Back-up quarterbacks in the NFL often get the short end of the stick, and are frequently the butt of cruel jokes. Yet few positions can be as important to an NFL team as their back-up. One serious injury to their starting quarterback and an entire season can be derailed. It falls to the back-up QB to step in at a moment’s notice, put the team on his back, and (hopefully) save the day. Of course, that’s easier said than done. The reality is that solid back-up quarterbacks are in short supply — after all, if they were that good, why wouldn’t they be starting somewhere else? Yet some of the greatest quarterbacks of all time have started as back-ups before working their way up the ladder. Some of them stepped in when destiny called and never relinquished the job. As you’ll see towards the end of this list, some of the best back-ups of all-time evetually turned into some of the best starters.
10. Doug Flutie
The former Boston College star, orchestrator of the “Hail Flutie,” and a Heisman Trophy winner, Doug Flutie never made the cut as a starting quarterback in the NFL. His short stature of 5’10” made it difficult for him to see over his offensive line and pick apart defenses. In fact, Flutie had his greatest success in football north of the border in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Yet he returned to the NFL in the twilight of his career and had a lot of success as a back-up quarterback for the Buffalo Bills and then the San Diego Chargers, stepping in on several occasions and winning games for his team. In fact, Flutie’s 1998-99 season in Buffalo was extremely memorable. He replaced an injured Rob Johnson at the quarterback position when the team was 1-3 on the season and led the Bills to a 10-6 record and one of their last post-season appearances. Sports writers dubbed the season “Flutie Magic.”