Just getting to the National Football League as a quarterback is quite the accomplishment, but not everyone can be Tom Brady. Playing the position at the highest level requires a lot of things to come together. A player can have a cannon for an arm but also a propensity for throwing it to the wrong team. NFL defenses can be too complex for some signal callers and a quarterback may not be willing to put in the work off the field, in the film room. There are many more quarterbacks that fail in comparison to those that shine, making the best players in the league all the more impressive.
We’ve seen a great deal of talented quarterbacks over the years that appeared to have all the talent in the world but could not find success in the NFL. Jeff George could throw it a mile, but he was surly and never lived up to the hype. Michael Vick had some electric highlights and good seasons, but he struggled to develop into the accurate pocket passer that a pro quarterbacks has to be. Vince Young couldn’t fix his throwing motion. David Carr got sacked a billion times and never recovered. The list is long. Here are 15 current NFL quarterbacks that can’t throw a football:
15 Jacoby Brissett
When the Patriots selected Jacoby Brissett in the 2016 NFL Draft, it seemed like an odd move. Tom Brady was set to miss the first four games of the season, which meant that if Brissett were to make the team, he would begin the season as the backup signal caller.
For a quarterback that did not seem pro-ready at all, that would be a daunting task. However, that’s precisely what happened. Brady’s backup, and the starter in his absence, Jimmy Garoppolo went down with an injury in week two which forced Brissett into action. The Patriots were able to win that game thanks to the cozy lead that Garoppolo provided with an electric first half performance, so the team did not ask much of their rookie QB.
Brissett then started the third game of the season,and again the Patriots won. This was certainly not due to his passing ability, as he averaged less than 5.5 yards per attempt. Brissett wore out his welcome as the New England starter when the offense failed to out up a point against Buffalo in week four. It’s clear this rookie has a long way to go as a passer.
14 Matt Cassel
Here we have another quarterback that first played when Tom Brady was out. It was 2008 and Brady went down with a season-ending injury in week one. Cassel, who had not even started a game at USC, was thrust into the starting gig for the Patriots.
He played well that season, albeit against a cushy schedule. The former Trojan threw for more than 3,500 yards for the Patriots that year, tossing 21 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions. Those are solid numbers, but nothing great. Regardless, Cassel became a hot commodity and his offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, tried take the quarterback with him when he took the head coaching job in Denver, but that plan famously went down in flames and resulted in the trade of Jay Cutler. Cassel instead joined former New England exec Scott Pioli in Kansas City. He looked mediocre at best in 2009 and outside of a good 2010 season, he never delivered for the Chiefs. He tried to revitalize his career in Minnesota, but simply couldn’t move the ball downfield at all. He’s now a backup for the Tennessee Titans and the fans of the team surely hope he stays in that role.
13 Chase Daniel
Chase Daniel is treated like the best quarterback in the league that never actually has to step onto the field. Daniel began his career in New Orleans serving as a backup to Drew Brees. He rarely attempted a pass during his time in "The Big Easy" because, well, the Saints had Drew Brees. Daniel then moved on to Kansas City, where he backed up Alex Smith. He actually played a bit for the Chiefs, throwing a whopping one touchdown. It was in Kansas City that then-offensive coordinator Doug Pederson fell in love with the undersized Missouri product.
Pederson got the head coaching job in Philadelphia in 2016 and he took Daniel with him, awarding the QB with a contract worth $21 million. Now that's a big number for a backup, which made some people think that Daniel was finally on track to start for a team. This really looked like the case when the team moved incumbent starter Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings in the preseason, but Pederson promptly named rookie Carson Wentz the starter (a move that looks like a good one thus far).
Still, Daniel simply can’t throw a football because nobody seems to let him, no matter what team he plays for. Still, he’s getting $7 million a year to hold that clipboard.
12 Blaine Gabbert
Blaine Gabbert looked to have franchise quarterback potential when he came out of college, convincing the Jacksonville Jaguars to use the 10th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft on him. He seemed to have the size, arm strength and mental acumen to handle the rigors of the position on the pro level. Even ESPN’s Todd McShay liked Gabbert and he’s one of the best in the business.
Gabbert quickly proved to be overwhelmed during his rookie campaign, throwing just 12 touchdowns in 15 games. Still, a lot of quarterbacks struggle during their rookie season. However, nine TDs in 10 games in his second season and a paltry 5.7 yards per attempt were big red flags for the youngster. Gabbert would then battle injuries and bad performances before seeing his Jacksonville tenure come to an end.
2015 saw him get another shot, this time with the 49ers. He looked capable in a few games and earned the starting job in 2016. However, the real Blaine Gabbert reared his head and the San Fran offense was dreadful. He has lost his job to Colin Kaepernick.
11 Christian Hackenberg
What the heck happened to Christian Hackenberg? This guy was a monster coming out of high school, an Elite 11 star, but that seems like ages ago now. Hackenberg had an excellent season as a true freshman under Bill O’Brien at Penn State. He excelled in the pro-style scheme the Nittany Lions ran and there was a lot of buzz about him being the number one pick in the NFL Draft as soon as he became eligible.
Well, O’Brien bolted for the Houston Texans and the Nittany Lions hired James Franklin to replace him. Franklin and Hackenberg did not mesh, as the coach seemed to be unsure how to use his young star. Hackenberg never looked comfortable in the offense, developed bad habits and made some downright terrible throws over a two-year span. The New York Jets drafted him in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but after a preseason game in which he went 11-31 for 54 yards, it doesn’t look as if he’s resolved his on-going issues.
10 Ryan Mallett
Ryan Mallett was a big-time high school prospect that selected the Michigan Wolverines. After a transfer to Arkansas he eventually entered the draft. Despite first-round arm talent, Mallett dropped to the third round of the NFL Draft amidst rumors about issues off the field. Still, being selected by the New England Patriots is usually a good sign. Mallett had an opportunity to learn the game from Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, which is essentially a crash course in NFL success.
Mallett obviously was not going to take the job from Brady and when former New England coach Bill O’Brien got the Texans job, he acquired the young signal caller. However, Mallet could never get a firm grip on the starting job, losing his role to journeyman Brian Hoyer multiple times. Yes, Brian Hoyer. Mallet has consistently struggled with his accuracy and his accountability, which led to his release from Houston. He’s now a backup for the Baltimore Ravens.
9 EJ Manuel
Despite what Tyrod Taylor supporters will tell you, the Buffalo Bills are still seeking their first franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly. The team has not been to the playoffs since the ‘90s and they would like nothing more to see a top-level signal caller lead them back to the postseason.
The Bills have swung and missed on a multitude of quarterbacks since the glory days of Kelly and Manuel is one of the worst. Leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, a lot of scouts and experts had a late-first or second round grade on the Florida State QB. He was praised for his character and mental acumen, and Buffalo apparently fell in love with those traits. The Bills surprisingly used the 16th pick in the first round to select Manuel, considerably higher than he was expected to go. The bigger problem though, has been how utterly useless Manuel has proven to be. He seems terrified to attempt to move the ball down the field, checking down over and over again to the chagrin of tortured Bills fans.
8 Geno Smith
Geno Smith was incredible in college, tossing touchdown after touchdown at West Virginia and looking like a potential stud. However, in a story we’ve seen before, it appears that Smith was more a product of the system he played in than an actual star. Smith was selected by the New York Jets in the early part of the second round in 2013 in the hope he could solve the team’s longstanding quarterback woes. The former Mountaineer started every game in his rookie season and quickly showing himself to be a turnover machine. Smith tossed 12 TDs that year but also threw 21 interceptions and fumbled the ball eight times. Sure, rookie QBs are known to struggle, but there was little to be excited about in Geno’s rookie campaign.
He would follow up that season with another rough season, eventually losing his starting gig due to injury. However, it seems unlikely he ever gets it back when you consider that his coach still didn’t put him in when the guy in front of him threw six interceptions in a single game earlier this season.
7 Brandon Weeden
Brandon Weeden was already in his late 20s when the Cleveland Browns drafted him. Leave it to the always dependable Browns to use a first-round pick on an older rookie with limited upside. The former Oklahoma State QB started 13 games in his rookie season and, if anything, you’d think this rookie would be more NFL-ready than most.
This was not the case. Weeden was quickly added to the long list of Cleveland quarterback failures, as he threw 17 interceptions and posted a completion percentage under 58% in his rookie season. He’d start just five games the next year before moving on as a backup in Dallas. When starter Tony Romo went down with an injury in 2015, it thrust Weeden into the starting role and he certainly had the confidence of owner and GM Jerry Jones. Jones went so far as to say that Weeden was “a gifted passer” and his throws were “a thing of beauty.” Weeden was released by the team less than two months later after an 0-3 record.
6 Ryan Tannehill
It felt like a pretty big reach when the Miami Dolphins used a top ten pick on a guy that had only been playing quarterback for a few years. Perhaps Tannehill should have stuck to playing receiver, as more than four years later, we have not seen anything from the former Aggie to suggest that he should be a starting quarterback in the pro game.
Tannehill’s numbers don’t look terrible, but anyone that has seen him play sees a guy that simply doesn’t look the part. He just has not improved all that much since his solid 2014 year and he actually appears to have regressed in 2016. Even with offensive guru Adam Gase, a guy that actually made Jay Cutler look decent last season, Tannehill doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on the position. Dolphins fans appear to be sick of seeing this guy try to throw a football, as there were chants for backup Matt Moore emanating from the stands during Miami’s October 9th game.
5 Brock Osweiler
“The deals you don’t make at times are the best ones.” That was Denver Broncos executive John Elway in reference to the team letting Brock Osweiler walk via free agency in the off-season. That, from one of the best QBs in NFL history and one of the top GMs in the game today. Ouch.
It was quite the surprise when Osweiler signed with the Houston Texans, as the Broncos didn’t seem to have a better option to pursue at the quarterback position. Not even a half of a season later and it seems the Broncos win again. Osweiler, despite consistently drawing rave reviews from his coach, has been nothing more than mediocre in Houston. Making $18 million per year, the former Sun Devil has completed less than 60% of his passes and thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns. One has to wonder if the Texans actually upgraded their quarterback situation in the off-season, but it may not matter in the pitiful AFC South.
4 Ryan Fitzpatrick
We have to begin here: this is a man that threw six interceptions this season…in a single game! Yet he was not been benched thanks to the seemingly endless deficiencies of the aforementioned Geno Smith. Ryan Fitzpatrick plays bi-polar football. We saw it in Buffalo when he put together a nice stretch of games and was awarded a big contract. He followed that up by "crapping the bed" and was out of town as a backup in Houston in short order.
Last year, he channeled his misleading magic once again, putting up a good season by most measurements. New York would not fall victim to the same mistake that Buffalo made, as they held steadfast in contract negotiations, unwilling to give the quarterback a long-term deal. Well, Fitz-tragic has reverted back to his turnover-prone ways and the Jets don’t remotely resemble a playoff team. At least they didn’t give him the contract he wanted.
3 Robert Griffin III
Robert Griffin III was once the sensation of the National Football League. In fact, coming out of Baylor, he was seen by some as good to be selected ahead of top prospect Andrew Luck. That would have been a disaster for the Colts, who opted for Luck, but for one year it did seem that RGIII was the better player.
Griffin set the league on fire with gaudy stats and highlight-reel runs in 2012, leading the Redskins to the playoffs. Redskins fans thought Griffin was the second coming of Jesus, but it was all downhill from there. Injuries, inaccuracy from the pocket and rumors about character concerns have plagued the Heisman winner ever since. He was benched for Kirk Cousins last season and moved on to Cleveland, where quarterbacks go to die. Griffin did not even make it through week one for the Browns in 2016, going down with another injury that might have been avoided had he been more careful with his running style.
2 Mark Sanchez
If you want to see a visual representation of Mark Sanchez’s career, go to YouTube and search for “butt fumble.”
Sanchez’s pro career began when he decided to leave USC after throwing less than 500 passes. Current Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was running the Trojans program at the time and he even came out and said that Sanchez wasn’t ready to leave for the pros. That’s pretty much the opposite of what you hear from college coaches no matter what the truth may be.
Sanchez was drafted with the fifth overall pick by after the Jets traded up to get him and he quickly gained a kind of celebrity status. Being equipped with good looks and a flashy nickname ("The Sanchize"), as well as playing in the largest city in the country, go a long way, a lot longer than his play ever did. New York made two AFC Championship Games with Sanchez at the helm, but he was by no means a good quarterback. His throws were consistently inaccurate and he turned the ball over at an alarming rate. He has bounced around the league since leaving the Jets and was beat out by a seventh round pick out of Northwestern for the Denver job this past off-season.
1 Jared Goff
When a team gets the number one pick in the NFL Draft, they often feel pressured to select a quarterback. It’s the most important position in the game and it’s really difficult to contend for a championship without at least a good one. The Rams looked to be a quarterback away from being a playoff team when they traded for the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. It seemed a two-quarterback draft, the options being Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. Los Angeles opted for Goff and it already looks like a terrible call. Goff looks incredibly thin from a physical standpoint and failed to distinguish himself in the preseason.
It was a huge red flag when the Rams chose not to even dress their rookie in the first week despite him being healthy. Making matters worse, Wentz has started from week one and looks the part of an NFL quarterback already.