A Whirlwind Season: The Quarterback Carousel of 2022

It's December 4, 2022. The Denver Broncos are heading home after a road game against Baltimore.

by Faruk Imamovic
A Whirlwind Season: The Quarterback Carousel of 2022
© Getty Images Sport/Rob Carr

It's December 4, 2022. The Denver Broncos are heading home after a road game against Baltimore. Among the returning players is Josh Johnson, a quarterback in the team's practice squad, who, unbeknownst to him, was about to get a call that would change his trajectory.

"One of my teammates was sitting next to me and told me Jimmy [Garoppolo] got hurt," Johnson recalled in a conversation with ESPN. "He was like, 'You about to go to the Niners, bro.' And I'm like, 'Man, hell no.' " But the football gods had other plans.

Thousands of miles away, Jimmy Garoppolo, the then-starter for the San Francisco 49ers, was being taken off the field after an injury against the Miami Dolphins. The Niners were in dire need of a quarterback. Johnson's premonition was about to become a reality.

During the flight, Johnson received a text from his agent, Doug Hendrickson: "Niners wanna sign you." "It was ironic," Johnson said, highlighting the unpredictable nature of the sport. "After I landed, the [Baltimore] Ravens tried to sign me, too, because Lamar [Jackson] got hurt."

The Unpredictable Nature of the NFL

The 2022 season proved, if nothing else, the importance of backup quarterbacks.

With sixty-eight different quarterbacks starting games, it was a record for a non-strike season. This revolving door at the most critical position in football underscored a clear message: Teams need depth, especially at quarterback.

The quarterback shuffle wasn't just isolated to a few teams. A staggering eleven teams used a single quarterback for the entire season, and notably, ten of these secured a spot in the 14-team playoffs. The Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams, both having started four quarterbacks throughout the year, felt this pressure acutely.

"There's not just like a store where you just go get quarterbacks at any time," commented Niners coach Kyle Shanahan, reflecting on the scarcity and importance of the position.

Mentorship in the Midst of Change

Rodgers, renowned in the league, shed light on the mentoring spirit within teams.

Speaking about his bond with the third-year quarterback from BYU, he said, "I love him, I really do." He felt it was his responsibility to nurture the younger player's confidence. For young players like Wilson, stepping into such significant roles can be nerve-wracking. "A lot of emotions," he admitted, emphasizing the importance of maintaining calm and performing at his best.