When we think of quarterback play in the NFL, our minds jump to players like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees. We imagine beautiful spirals, precision deep throws, and a full understanding and execution of some of the most complex offenses in the game.
The trouble is, of course, that there are 32 NFL teams and only one Tom Brady. Not every team can have an excellent quarterback behind center, some just have to struggle to get by.
So some teams get to start future legends behind center. Others get good, solid quarterbacks who may not end up in the Hall of Fame one day, but can win games in the NFL. Others have average quarterbacks they have to gameplan around, and yet others have poor quarterbacks who limit what their teams can really do.
And then there’s this lot.
There are some quarterbacks who have put up numbers so awful that they tanked their team’s chances of contending before the season ever really got going. There are some quarterbacks who just were not ready for an NFL debut and were thrust into action too soon. Every quarterback goes through growing pains at first—remember, Brady was a third-stringer in his first year and Peyton Manning’s first team went 3-13—but some quarterbacks simply haven’t lived up to what they need to do to succeed in the NFL.
We’re looking at the 15 worst quarterbacks of the past 15 years. Obviously, the truly worst quarterbacks are the ones that never see the field, but we’re looking more for the players who did the most harm on the field. We’re looking for the quarterbacks just good enough to be trotted out start after start or even year after year, but bad enough to make us all cringe and look away. Without further ado…
15 15. Mark Sanchez (2009-Present)
14 14. Brady Quinn (2007-2013)
13 13. Joey Harrington (2002-2007)
12 12. Brandon Weeden (2012-Present)
11 11. Craig Krenzel (2004)
10 10. Andrew Walter (2006-2008)
9 9. Blake Bortles (2014-Present)
Blake Bortles is only on this list as a function of bad timing. If he has another year in 2016 like he did in 2015, he’d be off this list entirely. If he improves as much from 2015 to 2016 as he did from 2014 to 2015, he wouldn’t make the list of the worst 100 quarterbacks of the past 15 years, much less the bottom 15. As it stands today, however, we have to acknowledge that his rookie season was really, really bad. He was sacked on 10.4% of his dropbacks and his 55 sacks are the sixteenth most absorbed by a quarterback ever—yes, Jacksonville’s offensive line is bad, but some of that falls on the quarterback holding on to the ball for too long. The constant sacks really squashed any of the promise he showed as a rookie and he ate a similar number of sacks last year—that has to be stopped if Jacksonville wants him to develop into a stud quarterback. Bortles’ 2015 was enough to knock him down three slots on this list and a similar year will keep him off this list in the future, but he does have to go out there and continue to erase memories of his rookie season.
8 8. J.P. Losman (2004-2011)
7 7. Kyle Boller (2003-2011)
6 6. Jimmy Clausen (2010-2015)
5 5. Chad Hutchinson (2002-2004)
4 4. John Skelton (2010-2013)
3 3. JaMarcus Russell (2007-2009)
2 2. David Carr (2002-2012)
1 1. Blaine Gabbert (2011-Present)
Where to begin? If David Carr’s 2002 wasn’t the worst season of the past 15 years, than Blaine Gabbert’s 2011 season in Jacksonville would qualify. There have been 72 quarterbacks that have thrown at least 1,000 passes in the past 15 years. Gabbert has the fewest touchdowns, is tied for the fewest wins, and is in the bottom five in completion percentage, quarterback rating, and yards per attempt. He has the lowest career passing DYAR in Football Outsiders history, making him the worst quarterback ever by their rankings. His footwork is terrible, he has no composure under pressure, and he’s simply too inaccurate. The San Francisco 49ers and Chip Kelly could be starting him this season, too! Maybe Kelly can turn Gabbert around, but even a Pro Bowl-quality season keeps him on this list. Yes, he was young and he came in on a bad team, but there have been other young quarterbacks and other bad teams over the past 15 years. None have been as bad as Gabbert.
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