Adding Joe Burrow without simultaneously bringing in a veteran backup is a huge risk for Zac Taylor and the Cincinnati Bengals.
In an overly general sense, improvement is the number one goal for the 2020 Cincinnati Bengals. The degree of improvement depends on who you ask. Regardless, reigning Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow will provide it.
There has been a lot of fan and media chatter about Cincinnati adding a veteran backup as a resource and mentor-type figure for Burrow. However, Zac Taylor is content with his depth chart behind Burrow.
The reason this is a big risk has nothing to do with Burrow needing a “mentor.” Let’s be honest. The AFC North may be the best pass-rushing division in football. The Bengals really like Jonah Williams, but the offensive line is a giant question mark. Even if Burrow exceeds expectations as a rookie, he is still going to get hit… a lot.
So, what if Burrow gets hurt? Ryan Finley is likely to be the primary backup. The second-year man does have a few things that make him a decent backup. He is cheap and familiar with the offense.
But the most important thing to wonder about any backup quarterback is this: If the starter goes down, can the backup help the team tread water and win a game or two?
Finley started three games last year when a healthy Andy Dalton was briefly benched. The team went winless with Finley completing barely 47% of his throws and collecting just two touchdown passes. He can only get better in year two. Still, he would have to make a massive leap just to satisfy the previous paragraph.
That, along with the hits Burrow is sure to take, make it surprising that bringing in a solid, low profile, experienced backup like Case Keenum or Matt Moore was apparently never a serious consideration. Moore is still a free agent.
The Bengals fortunes for the next several years are tied to Burrow, which is perfectly fine. Still, every time Burrow goes down as a rookie, the organization will be praying he gets up, even more so than the average team that pins its hopes on a rookie arm.