There may be ten other players on the same side out there on the field, but an NFL team can live or die by the strength of their quarterback – not least, of course, because the QB often calls the shots when it comes to offensive plays. But not every quarterback is up to the task at hand – and, in fact, many ultimately disappoint in the heat of battle. We’re sure, for instance, that a lot of football fans would rather not remember how various of the following players performed in the past.
32. Arizona Cardinals – Derek Anderson
Given that Kurt Warner had taken the Arizona Cardinals to the 2009 Super Bowl, he was always going to be a tough act to follow upon his retirement soon afterwards. And, alas, Derek Anderson was not the man to fill Warner’s cleats. After getting off to a bad start for the Cardinals in 2010, Anderson was benched twice, with rookie Max Hall taking his place. Then when Hall suffered an injury, fellow rookie John Skelton stepped up to become starting quarterback. With that, Anderson was sidelined for good, and so he ended his season in Arizona with a dismal 2-7 record. His off-field antics were no more impressive, either: in November 2010 he lashed out at a reporter who had accused him of laughing at his team’s poor performance.
31. Atlanta Falcons – Joey Harrington
In fairness to Joey Harrington, he was never intended to be the Atlanta Falcons’ starting quarterback. Instead, he had been signed in 2007 as a backup for Michael Vick. But when Vick was jailed for 21 months for his participation in an illegal dog-fighting ring, Harrington was thrust into the spotlight. And he didn’t seem to handle the pressure well at all – throwing just seven touchdowns during ten games as starter and ending the season with a 3-7 record. It’s probably little surprise, then, that the Falcons moved him on after less than a year and a half.
30. Baltimore Ravens – Kyle Boller
Brian Billick arguably took a huge gamble when he signed Kyle Boller in 2003. The rookie quarterback had a weak passing-accuracy record, after all – which of course didn’t augur well. Perhaps inevitably, then, Boller was inconsistent during his five years in Baltimore, with his finishing record reading 20-22. He never took his team to the play-offs, either – despite the Ravens’ defensive strength. And Billick would in fact eventually name his signing of Boller as at least part of the reason behind his own dismissal as head coach in 2007.
29. Buffalo Bills – EJ Manuel
Expectations for EJ Manuel were high after his first-round-draft selection by the Buffalo Bills in 2013. But instead of nurturing Manuel’s potential, the Bills threw him in at the deep end – arguably with regrettable consequences. Yes, the rookie quarterback’s inaugural season was decidedly hit-and-miss, and he was benched on the back of a mere four games in his 2014 follow-up year. All told, in fact, Manuel started just 17 games over four seasons with the Bills, ending with an unenviable 6-11 record. He also achieved an unfortunate honor as the first NFL quarterback to taste defeat in games hosted in three separate countries.
28. Carolina Panthers – Jimmy Clausen
Following a promising prep career in which Jimmy Clausen won every game that he started, pundits hyped him up as one of the top picks in the 2010 NFL Draft. In the end, though, the Carolina Panthers took him in the second round. And that may have been a slightly ill-omened sign of things to come, as Clausen failed to make an impact on the big stage. In fact, he managed just three touchdown passes in his first season, and the Panthers themselves posted a woeful 2-14 record. So it was that by the time the 2011 season rolled around, the team had already drafted in Clausen’s replacement, Cam Newton.
27. Chicago Bears – Cade McNown
Although Cade McNown was a record-breaker at college level – and his first season in the NFL also showed glimpses of potential – he wasn’t able to capitalize on his promise after being snapped up by the Chicago Bears in 1999. In fact, his performance levels waned, and he ended the 2000 season with a wretched 1-8 record. McNown then joined the Miami Dolphins, where he failed to make any kind of mark, and his career ultimately petered out with the San Francisco 49ers.
26. Cincinnati Bengals – Akili Smith
If you called the Cincinnati Bengals’ 1999 signing of Akili Smith a gamble, you’d certainly have got that right. After all, Smith had only played a single season at college level and was otherwise untested. Perhaps, then, he was simply out of his depth at the Bengals, where he had just 17 starts over four years and finished with a lamentable 3-14 record. In fact, Smith managed a paltry five touchdown passes during his whole career in the NFL – before a brief, but also unsuccessful, stint in the Canadian Football League.
25. Cleveland Browns – Brandon Weeden
The Cleveland Browns clearly put plenty of stock in Brandon Weeden, making him a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft at the ripe old age of 28. The Browns’ faith didn’t pay off immediately, though, as the aging rookie had a disastrous first game against the Philadelphia Eagles. That said, Weeden mostly turned things around for the rest of the season, and in 2013 he was duly confirmed as the team’s permanent starting quarterback. Then, however, a thumb injury in Week 2 put paid to his ambitions, and even though he was reinstated as starter when he’d healed up, his game just never came back.
24. Dallas Cowboys – Chad Hutchinson
Chad Hutchinson flip-flopped between baseball and football during his early career. Ultimately, though, he settled on the gridiron by signing for the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2002. And it’s easy to see why the Cowboys thought their new guy may have come good; after all, in his first season he broke a rookie record for the greatest number of consecutive passes without an interception. But that was basically it for the quarterback’s achievements, with his nine starts that season translating to a miserable 2-7 record. In 2003 Hutchinson was then duly benched, and in 2004 he went to the Chicago Bears.
23. Denver Broncos – Tim Tebow
Despite a successful 2010 as a rookie NFL quarterback, Tim Tebow didn’t begin the following season as first choice for the Denver Broncos. However, when starter Kyle Orton failed to live up to expectations early on, Tebow found himself thrust into the limelight. And the Broncos had a good year too – just not necessarily thanks to Tebow, who finished that 2011 season with the worst pass-completion rate in the entire league. Not long afterwards, then, the Broncos traded Tebow for two mid-round picks from the New York Jets.
22. Detroit Lions – Charlie Batch
When Matt Millen took over as chief exec of the Detroit Lions in 2001, Charlie Batch found himself working under new head coach Marty Mornhinweg – and it’s fair to say that the pair didn’t always see eye to eye. The player’s record as starting quarterback – a wretched 0-9 – probably didn’t do him any favors with Mornhinweg either. So although Batch notched up 12 touchdown passes during his nine starting games, the coach eventually replaced him with backup quarterback Ty Detmer. And by the beginning of the 2002 season, Batch was gone.
21. Green Bay Packers – Brett Hundley
The Green Bay Packers’ consistency over the years is clearly to the team’s credit. In fact, the Packers have had no exceptionally disappointing quarterbacks – at least not on the level of other teams in the NFL. That doesn’t mean, however, that every team member has always performed brilliantly. During the 2017 season, for instance, starting QB Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone in Week 6 – leaving backup Brett Hundley to take the mantle. And it was a step up that Hundley arguably wasn’t really ready for, either, judging by his 3-6 record as starter. At any rate, the Packers traded him to the Seattle Seahawks mere days before the 2018 season began.
20. Houston Texans – Brock Osweiler
At 6’ 7” and 240 pounds, Brock Osweiler may have had the right physique to be an imposing quarterback, but that didn’t mean he really excelled while with the Houston Texans. Even his 8-6 record in the 2016 season for the Texans masked his actual performances, which included way too many interceptions thrown. Osweiler made all the wrong noises behind the scenes, too, failing to bond with his teammates and butting heads with head coach Bill O’Brien over tactics and strategy. So, despite having originally dropped a fortune on their towering quarterback, the Texans passed him on to the Cleveland Browns during the 2017 offseason.
19. Indianapolis Colts – Curtis Painter
Curtis Painter’s time in the spotlight can perhaps be summed up neatly by the unfortunate events of his first game with the Indianapolis Colts. During that clash with the New York Jets, one of his passes was intercepted, while he also spilled the ball, which led to a Jets touchdown. Painter would ultimately start eight games for the Colts in the 2011 season, finishing 0-8. Unsurprisingly, then, he was let go come the following offseason, and in 2014 he dropped out of the NFL altogether.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars – Blaine Gabbert
As rookie years go, Blaine Gabbert’s wasn’t the best. In fact, according to NFL analysis website Football Outsiders, Gabbert’s 2011 spell with the Jacksonville Jaguars was “the fifth-worst season [it had] ever measured.” Certainly, his pass-completion, sack and fumble rates were all up there with the lousiest in the entire league. And the quarterback’s 5-19 win record over the course of two seasons in which he started for the Jaguars was equally poor; in fact, in 2012 it read 1-9. So after Gabbert had suffered several injury setbacks, his team finally traded him to the San Francisco 49ers during the 2014 offseason.
17. Kansas City Chiefs – Matt Cassel
In 2009 Matt Cassel was hot property. He was fresh off the back of an amazing season with the New England Patriots, where he’d stepped in to cover for Tom Brady and gone 10-5. But while Kansas City Chiefs fans were largely ecstatic at the prospect of Cassel’s arrival, their excitement surely dissipated over time. You see, the quarterback ended up posting a 4-11 record during his first year at the Chiefs, with his 16 touchdown passes basically canceled out by the same number of interceptions thrown. And although Cassel would spend four seasons in Kansas City, he never seemed to improve to the level that he’d been at with the Patriots.
16. Los Angeles Chargers – Ryan Leaf
Ryan Leaf isn’t just the Los Angeles Chargers’ – then San Diego Chargers – most disappointing quarterback since 2000. He’s also seen as the “biggest bust in draft history,” according to a 2017 ESPN report. And that dubious title may have something to do with the expectations that were placed on his shoulders in the 1998 NFL Draft, where he was second pick overall. In any case, Leaf’s record as starter speaks for itself: he went 4-14 during the three years that he spent with the Chargers. And a combination of injuries and self-confessed arrogance beset him through his entire career. Things would go from bad to worse for the quarterback, too, as he eventually ended up behind bars for burglary after becoming addicted to prescription painkillers.
15. Los Angeles Rams – Marc Bulger
After Kurt Warner parted ways with the then-St. Louis Rams in 2004, his backup, Marc Bulger, was seen by some as a worthy successor. And for a time Bulger seemed to fit the bill; after all, in 2006 he set an NFL record as the quickest quarterback to chalk up 1,000 completions. The player’s 2007 season with the Rams saw him beset by injuries, though, and his performances also went distinctly off the boil. Over the course of three seasons, he would in fact go a miserable 5-30 as starter. Moreover, 2009 saw the Rams completely fall apart, and Bulger departed the following year.
14. Miami Dolphins – Ray Lucas
Ray Lucas showed promise at the New England Patriots – certainly enough for head coach Bill Parcells to bring the quarterback with him to the New York Jets. But Lucas didn’t shine during his subsequent time with the Miami Dolphins. Over the course of six starts in the 2002 season, the player made just four passing touchdowns – and threw six interceptions. One particularly poor performance came in October of that year against the Buffalo Bills – a game in which he completed a meager 13 passes, twice spilled the ball for fumbles and had four of his throws picked off.
13. Minnesota Vikings – Christian Ponder
The Minnesota Vikings drafted Christian Ponder in 2011 as the 12th overall pick, placing lofty expectations on the rookie’s shoulders as a result. But over the course of his time in Minnesota, the quarterback struggled and turned in patchy performances. It didn’t help, either, that he fought against injury during the 2013 season. And then in 2014 Teddy Bridgewater was drafted into the team, leaving Ponder to be relegated to third-string quarterback. He subsequently left the Vikings at the close of that season, with his starting record for the team reading 14-21-1.
12. New England Patriots – Drew Bledsoe
Drew Bledsoe may not be the New England Patriots’ most disappointing quarterback ever. But given that Tom Brady has been the team’s starter almost constantly since 2001, Bledsoe pales in comparison to his former teammate. It’s also true that things turned sour for the less-lauded quarterback during his time at the Patriots – what with his 17 interceptions thrown and only six passing touchdowns from the midpoint of the 1999 season. Compounding matters, the team subsequently went 5-11 in 2000. And then, after suffering a near-fatal injury in 2001, Bledsoe lost his starting place to Brady, and he was traded to the Buffalo Bills the following year.
11. New Orleans Saints – Aaron Brooks
Aaron Brooks’ time in New Orleans wasn’t totally forgettable; in 2000 he led the Saints to their very first victory in a home playoff, after all. But the quarterback never managed to re-orchestrate that success over the course of the following five seasons. And, in fact, 2005 was particularly bleak for Brooks – with a 3-10 starting record alongside 17 interceptions thrown and a mere 13 passing touchdowns. He was then benched in favor of Todd Bouman, who helped the Saints win their last three games of the year. So, unsurprisingly, Brooks’ days in New Orleans were up, and the team released him soon afterwards.
10. New York Giants – Kerry Collins
Kerry Collins’ time with the New York Giants wasn’t all bad – not by a long shot. He took the team to 2001’s Super Bowl XXXV, after all, and achieved a landmark franchise passing-yards record of 4,073 in 2002. But on the downside, Collins coughed up the ball for fumbles a record-setting 23 times throughout the 2001 season. And 2003 proved particularly bad for the quarterback, whose record read 4-9 during that extended spell. The Giants finished bottom of their division that year, too, and Collins was shown the door shortly thereafter.
9. New York Jets – Geno Smith
Despite proving problematic both on and off the field, Geno Smith lasted four seasons with the New York Jets. And plenty of fans will wonder how that was allowed to happen, especially given that Smith was lambasted for a seemingly nonchalant and unprofessional attitude to the job. In 2014 the QB’s first year as starter progressed terribly, too, as he went 1-8 – with one game seeing his passer rating read a miserable 0.04. Plus, early in that season he was fined $12,000 for verbally abusing fans. Then, in 2017, Smith ultimately signed for the Giants, becoming the first player to have started as a quarterback for both New York teams.
8. Oakland Raiders – Andrew Walter
Back in 2006, Aaron Brooks was leading the Oakland Raiders’ quarterback lineup. But a couple of bad games and an injury blighted Brooks’ early season, and so Andrew Walter stepped up. Unfortunately, though, the younger man – who had played his rookie season the previous year – wasn’t really up to scratch, going 2-6 in the games that he started during that stretch. Then the Raiders drafted JaMarcus Russell, which effectively signaled the end of Walter’s hopes of becoming starter again.
7. Philadelphia Eagles – Mark Sanchez
Probably Mark Sanchez’s worst transgression at the Philadelphia Eagles was causing the team to lose out on the 2014 playoffs. With backing from head coach Chip Kelly, Sanchez had been brought on to cover for an injury-struck and underperforming Nick Foles. And while one of his first games as starter, against the Packers, was hit and miss, the replacement quarterback generally built up a head of steam with a strong run of performances. So, the Eagles looked odds-on to win the NFC East – until they lost three games in a row with Sanchez at the helm and so tumbled out of contention.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers – Tommy Maddox
The Pittsburgh Steelers have enjoyed consistently good times under Ben Roethlisberger. But long-term fans will remember the torrid era before he arrived in 2004 – namely, when Tommy Maddox was starting quarterback. Maddox fared well to start with, sure, but the bottom fell out of his performances during 2003. That season, he ended up going 6-10, with the team’s offense ranking a lowly 22nd in the entire league. Then the following year, Maddox picked up an injury, Roethlisberger stepped in, and that was that.
5. San Francisco 49ers – Tim Rattay
On the back of the incredible highs enjoyed by the San Francisco 49ers under Steve Young’s tenure as starting quarterback, perhaps it was almost inevitable that some crushing lows would follow. And after he stepped up to replace the departing Jeff Garcia as starter, Tim Rattay was arguably a pivotal part of the reason for the team’s misfortunes. That being said, in 2003 Rattay actually went 2-1, with seven passing touchdowns, and yet injury held him back until the following season. Then when he returned, his performance was considerably poorer – reflected by a woeful record of just 2-11 across 2004 and 2005.
4. Seattle Seahawks – Charlie Whitehurst
Charlie Whitehurst drew plenty of buzz when he joined the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, with fans eager to see what the man nicknamed “Clipboard Jesus” could actually do if given a chance. As it happens, though, his signing proved to be anticlimactic. In two years the quarterback started only four times, and his touchdown passes were outweighed by the number of interceptions that he threw during the same period. His poor games were legion too – like 2011’s humiliating 6-3 defeat to the Cleveland Browns, in which he turned over the ball twice.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Josh Freeman
Things looked promising for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under Josh Freeman. After joining the team in 2009, he started every single game of the 2010 season, going 10-6 – with the Bucs only just falling short of reaching the playoffs. But rather than pushing on from that success, the young quarterback swung the other way in 2011. During that season, he threw 22 interceptions and just 16 touchdown passes. Unsurprisingly, then, the Buccaneers went 4-12 overall – and they were defeated in all of their last ten games. What’s more, matters if anything got worse in 2013, with discord brewing in the camp as Freeman failed to appear for a team photo. No other franchise wanted to trade for him, either, so he was let go in October that year.
2. Tennessee Titans – Jake Locker
Jake Locker’s NFL career was certainly short-lived, lasting as it did from just 2011 to 2015. And apparently the Tennessee Titans quarterback no longer wanted to play by the end – although he’d already had four seasons’ worth of inconsistent performances. In the 11 games that he started during 2012, for example, he went 4-7 and threw 11 interceptions. He was also consistently in and out of the team thanks to injuries, including a season-ending Lisfranc fracture in 2013.
1. Washington Redskins – Rex Grossman
Perhaps to the delight of many Bears fans, Rex Grossman left the Chicago team after the 2008 season. Then two years later, Grossman was snapped up by the Washington Redskins – who may, however, have begun regretting the signing when he quickly lost a fumble during his first game for the franchise. As it turned out, the player ended up going 5-8 as starting QB in 2011. Then, the following year, the Redskins drafted two more quarterbacks, and Grossman found himself out of the picture. In fact, he never played for the team again, instead acting as an advisor to the starting and second-string QBs until he left in 2014.