Quarterback Tom Savage was a four-year starter at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Pennsylvania when he caught the eye of some of the nation’s top college football programs.
In fact, he took a recruiting visit to Georgia, and Matthew Stafford was his host on the visit. It was during Stafford’s last season in Athens before he would become the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft by the Lions just a few months later.
Savage joked after Thursday’s open OTA practice that Stafford must not have done a good enough job because Savage eventually committed to Rutgers.
Fast forward more than a decade and now it’s Savage’s job as Stafford’s potential backup in Detroit to impress the QB1. It’s a job Savage understands well.
“Just earning his trust and having his back,” Savage said of the role of being a backup quarterback in the NFL. “That’s the biggest thing we’re trying to do right now, earn that guys trust so he can bounce some things off us and then we can give him feedback.”
It’s one of the job descriptions of being a backup quarterback in the NFL that isn’t always talked about. Being ready to play in case of injury is job No. 1, obviously, but a close second is being a sounding board to the starter and a second pair of eyes. Shaun Hill and Dan Orlovsky were good in that role, whether it be in the film room or on the practice field. Having a trusty pair of eyes and another point of view is invaluable to a starter, according to Savage, who’s been mainly a backup throughout his five-year career.
“The guy has been in the league 11 years,” Savage said Stafford. “The guy has played a crap-ton more football than Connor (Cook) and I combined, but it’s always good to have a second or third pair of eyes out there.”
That will certainly be part of the job description for whoever wins the backup job between current candidates Savage and Cook.
“No matter what situation you’re in, the day you become complacent is the day you’re out of the league,” Savage said. “We’re just trying to make a good quarterback room right now. Competition will take care of itself.”
Savage played the 2014-17 seasons with the Texans, where he made nine starts and completed 58 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and seven interceptions. He split his time last season between San Francisco and Cincinnati, but did not appear in a game.
Savage and Cook were together in Cincinnati at the end of last season, Savage as a backup and Cook on the Bengals’ practice squad.
Savage said his approach to this offseason and heading into training camp is to just go out, practice, and prepare like he always has, letting the chips fall where they may when it comes time for a decision on who will be Stafford’s backup.
Savage has looked good early in OTAs working mostly with the second team. One of the things that jumps out and separates him a little bit from Cook is his arm strength. He was asked after practice how far he can actually sling it.
“Good day, indoors, with a fan on my back, maybe 75 yards, I don’t know,” he said with a grin.
Savage can certainly push the ball down the field, and hasn’t been afraid to do it early on in OTAs. The competition between him and Cook to try and win the job of Stafford’s backup should be a good one to watch all spring and summer leading into the fall.