What Were They Thinking? Quarterbacks We’d Rather Pass Up
The quarterback is the NFL’s most important position, and if your team doesn’t have a good one, you may be in for a long, depressing ride. For every Peyton Manning, there’s a handful of Ryan Leafs. Introducing the 30 worst quarterbacks in NFL history, and Browns fans beware, your team is well represented here.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “I really wish I didn’t party so much. I really wish I paid attention during film sessions and didn’t have such a large ego. Wait, no I don’t. I love doing those things. What I don’t like is being stuck in Cleveland, and maybe if I play poorly enough, I’ll expedite my exit from this miserable place.”
Manziel was the Heisman winner everyone knew to stay away from, but the temptation was too great, and the Browns fell into his trap. The “Johnny Football” era lasted just two partial seasons and ended with an even seven touchdowns, fumbles, and interceptions.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Good Lord, this is not how this play was drawn up. But thankfully I’m an elite athlete and can adapt on the fly. Oh fudge, that guy isn’t wearing a Bills jersey, is he. Oh no, I’m about to throw my third pick of the game. Please, Mr. Ramsey, drop that ball.”
Peterman may go down as the greatest blunder in Bills history, and why the coaches continued to play him remains one of football’s greatest mysteries. In just eight games played, Peterman, who the Bills continued to hype as a solid player and potential starter for years to come, tossed three touchdowns against 12 picks with a career passer rating of 32.5.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Great. I’m taking my billionth sack of the year. And no one even bats an eye. And you know what, it’s against the lowly Bengals. Was being the first pick, to an expansion team, worth it? Probably not. Oh well, just hold onto the ball and we’ll run it back next play.”
When you are a franchise’s first pick in their history, there are huge expectations, and David Carr simply wasn’t able to live up to them. It’s not all his fault, considering the Texans had a horrible line, allowing an NFL record 76 sacks during Carr’s rookie year. Carr never won more than six games in a season and tossed 65 touchdowns compared to 71 interceptions.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Are you kidding me. No, you were supposed to come back to me. TRUST ME! I call the plays, and you bailed on the route and I just threw yet another pick and am in coach’s doghouse, again. Man, they weren’t kidding, Jacksonville sucks.”
Jacksonville has a history of ruining careers and making horrible draft choices, and Blaine Gabbert is no exception. A former 10th overall pick, Gabbert numbers are beyond paltry. He’s never thrown for more than 12 touchdowns in a season and hasn’t started more than 14 games in any season. By his third year in the league, Gabbert was relegated to the bench where he’s been ever since.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Jordan used to stick his tongue out during games. He was the GOAT. Maybe if I stick my tongue out, I’ll be the GOAT. Shoot. What was the play? What are my receivers’ routes? Don’t know, don’t care. Lead by example and throw the damn ball as hard as you can. I rather burn out than fade away.”
Another Jacksonville special, Blake Bortles showed moments of greatness followed by head-scratching questions that left everyone speechless. Drafted third overall, Bortles hardly has been the savior the Jags thought he’d be. He’s only led the Jags to one winning season, and that was largely on the back of an amazing defense and solid run game. What’s more frustrating is his unbreakable tendency to throw interceptions.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Oh my god. They weren’t kidding. Buffalo is unbearable. This city, their fans, and this team. Why did the cosmos send me to this godforsaken place? Oh well, can’t change that now. Next possession, just try not to throw another pick, or else these maniacs will burn my house down.”
A first-round pick who lasted seven terrible seasons, J.P. Losman started a full 16 games only once, and after that never managed to start more than nine games. He threw 33 touchdowns and 34 interceptions and was never capable of leading the Bills out of the AFC basement. To be fair, not many quarterbacks have. In 45 career games played, Losman fumbled 35 times.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Ok, here goes absolutely nothing. I’m going to launch this ball into orbit with the perfect form of an Olympic shot putter. Where it will go, nobody knows. But it’s going to be a fine throw, I can tell you that. That spiral is going to be tight, the throwing motion fluid, the result questionable.”
Baltimore has found success over the years thanks to stout defenses. Quarterback play has been generally average, and Boller isn’t an exception. He was a turnover machine, throwing 54 interceptions and fumbling 42 times in 67 games played. For all of the hype that followed Boller through high school and college, he surely never managed to live up to expectations.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Isn’t this hilarious. The Bengals must not know how to scout talent one bit! Yeah, I’m a good athlete, but do I belong in the NFL as a quarterback? Debatable. Do I deserve to be the third overall pick? Not even a chance. Whatever. Here goes nothing!”
Considered one of the greatest draft busts ever, Akili Smith was a standout quarterback (athlete) at Oregon, but the skills never translated to the pros. In his four seasons in the league, the former third pick started only 17 games and appeared in only 22 total games. His five touchdowns and 13 interceptions are astonishingly low, and the electryfing college runner only managed one touchdown on the ground as a pro.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Yeah I’m dehydrated. I just chased down yet another defender who thought he could run back one of my interceptions to the house. Nope. You may pick off the Brosweiler, but you will never outwork or outrun him.”
In 2015, Brock Osweiler spelled Peyton Manning for multiple games while the quarterback recovered from injury. The effort was monumental and helped the Broncos win the Super Bowl. Brock became a hot commodity and Houston took the bait, signing him to a four-year, $72 million contract with $37 million guaranteed. Suffice it to say this Houston rocket failed to launch and Brock was traded to Cleveland after one season. The Browns also wanted nothing to do with him and cut him almost immediately. Brock has been irrelevant since.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Where’s my purple drank? I am sick of this organization. Yes, I am grateful because they paid me so much money, but boy do I wish I could just hang up the cleats now. Until then, I’m just going to shuffle to the sideline with my head down and act sad, act like I care after throwing the game-ending pick.”
Raiders fans will never forgive JaMarcus for his lazy play, horrible work ethic, and exorbitant amount of money he took from Oakland. The former No. 1 overall pick lasted three miserable seasons in Oakland before his career ended. He threw only 18 touchdowns accompanied by 23 interceptions. One famous story about JaMarcus is the Raiders sending him blank film tapes to see if he was studying, and the next day JaMarcus entered team meetings saying he watched the “blitz packages” tape. Like his passion for the game, the “blitz packages” didn’t exist.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “WHERE IS MY OFFENSIVE LINE AT? WHY AM I ON THE GROUND, AND WHY IS THE BALL NOT IN MY HANDS?? Ok, Ryan, relax. Breathe. You’re the No. 2 pick and a future Hall of Famer. You got this.”
Many people consider Ryan Leaf to be the greatest draft bust in NFL history. He was a Heisman finalist and second overall pick after Peyton Manning, and that’s where the similarities end. Leaf had a horrible work ethic and a questionable character. On the field he flopped worse than LeBron James in the playoffs and finished his career with 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions and a 50.0 passer rating.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Yes, I understand I must throw it to the guys wearing black uniforms. No, I’m really not that accurate and I’m honestly not sure how I made the final roster. Oh, you’ll pay me in straight cash (homie) to throw the ball in your direction? Done deal.”
It’s hard to play worse than Andrew Walter did in the 15 games he appeared in for the Raiders. Walter, along with the Raiders, was downright terrible, and his three touchdowns and 16 interceptions punctuate just how bad he was. Over that 15 game span, Walter was also sacked an incredible 51 times.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “The play call was crap. And so was that audible at the line that I made. But I’m in too deep. I’m Weinke, and I don’t play by the rules. I live a bit on the wild side. Look before you leap means nothing. Grit your teeth and make that throw. Triple coverage hasn’t stopped you before, and it sure won’t now!”
An elder statesman, Weinke was 28 when he won the Heisman Trophy at Florida State. Then Carolina drafted the near-senior citizen in the fourth round and he immediately became the team’s starter, a regrettable choice. Weinke has a 2-18 record, 15 touchdowns and 26 picks, and, as a starter, Weinke guided the Panthers to 17 consecutive losses over three seasons.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Shoot. Maybe I should go into politics. I bet I could get elected to the House of Representatives. This whole Redskins thing just isn’t working out. It’s a miserable franchise and I can’t seem to find my groove here in Washington. No quarterback can, to be fair.”
In college, Shuler finished second in the Heisman race behind Charlie Ward. Then he was drafted third overall by Washington, and that’s when it all began to unravel. Shuler held out of camp and when he finally took the field, he was unable to shake the considerable amount of rust that built up. In his four seasons in the league, Shuler tossed only 15 touchdowns and 33 picks. He never started more than nine games in a season. Shuler went into politics after football where he was much more successful.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Yep. This really happened. My career was over before it started. There are 32 teams in the NFL, and the one team where quarterback careers go to die decided to draft me. So here I am, pondering my next move, smashed between three players. I must leave the mistake by the lake before it’s too late.”
Kizer, like many other Notre Dame QBs, just wasn’t suited for the NFL. As a rookie, Kizer led the league in interceptions and the Browns to an 0-16 record. His 22 interceptions were offset by just 11 touchdowns, and his passer rating was a dismal 60.5 rating. After one season, the Browns jettisoned Kizer and his turnovers to Green Bay and drafted Baker Mayfield first overall.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “No, you take the ball! Shovel passes are cool, and it might land me on SportsCenter. And the great thing about shovel passes is they are low risk, high reward. They are very hard to intercept, and if anyone could use less interceptions, it would definitely be me.”
For someone as ineffective as Rick Mirer, the former second pick, it’s actually amazing how many years he lasted in the league. Rookie Rick showed a glimmer of hope and set many rookie passing records, but from there the wheels fell off the wagon. Mirer went 24-44 as a starter, tossed 26 more picks than touchdowns, and never saw the postseason.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “This one’s going to leave a mark. True, I do have big biceps and a chiseled frame, but man this offensive line sucks and I’m on my back more often than not. Maybe the Browns can get me a line before some lists start ranking me as one of the worst quarterbacks of all time.”
Brady Quinn. The once-overhyped golden boy from Notre Dame who flamed out as an NFL quarterback. Quinn never found his footing in the league and was constantly engaged in a battle for second string. When he did enter the game or get the start, he threw too many picks and was ineffective. He finished his career with a 4-16 record, 12 touchdowns, and 17 picks.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “I’m throwing the ball in that direction, and nothing is going to stop me. See, I’m so good and talented that I’m going to point at the receiver and then deliver a gorgeous ball with my cannon arm. I’m the No. 1 pick, and this is the type of stuff that we do, because we’re the types of guys who can do it.”
At one point, Cleveland fans would have probably traded him for a couch. That’s how bad things got in Brownsville. Tim Couch was drafted first overall and was doomed from the get-go. His career record was awful and Couch never managed to throw more than 18 touchdowns in a season. But he did manage to get sacked the most in the NFL his rookie and throw a ton of picks.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “How did that safety catch the ball? I actually listened to coach and read the defense perfectly. Where did this man come from? Hold up, time out. This was supposed to be my comeback year. New year, new Jimmy. I’m a prodigy, a star. Why can’t I stop sucking? Get your head in the game, Jim.”
The arrogance is high with this one. Again, another Notre Dame quarterback who received way too much attention was surprise second-round pick Jimmy Clausen. Jimmy, who thought he was much better than he was, finished his career with an alarming 1-13 record, seven touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. There’s no sugarcoating it: Jimmy sucked.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “So this is it. Alone on a bench. Three picks, no touchdowns, and another loss. My teammates hate me. My coaches have no faith in me. And the city probably wants me traded to Cleveland, where my career can peacefully wither away.”
Vikings fans will be pondering what went wrong with this pick. They selected the FSU star 12th overall, and he never even came close to fulfilling his expectations. He never put up big numbers (38 TDs, 36 picks), compiled a 14-21-1 record, and never led the Vikings to the playoffs. Fans became increasingly frustrated with Ponder’s inability to lead a dynamic offense and booed him off the field and out of Minnesota.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Ha Ha Ha! The Bills are such suckers. They gave me all this money for what? I basically sabotaged their draft and ruined any glimmer of hope the franchise had. Yeah, I’m gonna keep smiling, too. Interceptions, fumbles, and losses. None of it matters. I’m going to the bank!”
What is it about Florida State quarterbacks? They just do not perform well in the NFL. EJ Manuel led an outstanding career at FSU but only lasted five seasons in the NFL. Manuel never even came close to leading a winning season in Buffalo and was part of a quarterback carousel complete with inept, aging, and disgruntled quarterbacks.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Why is my facemask awkwardly oversized. And why can’t I stop turning the ball over? I have an all-time great on my team in Larry Fitzgerald and all I can do is toss picks. It’s gotta be the facemask. It’s gotta be.”
A 1-5 record, three touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a 52.4 passer rating will land you on this list. Ryan Lindley was a horrible excuse for an NFL quarterback and somehow he lasted three years in the league. In the Cardinals playoff loss in 2015, Lindley led the Cardinals to just 78 yards of offense, the lowest in playoff history.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “I have literally no clue what the play call was, and even if I did, I wouldn’t know what it meant. This oversized playbook is too complicated and I am way behind on the learning curve. So I’m going to take a chance and fire it over the middle. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.”
Well, when you are an offensive stud at UCLA and the 12th overall pick, lasting more than two seasons in the league is something most people expect out of you. Cade McNown decided to defy expectations. In his two years in the NFL, McNown won only three games, had 12 losses, and threw 19 picks with just 16 touchdowns.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Oh my. That is a big, strong man, and no one is in front of him. Why are my blockers nowhere to be found? I am cannon fodder about to get blasted into the turf. I did not sign up for this and I am not certain I will ever be able to get up. Hopefully I wrote my will. Raiders, it’s been real.”
Vince Evans’ career spanned three decades, which probably was his greatest achievement. Despite amazing longevity, Evans only had a 14-25 record and turned the ball over with ease- 74 picks and 52 touchdowns. The 1981 season, where Evans started every game, was his best. He only threw for 11 touchdowns and had 20 picks and 13 fumbles. Yikes.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Oh yea, Double Wide Cobra, 34 Wrangler. My favorite play. This is the one. I’ve thrown five TDs and only four picks with this one. Let’s make it six TDs, shall we. This is the play where I get to let loose and show the NFL what perfect vision and a bionic arm can do.”
He’s no Peyton Manning. He was, however, an interception throwing machine. Year after year, Trudeau’s game failed to evolve, and over the course of his lackluster career he threw 69 interceptions and only 42 touchdowns. He also fumbled the ball frequently, making him the opposing team’s greatest asset. When Jack had the ball, you knew you were getting the ball back.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Are ya’ll kidding me? Get open, or else you are going to force me to throw my third pick of this stupid game. Seriously, make a cut, come back to the ball, just do something. I am not the type of player to throw the ball away, so open or not, someone is catching my pass, and I hope it’s one of my guys.”
My goodness, Cleveland. Half this list is composed of your so-called quarterbacks. Spergon was no surgeon when it came to precisely placing the ball in the hands of his teammates. His 0-3 record is highlighted by his one touchdown and seven interceptions. His 39.5 passer rating is exceptionally low.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “This is horrible. Am I really about to get tackled before I throw this ball? Hope there aren’t any photographers catching this.” So what exactly happened to Mark “Sanchize” Sanchez? He was hyped coming out of USC and never lived up to it.
He’s thrown 86 touchdowns and 89 interceptions and has a passer rating of 73.2. But more alarming than his stats is his epic demise from promising future for the Jets to laughing stock of the NFL and perennial backup. In 2012, Sanchez coughed up the rock 14 times in 15 games.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “I ain’t Phil Simms. Never wanted to be, never tried to be. Because I am better. When some people see no window to throw to, I see a gaping whole. I am the needle and the ball is my thread. I will weave it in and out and through any defense this pathetic league puts in front of me.”
The man with the generic name, Dave Brown was a big name at Duke and a bigger bust in the NFL. He lasted a while in the NFL but how? He has a losing record, a negative touchdown to interception ratio, and helped the Giants become one of the NFL’s most irrelevant teams of the 1990s.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “I guess this whole quarterback thing isn’t as easy as Peyton Manning made it look. I guess yelling Omaha doesn’t really throw off too many defenses unless your name is Peyton. Dang, this defense has me figured out. Time to heave a long bomb and pray.”
Painter was part of the proud Colts team that embraced the “Suck for Luck” mentality, and he definitely contributed. A forgettable 0-8 record. A mere six touchdowns against 13 interceptions. And a 57.6 passer rating. Oh, and in the 14 games he played in (started eight), he fumbled nine times. Nothing like Curtis Painter.
What he’s thinking at this exact moment: “Who is going to get this ball? A Rams player, or the defense? Well, considering the fact that I have a natural propensity for turnovers, I’m thinking the other team. And do I really care? No, because St. Louis sucks. And I’ll do anything in my power to get traded to a better city.”
Tony Banks never led the greatest show on turf because the ball he was supposed to be throwing was always on the turf. Banks fumbled the ball at an alarming rate — an NFL record 21 fumbles his rookie year — and was sacked seemingly every other play. When he didn’t fumble or get sacked, he was throwing interceptions. A backup for much of his career, Banks finished with a 35-43 record.
The way Jeff Komlo’s life ended was almost as bizarre as his professional career. A University of Delaware product, Komlo was a ninth-round pick by the Lions back in 1979. Well, if you know anything about Delaware quarterbacks, they are few and far between, and seemingly for good reason.
Komlo started in 16 games and played in 25 over the course of his career, throwing 12 touchdowns and 28 picks. His record was a horrid 2-14 and his passer rating was just as bad (50.9). After bombing out of the NFL, Komlo went on the run from authorities following a handful of run-ins with the law. Komlo avoided the FBI by living in Athens where he passed away in 2009.
After posting an impressive 23-1 record at the University of Miami, Steve Walsh was one of the more coveted prospects in the NFL Draft. In 1989, the Cowboys, who had already taken quarterback Troy Aikman first overall, opted to draft Walsh with the second pick of the Supplemental Draft, ensuring that they would have their quarterback of the future no matter what. That quarterback of the future’s name was Aikman, not Walsh.
After his short stint in Dallas, Walsh bounced around the league throwing more interceptions than touchdowns, a surefire way to lower one’ job security. Walsh finished his career in Indy with 40 touchdown passes and 50 interceptions and a passer rating of 66.4. Since retiring, Walsh has taken up coaching and is currently in the CFL as a QB coach. Hopefully he teaches his pupils to throw the ball to the right team…
He may not be the King of interceptions, but Richard Todd sure is in the royal family. Todd was taken in the sixth overall back in 1976 after a standout career at Alabama. The problem is, Alabama quarterbacks, at the professional level, often do not perform well. In college, they are almost coddled behind legendary offensive lines and strong ground attacks, so their job is all too easy.
In the pros, they aren’t gifted those luxuries and subsequently fail. Todd was no exception. The man who was drafted to replace the legendary Joe Namath did not even come close to filling his predecessor’s shoes (or cleats). Todd ended his career with 124 touchdowns to 161 picks. In the 1980 season, Todd threw a tear-inducing (assuming you’re a Jets fan) 30 picks.
Here’s a football name if you’ve ever seen one. Zeke Bratkowski may not have been the best quarterback, but boy oh boy was he a football player in every sense of the word. It didn’t matter if he threw 10 picks or 10 touchdowns, Zeke was a gamer, a fighter, and a winner.
Zeke, who tossed a — to put things lightly — horrible 65 touchdowns to 122 interceptions, is a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Packers (as a backup). His 54.3 quarterback rating is hardly anything to brag about, but, thanks to his contributions to the game as a player and coach, Zeke has been enshrined in the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.
At Florida State University, Gary Huff was a prolific passer who led the nation in touchdown passes in 1971 and 1972. The Bears who have made quite the name for themselves as a franchise seemingly unable to draft well at the QB position, drafted Huff in the second round of the 1973 NFL Draft. Like many failed Bears quarterback projects, Huff didn’t work out.
The man finished his career with a tremendously bad 16 touchdowns to 50 interceptions while going 7-21 as a starter. However, one of those seven wins was monumental. In 1977, Huff quarterbacked the fledgling Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the franchise’s first win.