A good quarterback can establish an NFL franchise and turn it into a competitor for decades. A bad one can run it into the ground and ruin it forever. The QB position is considered by many as the most important position on the field. They are the one that makes the most important decisions on offence and turns plays into reality. There are also QBs who love to run, which makes deciding on one style of play even more difficult, as your QB can affect many personnel decisions.
It doesn’t take elaborate football knowledge to be aware of this stuff, which makes a winning formula easy to understand, yet really hard to achieve. It’s all about finding the right guy to do the right job, but it sounds much easier than it is. People value loyalty, so once a QB leaves his team, the fans of his original or new franchise don’t consider him “their own”. Look at the situation in San Francisco, when Steve Young took over. The Niners were still Montana’s team, even though Young was the best player in the NFL. This means that a team not only has to know who the right guy is, but put itself in the position to draft or sign him.
However, sometimes – actually, more often than not – the guy who you think is THE guy, is far from ideal. To put things bluntly, he’s awful. And sometimes he is so awful that the franchise suffers for years. Here are 15 QBs that ruined their teams forever.
15. Vince Young (Titans)
The 2006 NFL Draft was pretty bad when it comes to quarterbacks, with Vince Young, Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler serving as the three best options. The Titans settled on Young. The man completed one of the best plays in college football history and led the Longhorns to Rose Bowl victory, so he was a winner, right? His rookie season was really impressive, that’s true. But then he lost his starting job to veteran Kerry Collins, then regained it, then he got injured and was released. How did the Titans do during those years? One Wild Card game, and one playoff loss when he was benched in favour of Collins. They should have waited for a better QB class and drafted to build their defence.
14. Rick Mirer (Seahawks)
Rick Mirer benefited from attending Notre Dame, which was also the alma mater of the untouchable Joe Montana. He left the school ranked first in career touchdowns so maybe he was even better than Joe Cool? Was that even possible? As it turned out, it took a lanky guy from Michigan to prove that it actually was. Rick Mirer on the other hand didn’t silence any doubters. Drew Bledsoe (who handed the reigns to the Patriots offence to said lanky kid) was selected first in the 1993 NFL draft, and Mirer came in at the second pick. The Seahawks wasted four years on him. During that time period he was able to post more TDs than INTs only once. The Seahawks would be “mired” in losing for may years until Russell Wilson came along, while Rick went on to start a wine business.
13. Eli Manning (Chargers)
Eli Manning won two Super Bowls so far, which validates why the Chargers used their first overall selection on him in 2004. You know how many Super Bowl rings Philip Rivers has won for the team from San Diego/Los Angeles? The same amount as you and me. The fact that the Chargers decided on Manning, even though he publicly stated that he’ll not play for them, really speaks volumes about the management of the franchise. Ever since that draft Rivers has remained their guy. He’s been great, no doubt, but has he won a Super Bowl? Manning on the other hand, despite uneven performances, won two. When it matters, he is able to elevate his game. Rivers went to the Pro Bowl six times, Manning just four, but that didn’t benefit the Chargers in any way. They’re suffering will only increase when Rivers retires.
12. David Carr (Texans)
The first draft pick in Houston Texans history was also the first overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft. The management of the Texans believed that the best way to build a team is to start with an established college quarterback. The best QB in that draft turned out to be David Garrard, which is somewhat telling about the Texans’ options at that position. They could have had the best player, but they decided to pick Carr, because they absolutely wanted a QB. They didn’t envision him being among the Top 10 worst number one picks though. For his first five years in Houston, the team didn’t manage to win more than 7 games and once even went 2-14. After Carr left, Matt Schaub entered the picture. To this day Schaub remains the best QB in franchise history, which says a whole lot.
11. Blaine Gabbert (Jaguars)
Jaguars are another franchise that didn’t have luck with starting quarterbacks. Blaine Gabbert was another in the row of guys that was supposed to fix their issues, but failed to do so. He was picked with the tenth pick in the 2011 Draft, before guys like Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick or Tyrod Taylor. All of them had better success in the league than Gabbert. He was extremely smart off the field, but this didn’t translate to his on-field decision making. As most rookies see their games increase with time, Gabbert actually was the other way round. In his final season he started just three games, had seven interceptions and one touchdown.
10. Scott Mitchell (Lions)
Scott Mitchell, the advocate for the show The Biggest Loser has claimed the show actually saved his life. Unsatisfied with his professional career, Mitchell overate out of depression and disappointment. While it’s painful to see a man go through that, it’s good that at least he could see what he was doing wrong. His cardinal sin is wasting away the prime of Barry Sanders, one of the best running backs in league history. In the 1995 season Mitchell got 32 touchdowns! But that one magical year actually ruined the Lions, because instead of upgrading on QB, they believed that he could regain that magic once again. This lead to season after season of disappointment. In 1998 he lost the starting job to rookie Charlie Batch. That was also the last season of Barry Sanders’ career.
9. Brett Favre (Vikings)
Remember how Brett Favre went to the arch rivals of his team, the Green Bay Packers? If there was ever a move resembling a middle finger, this was it. And what a magical season that was, as the Vikings fell only to eventual Super Bowl champions, the New Orleans Saints, in the NFC championship game. In one season Favre turned the Vikings from good to great… and then came the 2010 season. In 13 games Favre noted just 11 completions and 19 interceptions. The Viking went 6-10 and didn’t even make the playoffs. Instead of looking for their cornerstone QB in the draft, maybe sacrificing one season to rebuild, the team settled on veteran leadership, and drafted Christian Ponder. Then they signed Matt Cassel… Eventually they drafted Teddy Bridgewater, who looked good, but got injured. Then they traded for Sam Bradford, who got injured as well. Tough luck for Minnesota.
8. Jake Delhomme (Panthers)
Talk about a good team failing in crucial moments. Before their meltdown in Super Bowl 50, they lost in Super Bowl XXXVIII to the Patriots by just three points. For years their offense was led by Jake Delhomme, who completed three touchdowns during that game. For six out of seven seasons he was on the team, Delhomme was The Man in Carolina. In January 2009, in a playoff game against the Cardinals, Delhomme turned the ball over six times. After five interceptions and a fumble, another good season by the Panthers was wasted. What did the team do? They signed Delhomme to a five year contract! Maybe it was a present, as that awful game happened on his 34th birthday. The 2009 season was such a disaster that Steve Smith, the team’s leading receiver, said to Delhomme that he never liked him as a quarterback. That had to hurt.
7. Rob Johnson (Bills)
As we’ve seen by their handling of Tyrod Taylor, it seems that ever since Jim Kelly the Bills haven’t learned how to treat their starting quarterbacks. This all started when Doug Flutie and Rob Johnson arrived in 1998. Johnson was acquired for a first and fourth round pick, despite posting just two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Jaguars the year before. Due to some injuries and bad play, Johnson was relegated to the bench, while Flutie emerged as the unlikely starter and hero. Doug Flutie also played throughout the whole 1999 season, which angered Johnson, who was signed to a five year, $25 million contract upon his arrival to Buffalo and expected to be the starter. In the final game of the season, Johnson led the Buffalo backups to a win over Colts. That’s what inspired the coach or the owner (dependent on who you ask) to start Johnson in the Wild Car game. The January 8th, 2000 loss remains the Bills’ last playoff appearance.
6. Jason Campbell (Redskins)
In hindsight Campbell seems really unlucky. He was picked 25th in the 2005 NFL Draft, just one spot after Aaron Rodgers, one of the best players in the league even now. The Redskins actually traded up in the draft to get Campbell, which probably makes all the fans in Washington wonder what would happen had they traded up just one more spot. Throughout his time in Washington, Campbell was good enough to start but unable to substantially improve. The impression is that Campbell was a fill-in for a player that eventually never arrived. Year after year he was rumoured to be replaced by Jay Cutler or Mark Sanchez (yikes!). Eventually he was traded to the Raiders after the team acquired Donovan McNabb, and the four-year Campbell experiment was over.
5. JaMarcus Russell (Raiders)
Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch are three players taken after JaMarcus Russell in the 2007 Draft. The Raiders (who needed improvements on almost every position) could have benefitted from such great players, but the late Al Davis decided on Russell. A very interesting player at LSU, he was physically imposing and extremely strong, yet nobody predicted JaMarcus would be so bad. The problems began in the offseason, as he refused to join the team without signing a six year deal worth up to $68 million. He missed training camp and the first week of the season, which was already a bad sign. He was eventually let go for lying about watching blank DVDs that were said to have game footage on them to study.
4. Cade McNown (Bears)
What a strange draft the one in 1999 was. Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper were taken next to Tim Couch, Akili Smith and Cade McNown. All five of them were taken among the first 12 players in the draft, McNown being the 12th. That was one hit or miss draft, a true quarterback lottery. The UCLA product held out during most of training camp. When he finally joined the Bears, everybody had pretty high hopes for him, as he was the first quarterback to join the team with such a high pick since Jim McMahon. 16 games, 16 touchdowns, 19 interceptions and 14 fumbles later he was traded to Miami for a sixth round pick. McNown never played in the NFL again, despite time with the Dolphins and 49ers.
3. Akili Smith (Bengals)
Akili Smith is present on every list of NFL Draft busts and with good reason. First of all, some context. Mike Ditka, then with the Saints, offered the Bengals nine picks in exchange for the third selection in the 1999 draft. Ditka was so big on Ricky Williams that he eventually traded all of the 1999 picks to get the seventh pick. Unfortunately for the Bengals, they backed down. Already a tradition on this list, Smith at first held out most of training camp due to contract negotiations. His career at Cincinnati wasn’t particularly good. During his four years on the team Akili played in just 22 games and started 17 of them. He scored five touchdowns with 13 interceptions.
2. Johnny Manziel (Browns)
Johnny Football was fifth in Heisman Trophy voting in his second year at Texas A&M. He was a good but very unfocused football player. It seemed that he found partying more interesting than playing the actual game, which isn’t a good sign if you’re not even a pro yet. As he joined the Browns, he was deemed a franchise saviour. Simultaneously, when a problematic player joins a dysfunctional team, it’s basically a recipe for disaster. However, both sides decided to take their chances. Things went as bad as everyone (apart from Browns management) expected. The team spent two years grooming Manziel to be their starting QB of the future and they got seven touchdowns and seven interceptions in return. In the meantime other teams drafted Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. What a waste of time and potential.
1. Tom Brady (Patriots)
What? Tom Brady ruined a team? Didn’t he actually save it? Well, yes and no. As the best quarterback in NFL history and one of the biggest winners in professional sports, Tom Brady has ruined football for every player that he’s going to be measured up against. Every quarterback that comes after Brady and becomes the starter for the Patriots will be in one of the worst positions in professional football. Consider how in the introduction I’ve mentioned Montana and Young? This will be even worse for the next Pats QB. No matter how good he’ll be, he’ll never be Brady. And that actually is pretty sad. Tom Brady didn’t only spoil the Patriots fanbase, he spoiled all of us, and that’s why he gets the number one spot. Just look at the 49ers now, as no one has been able to fill the giant shoes of their historic franchise.
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