Was anyone expecting the final four quarterbacks in this year's season heading into the championship wekend to be Tom Brady, Blake Bortles, Nick Foles, and Case Keenum? Some are arguing this says much about the current state of affairs in the NFL, but if Marcus Williams makes a tackle and Matt Ryan hits a throw, we're looking at Foles and Keenum being replaced with Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. Add in Carson Wentz not getting hurt and no one would be complaining!
As many of the league's other teams try to figure their own quarterback issues out, they should be wary of who they acquire and what a bad quarterback decision can mean going forward. In the same way that it takes five years to evaluate an NFL Draft class, a bad quarterback move can set a team back for years to come in most cases. Don't believe me? The Philadelphia Eagles have had so much talent since Donovan McNabb was traded after the 2009 season, but only three playoff berths - and this was the first season since 2008 they won a playoff game!
Today, we'll look at some of the worst trades and free agent signings teams have had when trying to find a franchise quarterback. Draft day trades/trades that only featured picks and resulted in a quarterback who could arguably be on this list are ineligible (i.e. Robert Griffin III), as are players who signed a one-year deal and didn't work out (i.e. Robert Griffin III).
20 Trade: The Jets add Tebow Time
Trade: In March 2012, Tebow was traded by the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets (along with a seventh-round draft pick that was later dealt to Seattle and used to draft defensive end Greg Scruggs) for the Jets' fourth (center Philip Blake) and sixth-round (Danny Trevathan) picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.
What went wrong? Do you even have to ask? Not only did the Jets totally destroy Mark Sanchez's confidence by announcing Tebow would compete for the starting job, they had no idea how to use the former Heisman Trophy winner. Tebow ran only 32 times for 102 yards and no touchdowns while completing six-of-eight passes for 39 yards. This was worth the drama and attention that came with Tebow Time? This was a classic Jets mistake that, if not for a miracle 8-8 season in 2013, would have sealed Rex Ryan's firing.
19 Signing: Houston didn't give a Brock
Contract: In March 2016, the Houston Texans signed Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million contract ($37 million guaranteed).
What went wrong? Given that Texans owner Bob McNair hadn't even met with Osweiler, this move was bound to backfire in everyone's faces. Osweiler did lead the Texans to eight wins in 14 starts and an AFC Divisional Round loss to the New England Patriots, but completed 59 percent of his passes (sub-60 today is the new sub-50 ten years ago) with 16 interceptions.
After one season in Houston, Osweiler was traded to the Cleveland Browns (!) for a sixth-round pick (later traded to the New York Jets, who used the pick on running back Elijah McGuire) and 2018 second-round pick (to-be-determined) in exchange for the Browns' 2017 fourth-round compensatory pick (Carlos Watkins). Woof.
18 Trade: Daunte > Drew
Trade: In March 2006, Daunte Culpepper was traded by the Minnesota Vikings to the Miami Dolphins for a second-round pick that became center Ryan Cook.
What went wrong? I think we all know the backstory behind this, but let's repeat for everyone who doesn't remember. Fearing Drew Brees' shoulder would be a problem, Nick Saban and the Miami Dolphins instead decided to trade a second-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for Daunte Culpepper, hoping they could get a repeat of his fantastic 2004 season. Remember when Culpepper threw for 39 touchdowns and 4,717 yards, nearly winning the MVP that year?
Instead, Culpepper threw three interceptions in four games and had a feud with ESPN's Steve Young, while Brees has become one of the five best quarterbacks in NFL history. I think we know why Saban is staying at Alabama...
17 Signing: Philadelphia thinks they're getting 'Madden' Michael Vick
Contract: After being given a franchise tag in the 2011 offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Vick to a six-year, $100 million contract with almost $40 million guaranteed.
What went wrong? On one hand, the Eagles had reason to want to sign Vick to be their franchise quarterback after he threw for 3,018 yards, 21 touchdowns to only six interceptions, and added 676 rushing yards with nine touchdowns in 2010. But... Vick was 30 years old, hadn't started a full season since 2006, and dominated in 2010 in part because he'd been a reserve in 2009, meaning defenses weren't used to him again.
Vick did show flashes of his past self in 2011 and lived up to the contract, but was fairly replacement level in 2012 and was out of a starting job by 2013. If Philadelphia thought Vick was going to be the dual-threat he was in Madden, I think they were sorely mistaken.
16 Trade: Jeff George joins Atlanta
Trade: In March 1994, George was traded by the Indianapolis Colts to the Atlanta Falcons for the no.7 overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft (Bryant Young), a third-round pick in that same draft, (James Bostic) and a 1996 conditional pick that became a first-round pick (Marvin Harrison).
What went wrong? Can my answer just be that the Falcons, in essence, traded Jeff George for Marvin Harrison? George did throw for 50 touchdowns and complete 60.5 percent of his passes in Atlanta, but only made the playoffs one season and was in Oakland by 1997. Harrison, on the other hand, blossomed into a Hall of Fame receiver in the following years. This isn't as bad as some of the other trades on this list, but it's also not much better.
15 Signing: Jeff Garcia tries to end the Browns' quarterback drought
Contract: In March 2004, Garcia was signed by the Cleveland Browns to a four-year, $25 million contract.
What went wrong? Not unlike the Daunte Culpepper trade we mentioned earlier, Cleveland was hoping to get MVP-level production from a player who had shown that type of talent in recent years, but was coming off a rough season with his old team. For Cleveland standards, Garcia wasn't all that bad by Cleveland's standards, throwing 10 touchdowns to nine interceptions in 11 games, but was bad enough at age 34 (oh yeah, Garcia was a bit old when he got that type of contract, yeah?) and was in Detroit the next season.
Ironically, Garcia's best season after Cleveland came in 2007, the same year that the Browns arguably got their best quarterbacking season since rejoining the NFL in 1999.
14 Trade: Carson Palmer un-retires
Trade: In October 2011, Palmer was traded by the Cincinnati Bengals to the Oakland Raiders for a first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft (Dre Kirkpatrick) and a 2013 second-rounder (Giovani Bernard).
What went wrong? Let's try to keep this story as brief as we possibly can. Carson Palmer was upset with the Bengals so he retired in 2011, leaving Cincinnati to draft Andy Dalton in that year's NFL Draft. Palmer then wanted to play AND start again, so the Bengals dealt him to a then-4-2 Oakland Raiders team who had just lost Jason Campbell to injury and were desperate to not let it ruin their season. Oakland finished the season 8-8 with Palmer going 4-5, then 4-12 the next season, and promptly offloaded him to Arizona...where the former No. 1 overall pick enjoyed a late-career renaissance. Oakland got burnt twice!
13 Signing: Kerry Collins + Oakland = A Black Hole
Contract: In March 2004, Collins was signed to a three-year, $16.82 million contract by the Oakland Raiders.
What went wrong? What is it with good, former first-round pick quarterbacks going to Oakland and just being either awful or disappointing? Now, we won't blame Collins going 4-11 in 2005 because he played like an MVP candidate with the rest of his team being lackluster (3,759 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions was MVP-level back then!), but that 2004 season? Collins was 3-10 in 13 starts, threw 21 touchdowns to 20 interceptions, and was a free agent by 2006.
Then, Collins revived his career in 2008 with the Titans, was back on the bench by 2009, was back starting by 2010, and retired after 2011. Things could have gone worse!
12 Trade: Donovan McNabb for President!
Trade: In April 2010, McNabb was traded by the Philadelphia Eagles to the Washington Redskins for a second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft (Nate Allen) and a conditional pick that later became a fourth-round pick (which eventually became linebacker Casey Matthews and a pick). That pick then led to the Eagles drafting quarterback Nick Foles in 2012 and acquiring linebacker DeMeco Ryans.
What went wrong? Other than a large number of turnovers, here's where things really went wrong. In November 2010, McNabb signed a five-year extension worth $78 million ($3.5 million guaranteed) with a chance to make it $88 million by completing incentives. The deal stated that if McNabb was not cut or traded at the conclusion of the 2010 season, he would receive a $10 million bonus....and McNabb was dealt in 2011 to the Minnesota Vikings. I think that's enough of an answer.
11 Signing: Baltimore finds Elvis
Contract: In March 2001, Grbac was signed to a five-year, $30 million contract by the Baltimore Ravens.
What went wrong? This was one of those signings that when you saw it and all the things that made sense, you imagined that something was bound to go wrong. Grbac had just made his first career Pro Bowl for the Kansas City Chiefs and had thrown for 50 touchdowns in his past 31 games, but also threw 29 interceptions in that span with 15 and 14 in 1999 and 2000 respectively.
In other words, this wasn't someone going from 18 interceptions down to 11 picks - this was consistent, and Baltimore wanted consistency after Trent Dilfer was their quarterback. Instead, Grbac threw 18 interceptions in 14 games for the Ravens in 2001 and was cut after he couldn't rework his contract.
10 Trade: John Elway swings his way out of Indianapolis
Trade: In May 1983, the Baltimore Colts traded John Elway to the Denver Broncos for offensive lineman Chris Hinton, quarterback Mark Hermann, and a first-round pick that became future Pro Bowl guard Ron Solt.
What went wrong? As Hinton said in the "Elway to Marino" '30 for '30:
"I used to always be kidded by the guys on the Colts, 'We could've had Elway instead of you.' And I'd say, 'Yeah, but you wouldn't have had anybody to block for him.'"
Given that Hinton became a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro in Indianapolis while Solt made the 1987 Pro Bowl, this wouldn't normally make this list if Elway was just a solid quarterback who made Pro Bowls and the occasional All-Pro team. If John Elway was Philip Rivers, you wouldn't see this trade on here. However, because Elway became one of the top quarterbacks in league history and a two-time Super Bowl winner, I think you understand our reasoning.
9 Signing: Mike Glennon...why?
Contract: In March 2017, Glennon was signed to a three-year, $45 million contract by the Chicago Bears.
What went wrong? Now granted, there's always the slim chance that the Bears decide to hold onto Mike Glennon for next season and he stars when Mitchell Trubisky either gets hurt or is benched. Or, more likely, Glennon will finish his lone season in Chicago having completed 66.4 percent of his passes and thrown for four touchdowns in five games, but also having tossed five interceptions before being benched for Trubisky.
Still only 28, Glennon has plenty of time to turn things around and shouldn't have any problems getting a camp invite to either be guaranteed a backup quarterback spot or at least competing for one. But as it stands, this contract hurts.
8 Trade: Steve Young arrives in Heaven
Trade: Young was traded by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the San Francisco 49ers for second and fourth-round picks in the 1987 NFL Draft that became linebacker Winston Moss and wide receiver Bruce Hill respectively.
What went wrong? We flirted with omitting this pick from the list because Young wasn't the 49ers' starter until 1991 and didn't take the full-time job until 1993, but consider what he did until his retirement in 1999. Two Super Bowl rings as a starter, seven Pro Bowls, six All-Pro selections, two MVPs, and a 2005 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame later, Young sealed his place as the second-best quarterback in 49ers history. Tampa Bay, on the other hand is still looking for some sort of long-term success at the quarterback position.
7 Signing: Neil O'Donnell keeps the Jets grounded
Contract: In February 1995, O'Donnell was signed to a five-year, $25 million contract by the New York Jets.
What went wrong? When do Jets quarterbacks ever work out? Bill Simmons recently argued that Blake Bortles would actually rank as the fourth or fifth-greatest quarterback in Jets history given his realistic competition is Joe Namath, Ken O'Brien, Vinny Testaverde, Mark Sanchez, Chad Pennington, Josh McCown, and Richard Todd. O'Donnell went 8-12 in two years with the Jets and had an excellent 1997 season (8-6 record, 56.3 completion percentage, and a 17-7 TD-INT ratio), but failed to ever live up to expectations.
But again, that's the story with every Jets quarterback. Well, maybe aside from Josh McCown because he overcame any and all expectations that people had entering this past season. At least O'Donnell wasn't Christian Hackenberg...
6 Trade: Rob Johnson destroys the Bills
Trade: In February 1998, the Jacksonville Jaguars traded Rob Johnson to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a first-round pick (Fred Taylor) and a fourth-rounder (Tavian Banks).
What went wrong? I'm very concerned about why the Buffalo Bills traded a first-round pick for someone who had only made one start in three seasons. I'm more concerned about why they gave up two draft picks that didn't begin in the fifth round. I'm extremely concerned that Johnson started 26 games in four years. What were those people on? Dope?
And then, you realize the Bills started Johnson over Doug Flutie in the 1999 playoffs... Maybe this team doesn't deserve happiness. Even if they made the playoffs this past season, I don't think Buffalo deserves happiness with these kind of personnel decisions.
5 Signing: We didn't forget you, Matt Flynn
Contract: In March 2012, Flynn was signed to a three-year, $20.5 million deal by the Seattle Seahawks.
What went wrong? I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't know how fair it is to call Matt Flynn a bust given no one expected Russell Wilson to come out of nowhere, win the starting job, and become one of the NFL's top quarterbacks. What I will say is that the Seahawks signing Flynn to a three-year deal after one good game to end the 2011 season was a bit much. Flynn deserved a chance to shine outside of Green Bay, but for three years and $20 million?
But then again, given that Flynn bounced around from team to team after, maybe we should have seen this coming. Who knows with the NFL? Can someone please sign Colin Kaepernick already?
4 Trade: Mr. Johnson goes to Washington
Trade: In February 1999, Johnson was traded by the Minnesota Vikings to the Washington Redskins for the 11th overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft (Daunte Culpepper), a third-round pick in the same draft that was later traded to Pittsburgh (Joey Porter), and a second-round pick in 2000 (MIchael Boireau).
What went wrong? Here's a rare example of a quarterback on this list actually performing well both with the team they're listed with and after. Obviously, Johnson won a Super Bowl in early 2003 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after his 1999-00 stint in Washington where he completed 615 percent of his passes for 6,510 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 28 interceptions. What hurts the Redskins more is essentially trading two years of Johnson for Culpepper and three games with Jeff George...
3 Signing: Scott Mitchell can't save Detroit
Contract: In March 1994, Mitchell was signed to a three-year, $11 million contract by the Detroit Lions.
What went wrong? I really like that guy's sunglasses in the background. Anyway, Mitchell was basically Josh McCown before Josh McCown was in the league: after half a season of solid play (12 touchdowns in seven starts for the 1993 Miami Dolphins), Mitchell got a big contract from a team in need of a quarterback (Detroit) and proceeded to underachieve.
Mitchell did have a brilliant 1995 season where he threw for 4,338 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions, but the rest of his seasons were inconsistent and he was out of Detroit by the time he was 31. Josh McCown, on the other hand, has been pretty solid since his 2014 campaign in Tampa Bay. McCown > Mitchell.
2 Trade: Remember Craig Erickson?
Trade: Erickson was traded by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Indianapolis Colts for a 1996 1st-round pick (Marcus Jones) in 1995.
What went wrong? For those of you who don't remember Craig Erickson, he was a mediocre quarterback in the early 1990s who threw for a 34-31 TD-INT ratio and completed 53.6 percent of his passes for the 1992-1994 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Why did the Colts feel comfortable trading a first-round pick for him, you ask? I have no idea.
Should we have been surprised when Erickson only started three games in his lone year with the Colts, throwing for three touchdowns and four intercetions in 83 pass attempts? No, we should not. The Colts really got lucky when Peyton Manning decided to return to school in 1997, let's leave it at that...
1 Signing: Oh no, Joe Flacco
Contract: In March 2013, Flacco signed a six-year, $120.6 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens.
What went wrong? This contract was bound to go wrong from the start, but I will admit that not all of the Ravens' recent struggles are on Flacco. Ray Rice destroyed his career with one punch, Dennis Pitta's hip injury spiraled out of control, and the Ravens have failed to draft quality playmakers around Flacco. However, there's only so much I can defend Flacco for when he constantly makes bad throws and reads despite being 10 years into the league and having won a Super Bowl in large part because of his strong play!
For me, Flacco's time in this league as a starter will be over soon, but who knows? Maybe this year was a sign that things are going to be alright in Baltimore...
Which of these moves do you think was the worst? Which was the most forgivable? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!
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