Backup quarterback is the one role nobody likes to think about, because typically he's only seen in two situations: the second half of a preseason game (yawn), or when the starting signal-caller is hurt.
Injuries are an inherent part of playing in the NFL. Even with the rule changes meant to better protect the big-money quarterbacks from getting hurt, it's still going to happen. It's almost unavoidable, and that's why it's always important to have quality backup option across your roster.
But what do we consider "quality" and how much is "important?"
I bring this up because some, whether here or in the sphere of social media, have expressed their concern over the Falcons' perceived lack of depth at the quarterback position. Behind Matt Ryan, we have 24-year-old Dominique Davis, Sean Renfree, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, and UDFA Jeff Matthews.
It's not exactly the most confidence-inspiring group should Matt Ryan go down, and some are justifiably worried. Then again, there are clear reasons the roster has shaped up that way this season.
"We should have signed somebody!"
Firstly, I don't think the Falcons really could have found a cost-effective upgrade in free agency. I mean, when Michael Vick is the crown jewel of the free agency class, you know your options are limited.
Sure, Thomas Dimitroff could always try and coax Vince Young out of retirement (just kidding!). But really you're not getting much of an upgrade for your money with guys of that caliber.
"But why didn't we draft someone?"
Well, the Falcons simply had too many other, more important needs to address in this year's draft. And even with as many picks as it had, the team didn't even manage to draft a tight end, let alone a backup quarterback. It just wasn't that high on the list, and rightfully so.
It would be one thing if we were talking about the Patriots, who can afford to take quarterbacks in the second and third rounds because A) Belichick stockpiles picks like a madman, and B) there aren't a whole lot of holes on their roster.
This team has many problems, but quarterback (and even quarterback depth) was not a major one. It would have been a little silly to buy the cherry but forget the ice cream and chocolate syrup (analogies!).
"But what if Ryan gets hurt?"
I don't want to jinx it or anything, but Ryan's toughness has always been one of his more underrated qualities. You all saw the way he was knocked around in the pocket last year. Didn't miss a single game.
This is a guy that's lost just two games of his entire career to injury. It would be one thing if the Falcons had invested millions into a guy that was made of glass (like Vick!), but that's clearly not the case.
And instead of investing in a backup quarterback, the Falcons made an even better move by sinking a nice chunk of money into the offensive line to keep the starting quarterback upright. Now that's solving the problem at its root.
"Why can't we ever seem to find good backups?"
That's probably because they're not exactly sitting around waiting to be signed. The best ones will usually get a shot at starting somewhere else down the line (see: Matt Flynn), while the others clearly have some sort of fundamental weakness (or weaknesses) in their game.
And especially with Ryan's fat contract and the team's needs on defense, it becomes difficult to keep up with other teams that can afford to spend a little extra on a quality backup.
Here's a look at the NFC teams that made the playoffs last year and their backup QBs for the upcoming season:
Eagles: Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley
Packers: Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien
Seahawks: Tarvaris Jackson, Terrelle Pryor
49ers: Blaine Gabbert, McLeod Bethel-Thompson
Now, outside of Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor, are any of those players a major upgrade on Dominique Davis? I think it's debatable at best. You also have to consider Renfree -- many called it a sleeper pick at the time -- of whom we have seen very little. That doesn't mean he's special, but it would be silly to already write him off, either.
So, in the end, I think it's safe to label backup quarterback a luxury for most teams. If your offense can pass protect well enough and the run game prevents the team from becoming one-dimensional, you shouldn't have to worry about the role much, anyways.
Agree? Am I completely wrong? Let's hear your thoughts.