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Backup QB narratives can be fun, but don’t get fooled by short-term success

Jordan Brenner and Peter Keating discuss the Year of the Backup QB and whether or not someone like Tommy DeVito can be the long-term answer.

It’s Tommy DeVito’s world and we’re all just living in it right now! Or is it? Jordan and Peter discuss the Year of the Backup QB and whether or not someone like DeVito can be the answer.

Let’s just start by acknowledging that last week, the AFC and NFC Offensive Players of the Week were Zach Wilson and Tommy DeVito. Yes, you read that right, Zach Wilson and Tommy DeVito!

This all has Peter livin’ DeVito loca! Jordan says if you were only sort of paying attention you might think to yourself, “Wow, backup quarterbacks are pretty damn good.” Tommy DeVito! Jake Browning! Josh Dobbs! Get swept up in the excitement! Alas, Jordan is here to throw some cold water on this and bring everyone back to reality. It’s all fool’s gold.

Jordan says he and Peter have done research about just how bad, overall, backup QBs perform in the NFL. They’re true underdogs, he says, in the most broad terms. Peter says these underdogs can come, get everyone on their side and get the team going, but in reality there is a huge gap between basically the top 10-15 quarterbacks and everyone else. He says what you have to understand is that everything in life is distributed in a bell curve. Peter says try to think about a profession — maybe astronauts, concert violinists — where there is a way to right end of the bell curve that makes it hard to replace the top end and second of all makes the drop off between the top end and someone just average pretty great and the drop off from their to subpar is GINORMOUS. And it’s probably just getting worse as we go on with more injuries and as teams invest more time and money in this one position and one player.

Jordan wants to talk about Josh Dobbs for a moment. He arrived in Minnesota and immediately is forced into action and engineers a comeback win followed by another victory the next week. How did people get it so wrong on Dobbs? Well, Jordan says, it turns out there’s a reason why Dobbs has been a career backup and journeyman. He’s since seen a precipitous fall back to Earth and has now been benched in favor of Nick Mullens. Jordan thinks part of the reason these guys are backups is because they can put together a decent showing when they haven’t been scouted or have just a small sample size, but they inevitably get exposed over time.

Peter thinks that anybody can come in, when everybody is so upset, and fill that hole and get a jolt and get everybody excited. You can get something out of a backup, Peter says, but only for a short amount of time and we shouldn’t overreact to it. Meanwhile, Peter wants everyone to keep in mind that luck and the proportion of success on offense and defense go way up and down from week to week. If you hit it right you can go on a run and can be a great story, and we shouldn’t deny those stories. But, Peter also says we also shouldn’t expect backup quarterbacks to sustain a good offense over a length of time.

Jordan says Tommy DeVito is a nice story, but that’s all it is. He’s not a starting quarterback. The Giants have beaten the Commanders, the Patriots and the Packers. Sure he had a nice last-second drive against the Packers, but Jordan points out he threw for just 158 yards and the Giants are living off turnovers from their defense. DeVito will be exposed just the same as Dobbs was, Jordan says, and there is a reason why he was not on a roster. Maybe he can make himself into a decent backup, but stop it with the narrative. STOP IT!

Peter still remarks that you can take good things out of bad seasons and the Giants may have in DeVito a backup QB. It may not seem like a big deal, but if you have a competent backup QB that’s something, that’s a find. No, Peter says, he shouldn’t be starting. But, if you go to Pro Football Reference you can look up the expected points added by a team’s offense or defense in any game and some of these games where backup QBs have looked great it’s actually the defenses and special teams that have carried the day. That’s been the case with the Giants and DeVito and it’s been the case with Joe Flacco too in Cleveland. But Peter notes that you can find someone who can serve as a replacement-level QB and that’s not nothing even if it’s not a starter.

Watch or listen to the whole show below for Week 15 Underdog picks and make sure to keep an eye on the Underdogs podcast feeds on Apple and Spotify as well as the Le Batard and Friends YouTube page for future episodes!


The Year of Backup QBs: Why Tommy DeVito and Others Aren’t the Answer

  • This week on “Underdogs” Jordan and Peter are breaking down the current backup quarterback craze going on in the NFL! Are guys like Tommy DeVito and Jake Browning worth the hype? And who should you put your money on this week? Plus, what the Ohtani contract actually means.

Watch the full episode below!


Be sure to check out more episodes of Underdogs on the Le Batard and Friends YouTube page and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts! You can also follow Peter on X at @PeterKeatingNJ and Jordan at @JordanBrenner.

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