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THE FRANKEN-BACKUP

8/29/2008
Was this backupedness, perfected? Getty Images

In the NFL, Plan B is the only constancy. Success is a contingency strategy. Big-time players go down in winnable games, and those games have to stay winnable. In choosing a backup quarterback, there are too many questions facing front offices and coaches to possibly take into account—and too few quality prospects to answer them. Is he battle-tested? Can he manage the game plan? Will he gain the respect of his peers on the field? Is he ready for the spotlight? Can we call anything but running plays while he's under center? Is Joey Porter going to break him?

Unfortunately for today's NFL at large, the perfect backup just doesn't exist. He's a myth. If he existed, he'd be starting. With that considered, we're going to play God—or at least Dr. Frankenstein. We're surgically removing portions of anatomy, brain, personality, and in a few cases, lineage.

Doug Flutie's Likeability
The QB is often the face of the franchise (Tampa Bay and Detroit not included). And, even when a team's season is sputtering, a likeable quarterback can stem vitriol spewed from sports radio and local columnists. Here comes Flutie. Who on Earth could dislike this guy? While a seemingly perfect college player, Flutie was always the undersized underdog in the NFL. Everyone rooted for him; people loved it when he went in; and his dropkick extra point is perhaps the most famous successful PAT in history. Plus, he plays the drums; give the drummer some.

Vinny Testaverde's Experience
This was a tough call, because Testaverde started for 10 years … but he also backed up 10! Ultimately, we included him because he was a backup for about 10. It seems like Vinny put it together nearly as often as he couldn't, and for a number two, batting .500 is solid. No matter the team, no matter the circumstance, he was ready to go in at a moment's notice and probably knew the playbook flawlessly. Plus, his name's Vinny. (More on that later.)

Kyle Orton's Resignation
A backup better know his place. A me-first prima donna can destroy team chemistry, destroy media perception, and really, scuttle his coach's job. Orton's fearless display of eudaemonia lets his coach know that he's not here to make trouble. His Buddhist like tranquility is undoubtedly the reason he's actually acquired the starting job this season. And really, how could that go wrong?

Jim Sorgi's 2007 $2.5M Contract Extension
Wait, this was for that other piece, "FRANKEN-Backup: The Backup's Wishlist."
David Carr's Ability to Get Hit
When the backup's in there, count on a few sacks. In fact, a familiarity with a defensive end's shoulder pads probably got him (and the starter) on the bench in the first place. David Carr is a master in punishment-takeability. Nobody in recent memory took a beating like Carr did in Houston and Carolina, and most of the time, he got back up.

The Detmer's Genes
When looking for a backup, a front office should ask, "is he of good stock?" When dealing with the Detmers, the answer always—and I mean always—comes back a resounding "in some cases!" That's probably the reason that the Eagles had either Ty or Koy on their roster at some point in the last decade. Further, they're from Texas. It's a football thing.

Genes Pt. 2: The Simms
Whereas the hardy Detmer name lets an organization know that someone could at least suit up and be incredibly adequate, the Simms name lets you know it's going to be a handsome experience. Both Phil and Chris—boy, you could set a watch by the way the sun hits their teeth; look out! Though aesthetics seem trivial in the most important sport on Earth, a female fanbase will stay interested when John Q. Hero goes down, and even straight men like a seeing a strong jaw. Just ask Burt Reynolds.

Hugh Millen's Inflated Abilities in Tecmo Super Bowl
In the 1991 classic video game Tecmo Super Bowl, the Falcons were hardly a premier team. Their best players were Deion Sanders and Andre Rison, and that was about it. For whatever reason though, their backup Hugh Millen was a substantial upgrade on starter Chris Miller. This can do wonders for a backup's confidence. Imagine Millen, sitting down to play for the first time, and finding his 8-bit likeness outplaying his supposed better. This was also the case for Tom Tupa, Mike Tomczak, and, in some cases, Stan Humphries.

Frank Reich's Negotiation Skills
Heading into a third-quarter, a 35-3 deficit during the 1992 playoffs, Frank Reich stepped out onto field and wrought the powers of darkness against the Oilers. Believe it or not, Frank Reich made a deal with the devil to pull off the greatest comeback in NFL history. A team with that kind of a dealer can't go wrong. Reich also led the Terrapins to a 31-point comeback against the Hurricanes in 1984. It is without question that Reich first met Lucifer while the dark prince was doing a "fun, second undergrad at the U."

Doug Pederson's Perpetual Patience
A backup can't be too eager. There's no better example of this than Doug Pederson. Backing up Brett Favre for seven years in his prime can be a boring, if not soul-crushing realization: you may never play in an NFL game. That didn't stop Pederson from being there on the sidelines, practicing hard, befriending Favre, and of course, cashing checks. See also: Matt Cassell, Jim Sorgi.

Elvis Grbac's Name
A cool name can take you places. Just look at Babe Ruth, Tiger Woods, Dominique Wilkens, Mickey Mantle, Larry Bird, and Dick Trickle. No joke, people naturally root for guys named God Shammgod and World B. Free. The name Elvis means something and it automatically gives you clout. There are really only two other famous guys named Elvis: Costello and The Elvis. Juxtaposing an iconic first name with such an unusual—and nearly vowel-free—last name gives the appearance that it was pulled out of a Tarantino script (well, earlier). You can't lose.

All of these aspects, in scientific congress, could yield a behemoth backup figure. Could he start?

50-50 at best.