Why is it that so many teams mess up with the quarterback position? It’s arguably the most important position in all of team sports. With the amount of work that is put into studying players, you would think that these teams are able to get it right. But, they aren’t. Sometimes players try and change their mechanics, maybe the way they play. Other players only fit into certain schemes, which gives them the moniker “system players.” Some players get put into the spotlight that they can’t handle having the pressure on them. Sometimes, things simply just don’t work out as planned.
Because of how valuable quarterbacks can be, teams have to give up a lot to get them. High salaries, a lot of draft picks, or picking them early in the draft. The position has become so important, that it’s what a football team creates their team around. Some of the best teams in the league, such as the Patriots, Packers, and Seahawks, all base the rest of their team around the quarterback position. It’s like a tree, where the quarterback is the root, and everyone else are the branches. And because of that logic, teams are willing to do anything to find their franchise quarterback. Even if it means making bad trades, free agent signings, or draft picks, as you'll see in these five examples of each type of QB transaction.
15 Trade: Bills Acquire Drew Bledsoe From The Pats
An important part of looking into a quarterback, is what your teams need at the time, and where the quarterback is in his career. When the Buffalo Bills traded for Drew Bledsoe, it was at the late stages of what had been a solid NFL run. A year before he was traded, Bledsoe suffered a sheared blood vessel in the chest, which almost cost him his life. The Bills sent the Patriots their first round draft pick to get the aging quarterback.
A first-round draft pick can be worth a lot. The Bills gave up a chance to go after some incredible players in a stacked '03 class including Troy Polamalu, Larry Johnson and Dallas Clark. Bledsoe had one of the best seasons of his career in his first year in Buffalo, but failed to ever take the Bills to the playoffs.
14 Free Agency: Jets Sign Neil O'Donnell
Some teams go after players too early, other teams just make poor decisions. Neil O’Donnell never was a dominant quarterback, so it made no sense why the Jets paid him like one. The Jets gave O’Donnell a five-year deal worth $25 million, which in 1996, was a pretty good amount of money to make.
Prior to playing for the Jets, O’Donnell never threw for over 3,500 yards in a season, and also never threw over 20 touchdown passes.
O’Donnell would have been considered a "game manager" had he played in present times, but he didn’t get paid like one.
In his first season, he went 0-6 and then missed he rest of the season due to a shoulder injury. He played better the following season, but did not want to re-negotiate his contract. As such, Bill Parcells waived him.
13 Draft: Chargers Draft Ryan Leaf
The decision for the San Diego Chargers to trade up to draft Ryan Leaf may be one of the worst decisions by a franchise in NFL history. You know it’s bad when the Chargers can get put into two categories of making poor decisions. The Chargers traded their first and second-round draft picks of that season, their following season’s first round draft pick, and two players to move up one spot in the draft.
The option was between Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning. If they got Manning, this pick would have likely ended up being one of the best draft moves in NFL history. But because they drafted Leaf, it’s forever a complete nightmare. In two terrible seasons in San Diego, Leaf went 4-14 as a starter, and threw for 13 touchdowns and 33 interceptions.
12 Trade: Two-Part - Raiders Acquire Carson Palmer And Trade Him For Little
Before Derek Carr became the quarterback, it had been a long time since the Raiders had a good quarterback. But they had one that could have been helpful for some time, in Carson Palmer. Palmer never thought he would be traded out of Cincinnati, until he woke up and found out he became a Raider. The Raiders traded a first rounder, and a conditional second round draft pick to get Palmer. Well, the Raiders decided they would go about trading him just two years later, to the Arizona Cardinals. The trade would switch the teams' draft picks, as well as a conditional pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
As a result, the Raiders gave away some pretty important draft picks, to get really nothing in return when they tried to get rid of him. And what doesn’t make sense is that he had a decent second year with the Raiders. The team struggled, but it wasn’t all on him.
11 Free Agency: Browns Sign Jeff Garcia
There’s a time when you know that a player may be regressing from his former self. This failure to do so shows the Cleveland Browns franchise in a nutshell. At 34-years-old, Jeff Garcia signed a four-year deal worth $25 million with the Cleveland Browns.
For the most part, Garcia’s teams weren’t very successful in San Francisco, but he had two years where he was a worthy enough replacement for the legendary Steve Young.
Unfortunately, the last two seasons of Garcia's career in San Francisco weren’t anywhere near what the two seasons before that were. For someone who went undrafted, he definitely had a pretty good career, but one of the downsides of his career was his time in Cleveland. He went 3-7, and threw for only 10 touchdowns with nine interceptions. Just like that, his time in Cleveland was finished.
10 Draft: Lions Draft Joey Harrington
The Lions are still trying to find a way to get their first Super Bowl. Part of that way was drafting Joey Harrington with the 3rd overall draft pick of the 2002 NFL Draft. Before Matthew Stafford, the Lions had some struggles behind center, with journeymen like Charlie Batch, Jon Kitna, and Dan Orlovsky all serving as regular starters. But no one was more hyped, or more disappointing than Harrington. He was consistent at one thing – throwing interceptions. In 2003, Harrington threw for a career-high 22 interceptions.
The Lions gambled by grabbing Joey Harrington, who turned out to be a complete bust. This draft had some dominant defensive players that they could’ve went after, but there was no other year real option at quarterback that they were capable of drafting. This was another poor decision by the Detroit Lions organization that has led to their inability to succeed.
9 Trade: Colts Trade John Elway To Broncos
Trading away John Elway not only was a terrible decision, but a terrible deal. The Colts had better options to trade Elway to get more in return than to the Denver Broncos. The Dallas Cowboys were willing to trade them three players and a future draft pick. The Colts got in return, Mark Herrmann, Chris Hinton, and Ron Solt. Solt and Hinton both became starters for some time for the Colts, but Herrmann, the quarterback, only played five games.
During Elway’s career, Elway had more Super Bowl appearances than the Colts had playoff appearances in that span.
Even though Elway threatened not to play, the Colts probably could have received more, or just better assets to ship Elway off. Perhaps they could have traded him to Miami for Dan Marino, who was drafted later that round, or made a deal with Buffalo to acquire Jim Kelly.
8 Free Agency: Seahawks Sign Matt Flynn
Before the 12’s became popular and the Seahawks became the team to beat and they wore ugly dark teal uniforms, there was a time where Matt Flynn was given a pretty nice contract. A season before Russell Wilson became the starter, the Seahawks offered Flynn a three-year deal worth $26 million. Before the Seahawks signed Flynn, he only started two games in his NFL career. The Seahawks mainly signed him due to Flynn lighting up a bad Detroit defense in a meaningless Week 17 game, where Flynn threw for 480 yards and six TDs.
Well, it turns out he would never start a game in Seattle. He played three games, before eventually being traded to Oakland for cap relief. Things ended up working out for Seattle, but they made a really poor decision before finding their franchise quarterback.
7 Draft: Raiders Draft JaMarcus Russell
Many consider him the biggest draft bust in NFL history. The Oakland Raiders selected JaMarcus Russell with the first-overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft. He had a great career at LSU, where he was smart with the football, and won a bunch of SEC awards. The success he had at LSU, however, wouldn’t translate to the NFL.
He lasted just three seasons in the NFL, before his career came to an end.
He left his legacy with a 7-18 record, 18 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions. Russell started turning the ball over, something he didn’t do much of when he was at LSU. With such a high draft pick, teams expect some kind of change. There was none; the Raiders continued to play poorly and the franchise was set back another five years.
6 Trade: Bucs Trade Steve Young To 49ers
Who would ever think a team would trade a future Hall of Famer for a second- and fourth-round draft pick? Well, the Buccaneers did. After the 1986 season, the Bucs traded Steve Young to the San Francisco 49ers. There was no telling that Young would become the legend he’s looked at as today. He started 14 games in his second year, and quite frankly, he struggled, throwing 13 interceptions and finishing the season 2-12. It took him eight seasons to really take over as the starter as the 49ers, so it was a lot of patience that went into the front office of the 49ers. But, it was worth it.
Young was one of the most accurate quarterbacks of the time when he was playing, as well as one of the most dangerous, due to his ability to make plays on the ground. He was incredible, and he was able to take the 49ers to win their fifth Super Bowl in franchise history.
5 Free Agent: Bears Sign Mike Glennon
Everyone who follows football, was shocked when they heard about the three-year deal, worth $45 million, that the Chicago Bears gave to Mike Glennon.
Why would an organization pay that type of money to a quarterback with very little experience as a starter, and not that much upside for the future?
With an early draft pick, the Bears had an opportunity to draft a quarterback early. With Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes, there were plenty of options for the Bears to go after. And they did, which also makes no sense.
The Bears traded up to grab Trubisky after they signed this big deal with Glennon. It almost seemed as if they realized they made a mistake, and then tried to fix it. The Bears' front office decisions in the 2017 offseason were an absolute disaster, and it all started by signing Glennon. He only started four games, and went 1-3 in his time before Trubisky took over.
4 Draft: Cardinals Draft Matt Leinart
The 2006 NFL Draft was an exciting one, but it never lived up to its expectations. Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and Vince Young all were drafted, after an incredible Rose Bowl which featured USC and Texas. So much talent, and Leinart was considered one of the best. Well, everyone was wrong. Left-handed quarterbacks tend to struggle in the NFL, unless you have the speed and arm strength of Michael Vick. Matt Leinart did not.
The Cardinals selected him with the 10th overall draft pick. The only time he really was the starter, was during his rookie season. He threw 11 touchdown passes, along with 12 interceptions, and finished with a 4-7 record. Throughout his whole career, he continued to turn the ball over. He was unable to make the transition from college to the NFL.
3 Trade: Falcons Trade Brett Favre To Packers
Before we spoke about the success of Aaron Rodgers and the impact of him on the league, there was Brett Favre. Favre was one of the best to ever play the game. Throughout nine of his seasons, he threw for over 30 touchdown passes. Favre was electrifying, and had a mostly healthy career. Throughout his 20-year career, he played 17 seasons without missing a regular season game. Even when he was coming towards the last few years of his career, he was still succeeding.
Not many people remember, but Brett Favre actually started his career in Atlanta.
The Atlanta Falcons traded Brett Favre for a first round draft pick to the Green Bay Packers, which was used for running back Tony Smith. The Falcons had a legend at their fingertips, and they let him go. Favre would go on to set multiple NFL records, while the Falcons continued to lack a true game changer at QB.
2 Free Agency: Texans Sign Brock Osweiler
Teams lately have got desperate fairly quick when looking for a quarterback. So, desperate, that the Texans offered Brock Osweiler a five-year deal worth $72 million. Yes, he helped get the Broncos to the playoffs, but that defense was known for being good enough to help that team get to the playoffs. But the opportunity at getting Osweiler was a dream for the Texans. Osweiler was pretty efficient in his final season in Denver, but his numbers definitely didn't warrant his paycheck.
When he got to Houston, he became the laughing stock of the NFL. So badly, that at one point he was benched for Tom Savage. Osweiler continued to turn the ball over, and eventually the Texans needed to get rid of him. You know it’s bad, when the Texans had to include draft picks just so that the Browns would take Osweiler’s contract.
1 Draft: Redskins Draft Robert Griffin III
During Robert Griffin III's rookie season, he was electrifying, one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the NFL to watch. It was the best Redskins team there had been in years. He had a Dak Prescott-type rookie season, threw for 20 touchdowns and five interceptions, and helped lead the Redskins to the playoffs. That's where it all began.
RGIII struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, which was ultimately his downfall.
He suffered a knee injury in the team's wild card playoff game against Seattle, which took away his explosiveness and it always made him hesitant to be the mobile threat he was throughout his rookie year. He was dominant, had great arm strength and the ability to make plays with his legs, but he couldn't stay healthy. And he never could build off that electrifying rookie season.