After watching Kurt Warner (Rams, 1999) and Tom Brady (Patriots, 2001) lead their teams to Super Bowl victories as quarterbacks who began their respective seasons as backups, the premium on backup quarterbacks in the NFL is as high as ever.
In the "old days", quarterbacks were a lot more durable and had fewer games to play. A guy like Cliff Stoudt could win four Super Bowl rings with the Steelers as Terry Bradshaw's backup without having to play a down throughout the course of the season.
Despite the league's efforts to protect quarterbacks within the rulebook, it's inevitable that we have more injuries at the position. Defensive players keep getting bigger and stronger, offensive schemes continue to become more wide-open with a bigger emphasis on the passing game than ever before, and a starting quarterback must stay healthy throughout the course of four preseason and 16 regular-season games -- and possibly more if he leads his team into the playoffs.
The uncertainty we are witnessing at the quarterback position right now is unusual, but it is not a result of teams underestimating the importance of the backup quarterback position in the NFL today. Instead, it is a direct result of teams keeping their options open. With Kerry Collins signing with the Raiders and June 1 looming, we are likely to see a domino-effect that results in several teams shuffling their quarterback depth chart in the next few weeks.