Drew Brees has the New Orleans Saints contending again, Dallas Cowboys star Dak Prescott is being criticized for potentially not being a franchise quarterback, and New England Patriots legend Tom Brady is headed for yet another Super Bowl. All is the same with regards to NFL quarterbacks, it seems.
But rather than talk about the best signal-callers, let’s pretend it’s opposite day and get to talking about the worst quarterback from each season for the past 25 or so years. What even makes a bad quarterback? Is it high interception totals? Losing a lot of games?
Because this is a list that stretches so far back and is subjective, let’s go over some ground rules:
Quarterbacks had to have been among the league’s qualifier in passing stats, meaning someone who only started two games and was absolutely abysmal wouldn’t count.
Rookies are eligible and will be noted as such. There is no quarterback from the 2017 season because at the time we published this, the season is still ongoing. However, our pick without a lengthy writeup is Cleveland Browns rookie DeShone Kizer, who is probably going to be replaced next season and never should have been picked so highly to begin with. Quarterbacks can be listed in different years.
If you’re ready to see how many Browns and Jets quarterbacks made it onto this list, let’s get to work.
1990: Bernie Kosar – Cleveland Browns
Stats: Kosar completed 230 passes in 423 attempts (54.4 completion percentage) in 13 games (all 13 were starts) for a 3-10 record. Statistically, Kosar threw for 2,562 yards, ten touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.
What went wrong? Given Kosar hadn’t finished a season with a losing record as a starter since 1985 and was a Pro Bowler in 1987, such a fall from grace likely caught some people by surprise; but remember: these are the Browns. They might be the original Browns that later became the Baltimore Ravens, but they’re still the Browns.
This raises an interesting question, though: would you take those stats from Kosar with the Browns’ current roster? Each of the Browns’ quarterbacks this season have been bad, but could those not-awful-but-not-great stats help the Browns win more games in 2017 than in 1990?
1991: Vinny Testaverde, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stats: Testaverde completed 166 passes in 326 attempts (50.9 completion percentage) in 13 games (12 starts) for a 5-9 record. Statistically, Testaverde threw for 1,994 yards, eight touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.
What went wrong? Testaverde won’t be the last Buccaneers quarterback you see on this list, though it only made sense a downfall was coming for the 28-year-old quarterback. Testaverde had been getting away with low completion percentages and making mistakes in years past – remember, this was a quarterback who threw for 57 combined interceptions from 1988-89 because the Buccaneers wanted him to work out his problems – so no one was really surprised when things took a sudden downward swing.
1992: Stan Gelbaugh, Seattle Seahawks
Stats: Gelbaugh completed 121 passes in 255 attempts (47.5 completion percentage) in 10 games (eight were starts) for an 0-8 record. Statistically, Gelbaugh threw for 1,307 yards, six touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.
What went wrong? Of the three teams so far, does it surprise you that three of the more-inept teams in NFL history – for the Seahawks, at least until the 2000s – are the ones who start the list off? Gelbaugh had been pretty bad in six games (three starts) for the Phoenix Cardinals in 1991, throwing 10 interceptions to three touchdowns, but was pressed into starting duty by the Seahawks the next season and quickly made them regret. Oh, Matt Hasselbeck and Russell Wilson, where art thou in times as perilous as these in Seattle?
1993: Jim Everett, Los Angeles Rams
Stats: Everett completed 135 passes in 274 attempts (49.3 completion percentage) in 10 games (nine starts) for a 3-6 record. Statistically, Everett threw for 1,652 yards, eight touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
What went wrong? Of course, this was the season that came directly before Everett’s famous on-air altercation with ESPN’s Jim Rome; and while Rome specifically called Everett “Chris” (a reference to female tennis star Chris Evert) because of a 1989 playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers, it was fair to think the insult came from the Rams’ 1993 performance. Completing less than half of his passes, Everett looked nothing at all like the Pro Bowler from 1990 or the quarterback that completed 59.2 percent of his passes a season before.
1994: Heath Shuler, Washington Redskins
Stats: As a rookie, Shuler completed 120 passes in 265 attempts (45.3 completion percentage) in 11 games (eight starts) for a 1-7 record. Statistically, Shuler threw for 1,658 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
What went wrong? Most years, Shuler’s statistics wouldn’t even be that bad, especially not for a rookie quarterback and the third overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft. But given that Shuler had the league’s worst completion percentage among qualifiers and looked fairly lost in his rookie year, we’re going to give him the nod here. Besides, 1994 really didn’t have many awful quarterbacks that could work here, unless you want to say Drew Bledsoe should be here because he threw 27 (!) interceptions for the Patriots. Bledsoe also threw the ball nearly 700 times!
1995: Trent Dilfer, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stats: Dilfer completed 224 passes in 415 attempts (54.0 completion percentage) in 16 games (all 16 were starts) for a 7-9 record. Statistically, Dilfer threw for 2,774 yards, four touchdowns, and 18 interceptions.
What went wrong? Once upon a time, Trent Dilfer was a first-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Once upon a time, Dilfer was really bad, somehow only throwing four touchdowns to 18 interceptions in 16 starts for the Buccaneers in 195. I don’t care what excuse you want to come up, but only four touchdowns when he’s throwing for nearly 2,800 yards and starting all 16 games? That one is hard to defend, really hard to defend.At least Dilfer improved his TD-INT ratio to 12-19 and was a competent starter by 1997. Growing pains, perhaps?
1996: Rick Mirer, Seattle Seahawks
Stats: Mirer completed 136 passes in 265 attempts (51.3 completion percentage) in 11 games (nine starts) for a 2-7 record. Statistically, Mirer threw for 1,546 yards, five touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
What went wrong? Matt Hasselbeck and Russell Wilson, where art thou? A year after posting a 13-20 TD-INT ratio for the Seahawks and nearly leading them to the postseason, Mirer fell apart in 1996. Somehow, this might be the best season we’ve seen so far on this list and because the interception numbers weren’t astronomical – wait, are all of these quarterbacks so bad I’m defending these stats? How is such a thing possible, you ask? It’s the NFL and this was a fairly productive time period for quarterbacks, not like what the league is experiencing now. What dismal quarterback performance is next for us?
1997: Kerry Collins, Carolina Panthers
Stats: Collins completed 200 passes in 381 attempts (52.5 completion percentage) in 13 games (all 13 were starts) for a 6-7 record. Statistically, Collins threw for 2,124 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions.
What went wrong? Given that it felt like Collins was everywhere and around forever, you shouldn’t be surprised he wound up on this list. Collins actually made the Pro Bowl in 1996 after going 9-3 with a 14-9 TD-INT ratio but seemingly forgot how to control the ball, finishing with a career-worst 5.5 interception percentage (as a full-time starter, at least). Collins was out of Carolina by 1999, in a Super Bowl with the New York Giants by January 2001, and wasn’t out of the league until the 2012 season. Just a fascinating career for Collins.
1998: Ryan Leaf, San Diego Chargers
Stats: As a rookie, Leaf completed 111 passes in 245 attempts (45.3 completion percentage) in ten games (nine starts) for a record. Statistically, Leaf threw for 1,289 yards, two touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.
What went wrong? You KNEW Ryan Leaf was going to be on this list at some point, right? With arguably the worst rookie quarterback season in modern NFL history and arguably the worst performance of any quarterback on this list, Leaf was an absolute lock. While Leaf has at least managed to work out things in his post-football life after struggling with off-field issues, it’s hard to say anything positive about his rookie season. At least he was able to throw for two touchdowns? At least he started ten games and got some experience?
1999: Jake Plummer, Arizona Cardinals
Stats: Plummer completed 201 passes in 381 attempts (52.8 completion percentage) in 12 games (11 starts) for a 3-8 record. Statistically, Plummer threw for 2,111 yards, nine touchdowns, and 24 interceptions.
What went wrong? Jake the Snake! Would you have guessed that by 1999, Plummer was only in his third season in the NFL? I couldn’t have been the only person who recalled him entering the league a few years earlier, right? Anyway, had Plummer played the entire 16 games, he may have come close to the aforementioned 35 interception season that Testaverde put up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over a decade earlier. Instead, Plummer threw for 24 in 12 games in another dismal season for the Cardinals, but things couldn’t have gotten worse, right?
2000: Jake Plummer, Arizona Cardinals
Stats: Plummer completed 270 passes in 475 attempts (56.8 completion percentage) in 14 games (all 14 were starts) for a 3-11 record. Statistically, Plummer threw for 2,946 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions.
What went wrong? Well, the good news is that Plummer improved in every department and reduced the amount of interceptions thrown (Plummer’s interception percentage went down nearly two points from 6.3 in 1999 to 4.4 in 2000), but the bad news is he was still arguably the league’s worst quarterback that year. Some will make a case for Trent Dilfer because of the age-old argument that the Baltimore Ravens won a defense despite him as their quarterback, but Plummer takes the case for the second (and final) time here. At least things got better for the Snake!
2001: Chris Weinke, Carolina Panthers
Stats: As a rookie, Weinke completed 253 passes in 540 attempts (54.3 completion percentage) in 15 games (all 15 were starts) for a 1-14 record. Statistically, Weinke threw for 2,931 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions.
What went wrong? Well, one good thing came out of Weinke’s abysmal season: the Panthers getting the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft and taking pass rusher Julius Peppers. Had the Panthers gotten the No. 1 overall pick, one has to shudder at the thought of David Carr – who instead went to the expansion Texans – winding up in Carolina, although he might not have been as bad because he’d have had an offensive line. Anyways, the 29-year-old rookie Weinke was awful, Carolina was onto Jake Delhomme in a couple years, and Weinke was out of the league by 2008.
2002: David Carr, Houston Texans
Stats: As a rookie, Carr completed 233 passes in 444 attempts (52.5 completion percentage) in 16 games (all 16 were starts) for a 4-12 record. Statistically, Carr threw for 2,592 yards, nine touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.
What went wrong? Of all the quarterbacks on this list, putting Carr as the worst quarterback for 2002 is the one that feels the most wrong. It’s not that Carr really had a bad season – given his offensive line, that he started all 16 games and completed over half of his passes is a miracle – but the other candidates are Joey Harrington (who wasn’t awful) and Daunte Culpepper (that Vikings team had a litany of problems). Really, any of those three can win it here, but we’re giving it to Carr with the asterisk denoting things weren’t his fault.
2003: Kordell Stewart, Chicago Bears
Stats: Stewart completed 126 passes in 251 attempts (50.2 completion percentage) in nine games (seven starts) for a 2-5 record. Statistically, Stewart threw for 1,418 yards, seven touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Stewart also added 59 rushes for 290 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
What went wrong? To be honest, this was just a bad season all around for Stewart and the Chicago Bears. Stewart may have only thrown 12 interceptions in a season where five quarterbacks threw over 20 picks, but Stewart was second to only Atlanta’s Doug Johnson in interception percentage (4.9 to 4.8). What gives Stewart this prestigious nod over Johnson, you ask? Johnson at least completed 56 percent of his passes with a 3.3 TD percentage, higher than Stewart’s fourth-worst 2.8.
2004: A.J. Feeley, Miami Dolphins
Stats: Feeley completed 191 passes in 356 attempts (53.7 completion percentage) in 11 games (eight starts) for a 3-5 record. Statistically, Feeley threw for 1,893 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.
What went wrong? So before Jay Cutler was infuriating Dolphins fans, there was another Jay making fans want to drown themselves in the Atlantic Ocean…or worse. During a post-Dan Marino quarterback rotation that included memorable names such as Daunte Culpepper, Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, John Beck, and people you’ll think we made up on the spot, Feeley made eight starts in 2004 and was fairly competent, all things considered. Unfortunately for Feeley, being competent in a time like 2004 was the equivalent of being a 2.8 GPA student in an honors class, so he takes home the crown.
2005: Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers
Stats: Favre completed 372 passes in 607 attempts (61.3 completion percentage) in 16 games (all 16 were starts) for a 4-12 record. Statistically, Favre threw for 3,881 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 29 interceptions.
What went wrong? Put the pitchforks down for a second and work with me because while guys like Aaron Brooks and J.P. Losman were bad, Favre threw for 29 interceptions. Favre always threw for a lot of interceptions, I know that, but to throw for 29 picks with a 4.8 interception percentage? The only season where Favre had a higher interception percentage was 2010 and that season was shortened by injury, so this was arguably Favre’s worst season as a starter. Favre would have some up-and-down years to finish his career and we give him credit for that, but there’s not much else to say here.
2006: Andrew Walter, Oakland Raiders
Stats: Walter completed 147 passes in 276 attempts (53.3 completion percentage) in 12 games (eight starts) for a 2-6 record. Statistically, Walter threw for 1,677 yards, three touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.
What went wrong? That it look this long for an Oakland Raiders quarterback to make the list probably surprises you, but Rich Gannon was out by the Bay for a long time and had some strong years. By 2006, the collapse of the Raiders was underway, devastating enough to where not even future Hall of Famer Randy Moss could help the offense resemble anything close to productive. So many things were wrong with this team that we’re not going to put it all on Andrew Walter, but only throwing three touchdowns in 276 pass attempts and throwing an interception 4.7 percent of the time isn’t going to help your case.
2007: Kellen Clemens, New York Jets
Stats: Clemens completed 130 passes in 250 attempts (52.0 completion percentage) in 10 games (eight starts) for a 3-5 record. Statistically, Clemens threw for 1,529 yards, five touchdowns, and ten interceptions.
What went wrong? I’ll be honest: it was between Vince Young’s 9-17 TD-INT ratio and Clemens here, but the latter won because Young at least helped the Titans win in spite of his play. Clemens, on the other hand? When the Jets drafted him in 2006, some fans thought he was Roger Clemens’ son because the future Hall of Fame pitcher was so old at the time, but the unrelated quarterback didn’t quite have the Rocket’s clutch factor. Clemens was so disappointing for the Jets that any thoughts of him potentially being a long-term replacement for either Chad Pennington or Brett Favre were well out the door.
2008: Dan Orlovsky and the Detroit Lions quarterbacks
Stats: Five Detroit Lions quarterbacks completed 281 passes in 209 attempts (55.2 completion percentage) to combine for an 0-16 record. Statistically, Lions quarterbacks – Dan Orlovsky, Jon Kitna, Daunte Culpepper, Drew Stanton, and Drew Henson – threw for 3,299 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions. Orlovksy went 0-7 in his seven starts (ten games) and finished with a 56.1 completion percentage, 1,616 yards, and a 8-8 TD-INT ratio.
What went wrong? What went wrong, you ask? How about the simple fact that no Lions quarterback won a game! Had a quarterback been close to competent, maybe we’d have just given Orlovsky this prize, but none of these quarterbacks really did anything aside from running out the back of an end zone for a safety. Fun! At least Matthew Stafford wound up in Detroit the next season.
2009: JaMarcus Russell, Oakland Raiders
Stats: Russell completed 120 passes in 246 attempts (48.8 completion percentage) in nine games (12 starts) for a 2-7 record. Statistically, Russell threw for 1,287 yards, three touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.
What went wrong? When you first clicked on this article, you knew Russell was going to wind up on here at some point, right? Even with his weight and attitude issues, a strong or decent 2009 season could probably have gotten Russell even a chance with the Raiders in 2010, but it was this awful third season in the NFL that ensured he was going to be on the streets the next season – and with all of the money he was still owed, no less. Lane Kiffin was probably onto something when he begged Al Davis to draft Calvin Johnson….
2010: Jimmy Clausen, Carolina Panthers
Stats: As a rookie, Clausen completed 157 passes in 299 attempts (52.5 completion percentage) in 13 games (ten starts) for a 1-9 record. Statistically, Clausen threw for 1,558 yards, three touchdowns, and nine interceptions.
What went wrong? Asking what went wrong is actually a valid question here because the 2010 Carolina Panthers should not have been as bad as they were, not with an offense that still had Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams, and Jonathan Stewart. Did the Panthers just decide to tank because it was a viable option and they could get Cam Newton out of it? Had John Fox really lost control of the locker room? Whatever it was, Clausen struggled as a rookie and was demoted to backup status when Newton arrived the next season.
2011: John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals
Stats: Skeleton completed 151 passes in 275 attempts (54.9 completion percentage) in eight games (seven starts) for a 5-2 record. Statistically, Skeleton threw for 1,913 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions.
What went wrong? Hey, a quarterback with a winning record actually made this list! Skeleton’s numbers aren’t going to look bad at first glance, but 14 interceptions in eight games and a 5.1 interception percentage? Remember, 2011 was Year of the Quarterback when guys were turning 4,000 yards into the old 3,000 yards, so what would have been a decent showing in previous years just earns a simple “meh” from people. (Side note no one cares about: I was high on Skeleton coming out of Fordham and he did show some promise, but it never was enough to really impress anyone.)
2012: Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
Stats: Sanchez completed 246 passes in 453 attempts (54.3 completion percentage) in 15 games (all 15 were starts) for a 6-9 record. Statistically, Sanchez threw for 2,883 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions.
What went wrong? This one hurts to write about, both as a Jets fan and someone who thought Sanchez’s 2011 season (3,474 yards, 26-18 INT ratio) was the start of something big. Instead, Sanchez heavily regressed, posting a 4.0 interception percentage and playing his way out of a starting job, one that went to Geno Smith the next season. Now, the Jets do share some blame for creating a quarterback controversy with Tim Tebow when there shouldn’t have been one, but whatever. At least Sanchez’s 2012, as bad as it turned out to be, wasn’t nearly what our next quarterback’s season was.
2013: Eli Manning, New York Giants
Stats: Manning completed 317 passes in 551 attempts (57.5 completion percentage) in 16 games (all 16 were starts) for a 7-9 record. Statistically, Manning threw for 3,818 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 27 interceptions.
What went wrong? Say all you want about the outrage regarding Eli Manning’s recent benching by ex-Giants coach Ben McAdoo, but people really were wondering why Tom Coughlin didn’t sit his veteran quarterback during this abysmal 2013 season. Take out the fact Eli would recover later and become a competent NFL quarterback again – if one who was either overrated or underrated depending on who you talked to – and it becomes difficult to excuse a 27 interception season. Was it because the Giants were two seasons removed from a Super Bowl win or because the NFC East was so bad that year that Big Blue was in the hunt until mid-December.
2014: Josh McCown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stats: McCown completed 184 passes in 327 attempts (56.3 completion percentage) in 11 games (all 11 were starts) for a 1-10 record. Statistically, McCown threw for 2,206 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions.
What went wrong? This was one of the harder ones on this list because it really came down to McCown or Blake Bortles, but McCown had higher expectations and led the NFL with a 4.3 interception percentage. Not good! Bortles also had slightly better statistics, but this one is all about McCown, who was signed to help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get back into the postseason picture and instead got them the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. While the Bucs are getting inconsistent play from Jameis Winston, now being investigated for a possible sexual harassment incident, McCown is enjoying a career-best season for the Jets. Not bad!
2015: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Stats: In a Super Bowl season for the Broncos, Manning completed 198 passes in 331 attempts (59.8 completion percentage) in 10 games (nine starts) for a 7-2 record. Statistically, Manning threw for 2,249 yards, nine touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. Manning also completed 55.4 percent of his 92 playoff passes for 539 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception in three playoff games to help the Broncos win Super Bowl 50.
What went wrong? The joke’s on us because Manning wound up winning his second Super Bowl and retiring on top, but things were far from pretty in the regular season. Finally showing his age and dealing with injuries, Manning was benched midseason for Brock Osweiler, but returned in Week 17 and helped the Broncos to their first title since John Elway was quarterbacking. Not bad, Peyton, not bad at all.
2016: Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets
Stats: Fitzpatrick completed 228 passes in 403 attempts (56.6 completion percentage) in 14 games (11 starts) for a 3-8 record. Statistically, Fitzpatrick threw for 2,710 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions.
What went wrong? What, you’re surprised by the lack of Brock Osweiler? Osweiler simply didn’t live up to expectations with the Texans – he was below average, maybe even bad, but not the worst quarterback. That instead goes to Fitzpatrick, who had a league-worst 4.2 interception percentage and was benched midseason for Geno Smith AND Bryce Petty. Had Smith not torn an ACL in his first game starting, Fitzpatrick may not have returned to the lineup, although he would have wound up getting a backup job this year and getting his revenge on the Jets. The football gods just hate the Jets, you see.
Which of these quarterbacks do you think had the worst season? Make sure to let us know!
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