The backup quarterback is one of the most important parts of an NFL roster. Just ask the Jets, whose backup became QB1 just four plays into the 2023 season. With Aaron Rodgers out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, backup and 2021 second overall pick Zach Wilson quickly became tasked with leading a team that came into the year with Super Bowl aspirations.
On Sunday, another No. 2 quarterback was thrust into action. Gardner Minshew came on for the Colts when Anthony Richardson left with a concussion and helped guide Indy to a win over the Texans. With two preseason backups already getting significant action in the regular season, we wanted to take a closer look at the best No. 2 options in the NFL.
If your team's starting quarterback can't get the job done or gets injured, who is next up? The league's list of backups is littered with former notable names, once-high draft selections who didn't pan out and veterans in the final years of their careers, but NFL teams value these players more and more because hopes of the season could end up hinging on them very quickly. Last season, 69 different quarterbacks started a game, the most since 1987. The NFL has only surpassed the 60 starting quarterback mark five times (1998, 1999, 2010, 2021 and 2022). Those back-to-back seasons of abnormal No. 2 QB usage have pushed teams to be more aggressive in adding reliable backups during the offseason.
Let's take a look at some of the best options around the league, along with a few promising rookies and the most concerning No. 2 situations.