Thursday Night Football: Another Lackluster Matchup
Thursday is upon us, which means the end of the work week is near. It also means another installment of Thursday Night Football featuring another lousy matchup. This one could be the trailer for a Hollywood comedy: “Bad Backups”. That’s the general consensus about tonight’s TNG game between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers. Prime cannot be happy about Bailey Zappe and Mitchell Trubisky headlining this game.
Long gone are the days of anyone looking forward to a Pats-Steelers game. With Zappe and Trubisky on the field, these fan bases aren’t even excited about it. It’s like a “let’s just get through this one” kind of attitude. Although, this one is much bigger for Pittsburgh since they have a shot at the postseason. After losing last week, they can’t afford another one in the loss column.
It seems too many teams have difficulty finding adequate backup play in this era. While Zappe is technically the starter for New England, he’s spent most of his time as QB2 behind Mac Jones. Trubisky washed out in Chicago, then bounced to Buffalo for a year before landing in Pittsburgh to back up Kenny Pickett. Maybe it’s revisionist history, but the backup QBs of the past were just more prepared to play when called upon.
In the mid-90s, the Green Bay Packers had two future Hall of Famers, Brett Favre and Kurt Warner, on the roster. They also had Mark Brunell, who would go on to lead Jacksonville to two AFC Championship games within their first five years of existence. They also qualified for the playoffs in four of those first five years riding Brunell’s left arm. Then, of course, Warner eventually became a starter, producing a legendary career with the Rams and Cardinals after playing back up to the backup while with the Packers.
While no one could have predicted the future success of Warner or Brunell, that doesn’t really happen much anymore. Not that it was a frequent occurrence then, but if you go back a few years before the Packers of the mid-90s, you had the 49ers of the late 1980s with Steve Young sitting behind Joe Montana. Young and Warner went from playing second fiddle to winning Super Bowls, league MVPs, and Super Bowl MVP awards on their way to Canton. You’d be hard-pressed to get anyone to believe similar futures await Zappe or Trubisky.
Nick Foles is one recent example of a second-string QB who came in, took advantage of his opportunity, and was able to help the Eagles all the way to a Super Bowl victory. Foles eventually reverted back to your average, everyday run-of-the-mill signal caller. But he had his moment in the sun, and folks in Philly will never forget it.
There’s still time for Zappe and Trubisky to turn things around, but that’s unlikely to happen before Thursday night’s primetime matchup. Amazon must be thrilled about what they’ve invested in this ‘prime’ Thursday night slot with some of the games they’ve been awarded. Bottoms up, and good luck; you’ll need it for this one.