The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Don't Scrimp on Lifeboats


It is an honor and pleasure to represent all positions and players in the NFL and each position creates its own unique and intrinsic issues, problems and successes. The art of representing a back up quarterback however can be even more complex and less publicly rewarding in that it involves unique variables, circumstances, and issues to the position that must be taken into account in every situation.

The back up quarterback position in professional football is the lifeboat on the Titanic position and has always been the most critical, unknown position in any of the four major professional sports.

No one ever notices or cares about the lifeboats, the number of boats or the adequacy of the crafts until the cruise-liner hits the Iceberg in the North Sea, and then and only then the life boat becomes the most critical piece of equipment on the vessel.

The same is true of the back up quarterback. He is the person who toils in anonymity receiving his only attention when he stands next to the head coach during a time out, or runs the opposition team plays during practice. His greatest value comes from wearing a Nike or Reebok hat on the sideline chartering the plays for his team on his clipboard.

However, his value is as important as any player on the field. The name, Earl Morral who replaced an injured Bob Griese for the un-defeated 1972 Miami Dolphins is the greatest example of the need for a competent and skilled performer. As are the names of Tom Brady, Don Strock and Frank Reich of the Buffalo Bills fame.

Representing such a player is also just as critical and in most cases just as anonymous. While the multi-million dollar contracts for Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer receive front page headlines, the deals for Brock Huard, Cleo lemon, Brad Johnson and Seneca Wallace are relegated to the back pages of the transaction portion of the sports section.

Yet to each of these players, their contracts and careers are as valuable and critical to them as to any super star in the league. An agent's utmost responsibility to his client is to treat each and every player as if they are a Hall of Fame performer.

With today's salaries, a back up quarterback can earn a solid professional football income sufficient enough if managed correctly to set the player, and his family, up for life after his playing days. Thus the player must be placed in the proper situation with the correct contract with the necessary upside protections.

The first factor is making sure that the player is placed in the best scenario and situation to further the player's career, and maximize his opportunities. It is critical to look at whom the competition quarterbacks are with each team, who the starter is and what the teams contractual obligations to those players are at all times, and how much that team's back up quarterback play each year.

A back up quarterback with the Giants, behind Eli Manning, will have less opportunity to perform than the back up quarterback(s) in Kansas City. In order to further a player's career or maintain a player as a back up quarterback, he must show he can produce at a high level when called upon. The back up must be able to demonstrate he can win games and, in the case of Matt Cassel, not lose them. Placing a player in a no win situation where he languishes on the bench behind a stud starter is in many cases professional suicide.

It is also critical to know your client. Does he have the personality and mentality to be a back up quarterback? Can he perform with little to no repetitions in practice. Can he keep his mind fresh and into the playbook week after week when the chances of his playing are remote? Can he stay physically and mentally fresh to withstand the defensive pounding?

Also does the player have the mental capacity, and confidence, to be the starting quarterback when called upon but also to have the necessary skills to be a "Crash Davis" to the team's primary starter in the interim period?

The back up quarterback has to fit many roles including being the caddy and emotional supporter to the starter as well as the person who helps signal in the plays on Sunday. The league is littered with many quarterbacks who possessed starter talents but could never embrace the alternative rolls of a back up quarterback.

You also have to determine if the players has true starting quarterback abilities. If he does, placing him with the right team is important. The back up quarterback's chances of starting behind a Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh with his 7-year contract, or Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and his multi-year contract, are slim to none as opposed to the opportunities that present themselves today in San Francisco, Detroit, and Miami etc. If the player has the talent and gets the opportunity to start like Tom Brady, Steve Young etc. then he will further his career considerably.

And then it is critical to make sure that the player's contract properly reflects his talents, his potential and his production. Negotiating the proper length of the deal, the proper security (people hate it when agents use the words "signing Bonus") and what is called the "back-side" protection (play time and performance incentives in the contract to increase the players compensation for production) of the contract are critical.

If a player signs a 5-year deal with a nice signing bonus but has no upside protection and becomes the next Tony Romo, he will subsequently be upset about his less-than-market contract. These contracts, while less lucrative sometimes require greater time, expertise and creativity to fairly and adequately compensate the player for his incredible and subtle contributions to the organization.

At the end of the day, it is critical that every players' careers, strengths and weaknesses be properly analyzed and assessed, and that the players' situation and contract properly reflect these attributes to maximize the players chances of success and opportunities. The back up quarterback may have the cleanest uniform at the end of every Sunday but his availability in case of Ice bergs can never be under estimated.

By Peter Schaffer  |  September 18, 2008; 2:16 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

There have been many great back ups over the years, but Matt Cassell, Tyler THigpen and Gus "Senior Citizen" Frerotte don't have a shot to make it to that level

Posted by: crouching tiger | September 18, 2008 3:13 PM

Two words: BABE LAUFENBURG!!!!!!

Posted by: Eric | September 18, 2008 3:52 PM

i am gonna show this to my friend, bro

Posted by: Gusuariarbit | September 22, 2008 3:29 PM

Cognitive page., dude

Posted by: Soyncinob | September 28, 2008 7:39 AM

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