Bears do need a veteran backup quarterback

May 7th, 2010 - 8:52 am

I usually like to reserve my rebuttal blog entries for incomprehensible drivel written by the Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh. However, this morning, it is another Tribune writer that has earned that right to appear here.

Dan Pompei wrote an article in the Tribune today claiming, essentially, that a veteran backup quarterback is not as big a need as some make it seem.

Pompei argues that “the backup quarterback is the most overvalued member of most football teams,” and adds that “team trainers may contribute more to a team’s success — and they usually get on the field more.”

For the most part, that’s true, except for one situation: when your starter goes down with an injury. No team expects their starting quarterback to suffer an injury, because if they do that they can expect a losing season. But all teams need to plan for the unexpected or else they can plan on an early off-season.

Pompei noted that “last season teams that started a player other than their primary quarterback won 26 percent of the time (17-48).”

Only two paragraphs before that, he writes this:

“The truth is if Jay Cutler is not able to start the large percentage of games next year, the Bears are not going to be very good — no matter who takes his place.”

Dan, no kidding! But in today’s NFL, you don’t sign a veteran backup quarterback with the intent that he’s going to play one snap. And if he does see extended action due to an injury to the team’s starter, of course the team is likely to lose more games than it wins. It’s like the old adage goes: if you think you have two quarterbacks, you don’t really have one. That’s why they’re backups — because they’re not good enough to start.

No, the reason why you sign a veteran backup quarterback in today’s NFL is for damage control. Let’s say the Bears are 8-6 with two games left to go and they have to win them both to make the playoffs. Let’s also pretend that Cutler sprained his ankle in Game 14 and is due to miss the last two games of the regular season but would make it back for the playoffs (first of all, Cutler is tough enough that he would play through the pain, but that’s a different story).

Are you telling me that you’d rather have Caleb Hanie, who has 3 career completions on his resume, or Dan LeFevour, who hasn’t set foot on an NFL field yet, leading the offense onto the field in those two crucial games instead of an established veteran backup who has been in those situations before?

Mike Martz seems to be the only one at Halas Hall who can see the writing on the wall, and that’s probably because he spent last year as an analyst for NFL Network and saw what everybody else in country saw: the ice growing thin, or the seat growing hot, under the current regime. Martz knows that if the Bears don’t make the playoffs, Lovie Smith is likely gone and Martz will be out of a job as well. Which is why he said, “It makes you a little nervous, doesn’t it?” when asked about the possibility of Cutler suffering an injury. He also added, “It would make us all feel a little easier with a veteran because you just never know.”

The role of a backup quarterback is not to be ready to start more than half the regular season. You don’t sign a backup quarterback with the intent for him to play that much. If that’s the case, he essentially becomes a starter for the season and loses his backup status. Instead, the backup quarterback’s role is to be ready at a moment’s notice to come in and keep the ship afloat while making enough plays to help the team win a game. You sign a guy that you feel comfortable inserting into a sticky situation who you feel can weather the storm.

With that said, I’d feel much more comfortable handing the reigns to veteran backup quarterback with playing experience than two young guys who have promise but haven’t ever been in that situation before.