Joe Starkey: Backup quarterbacks are worthy of investment — just ask the Steelers

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Go ahead, join the crowd. Rip the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles for addressing football’s most important position in the draft. I won’t. Especially not with the recent quarterback history of those two franchises.

And especially not after witnessing what transpired here last season — and what could transpire again, given the fact that the Steelers have made no effort to improve their depth behind a 38-year-old quarterback coming off major elbow surgery.

Rip the New Orleans Saints, while you’re at it, for signing Jameis Winston. I won’t. Not after I saw their backup quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater) go 5-0 last season.

If Winston’s good enough for Sean Payton, he’s good enough for me (and the Saints got him for a bargain-basement $1.1 million base salary).

The Steelers seem “comfortable” with Mason Rudolph and either Paxton Lynch or Duck Hodges behind Ben Roethlisberger, meaning their best plan apparently is, “If Ben gets hurt, we’re screwed no matter what.”

Or maybe they really are “comfortable” with Rudolph, but you sure could have fooled me when they him kept nailed to the bench with their season on the line, a week after Hodges threw four interceptions.

Maybe I’m nuts.

Did we not witness the Steelers’ 2019 season disintegrate because of lousy insurance? Wouldn’t you want to upgrade your policy?

Anyway, If I’m Eagles coach Doug Pederson and somebody wonders why I drafted a quarterback in the second round when I already have a 27-year-old with a $128 million contract, I say, “Come here, I’d like to show you something.”

I then crack a small jewelry case and reveal my Super Bowl ring from three years ago.

“We won that with a backup quarterback (Nick Foles) who outgunned Tom Brady,” I say. “Backup quarterbacks are kind of important. That’s why we brought Foles back in 2017.”

I might continue with this: “Did you know backup quarterbacks have won nearly one of every five Super Bowls — from Foles to Earl Morrall to Doug Williams to Jim Plunkett (twice) to Jeff Hostetler, and would you like me to go on?”

And conclude with this: “By the way, our starting quarterback, the guy with the $128 million contract, finishes seasons about half the time.”

Carson Wentz’s injury history would make Beau Bennett blush. How anybody could blame the Eagles for drafting Jalen Hurts 53rd overall is beyond me (and I’m not saying the Steelers should have taken him).

Andrew Brandt, ex-Packers president, tweeted the following last week: “I’ve heard people say the second most important position on the team is backup quarterback.”

I asked him about that.

“I don’t know if I’m one of those,” Brandt said. “Our second quarterback was about the 45th-most important player (because they had iron-man Brett Favre) … but it’s the second-most important position if he plays.”

The Packers were way more of a lightning rod last week, moving up to snag Jordan Love — “Heir Jordan” — when they already have Aaron Rodgers.

Have they lost their minds?

Why didn’t they help Rodgers?

The reaction prompted a search for “grades” from the aftermath of the ‘05 draft — the one where the Packers took Rodgers 24th when they already had Favre.

Favre was 36, like Rodgers, and coming off a playoff season. USA Today gave the Packers a failing grade, saying, “Perhaps someday the (Rodgers) pick will draw comparisons to Miami’s 27th overall pick in 1983, a guy named Dan Marino. For now, it prevented the choice of immediate impact player.”

It did. But it also paved the way to a Rodgers-led Super Bowl run in 2010.

There are differences, starting with a different regime running the Packers. Also, Rodgers was a higher-rated prospect than Love and fell into the Packers’ laps. They didn’t go get him.

That said, we’re talking about the most critical position in the sport. I can’t fault a team for aggressively attacking it, whether by attempting to secure an insurance policy (Hurts) or a solid future (Love). The Steelers, assuming Rudolph isn’t that guy, better start thinking about the future if they want to avoid wasting good years from a defense built around the likes of T.J. Watt, Devin Bush and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

The Packers know the importance of quarterback play as well as anyone. After a whole bunch of Don Majkowskis, Lynn Dickeys and Scott Hunters turned their glory days to dust, they have enjoyed 28 straight years of Favre and Rodgers. In that time, they have 13 division titles, eight conference title-game appearances and two Super Bowl wins.

If Love flops, they made a terrible pick. If he thrives, somebody like me will be searching for the draft grades from 2020.


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