Sean Pendergast

Where Does Davis Mills Stack Up Among NFL Backup Quarterbacks?

Davis Mills is simultaneously battling to be the starting QB, but also for his long term NFL future.
Davis Mills is simultaneously battling to be the starting QB, but also for his long term NFL future. Photo by Eric Sauseda
This time last season, as the Texans were preparing for their second preseason game, we were already a couple weeks into the "Holy cow, Davis Mills is actually being named the starting QB" era. It felt like a little much at the time, but what were the Texans to do? They were a bad team, with no other viable solutions at quarterback, so what the hey!

Times have improved. The Texans have drafted their quarterback of the future in C.J. Stroud, who ironically has yet to be named the surefire starting QB by head coach DeMeco Ryans, even though the rookie is getting all of the practice reps with the first team offense. Indeed, Mills, who is still under contract to the team for two more seasons, is now likely a backup quarterback.

That said, Mills' valuable experience in 2021 and 2022, while maybe not resulting in a ton of wins, does give Mills the makings of a capable backup, someone who can steady the ship should he need to enter a game in a pinch. Additionally, Mills has looked fairly comfortable in the Texans' new offensive system, architected by offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik.

Ultimately, Mills' greatest value to the Texans may be as a trade chip to a quarterback-needy team during the season or during next offseason. For now, let's take a look at where Mills falls on the spectrum of NFL backup quarterbacks.

Let's start with the backups that Mills is definitely superior to:

LA RAMS — Stetson Bennett
GREEN BAY — Sean Clifford

Clifford and Bennett are both late round 2023 rookies. I'm fairly confident Mills would easily be starting over either of them, if he were on their teams.

BUFFALO — Kyle Allen
NEW YORK GIANTS — Tyrod Taylor
These were the other quarterbacks in the room during Mills' first two seasons as a Texan. At one point during 2021 and 2022, he was replaced by Taylor and Allen, respectively, and then replaced each of them once the team saw that, while not great at quarterback, Mills was better than each fo these guys.

NEW YORK JETS — Zach Wilson
TAMPA BAY — Kyle Trask
These are draft classmates of Mills. He has accomplished more in the NFL than all three of these guys, and I trust him over all three.

TENNESSEE — Malik Willis
NEW ENGLAND — Bailey Zappe
A couple more young quarterbacks who I would place behind Mills in the pecking order.

Okay, let's pile up the heap of retread veteran quarterbacks who, for a variety of reasons, I would take Mills over. Brace yourself, there some trashy names on this list:

CINCINNATI — Trevor Siemian
CLEVELAND — Joshua Dobbs
PITTSBURGH — Mitch Trubisky
INDIANAPOLIS — Gardner Minshew
KANSAS CITY — Blaine Gabbert
LA CHARGERS — Easton Stick
LAS VEGAS — Brian Hoyer
CHICAGO — P.J. Walker
MINNESOTA — Nick Mullens
SEATTLE — Drew Lock
ARIZONA — Colt McCoy

I'm up in the air on these two:

DENVER — Jarrett Stidham
PHILADELPHIA — Marcus Mariota

Mariota has done some decent things as a part time starter, but he quit on his team last season. Stidham is a young guy with a high level arm, who did some good things in a short stint at the end of last season in Vegas.

These eight I would say are, to varying degrees, better backup options than Mills. All of them have either won some games recently as a starter, in the last year or so, or have a body of work over a long career that makes them a safer option than Mills:

DETROIT — Teddy Bridgewater
NEW ORLEANS —Jameis Winston
ATLANTA — Taylor Heinicke
DALLAS — Cooper Rush
MIAMI — Mike White
BALTIMORE — Tyler Huntley
WASHINGTON — Jacoby Brissett
CAROLINA — Andy Dalton

The bottom line is, worst case, Mills has played his way into being an upper half of the league backup, and probably one that's closer to the upper quartile.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at, on Instagram at, and like him on Facebook at
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast