In today’s NFL, few teams have franchise quarterbacks. Those that do need to have a good plan to fill the void in the unfortunate event the franchise quarterback becomes injured.
Unless, of course, the man responsible for stocking the roster believes in jinxes. Or claims he doesn’t, but actually does.
Consider this recent exchange between Tom Pelissero of USA Today and Packers G.M. Ted Thompson:
Pelissero: “When you’re building your roster from year to year and thinking about the big picture, how much do you take into account the possibility of an injury to Aaron Rodgers?”
Thompson: “You make sure you have so many of every position, given the limitations of a 53-man roster. But quite frankly, you never think about your better players ever getting hurt. If you think that way, you might jinx it. It might happen. Literally, you don’t think about it. It’s a place where you never tread.”
Pelissero: “Do you believe in jinxes?”
Thompson: “No. But you still never tread. You just don’t like to say it.”
That’s sort of like someone explaining when they choose possible vacation destinations that they hope to find houses that aren’t haunted — even though they don’t believe in ghosts.
Thompson’s remarks raise a question far more real than jinxes and ghosts. Is it possible that Thompson hasn’t spent more time and effort cultivating a better backup for Rodgers because Thompson fears, whether he’d admit it or not, that spending too much time and effort planning for a worst-case scenario would invite it?
Sure, Thompson used a first-round pick on Rodgers at a time when Brett Favre was still the starter, but that wasn’t about preparing for a Favre injury — it was about being prepared for the inevitability that his ongoing will-I-or-won’t-I musings about retirement would suddenly leave the team in a lurch.
“That position’s not really like any other position,” Thompson said. “But when I was here in the ’90s and went to Seattle and even here, we’ve always liked to fool with that second and third quarterback thing, trying to tweak it and find a guy. In a perfect world, you do it like Ron [Wolf] — you find a good one, he’d apprentice to Brett for a couple years and then you’d trade him for a second-round pick. Not to treat him like a commodity, but then you go get another one and you do the same thing with him. It sort of worked that way a little bit with Matt Flynn. But it doesn’t always work. We’ve drafted a couple of guys. We’ve had guys here who never did find it.”
That’s the real problem the Packers now face. After Flynn left via free agency, the Packers hoped 2012 seventh-round draft pick B.J. Coleman or undrafted journeyman Graham Harrell would grow into the job. When they didn’t, Thompson fired them both before Week One and then resorted to the scrap heap, adding 49ers castoffs Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzein.
Ideally, every franchise quarterback would have a drafted backup who knows the system — and whose name is at least remotely recognizable. So here’s a good rule of thumb for assessing whether a franchise quarterback has a competent backup: Do you instantly know who the backup is?
Tom Brady? Ryan Mallett. Peyton Manning? Brock Osweiler. Tony Romo? Kyle Orton. Robert Griffin III? Kirk Cousins.
Andrew Luck? Matthew Hasselbeck. Russell Wilson? Tarvaris Jackson. Ryan Tannehill? Matt Moore.
Matt Ryan? Um, I’ll get back to you.
Drew Brees? I think it’s one of the McCowns. Or is he the backup in Atlanta?
Matt Stafford? Is Dan Orlovsky still there?
Matt Ryan? I said I’ll get back to you.
In Green Bay, we all now know Seneca Wallace serves as the backup to Aaron Rodgers, for all the wrong reasons. And it if all blows up on the Packers as Rodgers recovers from a broken collarbone, we all know who gets all the blame.
“If something went wrong at the backup quarterback position, it’s my fault,” Thompson said. “It’s not somebody else’s fault. It’s not even one of those quarterbacks’ fault. I just didn’t get it worked out right.”
On one hand, it’s admirable that Thompson admits that it’ll be his fault. On the other hand, who else’s fault would it be?
Moving forward, Thompson should simply tell himself that the jinx comes not from having a solid backup plan, but from not having one.
Putting it that way, Thompson definitely should believe in jinxes.