St. Louis Rams fans seem concerned about the backup quarterback situation behind starter Sam Bradford. The consensus viewpoint is that should Bradford go down, the Rams will be hurting. You know what? That's right. You know what else? That's true in almost every other NFL city, too.
It's true that neither Kellen Clemens nor Austin Davis have wowed fans during the preseason. Their performances have ensured that St. Louis will be one NFL town without a quarterback controversy. But the days when Bob Griese gave way to Earl Morrall or Terry Hanratty took over for Terry Bradshaw are long gone. The economics of paying quarterbacks just doesn't allow teams to carry two experienced, quality signal callers any more.
Only five NFL teams have backup quarterbacks with playoff experience. That counts the New York Jets if Geno Smith beats out Mark Sanchez, and Green Bay if Vince Young sticks. Only two, Indianapolis (Matt Hasselbeck) and Washington (3rd stringer Rex Grossman) have quarterbacks who have ever played in a Super Bowl.
Most teams, like the Rams, rely on inexpensive journeymen, like Matt Moore in Miami, or undervalued youngsters like Tyler Yates in Houston. Clemens and Davis fill both of those categories.
No city knows the value of backup quarterbacks better than St. Louis. Kurt Warner came off the bench not just to save the season after Trent Green went down, but to embark upon a Super Bowl-winning and probable Hall of Fame career. Rams fans experienced the other side of that equation when Warner, now an established star in his own right, was out-gunned by a sixth round backup in New England named Tom Brady.
Two things are true when it comes to backup quarterbacks:
1. You pray you never need them. Teams don't want a quarterback controversy, so most purposefully go with a much lesser quality backup to promote the permanence of the starter. Unless the starter is struggling (see Mark Sanchez), teams won't bring in a good quarterback to challenge him.
Indianapolis spent years praying Jim Sorgi and Curtis Painter wouldn't have to come in for Peyton Manning. Until 2011, those plans worked, with Manning guiding the offense and Sorgi and Painter looking good in ball caps and holding clipboards. When Painter actually had to play, the Colts went 2-14.
That's true now in Denver with Manning. The only hope the Oakland Raiders have of escaping the AFC West basement is if Manning goes down and Brock Osweiler has to run Denver's offense. Sure, John Elway will tell you how impressive the kid is, but when the cameras are off, Elway is saying rosaries and stuffing four leaf clovers in his pocket to ward off any bad mojo that might befall Manning.
If the Rams have to use Clemens for any extended time this season…well we've seen that before. It's not pretty.
2. You never know who the next Warner or Brady will be until they get in the game. Had Rodney Harrison not cheap-shot Trent Green, chances are Kurt Warner remains a backup and never gets his chance. Same thing in New England. Had Drew Bledsoe had enough sense to get out of bounds instead of getting nailed by a Jets' linebacker, Tom Brady would be below Jim Harbaugh on the list of mediocre Michigan quarterbacks in the pros.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and sometimes she gives birth to Hall of Fame quarterbacks. It happens about as often as having conjoined twins, but who knows? If Bradford went down, could Austin Davis guide them to the playoffs?
Let's all make sure to say an extra prayer for Sam tonight.
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