All of us like to rank things. Even when we don’t have all or any of the information needed to do so.
Back in August, CBSSports.com decided to rank every NFL team’s backup quarterback situation in order, 1 through 32. Other outlets might have done the same because, well, bosses and readers love them some rankings. So we all have embarrassing swings and guesses in our closets.
But this particular ranking described its 32nd-ranked team’s backup situation as “an absolute debacle.” Then a guy named Dak Prescott, a third-string rookie from the fourth round, completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 23 touchdowns, four interceptions, a 105.6 passer rating and six more rushing touchdowns on a Cowboys team that’s 13-2 and owns home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
“[The NFL] is usually interesting and different than you expect it to be,” said current Vikings backup Shaun Hill. “You don’t know who’s going to do what.”
Hill has been toting an NFL clipboard since 2002, the year he wasn’t drafted or even invited to the scouting combine. Actually, scratch that. It took Hill three seasons as a third-stringer in his first Vikings stint before he scratched his way up to holding the No. 2 clipboard.
“As a backup, I’m hired to do a job,” Hill said. “I just get in line and do what they ask of me, which is probably why I’ve had as long of a career as I’ve had.”
Born in 1980, for gosh sakes, Hill will be 37 on Jan. 9. So he’s seen a lot in his time with the Vikings (2002-05), 49ers (2006-09), Lions (2010-13), St. Louis Rams (2014) and Vikings again since 2015.
Like the rest of us, Hill watched the quarterback carnage over the weekend.
Oakland’s Derek Carr, an MVP candidate on a 12-3 team, broke his leg and will become the first quarterback to win at least 12 regular-season games and not start a playoff game. Matt McGloin, who hasn’t started a game since 2013, steps in.
Meanwhile, Tennessee lost a quarterback (Marcus Mariota), a game and its playoff hopes to the same injury on the same day. And Miami is playoff bound with its backup quarterback, Matt Moore, having won back-to-back road games while starter Ryan Tannehill continues to rehab a knee sprain.
“You have to prepare as if you’re going to be the starter,” Hill said. “No matter what else is going on around you.”
The Vikings were eliminated from the playoff race Saturday. But, ironically, they’ll head into next season with quarterback as one of their strongest positions if Teddy Bridgewater is able to return in time from the major knee injury he suffered 12 days before this year’s season opener. Both he and Sam Bradford are under contract for next season.
“Teddy is doing well; he’s in great spirits and has the right mentality, the right mind-set for all this stuff,” Hill said. “He’s going to be fine. And Sam’s had a remarkable year. To be honest with you, I’m completely surprised he wasn’t chosen for the Pro Bowl.”
Bradford’s completion percentage (71.3) is on pace to break the NFL record. His interception percentage (0.8) is on pace to break Brett Favre’s franchise record of 1.3 in 2009. And he needs only 10 completions against the Bears on Sunday to break Daunte Culpepper’s team record of 379 in 2004.
Then there’s Hill, who stepped quietly between Teddy’s gut-punch injury and Bradford’s blockbuster debut. He threw 33 passes in an efficient, turnover-free win at Tennessee.
Then he stepped aside without a peep or a grumble.
Hill’s contract expires Sunday. The Vikings aren’t likely to pursue him in free agency, and he won’t decide until February whether he even wants to play a 16th season.
Hill has played in 51 games over 15 seasons. He’s 16-18 as a starter. He’s played in only six regular-season games as a Viking.
And if he retires or moves on, he will leave Minnesota undefeated at 1-0.
“Something to hang my hat on,” Hill said with a laugh. “I’ve been at the tail end of this thing for a while now.
‘‘But the question is if no one remembers my career, is it still a legacy?”
Hill’s legacy will be squeezing 15 years out of a career no one predicted. And if that’s not enough, hey, he did rank 17 spots higher than Dak, Dallas and that “absolute debacle” assessment four months ago.