Ranking human beings. We've been doing it for years on this website.
This time around -- hang with us, please -- we're ranking the signal callers who aren't good enough to start. The backups. The guys behind the guys. Half of them are utter no-namers, but all of them are key cogs in the wheel of an NFL season, especially when the starter is shattered by a defense or deemed ineffective enough to take a seat.
The quality of your backup passer can make or break a campaign, leaving these men in the shadows as critical figures, especially in a pinch.
With this in mind, let's waste no more time and rank these supporting-cast members from top to bottom:
Note: Sunday's injuries and benchings have us viewing the Packers' Brett Hundley and the 49ers' C.J. Beathard as starters going forward. With Andrew Luck and Sam Bradford set to return at some stage, the Jacoby Brissetts and Case Keenums of the world still make this list as backups.
Heir to the Throne of Ease
In a league that just watched Kevin Hoganlog an NFL start, New England's backup is already seen as future-star material. Many believed Garoppolo would serve as the longed-for subject of a massive offseason swap, but the Patriots refused to move him. Why? "To me, the answer is simple: Bill Belichick] [thinks he's got the next great one," one AFC scout told NBC Sports Boston in July. An ex-Patriots player said: "He can make all the throws. He can process all the information. He is a gamer. He can slow it down. He can spin it. I'm going tell you this, if he had gotten traded to Cleveland, they're a borderline playoff team. I really believe that."
What we've seen from Garoppolo tells a similar tale. The Patriots could have moved him for a mountain of draft picks, but New England chose instead to keep the backup in the fold, making Jimmy G a candidate to be franchise-tagged next offseason. Belichick's refusal to trade away this young quarterback is all you need to know about his perceived -- and very real -- value inside NFL circles.
Starters in waiting
It's flat-out ludicrous that the former backup to Brady's backup would even exist so high on this list, but Brissett has been a joy to watch this autumn. Now entrenched with the Colts and playing a key role in place of Andrew Luck, the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder operates as a scrambling, big-armed, old-school whirlwind who isn't afraid to attack defenses with a slew of aggressive downfield darts. As much as the Coltslong for Luck, we'll miss seeing Brissett on a weekly basis when he's shipped into the background upon the veteran's return. ... Maybe you believe I have Mahomes too high here. Too high for a guy with no regular-season snaps to speak of, but Alex Smith's understudy was an object of pure fascination in the preseason. Raw moments aside, the first-rounder displayed a rocket arm and Brett Favre-like derring-do, giving Kansas City one of the deepest quarterback rooms league-wide. ... Like Garoppolo, McCarron spent all offseason bathing in trade gossip, but the Bengals thought enough of their backup to refuse a second-round pick in return for the 27-year-old quarterback. As with Brissett and Mahomes, McCarron projects as a future starter, either in place of Andy Dalton or somewhere far beyond.
They'll get you out of a jam
He might not be seen as a full-time solution under center, but Keenum has been a revelation for the Vikings. In what amounts to another concerning footnote to Jeff Fisher's troubled run with the Rams, Keenum has gone from looking like white-hot rubbish under Fisher in Los Angeles and St. Louis to a well-coached, productive asset in Minnesota. Vikings play caller Pat Shurmur has milked a string of impressive starts out of Keenum in place of the oft-injured Sam Bradford. Both quarterbacks have performed well, but with Teddy Bridgewatercleared to practice, the pecking order in Minnesota remains in flux. ... Fitzpatrick was ugly in the preseason and probably would have been cut if Ryan Griffinhadn't been hurt, but Tampa's No. 2 gives you 116 starts and excellent leadership in the quarterback room. Besides, he nearly pulled off a monstrous comeback against the Cardinals on Sunday. ... With C.J. Beathardtaking over as San Francisco's starter, Brian Hoyer sits higher than most on this list as an experienced signal caller with a 48:30 touchdown-to-pick ratio in the regular season. It makes sense for coach Kyle Shanahan to take a look at the rookie Beathard, but it's entirely possible we see Hoyer again during a long season for the Niners. ... Moore looked like the equal of Ryan Tannehill last season and deserves a shot to spell Jay Cutler if the Dolphins remain shaky through the air. ... Would the Browns have been any worse off under center had they just held on to Anderson for all these years as their wily-veteran starter?
McCoy is a fitting example of quarterbacks having nine lives in this league. After flaming out hard as Cleveland's starter, the former Texas hero has carved out a steady career as Washington's backup. Just 31 years old, he'll draw league-mandated paychecks for years to come. ... Savage tells you where this list is headed, rapidly playing himself out of a job after months of hype about his steady starting role ahead of rookie QB Deshaun Watson. The offseason is the worst. ... Foles authored a semi-insane 27-touchdown, two-pick season with Philly in 2013, but his scattershot play ever since has removed him from the conversation. At just 28 years old, though, Foles could hang around for another near-decade as a second-stringer. ... After leaving New Orleans in a quest to become a starter with the Chiefs and Eagles, Daniel has returned to Earth -- and to the Saints -- though apparently he still burns for a chance to one day ditch the clipboard. ... Bruce Arians has shown intense loyalty to the 33-year-old Stanton, but there's a better backup in Arizona: Blaine Gabbert. ... Glennon showed little promise and far too many disastrous traits to be taken seriously as an NFL starter. While the Bears earn kudos for correctly scouting Mitchell Trubisky, their decision to pay Glennon $18.5 million guaranteed serves as the offseason's most ludicrous payday.
Smith can't be taken seriously as a first-stringer and showed again this past summer that any rash of positive play will soon be undermined by game-changing gaffes. A frustrating player to watch. ... Manuel was vaguely serviceable in place of Derek Carr, but this former first-round pick still has a stink on him after flaming out in dangerous fashion with the Bills. ... Henne can't beat out Blake Bortles. Any more questions?
Would you recognize them at the grocery store?
The Rams are high on Mannion, but he's thrown 14 passes in games that count and won't see the field anytime soon with Jared Goff now thriving under wunderkind coach Sean McVay. ... Davis is a workmanlike backup who authored a promising start or two with the Rams before his current gig operating as a steep dropoff from Russell Wilson in Seattle. ... Jones played his best football last season in relief of Ben Roethlisberger, but the Steelers are cooked if this ragingly average backup is asked to do more than mop-up work. ... At age 34, Clemens is staring at the near-end of his playing career while he drifts around SoCal in the RIVERSMOBILE with Philip. ... A coach's son, Moore is a smart signal caller who authored a dazzling college career at Boise State. Still, I'd rather see Cooper Rush step in if anything happens to Dak Prescott.
Fading satellites and unsolved mysteries
Peterman was whispered about as a figure ready to eclipse Tyrod Taylor, but that uprising is on hold for now. It's clear the front office adores him, meaning a switch could come as soon as next offseason. ... Hogan produced a disastrous start against the Texans, but he brings a solid arm and plus mobility. Even with Kizer back in the starting role, it's likely Hogan sees additional action before Cleveland's season from the depths wraps. ... Osweiler lost a summertime battle to Hogan and DeShone Kizer, largely because he showed all the same mechanical issues and on-field drawbacks that earned him a swift ticket out of Houston. Paxton Lynch will take over Denver's No. 2 spot when healthy. ... Just 24, Rudock produced a positive preseason for the Lions, showing plus mobility behind starter Matthew Stafford. We have no idea how he'd fare in games that matter. ... Is it unfair to have Cassel, a one-time NFL starter, this low on the list? Absolutely not. He'd been purely unwatchable in place of Marcus Mariota, raising questions about Tennessee's ability to self-scout its own quarterback room. ... Petty is New York's No. 2 only because Christian Hackenberg utterly imploded in August. ... I designated Brett Hundley as a middle-of-the-pack backup in the first draft of these rankings. In a depressing edit, he's now Green Bay's starter, being asked to learn on the fly after Aaron Rodgerssuffered a broken collarbone in Sunday's loss to Minnesota. Packers fans stare into the abyss, but Hundley brings plenty of strong preseason tape and the support of his coaches. As for Callahan, he's been signed off the practice squad. ... Don't get me started on Matt Schaub. ... Mallett, once seen as a mysterious trade target for quarterback-needy rosters, was an abject disaster all summer and the logical person to point to when asking how on Earth Colin Kaepernick doesn't have a job.