The Jacksonville Jaguars began the season feeling like Super Bowl contenders, coming off an appearance in the conference title game last year, while not losing many of their core guys. Things… haven’t exactly worked out in their favor so far. The Jags are 3-4 start and find themselves in the midst of a three-game losing streak after a 20-7 loss to the division-rival Houston Texans.
Problems abound all over the roster, but a particular area of discomfort is the quarterback spot, where Blake Bortles has continued his struggles. But, despite frustrations over Bortles play, the Jaguars find themselves stuck with him as the starter, because their backup is Cody Kessler. A year after a backup quarterback led a team to a Super Bowl victory (Nick Foles), it’s surprising to see a potential contender without a viable backup option. To get some more insight into the impact of a backup, we caught up with Inside The NFL analyst Phil Simms.
You can catch Phil, along with Boomer Esiason, Ray Lewis and host James Brown on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on Inside The NFL on Showtime.
CBS Local Sports: Last season, the Eagles showed the upside of having a legitimate backup QB who can come in and win games. Why don’t more teams follow that model?
Phil Simms: For one, there’s not enough backup quarterbacks to satisfy the whole league. But, the whole league doesn’t need backup quarterbacks, because the teams that don’t need backup quarterbacks are the ones that aren’t expected to be big-time playoff contenders or Super Bowl thoughts. So, you can go with a young quarterback, and it really doesn’t matter who is backing them up.
But, if you think you have playoff aspirations. If you think you are a big-time playoff team, then you must buy insurance. It amazes me that some teams made basically no moves to do that this offseason. How about the Minnesota Vikings? Do they have a chance to go to the Super Bowl? Yes. But, who did they go out and get? They got Trevor Siemian, a guy that has played in the league, had success, and he’s a good backup. He’s a good four or five-game stretch guy. They bought insurance.
The New Orleans Saints, with a great offense and a quarterback in Drew Brees who never misses a game. What do they do? They went out and got Teddy Bridgewater. There are guys out there. And there are other teams that decided not to get that same insurance and they’re just going to roll with one guy.
CBS Local Sports: The Patriots, on the other hand, don’t have a proven backup to the 41-year-old Tom Brady. Is Belichick one injury away from ruining a promising season?
Phil Simms: No, and I think they have proven that to us. Tom Brady missed a season, Matt Cassel came in cold and leads them to a 10-6 record. Brian Hoyer has been there before so he knows the system well. Taking nothing away from Tom Brady, Hoyer is not going to be Brady, but he is going to be good enough to go in there and win games. If Tom Brady had to miss four games, it would not shock me if they went 4-0 in the games he missed.
Could they win the Super Bowl and have a long playoff run? That’s a different story. But, in the short term, four or five games during the season I think they can survive without Tom Brady for a short period of time.
CBS Local Sports: What teams are one QB injury away from serious problems?
Phil Simms: I’ll ask you a question. Who’s the backup for the Carolina Panthers. (pause) Yeah, exactly. How about the Dallas Cowboys? They had high hopes this year. I ask football people who is the backup quarterback for this team and they go: ‘Ummmm.’ When they have no idea, that means they don’t have a requisite backup.
But, look at the Rams. Jared Goff is off to a great start this year and played well last year. Sean Mannion is their backup quarterback. He got there a year before Jared Goff did. He’s not Goff, he can’t make the same types of plays, but he does have a good arm. And, Sean McVay is really the system there. He could come in and win games and keep them in the race.
CBS Local Sports: What is the upside/downside of keeping a proven backup QB in today’s NFL?
Phil Simms: The downside is, if the starter struggles, you don’t want the fans clamoring for the backup. That is where it really falls out and why some teams have quarterbacks that they don’t want a challenger to. When the quarterback walks out on the field, you want to be the best thrower. You want to be the best thrower because it’s a confidence thing for you but also, all your teammates then have confidence in you as well. I think that’s very important.
Jim Plunkett had the greatest line ever. He got drafted by the New England Patriots and when he went left, somebody asked him if he was sad to leave. He said: ‘No, it was time to leave, because there is another guy on the team that throws it better than me.’