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New York Jets: What Do You Look for in a Third Quarterback?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Greg McElroy made a strong case yesterday during the Green and White Scrimmage for the third quarterback job. He completed all five of his pass attempts, including touchdowns of 48 and 70 yards. While the starting competition between Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith will probably end up much more significant to the 2013 season, McElroy and Matt Simms are competing for the final roster spot. This made me think about the qualities a third quarterback should have.

I think a number three quarterback should fit one of two profiles.

  • A young, developmental player with upside. This player should have something that really sticks out about him, whether it is arm strength, college production, or something else. There should be a plausible explanation for why he might be better than he was rated out of school and fell between the cracks. It has to be a guy early in his career because veterans do not have as much room to grow, and there is such a shortage of quality quarterbacks that any decent veteran is usually a starter or a backup.
  • A veteran who can execute a limited playbook and be an effective caretaker over a short period of time. The lack of plays you can run with this guy will limit his effectiveness over the long haul, but he can at least execute some basic things to keep you afloat. Again, anybody who can execute a full playbook is probably a starter or a backup. This guy should also be very intelligent and able to serve as a mentor and extra coach for young players.

The developmental guy is preferable. If you are dealing with low performing players, a young guy with a higher ceiling is better than an older guy who has already hit his peak.

What does this mean for the Jets? You might think it means Simms is a better choice, but I would disagree. Simms might be young and have a big arm, but there isn't much upside there. His COLLEGE stats look worse than Mark Sanchez's pro stats. It's tough to see anybody making that big of a leap. There is no decent developmental prospect, but McElroy at least fits the second category. He did a credible enough job in limited action last year at least before he was put in a position against the Chargers where he had to make big plays and subsequently collapsed. By most accounts, he is a very hard worker, a good locker room influence despite that radio interview after 2011, and a really smart guy.