Can a back-up quarterback with the Super Bowl?
I don’t care what happens for the rest of the season. Bruce Arians is my hands-down choice for Coach of the Year.
Not only has he got the Cardinals winning week in and week out, he’s got them believing that a Super Bowl victory is not out of their reach – even without their starting quarterback.
— Richard Saenz (@RSaenzFox10) November 12, 2014
However, it does change things, Bruce.
The back-up is a back-up for a reason, and in today’s QB-starved NFL, any player good enough to start will already be under center.
It’s his job to say that everything’s kosher with Drew Stanton at the helm, though, so we can’t blame him for standing behind his man.
But what are the chances that Arizona goes all the way with their Number Two leading the charge?
Let’s look at the seven back-ups who have won the big game and see how Stanton matches up:
Roger Staubach, Cowboys (1971): Staubach took over for Craig Morton in Week 4 of the ’71 season and went on to lead Dallas to a 24-3 win over the Dolpins in Super Bowl VI.
This is a bad analogy. Staubach was slated to be “the guy” eventually and simply took over the job because management felt he was ready.
Terry Bradshaw, Steelers (1974): Again, Bradshaw had started off-and-on for four seasons prior to winning Super Bowl IX. Perhaps he hadn’t come into his own yet, but he wasn’t a true back-up.
Jim Plunkett, Raiders (1980): Plunkett took over in Week 6 for Dan Pastorini. We’re getting warmer here with Jim as he finished up with a fairly ho-hum NFL career, considering his Heisman-winning acumen. But hey, he’s got a ring so he must have done something right.
Jeff Hostetler, Giants (1990): Hostetler is the ultimate ‘backup quarterback leads his team to glory’ Cinderella story. After Phil Simms broke his foot in Week 14, Jeff and his mustache were called in to duty. Not only did he beat the heavily-favored Bills in Super Bowl XXV, he had to go through Joe Montana and the Niners to get there.
If there’s any hope for Stanton, it lies in the spirit of Jeff Hostetler.
Kurt Warner, Rams (1999): Meh, Trent Green tore his ACL in the pre-season, meaning that Warner started for St. Louis in all 16 regular season games.
Trent Dilfer, Ravens (2000): Dilfer led Baltimore to a lopsided 34-7 victory in Super Bowl XXXV. While Trent won 11 straight games to finish out the season (including the playoffs), he did have the benefit of playing with one of the greatest defenses of all-time.
Arizona does have a great defense, not as dominant as the Ravens of old, but certainly good enough to win a few games on their own.
Tom Brady, Patriots (2001): When Drew Bledsoe went down in Week 2 of the 2001 season it seemed like the end of a dynasty in New England – but instead it was the beginning of new one.
Hmm…I think that we’ve got enough film on Stanton to know he’s no Tom Brady.
So what’s the verdict?
Drew Stanton is 3-0 on the season as a starter, including a clutch divisional win over the 49ers. He’s also yet to throw an interception on the season and INTs are usually dime a dozen once you throw the back-up in there.
But, he’s only thrown 3 touchdowns and has amassed just 614 total yards.
These numbers are OK, but when you consider that Palmer averages closer to a pair of TD tosses per game, we’re looking at a pretty significant drop-off.
But winning matters above all else, so for now we’ve got to believe Bruce Arians when he says the Cardinals can win it all with Stanton under center.
He’s not the only believer, either.
“I believe Drew Stanton’s going to get it done and I believe he’s got more talent than people are giving him credit for.” – Cris Carter
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 10, 2014
This week’s contest against the red hot Detroit Lions will provide a pretty accurate barometer for how well Stanton can stand up against the league’s best defenses.