It’s no secret that the NFL has evolved into a quarterback-driven league. Gone are the days of Trent Dilfer leading the Baltimore Ravens to Super Bowl glory, or Rex Grossman guiding the Chicago Bears to their first NFC Championship since 1986.
Whether it’s the lasting effects of an 18-week regular season — the longest in NFL history — or the consequences of playing a season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, having a formidable second-string QB available to plug and play could be the deciding factor as to which team hoists the Lombardi Trophy at Super Bowl LVI next month.
Can the Green Bay Packers depend on Jordan Love? Does Marcus Mariota and Chad Henne have any playoff magic left in them? Hopefully for these teams, these are questions that don’t need to be answered.
But in the event of “in case of emergency, break glass” crisis under center, here’s our rankings of the backup quarterbacks heading into postseason play, from best to worst.
Who are the backup quarterbacks playing in the 2022 NFL Playoffs?
1. Marcus Mariota, Las Vegas Raiders
The former No. 2 overall pick has only seen the field in recent weeks after an injury-riddled start to the season. But don’t sleep on the dual-threat abilities of Marcus Mariota, who has had success in road playoff games in the past.
Make no mistake about it: Derek Carr is the Raiders’ starting quarterback and should be considered as one of the NFL’s elite signal-callers. But that doesn’t mean Mariota can’t do things that Carr can’t, as we all saw in the Raiders’ overtime victory against the Los Angeles Chargers last weekend.
When the Raiders line up with Mariota in the backfield, the RPO (Run-Pass Option) adds a dimension of unpredictability for defenses to play against as he makes plays with his arm and his legs. Mariota has become a weapon on fourth downs and red zone opportunities, and that was evident in his head-turning performance against the Los Angeles Chargers last season.
In five-career playoff appearances, Mariota has a passer rating of 94.1 with 463 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. In terms of rushing, he has 88 yards on 13 carries, an average of 6.8 yards per carry. And perhaps most memorably, Mariota has one receiving touchdown that was thrown by himself.
2. Gardner Minshew, Philadelphia Eagles
No, this isn’t the second coming of Minshew Mania. And while it may be a bit of a shock to see Gardner Minshew at the No. 2 spot in this list, it’s hard to ignore the former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback’s productivity when he’s on the field.
In his 27 career appearances, he has 5,969 yards, 41 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. In four games this season, Minshew has a passer rating of 104.8 with 439 yards, four touchdowns and one interception, including a stellar performance against the New York Jets in Week 13 where he completed 20-of-25 passes for 242 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 133.7, the fifth-highest in the NFL that week.
Jalen Hurts may offer more as a dual-threat quarterback who can improvise on a moment’s notice, but Minshew is more than capable of dropping back and slinging the ball down the field. In fact, Minshew’s career passer rating (94.4) and completion percentage (63.5) is significantly better than Hurts (82.0 passer rating, 57.7 completion percentage.)
3. Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
When the San Francisco 49ers traded up for the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, not many would have expected Trey Lance to still be riding the bench ahead of Super Wild Card, especially behind a less-than 100 percent healthy Jimmy Garoppolo.
Nevertheless, Kyle Shanahan has a winning formula on offense with Garoppolo under center. And the threat of bringing Lance in to mix things up will continue to be a threat in the same way Mariota is utilized for the Raiders, particularly in the playoffs
Lance may not have the experience as the majority of quarterbacks on this list, but it’s safe to say his ceiling is as high as any — if not higher. Lance has shown an ability to roll out of the pocket, while keeping defenders at bay with his ability to throw on the run.
In six appearances during his rookie year, Lance has completed 41-of-71 passes for 603 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Against NFC opposition (Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals) Lance has a passer rating of 88.4 with four total touchdowns three pass, one rush) and one interception.
4. Colt McCoy, Arizona Cardinals
Colt McCoy has been around the league since 2010, and has stepped up on multiple occasions for the Arizona Cardinals in 2021.
In nine games this season, McCoy has 740 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 101.4. His first appearance came back in a November start against the San Francisco 49ers where the 35-year-old veteran threw for 249 yards at an 84.6 percent clip with one touchdown with a passer rating of 119.4.
But McCoy’s best statistical showing came two weeks later against another NFC West division rival in the Seattle Seahawks, where the former Texas Longhorn completed 35-of-44 attempts for 328 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 112.9.
5. Cooper Rush, Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have a legitimate shot to make a deep run in the NFC with Dak Prescott under center. But if Prescott isn’t available to play for any reason, all hope may not be lost with Cooper Rush at the helm of the offense.
Rush isn’t as talented as Prescott, but he’s certainly proved that he’s capable of not only playing in meaningful games, but winning them too.
Rush burst onto the scene earlier this season in Week 8 in place of Prescott, who was out injured.
The 28-year-old had an impressive showing on the road against the Minnesota Vikings where he threw for 325 yards on 24-of-40 attempts, two touchdowns and one interception with a passer rating of 92.2.
6. Mitchell Trubisky, Buffalo Bills
Chicago Bears fans, turn away. Mitchell Trubisky is back in the playoffs with the Buffalo Bills.
While Trubisky has only completed 6-of-8 attempts in 2021 as backup for Josh Allen, the former No. 2 overall pick can still be a serviceable backup if called upon.
Trubisky has two games of playoff experience, both losses, from his less-than-stellar time in the Windy City, where he racked up 502 total yards and two touchdown passes to go along with a 92.5 passer rating.
In his career to date, Trubisky has appeared in 57 games, passing for 10, 652 yards at a 64.1 percent clip, with 73 total touchdowns (64 pass, 9 rush) and 38 interceptions.
7. Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh Steelers
The jury is still out on Mason Rudolph, 26, to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, but the second-string signal-caller for the Pittsburgh Steelers has shown the ability to make plays and push the ball downfield in limited action.
In two appearances this season, Rudolph has completed 35-of-58 attempts for 277 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Rudolph may not have the playoff experience you’d prefer in a backup quarterback who’s been in the league since 2018, but the Steelers have a capable backup who has enough game time to know what it takes to win at this level.
The most Steelers fans have seen Rudolph play came back in 2019 for the then-injured Ben Roethlisberger, where the former Oklahoma State star racked up 1,765 yards in 10 games, completing 62.2 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
8. Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers
The last thing Green Bay Packers fans want to see is Jordan Love on the field coming off the team’s Wild Card bye, but there’s a reason why the Packers traded up to select the former Utah State standout.
Love wasn’t active in the Packers’ playoff run last season that was stopped short in the NFC Championship by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he was finally able to suit up in the 2021 season to give Packers fans a glimpse of his potential.
In six appearances during the regular season, Love completed 36-of-61 attempts for 411, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Love had extensive game time twice in 2021, making his first career start against the Kansas City Chiefs back in November. In a 13-7 loss the Chiefs, Love completed 19-of-34 attempts for 190 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
In the Packers’ Week 18 loss to the Detroit Lions, Love completed 10-of-17 attempts for 134 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
9. Blaine Gabbert, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If Tom Brady isn’t able to suit up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this postseason for any reason, the likelihood of back-to-back Super Bowl titles for the franchise is likely over. But maybe Blaine Gabbert will surprise us all.
The second-string quarterback behind Tom Brady hasn’t seen much action since No. 12 made his way to Tampa Bay, but the former No. 10 overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars back in 2011 has seen limited action in 2021.
In six appearances, Gabbert completed 7-of-11 attempts for 67 yards. In his career with the Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Tennessee Titans and Buccaneers, Gabbert has racked up 9,273 passing yards, completing 56.3 percent of his passes with 50 touchdowns and 47 interceptions.
10. John Wolford, Los Angeles Rams
John Wolford hasn’t seen much game time in the NFL, but he’s well known by NFL fans due to his role in the Los Angeles Rams playoff run in 2020.
Wolford took over for the Rams in Week 18 against the Arizona Cardinals when Jared Goff injured his thumb the week before. Wolford completed 22-of-38 attempts for 231 yards, one interception and rushed for 56 yards on six attempts.
Wolford held onto the starting gig for last year’s Super Wild Card Weekend showdown against the Seattle Seahawks but was pulled from the game due to a concussion suffered in the first quarter, opening the door for Goff to return to action.
Since Wolford’s last appearance, Matthew Stafford has taken over the reins of Sean McVay’s offense and hasn’t given them up. Wolford has appeared in three games in 2021, completing just 1-of-4 attempts for five yards and one interception.
11. Chad Henne, Kansas City Chiefs
Chad Henne probably deserves to be higher on this list solely for his clutch play in last year’s playoffs against the Cleveland Browns.
Henne’s name should be echoed in Kansas City like Frank Reich’s is in Buffalo or Nick Foles in Philadelphia for the plays he made when Patrick Mahomes went down. But the reality of Henne’s track record isn’t as impressive as that one performance might indicate.
In his three seasons with Kansas City, Henne has completed 41-of- 57 passing attempts for 359 and two touchdowns. In 2021, Henne, 36, has appeared in four games but only attempted a pass in one back in Week 7’s 27-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
In that loss, Henne came in for Mahomes when the game was already out of reach to throw for 82 yards on 11-of-16 attempts.
12. Brian Hoyer, New England Patriots
Brian Hoyer has played the role of mentor for New England Patriots rookie Mac Jones, but is as consistent as they come as a serviceable backup in the NFL.
In five appearances in 2021, Hoyer completed 9-of-11 attempts for 227 yards and one touchdown. In his career, Hoyer has 10,361 passing yards with a completion percentage of 59.3, 53 touchdowns and 35 interceptions.
Despite being a mainstay in New England for most of his career, Hoyer has never attempted a single throw in the playoffs for the Patriots.
However, he has appeared in one playoff game for the Houston Texans back in 2015 where he completed 15-of-34 attempts for 136 yards and four interceptions.
13. Brandon Allen, Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals have a good thing going with second-year quarterback Joe Burrow. But if he misses any time this postseason, the Bengals’ hopes of a deep postseason may be over.
That’s no disrespect to backup quarterback Brandon Allen, it just shows how good Burrow has been for the Bengals at such a young age.
Allen had an opportunity to prove himself in Week 18 as Cincinnati chose to rest a less-than 100 percent Burrow, and the results were subpar. Allen completed 15-of-29 attempts for 136 yards and one touchdown in a 21-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
14. Logan Woodside, Tennessee Titans
If the Tennessee Titans get a healthy Derrick Henry and Julio Jones back into the mix, it may not matter too much who is throwing the ball around. But if Ryan Tannehill is forced to miss any time this postseason, the reins of the Titans offense will be handed to Logan Woodside.
Woodside, 26, has appeared in five games for the Titans this season, but hasn’t attempted a pass in any of them. His only career passing attempts came in 2020, where he completed 1-of-3 attempts for seven yards in six appearances.
If Woodside is forced to suit up and play for the Titans this postseason, there won’t be much film for defenses to work with in their preparation. With that said, the jury is still out on Woodside’s abilities as an NFL-caliber quarterback.
Be sure to check back after each game for final scores and follow ProFootballTalk for more on the 2022 NFL Playoffs as well as game previews, recaps, news, rumors, and more.