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NFL Countdown #13 and The Best Ability is Availability

NFL Countdown #13: There were only 13 quarterbacks who made it through the whole 2020 season as their team's starter. One is not shown above because I don't want to glorify that particular quarterback.

2020 was a rough season for the everyone who loves football. Players had to go through intensive protocols to enhance safety amidst a global pandemic, coaches had to get their teams ready with no preseason, and fans weren’t allowed to attend most games. On top of all the issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there were a quite a few injuries at the quarterback position that let only 13 QBs start every game for their team.

While only 13 QBs starting all 16 games sounds low, I found that quarterback availability wasn’t actually too different from past years in the NFL. Since 2011 we’ve seen an average of 15.2 players start every game at the quarterback position, but this number drops to 13.6 over the past five years. Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that influenced QB availability in 2020.

Benching QBs in Week 17

As mentioned above, there has been a recent decrease in the number of QBs who start every game for their team over the course of a season. This general decrease could be attributed in part to the rise in popularity of coaches opting to sit their QB in Week 17, whether to rest for the playoffs or avoid injury in a meaningless game. Over the past five seasons, 40% of QBs who started exactly 15 games were inactive for Week 17, but only two of them were injured (Jared Goff 2020 & Marcus Mariota 2015). In 2020, however, only two QBs were shelved in the final week of the season for resting purposes – Patrick Mahomes and Ben Roethlisberger. We probably would have seen Lamar Jackson sit in the final week as he did in 2019, but the Ravens were playing a division rival with playoff seeding at stake.

COVID-19 Inactive List

- Matthew Stafford (11/4-11/7): no games missed – activated day before game

- Baker Mayfield (11/9-11/11): no games missed – bye week

- Ben Roethlisberger (11/11-11/15) – no games missed – activated morning of game

- Andy Dalton (11/9-11/19) - missed one game

- Drew Lock (11/30-12/1) – missed one game

- Lamar Jackson (11/27-12/08) – missed one game

- Ryan Fitzpatrick (1/1-1/12) – missed one game

- Cam Newton (10/3-10/14) – missed one game

Benching Starter Mid-season

- The Bears quarterback room was a disaster in 2020. Mitchell Trubisky began the season as the starter, then was benched in Week 3 for Nick Foles, then was reinstated as the starter in Week 11.

- Presumed franchise quarterback Carson Wentz played the worst football of his career, and was benched in Week 13 in favor of rookie Jalen Hurts.

- After being drafted 15th overall in the 2019 draft, Dwayne Haskins was benched this past season after making just four starts for the Washington Football Team.

- Gardner Minshew was a fan-favorite underdog story in 2019, but was unable to keep the starting job in Jacksonville in 2020 after Week 7.

Week One Starter on Injured Reserve

- Dak Prescott came out of the gates hotter than he ever has in 2020, but landed on injured reserve after tearing his Achilles tendon in Week 5.

- 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow tore his ACL in Week 11, ending a rookie QB battle for the ages with eventual Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert.

- Drew Brees seemingly broke every single rib in his abdomen, landing on IR and making way for Taysom Hill to start at quarterback for four games in New Orleans.

- Jimmy Garoppolo missed time due to injury two different times in 2020, and landed on IR for the remainder of the season after Week 8.

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