Backup Players – Always Be Ready to Play


Backup Players – Always Be Ready to Play!

I’m currently reading a book by my favorite author, John Grisham, called “Playing for Pizza. It’s the story of an NFL quarterback – a 3rd-stringer who, through a series of injuries to his team’s top-two quarterbacks, ends up leading his team in the final 12 minutes of a championship game…with disastrous results. He finds himself playing in Italy, where the meat of the story takes place.

While this is a fictional account, the elevation of backup quarterbacks to a starter’s role is a common occurrence in today’s NFL. Here are just a few examples of backups  who are now leading their NFL teams.

Matt Cassel from the New England Patriots, took over from the league’s best pivot when Tom Brady was injured at the start of the season. Cassell hadn’t started a football game since high school. His team is now 8-5 and Cassel appears to be leading the Patriots back to the playoffs. His stock has risen so much that he’ll probably find himself a starter’s role on another NFL team next year.

Aaron Rodgers, of the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers was Brett Favres’ backup at Green Bay for two years. Favre, a legendary iron man who never missed a start, left Rodgers with almost no snaps in a game situation. Rodgers is now the acknowledged starter and while the Packers aren’t playing well, it’s not because of Rodgers.

In San Francisco, J.T O’Sullivan replaced Alex Smith, and was then replaced by Shaun Hill. On November 20th, Hill was named NFC’s offensive player of the week.

The most intriguing quarterback situation is in Cleveland. The Browns are now down to their 3rd-string quarterback, Ken Dorsey, after having lost Derek Anderson, then Brady Quinn, both to injury.  Third-stringer Dorsey’s backup is Joshua Cribbs, who has played the last four years as a kickoff return specialist.

So, a player who returns kicks is one injury away from leading his NFL team – a position I’m sure he never imagined at the start of this season.

The point of all this. If you are a backup…whether it’s in football, hockey, basketball, or any sport…don’t get discouraged. Don’t sit on the bench griping – show your coach that you’re enthusiastic and supportive of teammates. Keep practicing and most of all, keep learning and improving. As these NFL backups-turned-starters can tell you, your time may come!


Dick Moss, Editor,

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[tags]football,backups,quarterbacks,NFL, Playing for Pizza,Grisham[/tags]

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. As a future coach, I could not agree more that backups of any position, but especially QB should always be ready to play. A backup and third string QB are not just backups, they also are assistant coaches, they need to be able to relay to the starter when they aren’t playing, what they are seeing in the game. Doing this will help them become better players and ultimately make them ready if or when their time comes.

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