When I scrolled through my various social media platforms on Saturday and saw posts saying “Yes!” and “Finally!” and “Thank God!” and “Rejoice!” — I just assumed a Third World fascist dictator had been sent into exile. It didn’t take me long, of course, to figure out the release of Steelers’ veteran backup quarterback, Landry Jones, was the real reason for the worldwide celebration.
I must say, I was a bit surprised Jones was included in the many casualties of the annual, mandatory cut-down day. But not because I thought he truly was the heir-apparent to Ben Roethlisberger. It’s just how all the signs leading up to Saturday didn’t point to such a move.
For one thing, Jones was essentially given the starting quarterback treatment during the preseason, meaning he didn’t play much, while Joshua Dobbs and rookie Mason Rudolph got the bulk of the action. As this pertained to Dobbs, the second-year man out of Tennessee, who was seemingly destined for the chopping block at the very moment Pittsburgh selected Rudolph in the third-round of the most-recent NFL Draft, August football looked like an audition for Dobbs — but one for other NFL teams.
You might say the Steelers already knew what they had in Jones, and there was no reason for him to have to fight for his job. It was up to Dobbs to do what he could to convince the coaching staff and front office he was valuable enough to keep over the veteran.
Mission accomplished, I suppose.
I’ll give you that, but what about the whole “win now” mode the Steelers are in this season?
I think we’re all in agreement that, if Roethlisberger is lost for all or most of the regular season, the Steelers are toast. Therefore, it wouldn’t matter if Jones, Dobbs or Rudolph was under center. However, the whole point of having a backup to a franchise quarterback is to win a game or three if the franchise quarterback is lost for those games.
Can Dobbs do that for the Steelers this year? The powers-that-be must think so — otherwise it really doesn’t make much sense to place him one heartbeat away from the presidency. But what if Dobbs isn’t ready to do that this year and the Steelers are keeping him because they feel his upside is just too good to expose him to other teams? With Rudolph in the mix, that would certainly increase the Steelers’ odds of finding a legitimate future heir to Roethlisberger.
But, again, what about now?
Roethlisberger previously implied, and even outright stated, having Jones around was of great value because he was experienced enough to act as a mentor to the younger quarterbacks on the roster, thereby keeping them out of No. 7’s hair while he concentrates on winning his third Lombardi. But now, No. 7 not only is going to have to act as a mentor to one young quarterback, but two.
That’s a huge responsibility to take on, while also needing to concentrate on learning a slightly-newer playbook designed by a kind of new offensive coordinator. But while I can find a lot to question in the decision to keep Dobbs over Jones, I also get it.
As alluded to earlier, the Steelers already knew what they had in Jones, and if he hadn’t morphed into anything but a backup after five seasons, he likely wasn’t ever going to.
Besides, when Jones was thrown into the fray early in the 2015 regular season in a game against the Cardinals at Heinz Field, there was no confidence he would perform the way he did in leading Pittsburgh to a come-from-behind victory. So there’s precedent that an inexperienced Dobbs, who only in his second summer with the team, already looks better than Jones did over his first few preseasons, and therefore can be thrown into the fire and perform well under pressure.
OK, I get that, but I don’t get the glee.
From what I’ve seen, most fans don’t sincerely think Dobbs will be a starter in the NFL someday, so why all this excitement that he’ll be head-and-shoulders better than Jones? After all, by most standards, Jones is an average backup quarterback — meaning he’s your basic backup quarterback. If you think Dobbs is substantially better than Jones, that judgment essentially would make him a future starting NFL quarterback.
Do you think Dobbs is a future starting NFL quarterback?
If not, the glee over the Jones’ release just seems irrational and out of touch — like maybe you needed a quarterback to kick around — and since Roethlisberger was untouchable, you had to go after the backup.
If that’s the case, I really hope you’ll have some mercy and go easy on Dobbs if and when he discovers that filling in for a franchise quarterback is mostly a thankless job.
John Madden used to say: “The backup quarterback is the most popular player on the team.” I’m guessing if Madden wanted to add to that quote, he’d say, “. . . until he gets in the game.”