Who Are The Bills Backup Quarterbacks And Can They Win?

August 18, 2022

The past Saturday we saw two vastly different performances from Buffalo’s backup quarterbacks. At the end of the day, which one gives the Bills the best chance to win, should Josh Allen miss any time?

Which Backup Would You Choose?

The first preseason game is over with, and we have just two more to go. We’re in the home stretch now with less than a month until the season kicks off in Los Angeles. There’s been a lot of action this offseason between the trades, the signings, and the injuries, there’s been no shortage of news to report. All of that is behind us now and the season is so close we can taste it.

The hype is building and after the first preseason game, it’s clear why this team is stacked. From second string to third, there are depth players on this team that would start on almost any other team in the NFL. In fact, the only position where the Bills may not have depth is quarterback. This begs the question no Bills fan wants to think on very long, who are the Bills’ backup quarterbacks, and can they be expected to win games if the unthinkable happens and Josh Allen gets injured?

Bills Quarterback Case Keenum

This Texas native has been a journeyman quarterback his entire career. Starting in Houston in 2012, he would go on to play for eight different teams in his tenure with the NFL, none of which stayed for more than two seasons. His best year was in 2017 with the Minnesota Vikings where he threw for over 3,500 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also managed to take the Vikings to the playoffs where they lost to the Eagles in the NFC Championship.

This shows that Keenum has talent and the ability to play the position. However, his inability to stick with a team for more than two seasons shows the inconsistency of his playing ability. Poor decision-making, fumbles, and bad luck have dogged him his entire career of which he now finds himself in Buffalo as the number two behind Josh Allen.

With a stat line of 11/18 with 86 yards and two interceptions, it’s clear Keenum did not have a good day at Highmark when the Bills played the Colts in their first preseason game. This does not instill confidence among Bills fans who hope to never have to see another person slinging the football for them outside of Allen. It’s likely that his seniority in the NFL is the reason he’s listed as number two on the depth chart in front of previous Bills backup Matt Barkley.

Bills Quarterback Matt Barkley

Another journeyman quarterback, Barkley started his career in 2013, one year after Keenum. The California boy fell to the Eagles in the fourth round after speculation he’d go in the first in the 2012 draft. He didn’t stay on the Eagles long; however, shortly into his second season he was traded to the Cardinals. Since then, he’s signed with six other teams but only actually played for two of them. One of those two is our very own Buffalo Bills.

Bills fans are already well familiar with Barkley who was the backup to Josh Allen from 2018-2020. He’s well remembered for stepping in for Josh Allen on several occasions with his most famous being in 2018 when he started for the injured Allen in his first NFL start in two years. He helped beat the Jets 41-17 which snapped a four-game losing streak and put him on the good side of Bills fans everywhere.

That was his last NFL start, since then he was signed by the Panthers, Titans, and Falcons but didn’t play for any of them. In last week’s preseason game, he was 18/24, 224 yards, and one interception. Not exactly a triumphant stat but to those who watched the game it was clear to see he was in sync with his receivers. His return to Buffalo is kind of a welcome home for Barkley as the Bills are the team he’s been with the longest and comes with a slew of other offseason re-signings of previous Bills players like Shaq Lawson and Jordan Phillips.

Can The Bills Win With Either?

Let’s make it clear that no one can replace Josh Allen, he’s a top five quarterback with some of the most impressive skills ever seen at the position. He’s the number one reason why the Bills are now a winning team and annual playoff contenders. However, there may come a time when Allen must miss a game for whatever reason and the Bills will still be expected to field a team capable of winning games. Of the two backups, who can be expected to win more games?

Keenum has more experience as a starter having played vastly more games than Barkley and has playoff experience. Barkley has less overall NFL experience but has more knowledge and exposure to this organization. I think while you can’t put a price on experience it’s the quality of that experience that counts and while Keenum has played more football in his life than Barkley.

Barkley’s familiarity with the Bills’ offensive system cannot be understated. Additionally, he already knows Ken Dorsey, the new offensive coordinator who was quarterbacks coach when Barkley was here last. This experience combined with the knowledge that we know for a fact he’s capable of winning games for the Bills (as he’s done it before) leads me to believe Barkley is the backup Bills fans should want in case of an emergency.

If we took away all the games the Bills didn’t win by two scores or more from last year’s record, the Bills would end up 9-7 with one tie. That one tie makes the difference between the Bills making it to the playoffs or not. Assuming that Allen is responsible for at least two scores a game it’s clear to see even without Allen the Bills are a good team, albeit maybe not playoff caliber.

While we all hope to never see someone other than number 17 behind center, we can take solace that while Allen makes this team great, the rest of the players and staff make this team good, and Barkley is good enough to hold down the fort should the worst befall our beloved quarterback.

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