DALLAS — Don’t be surprised if Byron Leftwich or Matt Flynn is the hero or goat come Sunday night.
In the last couple of football seasons, backup quarterbacks have played significant roles in significant games. In last year’s BCS title game, Texas turned to true freshman Garrett Gilbert for almost the entire game after Colt McCoy went out with a shoulder injury. You may also have heard that Jay Cutler got a knee boo-boo in the NFC title game a couple weeks ago, forcing Caleb Hanie to try to get the Bears to the Super Bowl. (I also think I saw Todd Collins on the field for about eight seconds… but that can’t be right, can it?)
Considering how brutal both the Packers’ and Steelers’ pass rushes are, would it really be a shocker to see Roethlisberger and/or Rodgers sitting on the sidelines trying to remember where they are? And the bigger question is, which team would be in more trouble if either injury came to pass?
The harsh but obvious truth is, both teams would suffer considerably. People are excited about Flynn after watching him keep the Pack in the game against New England, but let’s remember that this season’s Pats D wasn’t exactly the ’85 Bears. Leftwich, meantime, has played well in his few opportunities to go under center for the Steelers, but his slow delivery and slower feet would provide Green Bay with an easy target. Ultimately, though, I think the Packers would be in more dire straits.
To get a more definitive answer, I formed an impromptu blue-ribbon panel comprised of Gil Brandt, Steve Wyche, Pat Kirwan and Bucky Brooks here in the NFL.com war room (which is really just a conference room… but it’s more fun to give it a more bad*** name).
Wyche and Brooks agreed with me: The inexperience of Flynn would be a recipe for disaster against the aggressive, confusing Pittsburgh pass rush. Brandt, on the other hand, preferred Flynn because of his ability to run away from pressure.
And Kirwan offered an option I hadn’t even considered: Chaz Batch. Kirwan said he spoke this week with some of the Steelers, who unanimously expressed confidence in the relatively elderly Steel City native. Why? Because he’s served as the scout team QB in practice for years against Dick LeBeau‘s vaunted 3-4, which very closely resembles what Dom Capers installed when he got to Green Bay a couple years ago.
Imagine if that happened: a Pittsburgh kid who took less money to stay with his hometown team pulling out a Super Bowl in the twilight of his careeer. How ‘bout that for a feel-good story?
– Dave Dameshek