeks.
That is almost always a death blow for teams. There is no more important position in the game — really in all of sports — than the quarterback.
It’s a good thing the Eagles had one of the best backups in the league.
Seriously, say what you want about Mark Sanchez, but few other teams can call on a former starter who twice took a team to a championship game when an emergency arises. A quick look around the NFL shows that most NFL teams employ no-names or has-beens with questionable pedigrees in the backup job. For most teams that doesn’t matter. But when a team looks like a contender and needs a temporary fill in? The backup quarterback suddenly becomes the most important player in the world.
So with that in mind, here’s a quick look at the backup quarterback position on all 32 NFL teams, ranked in order of best to worst …
1. Indianapolis Colts: Matt Hasselbeck — He’s 39 and hasn’t started a game since 2012, but he once led the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl. No other backup QB in football can say they did that.
2. Philadelphia Eagles: Mark Sanchez — He rarely had much talent around him with the Jets, yet he helped them to two AFC championship games. He’s also only 27 with a whole lot to prove.
3. Oakland Raiders: Matt Schaub — The Raiders brought him in to be the starter before they drafted Derek Carr. He’s only two years removed from a pretty good season in Houston.
4. Green Bay Packers: Matt Flynn — Once he was such an accomplished backup he earned a huge contract from the Seahawks. But three teams later, he can’t seem to make it outside of Green Bay.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Campbell — Only 32, he was once a promising starter in Washington. Then his career died in Oakland. But he has started 79 games.
6. Miami Dolphins: Matt Moore — Had a decent year starting for a bad Dolphins team in 2011, then never really got another chance to start.
7 .Washington Redskins: Colt McCoy/Kirk Cousins— Both briefly looked like the best backups in the NFL, and Cousins can be at times, but both have penchant for big mistakes.
8. Carolina Panthers: Derek Anderson— He had a great season in Cleveland in 2007, which was a long, long time ago.
9. Arizona Cardinals: Drew Stanton— A journeyman who hadn’t thrown a pass since 2010, Stanton filled in nicely when Carson Palmer was out for three games. Cards went 2-1 and Stanton didn’t throw an interception.
10. Seattle Seahawks: Tarvaris Jackson— Went from bad starter in Minnesota to mediocre in Seattle, but has a big arm and experience for spot starts.
11. Jacksonville Jaguars: Chad Henne— Has a history of mediocre performances on bad teams. A perfect hold-the-fort guy for a contender, which the Jags are not.
12. Dallas Cowboys: Brandon Weeden— He’d be considered a former first rounder with tons of potential, if he wasn’t already 31 in just his third NFL season.
13. Buffalo Bills: E.J. Manuel— A deposed starter with a future, but after being benched for Kyle Orton he needs to have his confidence rebuilt.
14. Tennessee Titans: Zach Mettenberger— A sixth-round rookie out of LSU, he’s taken over for the benched and disappointing Jake Locker. Threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns in his first start.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh McCown— Threw 13 touchdowns and just one interception in five starts for Chicago last season, but washed out as the Opening Day starter with the Bucs.
16. New Orleans Saints: Luke McCown— A 33-year-old journeyman whose last touchdown pass came in 2007.
17. New York Jets: Geno Smith— Awful as a starter, he lost his job to a shaky Mike Vick, and it’ll be hard for the Jets to go back to him now.
18. St. Louis Rams: Shaun Hill— Their entire quarterback situation is a mess and this 34-year-old career backup doesn’t help.
19. San Diego Chargers: Kellen Clemens— He was once the future of the New York Jets. Now he’s just hanging around at age 31.
20. San Francisco 49ers: Blaine Gabbert— Still only 25 after going bust as Jacksonville’s last franchise quarterback. Trying to revive his career with a better team.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers: Bruce Gradkowski— A backup for almost his entire nine-year career, he’s barely touched the ball in the last four seasons.
22. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder— An awful first-round pick and former starter, he’s just playing out his contract in Minnesota.
23. Atlanta Falcons: T.J. Yates— Played well as a starter for Houston in 2011 until his three-interception playoff meltdown. Hasn’t started a game since.
24. Detroit Lions: Dan Orlovsky— In his ninth NFL season despite only having thrown a pass in four of them.
25. Houston Texans: Ryan Mallett— Acquired from New England in an offseason trade, he’ll make his first start on Sunday. Has completed one pass in four NFL seasons.
26. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel— So much hype and so much potential, but scouts remain split on whether he’s actually got NFL tools. The way Brian Hoyer is playing, we may not find out until next year.
27. New York Giants: Ryan Nassib— Scouts like his arm and IQ, but he’ll never get a shot behind the durable Eli Manning. Couldn’t have landed in a worse spot.
28. New England Patriots: Jimmy Garoppolo— Is the second-round pick from Eastern Illinois the heir-apparent to 37-year-old Tom Brady? Depends on when Brady decides he’s done.
29. Kansas City Chiefs – Chase Daniel— Made his first career start in last year’s season finale. Wasn’t bad in narrow loss to Chagers.
30. Baltimore Ravens: Tyrod Taylor— Former sixth-round pick has stuck around behind Joe Flacco mostly because he doesn’t have to play. When he has played a little, he’s been very mediocre.
31. Denver Broncos: Brock Osweiler— Broncos know they’re done if Peyton Manning gets injured, so the backup doesn’t matter. They just hope the 23-year-old picks up some good tips.
32. Chicago Bears: Jimmy Clausen— Was pretty bad as a rookie starter in Carolina in 2010. No reason to think he’d be any different now.
—By Ralph Vacchiano