Faulty backup plans

Jason Cole
Yahoo! Sports

Many fans of the Washington Redskins got what they wanted this week when coach Joe Gibbs made the announcement that second-year quarterback Jason Campbell will take over as the starter for Mark Brunell.

But as teams around the NFL have seen this season, changing quarterbacks is not an immediate cure. The Redskins are the 11th team to use a quarterback other than the normal starter. The Pittsburgh Steelers were first, turning to Charlie Batch in the opener after Ben Roethlisberger had an emergency appendectomy.

And while most Redskins fans might believe that the season can't get much worse than the current 3-6 mark, the performance of most of the backup quarterbacks would indicate that it's going to be rough going forward. The 10 who have already started this season are a combined 20-27.

Here's a look at the group:

  • Charlie Batch (1-0), Pittsburgh: Batch opened the season with a bang, throwing two touchdown passes in a win over Miami before retreating to the bench. Some Steelers fans might think that Batch should be the starter again with Roethlisberger struggling so much. That's getting a little carried away. Batch is a nice backup and should stay in that spot.

  • Damon Huard (5-3), Kansas City Chiefs: Huard is the prototype backup. He's a veteran with a great disposition, which means that he will never create problems for the starter or the team. While some people think Huard should still be the starter, his limitations (for one, he doesn't have a very strong arm) eventually get exposed.

  • Tony Romo (2-1), Dallas Cowboys: Romo is the man for the Cowboys, at least for the rest of this season after Drew Bledsoe's weaknesses were exposed. Romo has taken pressure off the Dallas offensive line with his increased mobility. Despite the quarterback switch, the Cowboys are still No. 3 in the NFL in scoring with 250 points, ranking just ahead of Indianapolis (249).

  • David Garrard (2-1), Jacksonville Jaguars: Garrard is probably going to have the job with the Jaguars for quite some time because the coaching staff believes he's better than Byron Leftwich. He's healthier. Garrard has been effective in an understated way, although he had to do almost nothing in the win over Philadelphia. The Jaguars would be 3-0 with him if not for two interceptions which bounced off wide receiver Matt Jones' hands.

  • Seneca Wallace (2-2), Seattle Seahawks: Wallace appears to be getting more and more comfortable as he gets to play and did a nice job in leading Seattle to a comeback win in the fourth quarter against St. Louis on Sunday. Still, at 5-foot-11, Wallace isn't a long-term answer at quarterback. Like Huard, he is best used in small doses. But he can play and that's important.

  • Joey Harrington (2-3), Miami Dolphins: Harrington remains one of the great coach teases of all-time. He's a terrific athlete, throws a pretty pass and is very smart. But Harrington still hasn't mastered the art of playing well when everything around him breaks down and you have to perfect that ability before you can be a great quarterback. Because most of the time in the NFL, something breaks down.

  • Bruce Gradkowski (2-3), Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gradkowski was a really nice find in the sixth round of the draft, but the jury is still out on whether he's a starter or a backup for the long term. He put together a streak of 200 consecutive passes without an interception, which is nice. But he's also averaging only 4.72 yards per pass attempt, which is ridiculously low.

  • Vince Young (2-4), Tennessee Titans: Young is obviously the future for the Titans and he has already shown glimpses of his great athletic ability. His statistics (54.8 quarterback rating, 121.6 passing yards per game) have looked a little odd at times, but he's the type of player who should not be judged on a statistical basis just yet because of that vast ability. So far, signs point to greatness, but there is a long way to go to harness that ability.

  • Andrew Walter (2-5), Oakland Raiders: There was great hope in Raider Nation that Walter would be the second-coming of Daryle Lamonica, the famed "Mad Bomber" from the early days of Raiders greatness. At this point, Walter looks more like the second-coming of the Dan McGwire, who was a big, lumbering passer who became a human piñata.

  • Matt Leinart (0-5), Arizona Cardinals: Don't blame Leinart for being 0-5. While he has played progressively worse after throwing four touchdowns in his first two games, there is obvious potential if the Cardinals can ever get the situation figured out. That's a mountainous "if."


Former Jacksonville starting quarterback Byron Leftwich received a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews on his injured left ankle this week. After looking over the MRI, Andrews told Leftwich to rest for 7-10 days and see if the pain would subside in the ankle, according to Leftwich's agent Tom Condon. If so, Leftwich might have a chance to play again this season. If not, Leftwich will face a pretty tough choice over his future.

Jacksonville, which has privately decided to stay with Garrard as the starter for the rest of the season, believes that Leftwich needs surgery. However, the Jaguars have stopped short of putting Leftwich on injured reserve because they would like to have him available as an emergency quarterback for the rest of the season in case Garrard gets hurt.

While Leftwich has shown his toughness over and over again (he played with a broken leg in college), this could be a brutal situation for him. Given that the Jaguars will likely trade or release him next season rather than keep him with a salary cap number of more than $7 million ($5.6 million in base salary), it might not be wise for Leftwich to leave himself open to playing if his ankle isn't healthy and his mobility is limited.

Furthermore, it might be tough for Leftwich to get a good contract offer in the offseason if he waits to have surgery after the season. All things considered – including a problematic relationship between Leftwich and coach Jack Del Rio – expect Leftwich to go for surgery.


Owner Randy Lerner hasn't developed a reputation for being very aggressive in his short time as leader of the Cleveland Browns since the death of his father Al in 2002. But that perception might soon change.

Word among league executives and people who have talked to Lerner personally in recent weeks is that he has become increasingly annoyed with the direction of his team. And his issues aren't limited to Cleveland's 3-6 record.

Rather, it's about the perceived management problems the Browns have gone through over the past year. Early in the offseason, there was a public battle between general manager Phil Savage and then-president John Collins. Collins was eventually ousted after losing the public relations battle with Savage. Since then, holes in the coaching staff have become obvious. Offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon resigned last month after receiving heavy criticism from players. Quarterback Charlie Frye has exhibited talent, but many people around the NFL believe he isn't progressing as quickly as he should because of the lack of a day-to-day mentor either on the roster or on the coaching staff.

As for Savage, he prefers to spend much of his time on the road scouting players and has expressed a desire to give up a lot of the day-to-day responsibilities he got when he was hired. That's honest, but it's a long way from what Lerner thought he was getting when he hired Savage.

As it pertains to on-the-field matters, the Browns have certainly been a victim of bad luck. Star free agent LeCharles Bentley, a Pro Bowl center, was lost to a patellar tendon injury on the opening day of training camp. That's a continuation of an awful trend in which the Browns have had top players such as wide receiver Braylon Edwards and tight end Kellen Winslow miss time over their careers.

However, it's one thing to have players get hurt. It's another when your management team appears to be questionable.


Speaking of ownership, in an impromptu poll of seven NFL executives done over the course of the year, here were some of their thoughts on the best and worst owners around the NFL.

The best
1. New England Patriots: "I think the relationship between [coach Bill] Belichick and [owner Bob] Kraft is very well-defined. They are very much on the same page, even when they disagree on a subject. I never get a sense that either of them is frustrated with one another."

2. Pittsburgh: "[Dan] Rooney is a gem. He's a bright man, a fine businessman, very supportive and very patient. They may not win as much as you would hope, but they also don't go into long dry spells, either."

3. Philadelphia Eagles: "They've been at the forefront of dealing with the salary cap and maintaining continuity because [Jeffrey] Lurie is a smart guy who believes in hiring smart people. … Yeah, the [Terrell Owens] thing was difficult, but they almost made it work the year before. Give them credit for that."

4. New York Giants: "It's the same deal as Pittsburgh. It's a football family that understands the game and understands how to put out a consistent, quality product. It's going to be really sad if they ever have to sell."

5. Seattle Seahawks: "If you didn't know who Paul Allen was, you'd never know he owns the team. He stays completely out of the way. But give the guy credit, he basically saved that team from moving and he stayed patient with [coach] Mike [Holmgren] when some other owners might have changed direction."

6. Miami Dolphins: "Every coach in the league would like a chance to work for Wayne Huizenga. He gives you control, he gives you support and he stays out of the way. Except for getting conned by Dave Wannstedt those last two years, he's a great owner. He just hasn't won yet."

The worst

1. Arizona Cardinals: "I used to think that the Bengals were bad because of terrible ownership, but the Cardinals are just ridiculous. They [the Bidwill Family] have no clue how to run a team. None."

2. Detroit Lions: "I didn't think it was possible for [Lions President Matt] Millen to fool [William] Ford for so long, but I was wrong. At least they finally have some good coaches in there. But with Millen around, they could still screw it up."

3. San Francisco 49ers: "I loved it when they were talking about using all those ‘Moneyball' ideas to evaluate players and do contracts.' It just showed how out of touch [John York] is with how the NFL works."

4. Buffalo Bills: "[Ralph] Wilson is one of the nicest men you will ever meet. He's really a good man, but he just doesn't know what's going on anymore. When I hear him talk about revenue sharing and the collective bargaining agreement, it makes me wonder if he has anybody explaining the system to him at all."

5. Washington Redskins: "My favorite story is how [Dan Snyder] tells agents, 'I've got this guy ranked on my board as a second-round pick.' It's like he's pretending that he's a scout. He has no philosophy on how to win. One year, it's get all the free agents. The next, it's get all the draft picks. The next, it's get all the coaches. I think he might figure it out one day, but it's painful to watch."

6. Atlanta Falcons: "What was that guy [Arthur Blank] doing when he pushed Michael Vick's wheelchair through the hospital [in the summer of 2003]? He completely undermined the coaching staff with that move. Do you think Vick is going to listen to anybody when he knows the owner loves him?"


An increasing trend in the NFL is agents turning down prospects who are about to enter the draft if those players are not highly regarded talents. In fact, New Orleans wide receiver Marques Colston, a seventh-round pick who is the leading candidate for rookie of the year, was actually turned down by at least one agent who he asked to represent him.

The reason is that the increased cost of training players for the draft is making it prohibitive to for lower-round picks. It can cost agents upward of $16,000 to $20,000 to pay for the training regimen for an athlete between the end of the college season and the April draft.

Given that agents only get three percent of a player's original contract, it can take more than two years before an agent starts to make money on a player. That's assuming the player even makes it through two years in the league.

So what's the problem with that? What it means is that there is an increasing emphasis for experienced agents on the players who will be drafted on first day of the draft (the first three rounds, in other words). That leaves the players who aren't expected to be drafted high to be represented by less experienced and often less reputable agents.

"The NFL (Players Association) needs to really assess this situation," one agent said. "The way it's working, eventually the good players who get drafted low are going to go with other agents at some point, but they aren't getting good representation from the start and sometimes that's the only contract a guy is going to get. If you don't have a savvy agent, you stand a really good chance of getting taken advantage of along the way."


  • The roughing-the-passer penalty against New York Giants defensive lineman William Joseph in the game Sunday against Chicago was representative of how quarterbacks are over-protected in the NFL today. Joseph was already engaged with Bears quarterback Rex Grossman and wasn't in position to see if Grossman had thrown the ball when he dragged Grossman down, yet he was still called for the penalty.

  • Give Buffalo rookie safety Ko Simpson a lot of credit. Simpson had a shot to knock Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning for a loop at the end of a fumble return for a touchdown on Sunday. But Simpson stopped short of taking a shot at Manning when it was obvious that the Bills were going to score no matter what.

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