Having a good backup quarterback is important for every team every season.
The Giants found that out two weeks ago when Daniel Jones injured his hamstring and they had to hand the reins to Colt McCoy for a win in Seattle. They recognized it again on Sunday night when McCoy made his second start in three weeks, this time against the Browns at MetLife Stadium, because Jones is dealing with an injured ankle as well as the hamstring.
But this is 2020, and relying on a veteran backup who can come in and play in a pinch isn’t the only insurance policy NFL teams are looking for. And it’s why Joe Webb was signed to the Giants’ practice squad a few weeks ago, promoted to the active roster on Saturday, and ready to sprint onto the field at a moment’s notice – and at any number of positions – on Sunday night.
"He’s the perfect guy, I would say, to come in in this COVID environment, because he can do so many different jobs," special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said of Webb when he first arrived earlier this month. "Not to say that Joe’s the end all and be all, but when you get a guy that has that type of versatility and position flex, you can play him at a bunch of different spots and he can fill some holes for you."
Webb, 34, began his career as a quarterback with the Vikings in 2010 and 2011. He became a backup and an emergency receiver in the following years. From 2012-16 he did not throw a pass in the NFL, but in 2017 he got in a game for the Bills. He spent 2018 as a receiver for the Texans and was on their injured reserve list throughout all of 2019.
When the Broncos had to play a game without a true quarterback on their roster because of COVID-19 protocols last month, the Giants knew they needed someone like Webb. The Giants list him as a quarterback, but think of his as much more. "He's a football player," Giants coach Joe Judge said. Since he arrived he has been based in three different meeting rooms: quarterbacks, wide receivers and special teams.
"Joe is a guy we brought in here and we intend on giving him a shot to play," Judge said. "He’s a guy that’s got a lot of experience."
At quarterback? Judge wasn’t ready for that just yet. And rookie Clayton Thorson, the third-string quarterback who has been with the team all year, was active on Sunday.
"I think his experience in the past of playing quarterback would kind of put him in that category," Judge said of having Webb available to run the offense if something happened to McCoy. "That would probably be strictly more of an emergency role."
But if the 2020 season has illustrated anything, it’s that emergencies happen. A league that has forever dealt with a high injury rate has had to figure out how to navigate a pandemic on a week-to-week – sometimes day-to-day – basis. The Giants found that out and had to play Sunday without cornerback James Bradberry and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
"We’re always thinking ahead and thinking of the ‘what if’ scenarios," Judge said. "The last thing we always talk about as a staff on Saturday in our staff meeting is everyone go to bed and make sure we have a solid plan in place that if you wake up tomorrow and we get some bad COVID news that we have a progression of who’s going to do what and how we’re going to continue the game plan or adjust."
Webb is a player who can help answer a lot of those questions.
Notes & quotes: Because of results in the NFC East earlier in the day, the Giants (5-8) went into Sunday night’s game with a chance to either regain the top position in the division or fall to third place. Washington (6-8) losing to Seattle meant that a Giants win over the Browns would have given the two teams the same record, with the Giants in control because of their two-game sweep of Washington for a head-to-head tie-breaker. Dallas (5-9) beating the 49ers, though, meant a Giants loss would have given them the same record as the Cowboys. Because Dallas beat the Giants earlier this season, they would technically be ahead of the Giants with a Week 17 game between the two. The Eagles (4-9-1) lost to the Cardinals to fall to last place, but with two weeks remaining the four teams are all alive and separated by just a game and a half . . .TE Evan Engram, listed as questionable with a calf injury that popped up late in the week, was active for the game.