Like it or not, there’s no position more important on a football team than the quarterback. With a great quarterback, a team has a chance to beat anyone. With a lousy quarterback, a team will be sitting at home watching the playoffs, just like every other sports fan.
And then, there are the extreme versions of the latter – the worst of the worst, so to speak. We’ve identified the worst quarterback to start a single game for each NFL team over the past decade (since 2009). Trying to win with these guys under center was like the NFL equivalent of making chicken dinner with chicken “droppings” (if you catch our drift).
Arizona Cardinals: John Skelton (2010-2012)
John Skelton was the “fetch” of backup quarterbacks in Arizona — they kept trying to make him a thing, even though nobody wanted it to be a thing.
In the era after Kurt Warner retired and Matt Leinart busted, the quarterback carousel for the Arizona Cardinals included Skelton, who threw 25 interceptions in 17 starts, and had a 1-5 record as a starter in 2012.
Atlanta Falcons: Chris Redman (2009)
The Atlanta Falcons have had stability at the quarterback position that most teams would kill for, with Matt Ryan starting 174 of a possible 176 regular season games in the NFL.
Those two starts he didn’t make came in 2009, when backup Chris Redman went 0-2 in two December starts, throwing three interceptions in two games, and picking up losses in both of them.
Carolina Panthers: Jake Delhomme (2009)
Father Time shows no mercy when he comes and taps on a quarterback’s shoulder, telling him his career is all but over. Take Jake Delhomme, for example. In 2008, Delhomme and the Panthers finished with a 12-4 record. But the next year?
At 34 years old, Delhomme looked like his career was over, throwing eight touchdowns but 18 interceptions in 11 games, finishing with a 55.5% completion percentage (the 2nd worst of his career), and a 4-7 record as a starter.
Chicago Bears: Caleb Hanie (2011)
Caleb Hanie’s four starts in 2011 was symbolic of the Bears’ season that year overall. The team that had appeared in the NFC Championship game one year prior finished with an 8-8 record.
Hanie provided a big assist to the Bears’ mediocrity, going 0-4 in his four starts in place of the injured Jay Cutler, completing only 50% of his passes for less than 154 yards passing per game; don’t forget the three touchdowns and nine interceptions in four starts, either.
Hanie spent one more year after that in the NFL (riding the pine in Denver), before he was officially out of the NFL for good.
Dallas Cowboys: Brandon Weeden (2015)
If you’re someone who hates the Dallas Cowboys, then watching Brandon Weeden make three starts for them in 2015 should’ve brought you unadulterated joy.
Watching Weeden play quarterback that year was like asking Larry, Curly, and Moe to solve multivariable calculus equations. Weeden’s not-quite-vomit-inducing stat line of 221.6 yards passing per game, with one touchdown and two interceptions in those games doesn’t tell the full story.
The fact that Dallas lost all three of those games by an average of 13.6 points a game is much more telling of the Brandon Weeden experience in the Metroplex.
Detroit Lions: Drew Stanton (2009)
Drew Stanton eventually became a serviceable journeyman backup quarterback in the NFL, but only after a brutal start to his career. In 2009, as a member of the Detroit Lions team that finished with a 2-14 record, Stanton had thrown three interceptions while playing in spot duty in two games.
In his lone start of the season (In Week 16), Stanton threw for only 130 yards in a 20-6 loss against the San Francisco 49ers, and among his 21 passing attempts included three interceptions. He was completely ineffective in a game against an opponent that was only days away from firing their own head coach.
Green Bay Packers: Scott Tolzien (2013)
In Green Bay, backup quarterback Matt Flynn tricked NFL teams into thinking he could be a starter in the league after shining in spot duty in relief of Aaron Rodgers. But nobody was going to make that mistake with Scott Tolzien. In 2013, Tolzien saw extended action in three games (starting two of them) in place of both Rodgers and Flynn.
With Tolzien in at quarterback, the Packers’ offense scored only one touchdown in two of those three games. In his three starts, Tolzien was 0-1-1; that’s right, he couldn’t even lose a game correctly, ending up tying in one of them.
Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder (2011-2014)
Another “body beautiful” quarterback who was much more an athlete than a quarterback, Christian Ponder won less than 40% of the games he started with the Vikings.
The first round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft spent most of his last two years either being shuttled in and out of the lineup due to injuries, or backing up other players (including Teddy Bridgewater, whom the Vikings drafted to replace him only three years later).
New Orleans Saints: Mark Brunell (2009)
Out of 208 possible regular season games since Drew Brees came to New Orleans, he’s started 206 of them. One of those lone two starts made by someone else came in 2009 (the year they won the Super Bowl), in a Week 17 game in which the Saints had nothing to gain by winning.
So, they started a 39-year-old Mark Brunell in that game, and it went about as well as you could imagine. Brunell threw 30 passes, yet put up a grand total of 102 yards, meaning he averaged a laughable 3.3 yards per attempt.
Oh, and he also threw an interception in that game, so when you add all of those facts up, you shouldn’t be surprised that New Orleans ended up losing. But Brunell still ended up a winner anyway, walking away with a Super Bowl ring.
New York Giants: Geno Smith (2017)
If any team thinks that Geno Smith is the answer at quarterback for their team, then they’re almost certainly asking the wrong question. Ownership made Eli Manning the scapegoat by ill-advisedly forcing dim-witted head coach Ben McAdoo to start Smith over Manning, ending Manning’s starting streak.
Smith started only one game before the Giants quickly went back to Manning, but the damage had already been done (and we’re not just talking about him leading the Giants to a loss in his one and only game of the year)
Philadelphia Eagles: Vince Young (2011)
If nothing else, you can credit Vince Young with ruining the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2011 season before it even started.
Referring to his new employer as a “Dream Team,” the Eagles struggled to an 8-8 record that year, which featured Young having to start in place of the injured Donovan McNabb for three games.
He lost two of those three games, throwing four touchdowns and nine interceptions in three starts. This marked Young’s last season in the NFL.
San Francisco 49ers: CJ Beathard (2017-2018)
In the god-awful 2007 romantic comedy “Good Luck Chuck,” the completely unfunny Dane Cook portrays a guy with a streak of dating women who end up meeting their future husband immediately after they stop dating him.
What’s the point of that statement? CJ Beathard is basically “Chuck” — as soon as the 49ers move on from him, they start winning games.
In 2017, Jimmy Garoppolo won five straight games after replacing him, and in 2018, Nick Mullens went 3-5 after Beathard started the year with a 1-7 record.
Seattle Seahawks: Tarvaris Jackson (2011)
Tarvaris Jackson is the quarterback of Soy Milk: not completely terrible, but not something you want to stick with any longer than absolutely necessary.
But with Russell Wilson starting every game since being drafted, and the Seattle Seahawks getting the last vestiges of Matthew Hasselbeck’s career in 2009 and 2010, Jackson gets the nod here, despite his 7-7 record in 14 starts.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Johnson (2009)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to use Byron Leftwich and rookie Josh Johnson as their “bridge” quarterbacks, before turning the starting job over to then-rookie Josh Freeman.
So when Leftwich got hurt in the third game of the season, Johnson got pressed into action. In five games (including four starts), Johnson completed just over 50% of his passes, throwing four touchdowns and eight interceptions, failing to hit 250 yards passing in any of those games.
By the end of October, Tampa Bay went ahead and had Freeman replace Johnson as the team’s starter.
Washington Redskins: John Beck (2011)
Imagine what Mike Shanahan must have been thinking, considering he worked with quarterbacks like Steve Young and John Elway in the past, when he considered making John Beck the starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins in 2011, in place of the ineffective Rex Grossman.
Beck started three games for the Redskins, getting outscored by a margin of 75 to 31 in those games. Beck was eventually replaced by Grossman again, and released at the end of the year. He never again played in the NFL after that.