By Tim Graham
I'm fascinated by the AFC East's backup quarterback situations, and I know I'm not alone.
The division features two of the more polarizing reserves: Buffalo Bills quarterback Vince Young and New York Jets thingamajig Tim Tebow. Each supposedly is entrenched in his backup role, with his club insisting the incumbent remains clear-cut starter.
But fans wonder what will happen if Ryan Fitzpatrick and Mark Sanchez falter. Neither is without flaws, inconsistency a mutual issue.
Then there's the Miami Dolphins. Some would argue they have three strong second-stringers and no obvious starter at the moment. Again, fascinating.
The New England Patriots are interesting for no other reason that nobody really knows how capable Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett are.
With all that to consider, here's my breakdown of AFC East backup quarterbacks based on their viability if they need to take over for the starter (not how they'd be able to contribute through gimmickry):
1. Buffalo Bills
I've been bullish on Young getting an opportunity since the Tennessee Titans decided to part with him last year. I was a proponent of the Miami Dolphins bringing him aboard to challenge Chad Henne last year.
I know, I know. The Philadelphia Eagles trusted Trent Edwards more than Young last season, but Young's skill set remains intriguing to me. He's highly mobile, throws a pretty ball and has a track record of winning games (aside from last season).
He certainly engenders more confidence than Tyler Thigpen in a pinch.
Young enters 2012 with something to prove. He should be in shape. He should be attentive. He should be ready to contribute. I also like the idea of Chan Gailey working with him.
So that's my vote, and I'm sticking to it. In June.
2. New York Jets
Tebow is one of those love-him-or-hate-him characters. Quite frankly, I don't give a damn either way. I'm neither enraptured nor repulsed by his persona.
All the predictions about Tebow being a colossal distraction are overblown. Sanchez would be entering a make-or-break season no matter what. If he plays well, then all will be fine. If he plays poorly, then Jets fans will demand a benching regardless of whether Tebow or Browning Nagle is the backup.
Tebow got lucky last year while building a reputation as a season-saver. The Denver Broncos' defense and bizarre opponent mistakes bailed him out.
But you can't deny the spark Tebow provided. He does have something to offer and sure would be riveting to watch if he needed to take over for Sanchez, who has dealt with injury problems.
Of all the AFC East backup quarterbacks, Tim Tebow is tied with David Garrard for most playoff victories with one.
3. Miami Dolphins
It's hard to rate the Dolphins when you don't know how their quarterback depth chart will look.
No matter what, they should be in good shape if their starter goes down. But can the Dolphins win if that happens?
They'd love for first-round draft choice Ryan Tannehill to seize the job in training camp. Incumbent Matt Moore backed into the job last year and has 25 starts in four seasons. Garrard is experienced, but he's 34 years old and didn't play last season after back surgery.
So if Tannehill wins the gig, then that means Moore and Garrard couldn't beat out a rookie. I'd take Young or Tebow over guys like that.
And if Tannehill doesn't win the gig, then he very well might be No. 2. I'd take Young or Tebow over a rookie.
4. New England Patriots
Hoyer, undrafted out of Michigan State three years ago, has thrown 43 NFL passes.
Maybe he's the next Matt Cassel, groomed behind Tom Brady to become a wealthy quarterback someday for somebody else. Or maybe he's the next Matt Gutierrez or Kevin O'Connell.
We don't know.
We know even less about Mallett aside from his prolific seasons at Arkansas, but he slid into the third round for a reason. He has yet to get into a game.