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The Value of Things: Evaluating the Backup QBs

The less sexy guy behind the thrown.

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Football Team Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

Admittedly, any football discussions around the beginning of July are going to be less exciting than they would be just about any other time of year. Teams have finished their OTAs and their training camps haven’t started yet. Free agency mania has long since gone and most of the draft picks have already signed and are starting to settle in. Finding topics to get excited about can be difficult.

So, we can rehash the same old discussions in as many creative new ways as we can or we can look at new features that might be mildly interesting now, but will likely soon be forgotten once the season is under way. We learn to accept these things and the snickering that ultimately comes with it.

Talking about backup quarterbacks falls somewhere in that pantheon. They aren’t usually sexy and if your team is secure in its starting quarterback they may not seem particularly relevant. That’s of course until they are. The NBA is at the height of its annual shifting of power in the league. When all-stars are traded or when they sign with someone else the world takes notice. Hardly anyone notices the little guy whether that’s any of the four major sports.

17 teams in the NFL finished between seven wins and ten wins in 2021. The little things don’t excite very many people, but playoff hopes are often decided by the little things. Only 12 of the 32 quarterbacks started all 17 games in the regular season. So, evaluating backups might seem silly, but the odds are good that Davis Mills won’t start every game no matter how effective he is. So, it isn’t a complete waste of time to compare the second quarterback we used last year with the second quarterback we will use this year.

Basic Statistical Comparison

We can obviously compare Tyrod Taylor and Kyle Allen on any number of fronts. We will start with the basic numbers. Taylor has started 53 games (a little over three seasons worth) in his career versus Allen’s 17. However, we can look at basic rate statistics and come away with a reasonable comparison

Kyle Allen: 63.1%, 4318 yards, 24 TDs, 17 INT, 6.9 YPA, 6.4 AYPA

Allen has appeared in 21 games, so those yards end up being at 205.6 per game with 1.14 TD per game and 0.81 interceptions per game. If we were to tally that out a typical 17 game season that would end up being 3495 yards passing, 19 TDs, and 14 INT. Obviously, no one is calling Canton, but a team could stay afloat for a few weeks if they had to go with Allen at quarterback.

Tyrod Taylor: 61.3%, 10,736 yards, 59 TDs, 25 INT, 7.0 YPA, 7.0 AYPA

Keep in mind that Taylor has played three times the number of games. The yards per attempt and adjusted yards per attempt demonstrate that Taylor is better at avoiding the sack. The interception totals would indicate that he is historically better at avoiding interceptions. When we look at the per game totals we end up at 137.6 yards per game he has appeared in with 0.76 touchdowns per game and 0.32 interceptions per game. That’s a season where he would throw for 2,339 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. Taylor has also rushed for 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns in his career. That obviously gets baked in at some point.

More Advanced Numbers

At some point you obviously have to move to more advanced numbers. Allen has only played for the past for seasons, so we will look at each players’ PFF score, his old fashioned quarterback rating, and the QBR that ESPN uses. Obviously, the higher the number the better in each circumstance. We will go season by season with PFF, followed by OBR, and then what we will call ESPN.


Kyle Allen— 73.8. 98,6, 24.6

Tyrod Taylor— 59.2, 76.7, 40.4


Allen— 49.7, 99.3, 68.2

Taylor— 59.4, 75.4, 16.6


Allen— 68.5, 80.0, 38.3

Taylor— 66.0, 120,1, 3.3


Allen— 65.9. 113.1, 95.2

Taylor— 47.0, 64.5, 27.0

Oddly enough, Allen outpaces Taylor in two out of three of the markers in every season except for 2018 where he leads in all three. Does this mean he is definitely a better quarterback? There are obviously intangibles involved and Taylor’s experience can’t be discounted. We have no way of calculating how beneficial he was to Mills’ development. We have no way of knowing how that assistance compares to what Allen can bring to the table.

What does it all mean?

Most moves that teams make don’t make it to the front pages. General managers don’t make franchise altering moves every day. They just don’t, The successful ones find ways to make their team better in small ways. Those small ways can add up to a win or two at the end of the season. If it elevates you from eight to nine wins or nine to ten wins then they make you a playoffs team where you weren’t one before. In the Texans case it might be the difference between third and fourth in the AFC South. Kyle Allen isn’t going to blow anyone’s skirt up, but he appears to be statistically better than Tyrod Taylor. It might be enough to get an extra win here or there.