For the Patriots, Being the Backup is No Easy Task

Christine Roy
August 27, 2013 at 06:46am ET

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He doesn't get hit like a lineman, doesn't rush like a running back and he's not likely a leader on the field but he has one of the most important jobs on the team. The backup quarterback, the unsung hero, fighting for every opportunity and waiting for his moment. All it takes is one play to go wrong and he's in. Preseason aside he doesn't get many chances to practice what he's learned against an opposing defense. It's all about performing under pressure and getting the job done.

We've seen some great backups transition into franchise starters; Tom Brady being chief among them. Not many people gave the sixth round draft pick a chance to take over for Drew Bledsoe. But that's where he proved his football IQ and today Patriots fans don't want to imagine a day without him.

Ryan Mallett could one day find himself taking over for one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. (FILE:USPresswire)

Standing in Brady's shadow isn't an easy place to be. Matt Cassel stepped in in 2008 to lead the team to an 11-5 record after Brady was knocked out in week one with a season ending knee injury. He went on to quarterback the Kansas City Chiefs but since leaving the Patriots his road hasn't been easy and he's had little success.

Brian Hoyer was the man behind Brady for three years after being signed by the Pats as an undrafted free agent in 2009. Before the start of the 2012 season Hoyer was cut by the team and bounced from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Arizona Cardinals that year. This season he finds himself in Cleveland behind Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell. He may never have an opportunity to start an NFL game or learn from the likes of a future hall of famer again.

As for who now stands to inherit the reigns from Brady, the backup duties lie on Ryan Mallett. Drafted in the third round of 2011 he's spent the last two seasons with one of the best the game has ever seen. In practice their footwork is in line and it's clear Mallett looks to get as much as he can out of Brady. He may look like he's just "holding the clipboard" but he's using every practice and every game as an opportunity to grow and learn the intricacies of his position.

Being the backup makes a player an easy target for critics. In his short NFL career Mallett has had his talents questioned and his name has found a familiar spot in the trade rumor mill. With the addition of Tebow, some are forgetting Mallett is actually the number two guy. They jump straight from Brady to Tebow. But Mallet isn't the first backup to have his skills doubted and he certainly won't be the last.

Less we forget, it's very well documented that Brady never had anything handed to him. He had to work for everything he got at Michigan and he has fought every year with the Patriots to get better and to raise his game. He wasn't an instant success and has taken his time to develop his game. You can bet he's passing that attitude down to the guys behind him on the depth chart.

Every fan wants their backup quarterback to be a miracle waiting in the wings. But the reality is, it's going to take some patience and a few bad passes before he becomes a fan favorite. It's not the most physical job in the league but it certainly is one of the toughest. Hurry up and wait is the motto but when Belichick says, "you're in", it's the opportunity of a lifetime. Mallett will continue to grow so give him some time, but luckily we've got Brady for a least a little while longer.