Backup Quarterbacks And College Performance

This is a look at the league’s backup quarterbacks that met a specific criteria in their college career. Specifically the criteria is that in college they had 30% or better of their regular season games with

  1. a 150+ passer rating,
  2. a 65% or better completion percentage, and
  3. 16+ passing attempts.

The query link is College Query.  This yielded 20% of the backup quarterbacks and 44% of the starting quarterbacks. I used the ourlads,com depth charts to determine the 2019 starters and backups. This for instance had Redskin quarterback rookie Dwayne Haskins as the starter.

Here are the quarterbacks that met the criteria. Only backup quarterbacks are discussed but all that meet the criteria are listed.

AFC East

New York Jets

Sam Darnold (37%),

Luke Falk (36%)

The Jets kept two quarterbacks on their 53 man roster in 2018. Currently there are four quarterbacks. On the depth charts Luke Falk is listed as the third backup quarterback behind Trevor Siemian and Davis Webb. Falk had 36% of his college games meet the criteria.

In college Falk was an accurate passer. He was in the top five in the FBS in pass completion percentage each of his last three seasons with two seasons being second. He was also a touchdown maker. He is tenth among career leaders in the FBS for touchdown passes with 119. Of his 119 passing touchdowns 80 came from within the red zone. Over his last three years at Washington State Falk had a completion percentage of 60.3% and a passing efficiency rating of 169.1 in the red zone.

Since being drafted by the Titans in the sixth round of the 2018 draft, Falk was injured for the 2018 season and did not play. Luke won the 2017 Burlsworth Trophy awarded to the most outstanding college football player who began his college career as a walk-on. Falk is the great combination of super-competitive and all round team-player.

Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins


One caveat is that college stats for Miami’s Ryan Fitzpatrick were not available. So maybe he meets the criteria.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

Robert Griffin III (44%)

In his college career 44% of Griffin’s games met the criteria. He was one of only ten backups to have over 40% of games meet the criteria.  In his final year in college in 2011, Griffin’s passer rating of 189.5 was second in the FBS and his completion percentage of 72.4% was fifth. That season he was AP Player of the Year and a Consensus All -American. He won the Davey O’Brien Award, the Heisman Trophy and the Manning Award. He met Bill Parcells’ seven rules for drafting a quarterback.

In the NFL Griffin made my list of eight quarterback phenoms.  In his rookie year Griffin made the NFL All-Rookie Team, the Pro Bowl and was voted AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. his rookie record was 9-6 and he helped his team make the playoffs. In succeeding years his record was 6-19 and he did not start in 2018 for the Ravens.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger (37%),

Mason Rudolph (45%)

Rudolph had 45% of his college games meet the criteria. Only six backup quarterbacks had 45% or more of their games meet the criteria.  He is listed on as the second quarterback out of four total

Rudolph is the winningest quarterback in Oklahoma State history. He led the Cowboys to a 32-9 record as a starter. Rudolph finished his career holding no fewer than 54 school records, including single-season and career marks for passing yards, passing touchdowns and pass efficiency. Among FBS quarterbacks in 2017, he ranked in the top four in passing yards per completion, passing yards per attempt, total passing yards, passing yards per game, total offense and total offense yards per play. He won the Sammy Baugh Trophy and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Rudolph met Bill Parcells’ seven rules for drafting a quarterback.

Cleveland Browns

Baker Mayfield (65%)

Cincinnati Bengals


AFC South

Houston Texans

Deshaun Watson (34%),

A.J. McCarron (34%)

A.J. McCarron had 34% of his games meet the criteria. In his final year in college (2013) McCarron’s passer rating of 167.2 was eighth in the FBS. He won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and the Maxwell Award given to the college football player of the year. In his second NFL year on the Bengals McCarron played in seven games starting three. He completed 79 of 119 passing attempts for a 66% completion percent and a 97.1 quarterback rating. Since then he has been a backup. He is listed at as the backup quarterback of three total.  Last year the Texans carried three quarterbacks.

Tennessee Titans

Marcus Mariota (37%),

Logan Woodside (42%)

Logan Woodside met the criteria for 42% of his games. In 2016 he was 4th in FBS for completion percentage (69.1). Woodside is 13th in NCAA  career passer rating at 162.9. After offseason or practice squad stints on the Bengals and the Titans Woodside joined the San Antonio Commanders in the short-lived Alliance of American Football. There he threw for 1,385 yards and seven touchdowns in an eight-game season before the league folded. He has since signed with the Titans again in pursuing his dream to play professional football.

Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck (45%)

Jacksonville Jaguars


AFC West

Denver Broncos

Kevin Hogan (33%),

Hogan had 33% of his college games meet the criteria. His last year in college (2015) Hogan had a 67.8% completion percent which was sixth in the FBS and a 171 passer rating which was fourth.  That last year 12 of his 14 games had a passer rating over 150 with four over 200. Early reports prior to training camp have Hogan starting in the Hall of Fame game.

Brett Rypien (36%)

Brett Rypien had 36% of his college games meet the criteria. Rypien made my list of the five toughest draft prospects at each position. Among 2019 draft quarterback prospects he was second in passing third down conversions (49%) and third in total third down conversions (48%).  Among the top three he had the most 3rd down attempts. Rypien was one of only seven quarterbacks in 2018 that had a game with 300+ passing yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions and an 80% or better completion percentage.

Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes (31%)

Oakland Raiders

Derek Carr (36%)

Los Angeles Chargers


NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles

Cody Kessler (33%)

Kessler had 33% of his college games meet the criteria. In his junior year in college (2014), Kessler had a 69.7 completion percentage which was third in the FBS. His passer rating that year of 167 was fourth. In 2015 he still had half of his games with a 65+% completion percentage and a passer rating of 150+. Kessler had a tough go his rookie year (2016) in Cleveland where his record was 0-8. Yet he did have a 66% completion percentage and a 92 quarterback rating. Kessler tried again as a starter in 2018 with the Jaguars where he went 2-2 with a 65% completion percentage but only a 77 quarterback rating.

Washington Redskins

Dwayne Haskins (41%),

Case Keenum (46%),

Case Keenum had 46% of his college games meet the criteria. In college Keenum was a two time winner of the Sammy Baugh Award given to college’s top passer. Only two other players had ever won it twice going back to 1959. Keenum was in the top ten in the FBS in completion percentage for four of his five years in college. The only year he missed was 2010 when he tore his ACL and played only three games. He was in the top ten in passer rating for each of his last three years discounting his injury year of 2010. His last year in college (2011) he had a passer rating of 150 or better in 11 of his 14 games and a 65% or better completion percentage for 10. Keenum has the distinction  of having the most passing touchdowns in a college game since 2000 with nine touchdowns in a win over Rice on 10/27/2011.

In 2017 on the Vikings Keenum led the team to an 11-3 record and they made the playoffs. He had a regular season passing record of 98 which was seventh in the league and he had a 68% completion percentage.

Colt McCoy (47%)

McCoy had 47% of his college games meet the criteria. His last two college seasons (2008, 2009) McCoy was first in the FBS in completion percentage each season with a percentage of 76.7 and 70.6 His career completion percentage of 70.3 % is number two in the FBS His 2008 college passer rating of 173.8 was third in the FBS. McCoy was a Consensus All-American each of his last two college seasons. In his senior year he won the Davey O’Brien Award, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Manning Award and the Maxwell Award.

In the NFL over his eight year career McCoy has started 27 games and has a 7-20 record. In his last 4 seasons on the Redskins he has started six games for a 1-5 record, a 68% completion percent, 8 touchdowns, 6 interceptions and a 93.6 quarterback rating.

Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants


NFC North

Chicago Bears

Chase Daniel (43%)

Chase Daniel had 43% of his college games met the criteria. His junior and senior year had a completion percentage of 68.2 (9th) and 72.9 (2nd).  His senior year in 20078 his passer rating of 159.4 was tenth in the FBS.

In the NFL Daniel has been a backup for his nine year career. He has four career starts with two of those in 2018 on the Bears. In 2018 he completed 53 passes for a69.7 completion percentage, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and a 90.6 passer rating. He was 1-1 as a starter last year.

Detroit Lions

David Fales (56%)

Fales had 56% of his college games meet the criteria. Only Baker Mayfield had a higher percentage. In 2009 Fales red-shirted his freshman year at Nevada. He did not see Nevada being a good fit as they wanted more of a running quarterback. In 2010 he transferred to community college Monterey Peninsula. There he was a two-time, first-team All-Coast Conference quarterback. He led his team to a 2011 Coast Conference co-championship and a berth in the Sierra Central Credit Union Bowl. As a sophomore at Monterey Peninsula, he ranked among the state’s top-10 in number of completions, completion percentage, passing yards, touchdown passes and passing efficiency. Fales accepted an offer from San Jose State and was named their starting quarterback for his 2012 junior year.

In 2012 Fales was first in the FBS in completion percentage with a 72.5% and was third in passer rating with a 170.8. He was second in passing plays of 10+ and 20+ yards. In addition he was third in yards per pass attempt (9.3). He led the San Jose Spartans to an 11-2 record and their first Bowl appearance since 2006. The Spartans won the 2012 Military Bowl and Fales was named the game’s MVP. Prior to the 2013 season Fales was projected as a 2014 draft first round pick. However with Fales as quarterback the Spartans went 6-6 in 2013 and did not get a Bowl invite. Nevertheless Fales finished 2013 with a 64% completion percentage, 33 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 153 passer rating.

Since being chosen by the Bears in round six of the 2014 NFL draft, Fales has played in four games with zero starts. Fales will turn 29 in October and has exhausted his eligibility as a practice squad player.  He will compete against Tom Savage to be Matthew Stafford’s backup. The Lions kept only two quarterbacks in 2018.

Minnesota Vikings

Kirk Cousins (33%)

Jake Browning (36%)

Browning had 36% of his college games meet the criteria. In his 2017 junior season Browning had a 68.5% completion percentage which was second in the FBS.

Browning ranked fourth among 2018 draft quarterback prospects 3rd down conversions percent (43.5%) and third in big play percent (19.7%). He had the third best passing big play percentage (22%). Browning had the ninth most 10+ yards passing plays (139) in 2018.

Browning was in the top five in the Pac-12 in passer rating each of the last three seasons. He was first in 2016 and 2017. Browning was in the top three in the Pac-12 in passing yards per attempt each of the last three seasons. Jake has a 75% career win percentage at Washington and has started 52 games over four years. He has more victories than any other player in Pac-12 Conference history. Browning holds the Washington passing touchdowns records for career, single season and single game. Jake Browning has a career passer rating of 151.9. That is seventh best among college quarterbacks over the last five years that passed for over 10,000 yards. Browning met all of Bill Parcells’ Seven Rules for drafting a quarterback.

Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers (40%)

NFC South

Carolina Panthers

Will Grier (50%)

Grier had 50% of his games in college meet the criteria. That was third most among active quarterbacks trailing only Aaron Rodgers and David Fales.  In 2018 Will Grier was second in yards per game, third in passer rating, fourth in yards per attempt, fourth in passing plays of 30+ yards and fifth in touchdowns. Grier has converted 35% of his red zone attempts into touchdowns which was fourth best among 2019 draft prospects. coming out of high school Grier was named Parade All-American Player of the Year and Mr Football USA. Prior Mr Football USA winners included Matthew Stafford, Peyton Manning and Emmitt Smith.

New Orleans Saints

Teddy Bridgewater (46%)

Bridgewater had 46% of his college games meet the criteria. In college Bridgewater was sixth in completion percentage (68.5%) his sophomore year and then improved to first (71%) his final junior year.  His career completion percentage of 68.4% is 12th in FBS history.  His passer rating also improved for seventh in 2012 at 160.5 to fifth his final year in 2013 with 171.5. In 2012 Bridgewater was the Big East Offensive Player of the Year.

In the NFL in 2014 Bridgewater made the NFL All-Rookie Team and the 2015 Pro Bowl. In 2015 Bridgewater led the Vikings to an 11-5 record and a playoff appearance. His 65.3% pass completion percentage was ninth in the league. In the 2016 preseason Bridgewater tore his ACL and was out for the season. He started the 2017 season on the PUP list and missed the first six games. When he returned he was the backup to Case Keenum. Bridgewater started his first game since 2015  with the Saints for game 16 when Brees was resting for the playoffs. He went 14 for 22, one touchdown and one interception in a loss to the Panthers.

J.T. Barrett (32%)169.8.

J.T. Barrett had 32% of his college games meet the criteria. His passer rating his college freshman year (2014) was second in the FBS at 169.8. In his last year (2017) he was eighth in passer rating with 160.1. Nine of his 2017 games had a passer rating of 150+ with three over 200. Barrett was signed by the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He spent 2018 on and off the Saints practice squad, a total of 23 transactions, before signing a contract for 2019.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis Winston (33%)

Atlanta Falcons


NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray (35%)

Brett Hundley (43%)

Brett Hundley had 43% of his college games meet the criteria. In his final college year (2014) his 69.1% completion percentage was fourth in the FBS. In week six of the 2017 season Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone. Hundley came in and finished the rest of the season.  His record as a starter was 3-6 that year. He had a 60.8% completion percentage and a 70.6 quarterback rating. Hundley threw for 9 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and a 5.8 yards per attempt.  In August the following preseason Hundley was traded to the Seahawks for a sixth round pick. In March of 2019 he signed a one year deal with the Cardinals.

Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson (36%)

Geno Smith (32%)

Geno Smith had 32% of his college games meet the criteria. In his senior year at West Virginia Smith’s 71.2 completion percentage was second best in the FBS and his passer rating of 163.9 was fifth. Ten of his thirteen games that year had a completion percentage greater than 65%. Geno Smith is one of only 28 college quarterbacks since 200 to have 4000+ passing yards, a 65% or better completion percentage, 30+ touchdowns and less than 10 interceptions in a season. Of the 28 Smith and Derek Carr are the only two quarterbacks to do it for two seasons.

In his rookie season on the Jets Smith had an 8-8 record but he did tie Tom Brady for the most game winning drives in the league with five. That year Smith had 12 touchdown passes to 21 interceptions. In the next year, 2014, Smith started 13 games and went 3-10. His quarterback rating improved from 66.5 his rookie year to 77.5 and also his completion percentage increased form 55.8% his rookie year to 59.7%. He threw for 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. That second year Smith had the only perfect passer rating of the 2014 season in a game against the Dolphins where he passed for 358 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Next year is where things really went bad for Smith. He was involved in aan altercation with fellow Jet IK Enemkpali in August during the 2015 preseason. Smith suffered a fractured jaw and the Jets started the season with Ryan Fitzpatrick. When Smith returned healthy coach Todd Bowles decided to stay with Fitzpatrick who had gone 2-0 in Smith’s absence.  Smith was the backu[p for the rest of the season.

In the 2016 season the Jets again started Fitzpatrick. Smith relived a struggling Fitzpatrick in week six and was named the started for the following week. However that week seven Smith tore his ACL and was out for the season.

For the 2017 season Smith signed with the Giants and relieved Eli Manning during a week 9 game in the 4th quarter. On November 28, 2017 Smith was named the starter for the upcoming Raider game. His start broke Manning’s 210 game starting streak.  Smith passed for 212 yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions, two fumbles and an 89 quarterback rating in the 17-24 loss.

Smith will compete against Paxton Lynch for the backup role to Russell Wilson. Last year the Seahawks kept only two quarterbacks.

In Conclusion

Here is the data on the quarterbacks – QBs into camp. The list has the number of college games that met the criteria, the total number of college games played and the percent that met the criteria. All quarterbacks at 30% or higher are highlighted in color. Quarterbacks without college data either had no games that met the criteria or their college data was not available.

To have over 30% of your college games have a passer rating of 150+ and a  65% or better completion percentage is quite an accomplishment. There are 14 of the 32 starting quarterbacks that met that marker. Yet there are 18 backup quarterbacks that also meet that criteria. Are these potentially good quarterbacks that have not had the opportunity or have had a bad start to their career?

There is a good sized list of well respected NFL quarterbacks that had bad starts to their NFL careers. Here are some that had bad starts.

Player Year Tm GS Att Cmp% TD Int Pick6 Rate Sk W L T
Bart Starr* 1957 GNB 11 215 54.42 8 10 69.3 3 8 0
Fran Tarkenton* 1962 MIN 14 329 49.54 22 25 1 66.9 2 11 1
Terry Bradshaw* 1971 PIT 13 373 54.42 13 22 1 59.7 33 5 8 0
Dan Fouts* 1974 SDG 11 237 48.52 8 13 61.4 12 3 8 0
Warren Moon* 1985 HOU 14 377 53.05 15 19 1 68.5 46 4 10 0
Steve Young* 1986 TAM 14 363 53.72 8 13 65.5 47 2 12 0
Troy Aikman* 1989 DAL 11 293 52.9 9 18 2 55.7 19 0 11 0
Troy Aikman* 1990 DAL 15 399 56.64 11 18 2 66.6 39 7 8 0
Rich Gannon 1990 MIN 12 349 52.15 16 16 1 68.9 34 5 7 0
Peyton Manning 1998 IND 16 575 56.7 26 28 2 71.2 22 3 13 0
Drew Brees 2003 SDG 11 356 57.58 11 15 1 67.5 21 2 9 0
Eli Manning 2004 NYG 7 197 48.22 6 9 55.4 13 1 6 0
Alex Smith 2005 SFO 7 165 50.91 1 11 1 40.8 29 2 5 0
Alex Smith 2007 SFO 7 193 48.7 2 4 1 57.2 17 2 5 0
Matthew Stafford 2009 DET 10 377 53.32 13 20 3 61 24 2 8 0
Kirk Cousins 2013 WAS 3 155 52.26 4 7 1 58.4 5 0 3 0
Jared Goff 2016 LAR 7 205 54.63 5 7 1 63.6 26 0 7 0

In addition to these eighteen there are other backups that were close to the 30% threshold. But you draw the line somewhere. With the 30% mark retrieving 20% of the backups that seemed like a good cutoff. The preseason will be interesting to see how these backups that excelled in the number of games meeting high passer rating and completion percentages perform and which ones make the 53 man roster cuts.


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