Other backups have been at front of victories

by Gary Shelton on February 6, 2018 · 4 comments

in general, NFL

Tuesday, 3 a.m.

The story was so great, so inspiring, so delicious that the temptation is to think it has never happened before.

It has.

Nick Foles charged so far from nowhere, so impossibly, so triumphantly, that the urge is to believe it was a once-in-a-lifetime effort.

It isn't.

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What Foles did was amazing. He threw for 373 yards against a team trying to further a dynasty. He came from behind. He threw for three touchdowns and caught one. In other words, Foles had one of the finest nights a backup has ever had in a Super Bowl.

Still, there have been others.

A backup quarterback is an odd position in professional sports. A baseball manager is going to make sure that even his last reliever gets work. A hockey coach is going to find some back-to-back games to work in his backup goalie.

But a backup quarterback? He's simply there because, well, someone has to hold the clipboard. Heck, coaches hope a backup quarterback never has to play. Let alone in a big game. Let alone in a Super Bowl game.

Hey, there are a lot of great backup stories in life: Ringo Starr wasn't a starter for the Beatles. Humphrey Bogart was a backup in Casablanca. Tony Dungy was a third choice for the Bucs. And so on.

Over the years, there have been 10 quarterbacks who won a Super Bowl without being their team's starter from Day One. That's a little misleading, of course. Kurt Warner took over from an injured Trent Green in the preseason. It's a stretch to believe that Warner, a Hall of Famer, would have watched all season if Green had been healthy.

Roger Staubach took over early from Craig Morton for the Cowboys in 1971 and won his last 10 games. It was just a matter of time before Staubach became the man.

Here they are, then. Because we need some history framework for what Foles' accomplished. And because we love to rate things.

The 10 Best Backup Performances leading up to a Super Bowl victory:

1. Kurt Warner, Rams: It's pushing it a bit to say Warner was the Rams' backup, but that's the way the season started. The Rams were comparing Trent Green to Joe Montana, and suddenly, a former grocery store worker was at quarterback. Warner went 13-3 during the regular season. In the Super Bowl against the Titans, he threw for 414 yards, the only figure that eclipses Foles'.

2. Roger Staubach, Cowboys: Staubach didn't throw as much as some quarterbacks -- he had just 119 yards through the air against Miami. But after a 4-3 start, the Cowboys had no choice but to go with Staubach, who won all 10 of his starts.

3. Doug Williams, Redskins: Williams lost his only two starts in the regular season, but Joe Gibbs saw something he liked. When the playoffs began, so did Williams' story. In the Super Bowl, Williams had a second-quarter for the ages. In all, he threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns to beat the Broncos  in the Super Bowl.

4. Nick Foles, Eagles: There was supposed to be a giant drop-off after the Eagles lost Carson Wentz. Not so much. Foles went 2-1 in the regular season, then won three games as an underdog in the playoffs. If the Eagles played again this week, they'd win that one, too.

5. Jim Plunkett, Raiders: Plunkett barely played for two years for the Raiders, but he had to start when Dan Pastorini broke his leg. Plunkett went 9-2 in the regular season, then threw for three touchdowns in the Super Bowl.

6. Jeff Hostetler, Giants: Hoss took over for an injured Phil Simms in time to win the Giants' last two regular-season games. He then won all three of his playoff games, throwing for 222 lads in the win over Buffalo in the Super Bowl.

7. Terry Bradshaw, Steelers: Bradshaw was benched twice by the Steelers, once for Joe Gilloam and once for Terry Hanratty. But Bradshaw finished with a 5-2 record, and the Steelers won the Super Bowl, even though Bradshaw threw for just 95 yards.

8. Tom Brady, Patriots: Brady took the 1-3 Patriots to an 11-3 record in place of Drew Bledsoe, but the Patriots were hardly ready to turn the show over to him. Brady threw for just 145 yards against the Rams, most of it in a drive to break a 17-17 tie. He hit three of four for 32 yards in his last drive.

9. Trent Dilfer, Ravens: Dilfer was asked to stay out of the way of that marvelous Ravens' defense. He helped the Ravens to a 7-1 finish with that plan, although his quarterback rating was just 76.6.

10. Earl Morrall, Colts: No, this was the Morrall who stepped in for Johnny Unitas and went 13-1 as a backup. That guy lost his Super Bowl. And it wasn't the guy who won nine games for the '72 Dolphins. That guy didn't get to play in the Super Bowl. But in 1970, Morrall came into the Super Bowl for an injured Unitas and the Colts won. Morris completed only seven passes (of 15) for 147 yards, but he finally won the big one.


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