Top 15 Most Undeserving Starting QBs in NFL History

Anyone that has been an NFL fan for long enough can relate to the feelings of anger and disappointment associated with watching your team send out poor to mediocre players on to the gridiron week in and out. You scream at the TV, venting your frustration. "Why do we keep playing this running back that can't hold on to the ball?!" "This kicker missed three field goals last week. Why is he still playing?!  Isn't there anyone better?" Given the relative ups and downs of every team, if you follow the league for long enough, you're bound to experience this pain. But perhaps the worst sensation is knowing that your team leader, the play caller on offense, your quarterback, would be second string at best on a playoff contender.

While football analysts are quick to laud the accomplishments of the great hurlers of the game, less attention is paid (and perhaps rightfully so) to those that languished in mediocrity before making a quiet exit from the big stage. This list "honors" some of the least deserving men to lead an offense onto the field. We all have opinions on the worst to lead our respective teams, but here I attempt to parse out some of the most undeserving starting quarterbacks of all time.

To be fair not all of these players necessarily rank among the worst to ever play their position. In fact, several were able to lead their teams to the playoffs at one time or another. What makes them undeserving is not necessarily solely poor performance. Rather, some served on teams with better players waiting for their chance, others were past their prime and continued to start to the detriment of their teams, and others, still, may have been rushed into the job. Whatever the reason, these players should not have been trotted out to the field at critical points for their teams. Without further ado, the 12 least deserving quarterbacks of all-time:

15 15. Kyle Orton

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Kyle Orton was just about the perfect medium between quality backup and borderline starter throughout his career. However, as time wore on, teams should have figured out that starting Orton would only get you so far. With a record of 42-40 in his career, Orton was never able to lead his team to sustained success. His stint in Denver is a good example, as Tim Tebow, against all logic mind you, gave the team a spark after an uninspiring run from Orton. Last year in Buffalo, the Bills opted to start Orton as well, hindering E.J. Manuel's development as a quarterback. The bottom line is no team should have ever gone into their season thinking: "we can go far with Kyle Orton as our starter."

14 14. Derek Anderson


Derek Anderson had all of one good season in his days as a starter, leading the Browns to a 10-6 season in 2007. Unfortunately, Anderson was never able to replicate that form, but the Cardinals still chose to bring him in as their starter for the 2010 season, coming off Kurt Warner's retirement. This would be the beginning of coach Ken Whisenhunt's downfall in Arizona, as Anderson would soon be benched in favor of Max Hall. If the team thought so poorly of Leinart, perhaps they should've made a stronger effort to find Warner's replacement.

13 13. Matt Leinart


While Matt Leinart was eventually beaten out by Kurt Warner for the Cardinals' starting job, the team may have had a chance at competing far earlier had they just signed Warner and let Leinart sit a few seasons. After Warner retired following the 2009 season, it was expected that Leinart would be named Arizona's starter, but he lost the job to Derek Anderson in training camp.

12 12. Elvis Grbac


This one is an interesting and perhaps controversial choice precisely because he did have fairly decent numbers for portions of his career. However, his final stop – Baltimore – was perhaps a poor choice on the part of the Ravens’ management and coaching staff. Coming off a victory in Super Bowl XXXV, the Ravens opted to release quarterback Trent Dilfer. This would mark the only time in NFL history that a Super Bowl winning quarterback was released the following season.

11 11. Jimmy Clausen


10 10. Geno Smith

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The young Jets quarterback has a rough 27-35 touchdown to interception ratio in just his third season in the league. He inspired hope by producing an 8-8 season for New York in 2013, but followed it up with an abysmal 3-13 effort the following year. Somehow, in spite of his horrendous performance, he was still slated as their starter heading into the 2015 season.

9 9. David Carr


It’s always difficult starting out as a new franchise, and one certainly doesn’t expect immediate success, but the Texans rode the David Carr train for about two seasons too long. Part of the problem may have simply been entrusting a rookie to come in and make an immediate impact. After all, the Texans had veteran backup Tony Banks on the roster from 2002 to 2005.

8 8. Kerry Collins


Kerry Collins was actually a very serviceable starter for a variety of teams, but his time in Tennessee lasted a bit too long (thus qualifying him for the “undeserving” moniker). The Titans lost their first six games of the 2009 season before Collins finally gave way to Vince Young. Young led the team to an 8-2 record in the final 10 games but they fell just short of a playoff berth.

7 7. Matt Cassel

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Matt Cassel is an interesting story because he only played garbage minutes in college at USC, was a late draft selection, then had a surprisingly impressive season in relief of an injured Tom Brady. It appears, however, that his brief success was more demonstrative of Bill Belichick's genius than Cassel’s ability. Take away his one season in New England and Cassel has a career 24-36 record.

6 6. Mark Sanchez

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This guy just keeps hanging around the league in spite of his incredible propensity to throw the ball to the opposing team. While he doesn’t currently hold a starting QB position, he started 70 games for the Jets and Eagles, even twice “leading” New York to the AFC championship (but, really, it was almost entirely their great defense). His last season as New York’s starter he won 6 of 15 games. He was 8-8 the previous year.

5 5. Chad Henne

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What about this guy’s 18-35 record or his sub-one TD-INT ratio made coaches in the state of Florida (Dolphins and Jaguars) think that he was starter material? Henne was thrust into the starting role in Miami after an injury to Chad Pennington cut his 2009 season short, even though initial sentiment was that backup Pat White should get the nod. Again Henne earned the starting job in 2010 in spite of a potentially more talented backup in Tyler Thigpen (a guy that played on some poor teams but still managed 21 TDs to 18 INTs).

4 4. JaMarcus Russell


Russell is famously known as one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history, but the former no.1 pick actually didn't start the majority of games his rookie season because the Raiders wanted to ease him into the NFL (something I argue the Texans should have done with Carr), but he was so ineffective once he fully claimed the job in year two that his nine starts in his third season certainly reflected a stubborn refusal to make the switch given their investment in him, rather than any intelligent coaching/management decisions.

3 3. Rob Johnson


2 2. Josh McCown

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This Dolph Lundgren look-alike has had a mediocre 12-year career in the NFL, often failing to make his way off of practice squads, yet he has somehow amassed over 50 starts. Not surprisingly, he has a TD-INT ratio barely over one (63-60). In 2014 he started 11 games for Tampa Bay and won once. In fact, over the last five seasons (including five games through this year), the 36 year-old has only five wins in his last 22 starts.

1 1. Mike Phipps


This longtime Browns quarterback is a perfect representation of the institutionalized failure associated with Cleveland sports franchises. This guy had no business starting at quarterback and, yet, played seven seasons in Cleveland, starting 51 games. It’s not enough to mention that Phipps holds the second worst passer rating of all time (minimum 1500 passing attempts) with a whopping 52.6.

What really makes this confusing is that he replaced a quarterback (Bill Nelsen) who had five consecutive seasons with double-digit touchdown passes and was, probably a couple of years too late, replaced by a player (Brian Sipe) with five of six seasons throwing over 10 TDs (the other season he had nine). Meanwhile, Phipps, in 12 lackluster seasons, achieved the feat only once (and still threw more interceptions than touchdowns that year).

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Top 15 Most Undeserving Starting QBs in NFL History