Seahawks lessons: NFL teams need one good backup QB, not 2 that stink

Aug 21, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Sean Mannion (9) throws a pass against the Denver Broncos during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 21, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Sean Mannion (9) throws a pass against the Denver Broncos during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

There’s a lot of buzz about the NFL allowing teams to keep a backup QB without them counting against the roster. Maybe teams should just have better QBs. Could this affect the Seahawks?

Yes, the 49ers were in rough shape after their 4th-string QB got knocked out of the NFC conference championship game. That’s their fault, not the league’s. They chose to keep a stiff like Josh Johnson on the roster. It goes far beyond that, of course.

No, I’m not saying that Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch should have anticipated Johnson to get a concussion. Nor am I saying they should have foreseen Brock Purdy getting his elbow wrecked in the first quarter. But they needed a better plan for their backup QB.

They made several decisions that led to the moment that forced them to put a quarterback who couldn’t throw a feather back into the game. We know now that the kid who turned the Mr. Irrelevant award on its head tore his UCL. He’s expected to miss at least six months, and possibly a year. As a loyal 12, I wholeheartedly hope he recuperates quickly and completely. The Seahawks want their shot at him again. Clearly, if he’s healthy, he should give Trey Lance a run for the starting gig.

The Niners could have avoided their backup QB situation (like the Seahawks)

No, the Niners couldn’t have expected Lance to go down in week two with a fractured ankle. But they had every reason to believe that Jimmy Garapplo might suffer an injury, too. This is completely aside from the fact that the Niners finally recognized he wasn’t worth his ridiculous contract. While Jimmy G isn’t exactly Mr. Glass, he’s about as far from Brett Favre (297 consecutive starts) as you can be.

He missed four games in 2016. Remember, he was still backing up Tom Brady then. He managed to escape 2017 injury-free. Then again, when you only get into six games, your odds are vastly improved. After getting the Niners starting job in 2018, he made an impressive three-game run before going out for the season with an ACL injury. I’ll give him credit, though. He did play an entire slate of games in 2019. Kudos to Jimmy G. He actually played every game for the only time in his career.

In 2020, a high-ankle sprain limited him to just six games. He followed that campaign with better luck in 2021. Still, he missed the second half of the week four game against the Seahawks and the following game with a calf injury. Of course, he followed that up with a thumb injury, then a shoulder injury which killed any chance the 49ers may have had to trade him.

And here we were in 2022. Jimmy G lost the starting job to Lance and became the backup QB. As we know, stepped back into the starting role in week two, and then broke his foot in week 13. At that point, the Niners had Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson on the roster. For a detailed rundown on the trainwreck that is Jimmy G’s durability, check out Peter Panacy’s fine article on Niner Noise. The point being, the Niners should have seen this coming from seven years away.

Yes, there’s been a storm surge of online agony over the fact the Niners were forced to play either a quarterback who couldn’t throw. Except they weren’t. Their emergency QB is running back Christian McCaffrey. Coming into the conference title game, he’d only thrown four passes in the NFL. But he completed two, both for touchdowns. One of those was this year, in his first start for San Francisco. And it wasn’t a simple screen, it was a 34-yard strike to Brandon Aiyuk against the Rams. Surely that’s better than a man who literally cannot throw the ball.

The Niners could have kept a third backup QB on the roster, and chose not to. Yes, the league eliminated the third QB non-roster slot before the 2010 season. Both the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to simply add an open roster spot, to create a 46th spot on the roster. Teams liked it because it gave them more roster flexibility.

The players’ association wanted it to create additional opportunities for all players. The 49ers had every chance to carry a third quarterback, knowing they were playing with their third and fourth-string players at the most critical position on the field. Instead, they added someone like Jackrabbit Jenkins, a cornerback that totaled 58 snaps on the season between defense and special teams. Yes, I’m sure the 12 snaps he got on special teams in the game against the Eagles were crucial.

Not that I’m casting blame on the Niners coaching staff or anything. But I don’t see how the NFL needs to change a rule because the 49ers were so stubborn that they went into a playoff game with their third and fourth-string QBs. Yes, I am well aware that the Seahawks went into their postseason game with just two quarterbacks on the active roster.

As I’m sure you’re aware, those quarterbacks were not Sean Mannion and – oh, I don’t know, Blake Bortles or Mike Glennon. I’m not knocking Mannion. Geno Smith said he picked up some things from him. But if Mannion is suddenly your starter, you better have plans B and C ready.

Next. Seahawks: To add Aaron Rodgers or not. dark

Should the NFL return to the emergency third quarterback rule? Sure, why not? It’s not as if the teams can’t afford another player. The wording could easily allow teams to simply elevate their practice squad QB during the game in an emergency, and deactivate another active player. In the Niners’ case, they could have brought in Jacob Eason and sent the Jackrabbit to the locker room. But I’m not going to cry for a team that trusted their third and fourth-string guys to get them through the game, and forced a guy who clearly couldn’t throw to stay in the game.