While unheralded, the backup quarterback often can spell the difference between a team making the playoffs as the long, 16-game season wears on. Few QBs play every down of every game in each season, so finding the right relief arm is essential. With that in mind, the Jacksonville Jaguars better pray Nick Foles can stay healthy in 2019.
From Arena League to hall of fame
After a breakout 1998 season with the Redskins, QB Trent Green signed a lucrative $17.5 million free-agent contract with the (then) St. Louis Rams. In a preseason game against the (then) San Diego Chargers, Green suffered a season-ending knee injury after taking a hit from defensive back Rodney Harrison.
For the next man up, Kurt Warner, fate came calling. The backup, who played in NFL Europe and the Arena League, took the helm, leading the Rams to a Super Bowl victory and a spot on the NFL Hall of Fame.
Who’s the next man up after Nick Foles for the Jaguars?
While the next-man-up theory often becomes fodder for fairy tale endings, in the case of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the 2019 season is a precious one. Nick Foles, the Jag’s new $88 million signal-caller brings a lot of experience (including a Super Bowl victory) and veteran leadership to the underachieving AFC squad. Should the oft-injured Foles — currently fighting an oblique injury — be put on the sidelines for any length of time, the Jags are up the proverbial creek.
Foles’ second in command is rookie Gardner Minshew II, a rookie out of Washington State. Minshew was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2018 and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Minshew started three of the team’s four preseason games with a mediocre 54 for 96 in pass attempts for 468 yards. The former WSU star had no interceptions and no touchdowns.
Entering training camp, three hopefuls vied for the role as Foles’ backup, two of whom didn’t make the final 53-man roster. In addition to Minshew, there was Alex McGough, a former Seattle Seahawk draftee, who has yet to throw a pass in a regular-season game, and Tanner Lee, a 2019 sixth-round pick of the Jaguars out of Nebraska. The blog Big Cat Country said of Lee: “…He never showed any level of competently being able to command an NFL caliber offense and proved to be one of the worst draft selections of the Dave Caldwell/Tom Caldwell era.”
A sack attack awaits
Jacksonville’s first three games will be a test to see if Foles’ offensive line can keep him healthy. The trio of contests are against the Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans, and the Tennessee Titans. The Chiefs and Texans were in the top 10 in QB sacks in 2018, with the Titans sporting a young, hungry group on defense under second-year head coach Mike Vrabel. Vrabel, a retired former two-time defensive lineman of the year, had 57 sacks in his playing days with the Patriots, Steelers, and Chiefs.
Backup QB options abound
Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone has a tough call on his hands should Foles need to sit for an extended length of time. Luckily, some experienced QBs with NFL experience are hanging around waiting for a call:
- Colin Kaepernick: The former 49er has not played a single snap since the 2016 season. And while Kaepernick’s role as an athlete/activist is front and center (at least in the media), he could bring any team a wealth of proven talent.
- Johnny Manziel: For sure, a high-risk proposition for any team, but the former Texas A&M star who washed out of the Cleveland Browns and the Canadian Football League has a lot to prove. If Manziel has cleaned up his act, he could be more than an adequate fill-in.
- Mark Sanchez: Although the former USC great retired after a bad 2018 with the Redskins, Sanchez is only 32, so there’s a lot of tread left on his tires. Maybe not the greatest passer during his playing days, Sanchez shows the sort of leadership that is rare in a backup QB.