By Laurence W. Holmes–
(CBS) Back in Week 15 of last year’s NFL season, I took a look at the quarterbacks around the entire league. The list was upsetting.
We saw Kellen Moore, Blaine Gabbert, Johnny Manziel and A.J. McCarron take snaps. It got worse in Week 17. The ghost of Josh Freeman reappeared in the same game in which someone named Alex Tanney was calling signals for the Titans. Last year, the Colts went through five quarterbacks, with the aforementioned Freeman splitting time with Ryan Lindley in the final game of the season. The Titans used three quarterbacks last season. In the same game in which Tanney played, so did Zach Mettenberger.
Backup quarterbacks matter and because of that, I think the Bears’ recent move to bring Brian Hoyer in to play behind Jay Cutler was pretty smart.
In a league in which there isn’t enough quarterback talent to go around one time, having a quality backup is difficult. The Bears got one of the only ones available. Teams are so desperate for talent that they’re drafting backups now. How else do you explain Connor Cook being taken by the Raiders to sit behind Derek Carr? Carr is Oakland’s present and future, but someone has to take the snaps if he were to go down, and he will. Even the most durable guys miss time.
Strangely enough over the last few seasons, Cutler has been one of those guys. In the past four seasons, he has played in 56 of 64 games, just shy of 88 percent of them. It would’ve been 57 if not for that ridiculous benching by Marc Trestman at the end of the 2014 season. With that in mind, if you can get insurance, you should. Hoyer provides that for Chicago.
There’s a misconception about backups, especially veterans. They’re not there to supplant the starter. They’re not there to split time. In a perfect world, they work to push your starter, keep him on his toes, help on the practice field and in the quarterback room. A backup needs to be a player who can be prepared without getting practice reps. This is why having a veteran backup is preferred to an up-and-comer. Hoyer can be ready with minimal practice snaps.
In today’s NFL, he’s arguably starter quality. Last year, Hoyer was 18th in QB rating at 91.4. Cutler, had a good year, posting a 92.3 rating. Hoyer had 19 touchdowns against seven interceptions in the regular season. What doubters will say is that he was exposed in the playoff game, where he was terrible (15-of-34 with no touchdowns and four interceptions). Those doubters have a good point, but for the most part, if your backup is starting playoff games, you’re on borrowed time anyway.
Looking around the league, even after this year’s draft, I can make the argument that Hoyer’s better than a decent percentage of presumptive starters. That’s good news for the Bears. Instead of wasting a draft pick and straddling the line between getting that rookie ready to play while also looking long term, the Bears made a move that only cost money — and it was money they had readily available.
Those draft picks are valuable, too valuable to waste on a guy who you’re hoping won’t play.
Laurence Holmes hosts the Laurence Holmes Show on 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.