Lawrence: Never Take Starting QB For Granted

By Amy Lawrence

Case Keenum, Brock Osweiler, Blaine Gabbert, Mark Sanchez, Johnny Manziel, and Matt Hasselbeck. Potentially TJ Yates and Geno Smith. This list of quarterbacks who could be under center in the NFL this weekend requires a double-take. It’s not exactly according to script, but the number of teams using multiple QBs because of injuries or ineptitude continues to swell. As the Broncos, Eagles, and Rams all prepare different starters for their next games, the revolving door spins faster and faster at the sport’s most valuable and influential position. Peyton Manning, Sam Bradford, and Nick Foles take their seats on training tables and benches; while Ben Roethlisberger and maybe Tony Romo return to their starting roles.

Barely past the midway point of the regular season, there’s already more turnover under center than all of last year when half the franchises (16 of 32) used extra quarterbacks. With a trio of new teams hitting the list, the grand total climbs to 17 in just 10 weeks. It’s no secret a direct correlation exists between the success and consistency of the quarterback and the success and consistency of his team. Case in point: only five of the teams needing the “next man up” currently feature winning records.

Of course, there are quirky, almost comical exceptions. The Steelers (6-4) have cycled through a trio of quarterbacks–from Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Vick to Landry Jones back to Big Ben who set an NFL record for most passing yards in a relief appearance with 379 against the Browns. The Texans (4-5) are now tied for first place in the AFC South despite shifting from Brian Hoyer to Ryan Mallet back to Hoyer and then onto TJ Yates who threw the only touchdown pass in Houston’s upset win over the Bengals Monday. Yates just signed three weeks ago after Mallett was cut, but he could start in Week 11 against the Jets if Hoyer doesn’t pass through concussion protocol.

The Broncos are perched atop the AFC West, but they’ve dropped back to back games after beginning the season 7-0. Osweiler takes over for an ailing Peyton who’s dealing with a partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot and a rib cage injury. Denver coaches and players, including Osweiler, are still voicing their support for Manning. But his efforts against the Chiefs on Sunday were painful to watch. He managed only five completions to go along with four interceptions. His throws were soft and off-target; and though he wouldn’t blame his injuries, he clearly couldn’t push off his foot to get any type of thrust on the ball. Osweiler will make his first career start against the Bears and his former head coach and offensive coordinator, John Fox and Adam Gase.

The Cowboys hope and pray Tony Romo is ready to play versus the Dolphins after missing seven games to recover from a broken collarbone. The team has lost all seven games in his absence, though five of them were by a touchdown or less. Even a rusty Romo could boost the offense just enough to tip the scales in their favor. As Dallas welcomes back its Pro Bowler, NFC East rival Philadelphia faces life without Sam Bradford. Courtesy of those same Dolphins, Bradford reportedly suffered a serious concussion and a separated shoulder on a sack by Chris McCain. For the second straight year, Sanchez is required to run Chip Kelly’s offense. Last season, the Eagles posted a 4-4 mark after Sanchez took over for Nick Foles.

It remains to be seen if Foles ever cracks the starting lineup for the Rams again. For now, he’s the latest NFL QB to get benched. With a passing attack averaging just 179 yards per outing, dead last in the league, head coach Jeff Fisher says his quarterback needs a “break” to watch, learn, and absorb. So Case Keenum earns a shot to play for the second team in his career. Over the last couple seasons, he made 10 starts for the Texans, winning twice. Fisher likes Keenum’s mobility and ability to extend plays which could spark the offense.

The list of reasons for the quarterback changes is long and varied; some are serious, some not. Everything from concussions, broken bones, and torn ligaments to lack of confidence and too many interceptions precipitated the moves. Football fans can knock Andy Dalton or Eli Manning or Russell Wilson for their perceived shortcomings, but none of them has missed a snap. That alone makes them valuable commodities. Even the much-maligned Jay Cutler would be welcomed by plenty of frustrated fan bases at this point, simply because he’s healthy and upright.

The NFL does not feature an endless supply of quality QBs. The cupboard is nearly bare with all the turnover in 2015. Consistency and familiarity at the position is not a given. According to a common adage, the most popular player on a football team is always the backup quarterback. But now more than ever, disgruntled fans should be careful what they wish for. Never take that starter for granted. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Best case scenario? Most people can’t even name your team’s backup because he never sees the field.

A well-traveled veteran and pioneer of sports radio and television, Amy Lawrence is the host of CBS Sports Radio’s late-night program ‘After Hours with Amy Lawrence.’ The show can be heard weekdays from 2-6am ET on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. Follow her on Twitter @ALawRadio.

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