2012: Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Nobody thought that Andy Dalton, selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, would immediately become the starting quarterback AND lead the team to the playoffs in his first year. Yet, he did just that, after the Bengals went 9-7 his rookie year. That success actually led to Dalton being named to the Pro Bowl after that season, though it’s a bit questionable whether he was really deserving of such an honor, especially after how he looked in his playoff debut. In a Wild Card game against the Houston Texans, Dalton threw three interceptions and was sacked four times; don’t let the 257 passing yards mislead you, as many of them came in “garbage time,” when the Bengals were down by two touchdowns in the second half.
2013: Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
In 2013, the Minnesota Vikings managed to make the playoffs with a 10-6 record, despite the breathtaking mediocrity of quarterback Christian Ponder. But in the Vikings’ season-finale against the Green Bay Packers, Ponder suffered a deep triceps bruise that would force him to miss the ensuing playoff game — and subsequent rematch — against the Packers. That’s when Joe Webb, a backup who hadn’t thrown a single pass all year, would take over as the Vikings’ starter. As you might imagine, that didn’t go well. Webb completed only 11 of 30 passing attempts for 180 yards, and was largely ineffective in the Vikings’ 24-10 loss.