The expectations for Brett Hundley are low, as they often are when a team takes a gut punch and loses a star quarterback. The line for Sunday versus the Saints moved an incredibly large 10 points after the news of Aaron Rodgers’ injury. But history shows that if Hundley can just look semi-competent–and exceed expectations–then he can be in line for a big payday. He’ll have the advantages of playing in an offensive system that is established, and where he has been able to learn and practice, and with receivers that are pretty good. History also shows that certainly doesn’t mean he’s actually good.
We’ve seen Matt Flynn (playing in only one game replacing Rodgers) and Rob Johnson (playing in only one game behind Mark Brunell in 1997) sign obscene contracts that their new teams regretted. But here are some other cases where some relatively unknown and young-ish backups turned a cameo replacing an injured Hall of Famer/near-HOF type QB into a big payday.
- Matt Cassel-Tom Brady (2008)
- Scott Mitchell-Dan Marino (1993)
- Elvis Grbac-Steve Young (1995 and 1996)
- Brock Osweiler-Peyton Manning (2015)
- AJ Feeley-Donovan McNabb (2003)
Cassel was actually in danger of being benched at one point, and still rebounded enough to get traded to Kansas City. Scott Mitchell replaced an injured Marino before himself getting hurt, and signed with the Lions the next year. Grbac waited two seasons to get his chance in Kansas City. Osweiler signed a huge deal with Houston and lasted a season. AJ Feeley rode a 4-1 record in 2003 to a big contract with the Dolphins in 2005.
Fool’s gold in most of these cases? Yes. But Hundley has a chance to outperform expectations and be the next in a long line of guys who profited off replacing star quarterbacks and not looking like the guys the Colts trotted out in 2011 to replace Peyton Manning. There’s a decent chance he puts up at least league-average numbers after a few starts and everyone starts acting surprised.