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No, Tanner McKee should not be the Eagles’ backup QB (but neither should Marcus Mariota)

There’s a third option that makes much more sense.

NFL: Preseason-Cleveland Browns at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

To say Marcus Mariota hasn’t looked great this summer would be putting things nicely, I think.

I’m not going to belabor the point with training camp and/or preseason statistics, because they’re useless. But the eyes tell you that, if Jalen Hurts were to get hurt and miss multiple games this year, you would have every right to be nervous.

And it’s not just paranoid Eagles fans who are wondering if Mariota should start the season as the team’s No. 2. listed Mariota atop their list of possible veterans to be cut.

Mariota initially appeared to be a smart addition as Hurts’ backup this offseason, despite his controversial departure from Atlanta. But after two lackluster preseason outings and a series of rough camp reports, Mariota’s job feels at risk. Part of that has to do with the work of impressive sixth-round rookie Tanner McKee, who is stating his case of the QB2 job.

The Eagles signed Mariota to a $5 million contract, although they’d incur a 2023 salary-cap hit of about $1.9 million if they cut him, according to Over The Cap. Not exactly small potatoes, but getting the backup-QB spot right is what matters most in a season where the Eagles believe they can vie for a Super Bowl title. After all, they weathered Hurts’ two-game absence last season and nearly won it all. If the coaches aren’t confident in Mariota, this should not be a financially motivated decision; they should trust their instincts and just cut him.

Mariota’s got the wheels to stand in for Hurts, but as a passer, it’s been a pretty tough watch, especially for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. There have been calls for rookie 6th-round pick Tanner McKee to step into the role as the team’s back-up, and it’s understandable given how good he’s looked playing with 3rd and 4th string offensive players.

This is all great stuff, and Eagles fans should be excited at the prospect of finding a potential diamond-in-the-rough QB so late in last season’s draft. He’s a perfect candidate to be the team’s No. 3 starter, and he could probably be a back-up on a team with lesser expectations.

We asked Eagles fans this all-important question now that the preseason is behind us and the real games are about to begin.

Is it wise for the team to hitch their wagon to a rookie 6th-round pick should Hurts miss some time? Even if the kid has looked good (and he certainly has), isn’t playing meaningful games in the middle of December the kind of thing you’d like to have someone with a little NFL experience handle?

So, what are the alternatives?

Matt Ryan has been to a Super Bowl and has 10 postseason starts under his belt. He threw for 3,057 yards last year, albeit with 14/13 TD/INT ratio and an 83.9 passer rating last season, but he was also playing for a going-nowhere Colts team that couldn’t protect him to save their lives.

Former Super Bowl hero Nick Foles’ name has been mentioned. He took over for Ryan once the long-time Falcon was benched, and had a pretty dismal two games, going 25-for-42 for 224 yards with 4 INTs and 0 TDs. What about old friend Carson Wentz? It’s fascinating that no one has called the former Eagle to at least come in as a back-up. He went 2-5 in 7 starts for Washington with an 80.2 rating, averaging 219.4 yards per game. He was sacked 26 times in those seven games, with an 11/9 TD/INT ratio. Joe Flacco started four games for the Jets last season, went 1-3, averaged 201.3 yards per game, with a 5/3 TD/INT ratio.

We also asked Eagles fans, if you had to choose one of those QBs to be the new back-up, which would you prefer? The answer may not surprise you.

Whatever direction they decide to go, the Eagles need a back-up QB they can trust.

Maybe Mariota figures things out once the regular season starts. Maybe McKee truly is ready to be that guy. I have my doubts, and if I’m Howie, I’m dialing up Matt Ryan.

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