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  • The Carolina quarterback, who's been dealing with shoulder soreness, has been smartly shut down for the remainder of the season. A few reason why teams like the Packers and the Giants should also start their backups.
By Jonathan Jones
December 20, 2018

The Panthers did the smart and prudent thing on Wednesday by announcing that Cam Newton will not play for the remainder of the season. He’s been experiencing soreness in his shoulder throughout the second half of the season and, though the injury seemingly can’t get any worse with more exposure, Carolina decided it has a better chance of winning with a healthy Taylor Heinicke than a used-up Newton.

With less than a 1% chance of making the playoffs, the Panthers’ 2018 season is essentially done. It’s possible Newton will need his second shoulder surgery in three years, or he could just need a long offseason rest—either way, the franchise and head coach Ron Rivera are doing the right thing. Now it’s time for other teams with no shot of making the playoffs to follow suit.

For the Giants and Packers (and to a lesser extent the Lions and Raiders), the move should be to sit their starting quarterbacks and play the backups in the final two games of the season. Here’s why.

1. Keep the starter healthy. Anything can happen in these final weeks. A meaningless scramble could wind up costing the player eight months of rehab on his knee, putting him in danger of missing the season opener of 2019. Aaron Rodgers’s knee hasn’t been 100% since the first half of the first game of the season. Sitting him ensures that his knee isn’t torn up on some meaningless play.

2. See what you have in the backup quarterback. What happens if Alex Tanney puts in two solid performances in place of Eli Manning? Maybe Kyle Lauletta recovers from his bad fourth quarter against Washington and performs well. What if DeShone Kizer, having been under the tutelage of Rodgers for a full season, shows he’s improved dramatically since his time in Cleveland? We’d all call him Matt Flynn and have a chuckle... But in all seriousness, getting some good tape of the backup—like Kizer or Heinicke—could do wonders down the road when a quarterback-needy team is offering a third-round pick at the trade deadline next October. Lest we forget that the Patriots got a former first-round receiver in exchange for Jacoby Brissett, who played well in his two starts.

3. Tank. When the season is lost and there’s nothing to gain, lose games. No coach should be expected to win with a backup in these December games, so it shouldn’t affect how at-risk his job is. By putting an inferior player at the most important position on the field, you’re increasing your chances of losing, which betters your draft position, which presumably will better your team for years to come.

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PRESS COVERAGE

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3. The Ringer’s Kevin Clark says the analytics revolution in football is finally happening.

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THE KICKER

Miami running back Frank Gore is heading to the injured reserve after spraining his foot against the Vikings last week. He has started in 122 consecutive games, and obviously that will end on Sunday. How impressive is it? The next closest running back to Gore is Christian McCaffrey, who boasts all of 18 consecutive starts.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

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