Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton entered the league as a second-round pick of the Lions in 2007 and has spent the last decade serving as a backup in Detroit, Indianapolis and Arizona.
Stanton has seen a lot of quarterbacks move through the league over that time and that experience has left him with strong views about how the league handles the development of young quarterbacks. Like a lot of other people, Stanton believes they aren’t doing a very good job and points to the move away from having a third quarterback on the inactive list on Sundays as a particular problem.
“It’s so hard to develop as a quarterback in this league nowadays,” Stanton said, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. “The NFL is, unfortunately, heading into a bad trend. When I first got in the league, you could be an inactive third on game day like I was when I was younger. That transitions into now, they’re trying to save spots and get guys to the practice squad.”
Stanton’s coach Bruce Arians made it clear that’s the case in Arizona when discussing Cardinals backups Stanton, Blaine Gabbert and Trevor Knight. Arians said keeping a third quarterback on the active roster comes down to whether he’s “the best player, regardless of position” and the fact that quarterbacks don’t play special teams plays a role in that decision.
Even if the league were to revert to the old inactive arrangement, there would still be limits on how much work quarterbacks down the depth chart get with teams preparing their starter to win games every week. That’s one of the reasons why there have been frequent calls for a true developmental league in the vein of the departed NFL Europe, although those calls haven’t led the league to take action at this point.