Starting quarterback is the most vital role on the football field. There's an argument to be made that a backup quarterback might be close behind. When the starter goes down, all the pressure falls on the backup's shoulders. Sometimes, the backup can enter, take over the starting role, and become the GOAT. Other times, in the case of the New York Jets, the starter will go down, and so will the hopes of his entire fanbase. The perfect backup quarterback is the mix of serviceable pro but non-threatening to the starter. With that being said, let's rank the 32 NFL backup QBs this season.
NFL backup QBs ranked
32. Brett Rypien, Los Angeles Rams
After rookie Stetson Bennett was placed on the reserve/non-football illness list by the Rams on September 13, Rypien was elevated to the role of backup quarterback. The Rams are putting a lot of stock in Matthew Stafford staying healthy, as Rypien didn't impress in backup duty with the Denver Broncos last season. He went 1-1 filling in for Russell Wilson as a starter but only threw for 483 yards on 88 attempts, with two touchdowns and four interceptions.
31. Jake Browning, Cincinnati Bengals
Browning may have found himself in the last spot on these rankings, but his lack of experience helped him. We can't confirm that Browning will struggle like we can with Rypien since Browning has attempted one pass in his NFL career. Good news, Cincinnati fans! We might learn how good (or bad) Browning is as Joe Burrow battles through a recurring calf injury.
30. Tyson Bagent, Chicago Bears
Things can't go much worse for the Chicago Bears. Their defensive coordinator resigned amid some drama, Justin Fields called out the coaches, and someone robbed equipment from their facility. While Fields has received criticism for his performance this season, it is unlikely that the Bears will bring Division II graduate Tyson Bagent off the bench. He does hold the record for touchdown passes across all NCAA divisions, and the Bears moved him ahead of Nathan Peterman on the depth chart. With the way the Bears season is going, anything is possible.
29. Sean Clifford, Green Bay Packers
Clifford is an older rookie in the league as a 25-year-old. He started 46 games at Penn State over five seasons, so the experience is there. However, questions are raised over his ability to perform at the NFL level and adjust to the speed. Also, Jordan Love didn't wait behind Aaron Rodgers for years to relinquish the job to Clifford. While he is a fine backup, Clifford will likely never be anything more than one of the NFL backup QBs.
28. Kyle Allen, Buffalo Bills
Allen gave the Panthers a serviceable 5-7 record in 2019 after Cam Newton suffered a season-ending foot injury. He was the first undrafted quarterback to win his first four starts since Kurt Warner in 1999. Allen finished the season 1-7, and his record as a starter is 3-12 since. Let's hope for Buffalo's sake that Josh Allen's reckless rushing attempts don't come back to haunt them.
27. Kyle Trask, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Trask was in the running to be the starting quarterback and replacement for Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. After a 2-0 start with Baker Mayfield at the helm, the Buccaneers are likely satisfied with their decision. Trask having a chance at the job means that Tampa Bay's coaching staff has faith in him, but he's better off backing up for a bit longer.
26. Easton Stick, LAC
The North Dakota State University product has thrown one pass in his five-year NFL career. After the departure of Chase Daniel, he is now the backup to Justin Herbert. He is the winningest quarterback in NCAA history and a four-time FCS Champion, but it's hard to know if that'll carry over to the NFL.
25. Malik Willis, TEN
Willis had a lot of support before replacing an injured Ryan Tannehill last season. His performance didn't do much for the supporters, as he looked lost in his three games. He now has second-round draft pick Will Levis breathing down his neck and could see his backup role disappear.
24. Josh Dobbs, ARI
Dobbs has taken over the starting role in Arizona while Kyler Murray rehabs his ACL injury. Murray aims to return this season, but a tanking Cardinals organization may not rush him back. If they are done with the Murray experiment and want to get Caleb Williams in the 2024 NFL Draft, why not leave Dobbs there to lose?
23. Zach Wilson, NYJ
As referenced in the introduction, the Jets were dealt a blow on the first drive of the season when Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon. Zach Wilson was thrown back into the role he had taken away from him in the offseason, leading the team to an unlikely win. His three interceptions in a Week 2 loss did a better job of showing why he lost the job in the first place and became one of the NFL backup QBs.
22. Brian Hoyer, LVR
Hoyer is best known as Tom Brady's favorite backup quarterback, seemingly sharing the best connection with Brady out of all his backups. Bill Belichick is also a fan of Hoyer. However, he was a good quarterback behind the reliable Brady, but it's hard to see him being valuable to the Raiders. If Jimmy Garoppolo falters, Hoyer hasn't won a game since 2016 and is on an 11-game losing streak when having starter duties.
21. Blaine Gabbert, KC
After three years as Tom Brady's backup, Gabbert heads to Kansas City to back up another superstar. He's a good backup for knowing the game and providing support, but he hasn't seen much game action. The Chiefs are happy he is their backup and hope it stays that way.
20. Bailey Zappe, NE
Patriots fans were beginning to think that Zappe was the next Tom Brady when he burst onto the scene last season. They were then surprised to see him released in training camp. Belichick brought him back as the backup to Mac Jones but will now fight with Will Grier for that spot.
19. Nick Mullens, MIN
Mullens was the talk of the league in 2018 and 2020 when he put forth 16 starts for the injury-riddled 49ers. His efforts were praise-worthy, but he couldn't stick as the starter. Will Mullens finally get his chance as a starter again as trade rumors swirl around Kirk Cousins?
18. Cooper Rush, DAL
Rush is another player like Mullens who made a big impression filling in for his injured starter. When Dak Prescott went down in 2021-2022, Rush went a combined 5-1. Rush tallied 1,475 passing yards, eight touchdowns, and only four interceptions. If Rush is needed, he can perform an admirable job.
17. Drew Lock, SEA
Lock reached a deal with the Seattle Seahawks in 2022 with the understanding that he was their starter. After three preseason games, Geno Smith was given the role, and Lock didn't play one snap the entire season. His stats in Denver show that he can be a serviceable replacement, but it's Geno's job to lose.
16. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, CLE
Thompson-Robinson had the most impressive showing out of any quarterback in the preseason. He was a factor through the air and on the ground, beating out Josh Dobbs as the backup in training camp. Deshaun Watson's contract makes it near-impossible for Cleveland to give DTR a shot, but that isn't saying he doesn't deserve one.
15. Mike White, MIA
White's 2-5 record as a starter with 12 interceptions isn't the best stat to lean on, but he was fearless in replacing Zach Wilson as a New York Jet. With the injury uncertainty surrounding Tua Tagovailoa, White could be put into action at any time, and he has the experience to do it.
14. Mitch Trubisky, PIT
Trubisky held off Kenny Pickett for five weeks last season before eventually giving away the starting position. He is still one of the most serviceable NFL backup QBs and can lead a team when called upon, but he doesn't have what it takes to be given full-time duties.
13. Davis Mills, HOU
Mills was a solid performer in two years as a starter with the Texans. Despite limited weapons around him, Mills tallied 5,782 passing yards, 33 touchdowns, and 25 interceptions. Heading into this year's training camp, C.J. Stroud had the upper hand on being named starter, but Mills is a good option if the rookie begins to falter.
12. Jarrett Stidham, DEN
Stidham is one of the well-paid backup quarterbacks in the league, as Sean Payton is a fan of what he brings. Despite the vote of confidence from Denver, he is only 0-2 as a starter in his career. Many experts, including Chris Simms from Pro Football Talk, believe Stidham is a borderline starting quarterback.
11. C.J. Beathard, JAX
It's hard to decide if Beathard is a great quarterback or a system of Kyle Shanahan's ability to get the most out of his signal-callers. In six appearances in 2020 for the 49ers, Beathard threw for 787 passing yards, six touchdowns, and zero interceptions. The Jaguars hope that Beathard won't have a reason to prove himself, so it might not matter.
10. Marcus Mariota, PHI
Mariota finally got the opportunity to be a starter again last season when he took over the Atlanta Falcons job. He didn't do well, going 5-8 with 2,219 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. When he was benched for Desmond Ridder and released by the Falcons after the season, the writing was on the wall. Mariota again had to sign to be a backup, this time to Jalen Hurts.
9. Tyler Huntley, BAL
Huntley was a Pro Bowl choice for his efforts in 2022. Huntley helped lead the Ravens to the playoffs when Lamar Jackson went down with an injury. He had only 658 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, and three interceptions in six games. His greatest strength may not be throwing the ball, but he is one of the NFL backup QBs around.
8. Jameis Winston, NO
Winston may be the most confident quarterback in the NFL, as evidenced by his belief that he can make any completion. However, he is a backup now because this confidence leads to a damaging number of turnovers. If Derek Carr struggles, Jameis will be there to pick up the pieces as he has done before, but the question is whether it will lead to wins.
7. Tyrod Taylor, NYG
Taylor is one of the more experienced NFL backups QBS on this list and will provide stability in the event of a Daniel Jones injury. His record as a starter is 26-25-1, although he hasn't done that regularly since 2017. With his combination of experience and success, Taylor is one of the best backups in the league, but lately, when put into action, he has had injury problems, so he isn't as reliable.
6. Jacoby Brissett, WSH
Brissett has been a good quarterback since entering the league in 2016 and was a starter for Indianapolis for two of those seasons. He was also the starter for the Browns last season as Deshaun Watson waited out his suspension. Brissett's numbers are acceptable, with 10,350 passing yards, 48 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions in 48 starts, but his record as a starter is left to be desired. Untimely interceptions and low confidence are often his undoing and will keep him backing up Sam Howell in Washington.
5. Gardner Minshew, IND
A fan-favorite in Philadelphia and Jacksonville for his quirky personality, Minshew's numbers were highly underrated. While only sporting an 8-16 record as a starter, Minshew has thrown for 6,803 yards, 45 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. After injuries in each of the first two weeks to Anthony Richardson, Minshew has appeared in every game so far and is projected to start Week 3.
4. Teddy Bridgewater, DET
Bridgewater has too much injury history and inconsistent play to warrant getting a starting job anymore, but he can contribute well in spurts. He struggled as a starter in 2020 and 2021 with Carolina and Denver but appeared off the bench in 2019 to go 5-0 with the Saints. That is the kind of performance the Lions will be looking for if he is ever needed in Detroit.
3. Taylor Heinicke, ATL
Heinicke forced the Commanders to give him a long look as their starter after gutsy performances in 2021 and 2022. Through two seasons as a starter, Heinicke was 12-12-1, with 5,745 passing yards, 34 touchdowns, and 24 interceptions. He may not have what it takes to be a full-time starter, but if the Falcons need a jolt of energy into their offense, Heinicke will provide it.
2. Sam Darnold, SF
Kyle Shanahan can get the most out of any quarterback, as we mentioned in the C.J. Beathard section of this article. Darnold is a serviceable quarterback and was a victim of poor teams and negative media attention, more than a terrible performance as a starter. Last season, he was named a starter in Week 12 and posted a 4-2 record with 1,143 passing yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions with the Panthers. If he ever needs to come off the bench for Brock Purdy, there's no doubt the 49ers will lead him to success.
1. Andy Dalton, CAR
The long-time, successful starting quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals. If Dalton is called upon, he can deliver a solid performance. After seeing his starting job slipping away when the Bengals drafted Joe Burrow, Dalton was a backup for Dak Prescott, Jalen Hurts, and now Bryce Young. With Young out with an injury in Week 3, Dalton will be getting his first start of the season. If he performs well, will the Panthers opt to develop Young as a backup while Dalton takes the reins? It's unlikely, but he is still more than capable of doing it.