The quarterback position is arguably the hardest (and most important) to play in all of professional sports. Quarterbacks are as indispensable in football as a goaltender is in hockey or a pitcher is in baseball. In the National Football League, the quarterback is the leader on the field and often times the face of the franchise.
They are among the most high-profile athletes in the world. The success of an NFL franchise often rests on the shoulders of their signal caller.
Considering the degree of difficult, it’s no wonder every NFL team has had more bad ones than good ones. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the best and the worst quarterback in every team’s history.
Best: Arizona Cardinals – Jim Hart
The Arizona Cardinals franchise has been around for almost an entire century, at least in some capacity. But over that time, the team has had only six quarterbacks ever selected to the Pro Bowl, and only one of them who was selected to the NFL’s All-Star game more than twice.
That would be Jim Hart, who was the team’s full-time starter between 1967 through 1981. Hart threw 209 touchdowns in that span, which is over 70 touchdown passes more than any other quarterback in franchise history.
Worst: Arizona Cardinals – Ryan Lindley
Fans of the Arizona Cardinals have probably blocked out as much of the Ryan Lindley experience from their collective minds as possible. In his first season in Arizona, Lindley finished the year with a 46.7 passer rating, having thrown seven interceptions and no touchdowns.
After entering the NFL in 2012, Lindley didn’t throw his first official touchdown pass until 2014, when he rejoined the Cardinals after a one-year stint on the practice squad of the San Diego Chargers. In four seasons of professional football, including one season in the Canadian Football League, Lindley threw 4 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Best: Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan
The Atlanta Falcons have had a few good-to-very good quarterbacks since the start of the 1990’s, ranging from guys like Chris Miller (a former Pro Bowl selection) to Michael Vick (once the most exciting player in the NFL). But none of those guys could hold a candle to what Matt Ryan has done for the Falcons’ franchise.
Ryan has almost double the amount of passing yards and touchdown passes as the guy who’s #2 on the Falcons’ all-time passing leaders list (Steve Bartkowski), and is the only quarterback in franchise history to have been named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
Worst: Atlanta Falcons – Randy Johnson
Long before a near-7-foot baseball pitcher made the name famous, Randy Johnson was a starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons back in the late 1960’s…. And he was a terrible one to boot.
After winning only three games in his rookie year in 1966 (out of 11 starts), he actually managed to win even less games the following four years in Atlanta, winning a grand total of 5 times in 26 starts in the ensuing four years he was the starter.
Best: Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco
Even though the Baltimore Ravens were really the reincarnation of the relocated Cleveland Browns, since the Browns were awarded a new franchise with the same name, we’re treating the Ravens as a separate franchise in and of its own.
Given that the Ravens haven’t really had an illustrious history at the quarterback position, it’s hard to give this designation to anyone other than Joe Flacco.
Flacco is the only quarterback in team history to play in more than 53 games for the franchise, and no other quarterback in team history has come close to his total career touchdown passes, passing yards, and total wins as a starter.
Worst: Baltimore Ravens – Elvis Grbac
A year after the Baltimore Ravens dumped quarterback Trent Dilfer after taking the team to the Super Bowl, they qualified for the postseason once again with Elvis Grbac under center. Prior to that, Grbac had spent four season nas the starter for the Kansas City Chiefs, where he never won more than nine games as a starter.
Grback and the Ravens defeated the Miami Dolphins by a 20-3 score in the Wild Card roung of the playoffs, before losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers the following week. The Ravens released Grbac in a salary cap move after he refused to renegotiate his contract, and Grbac retired after being released.
Best: Buffalo Bills – Jim Kelly
Jim Kelly might be tied for third place in most Super Bowl appearances by an NFL quarterback, and he might be one of only seven quarterbacks in NFL history to make it to the Super Bowl four times, but no quarterback in the history of the game has led his team to the Super Bowl four straight years. None, that is, except Jim Kelly.
The maestro of the Buffalo Bills’ “K-Gun” offense terrorized opposing defenses from 1989 and 1992, perennially leading the Bills to the highest offensive ranks each year. He finished his career with over 35,000 passing yards, currently sitting in 25th place all time. But for all those Super Bowl appearances and all those passing yards, Kelly will never have a ring to show for them.
Worst: Buffalo Bills – Alex Van Pelt
Despite the fact that Alex Van Pelt left the University of Pittsburgh having broken many records established by some guy named Dan Marino, Alex Van Pelt started his career as a backup quarterback, but took over as the starter of the Buffalo Bills in 1994 after Jim Kelly would suffer a major knee injury.
But that would be one of the only times that Van Pelt actually started; in nine years in Buffalo, Van Pelt started 11 games, finishing with a career 3-8 record in those starts.
Best: Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton
Unless you happen to be relative of Kerry Collins or Jake Delhomme, it’s hard to believe anyone could think this designation would belong to anyone other than Cam Newton. The #1 overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, Newton is the only quarterback in franchise history to be named to an All-Pro team (2015) and be selected to the Pro Bowl multiple times.
In 2015, Newton ran roughshod through the NFL, throwing 35 touchdowns and running for 10 more, leading the Panthers to Super Bowl 50, and being named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
Worst: Carolina Panthers – Jimmy Clausen
Never in history has there been a player for with the combination of breathtaking hype and incredible failure like Jimmy Clausen. The most over-recruited player in NCAA history to date, Clausen’s lackluster career at Notre Dame led him to fall to the 2nd round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
The Carolina Panthers, who selected him, decided to throw him to the proverbial wolves in his rookie year, and Clausen got eaten alive: three touchdowns and nine interceptions in 10 games as a starter. He had a huge hand in the Panthers finishing with a 2-14 record, and Carolina saw enough of him in that one year to decide to draft his replacement — Cam Newton — just one year after taking Clausen.
Best: Chicago Bears – Sid Luckman
Though the Chicago Bears franchise has had some of the most iconic names in NFL history on its roster, including Walter Payton, Dick Butkus, and Mike Singletary, they haven’t had anything close to that at the quarterback position. The franchise forever known for its “Monsters of the Midway” defense haven’t boasted a truly elite NFL quarterback since Sid Luckman played under center for them in the 1940’s, under legendary coach George Halas.
Though Luckman’s passing yardage and touchdown pass totals were eventually surpassed by Jay Cutler, the latter is not — and will never be — a five-time All-Pro selection and Hall of Fame inductee like Luckman.
Worst: Chicago Bears – Bob Avellini
For all the glory the Chicago Bears have had on the defensive side of the football (and at the running back position), that hasn’t been shared at the quarterback spot. The history of the Bears franchise is filled with guys like Bob Avellini, who had one winning season during his first four years in the NFL.
Avellini finished his nine-year career in Chicago with more than a 2:1 ratio of interceptions to touchdowns (throwing 69 interceptions to only 33 touchdowns).
Best: Cincinnati Bengals – Ken Anderson
Most people might associate Boomer Esiason or Carson Palmer when thinking of the best quarterback in Cincinnati Bengals history, but that honor quite certainly belongs to Ken Anderson, the team’s starting quarterback from 1972 through 1984. Anderson has thrown for more yards and passing touchdowns than any quarterback in team history, and has 24 more wins than any other quarterback as well.
During the 1981 season, Anderson had a career-best 3,754 passing yards and 29 touchdowns, leading the Bengals to a 12-4 record and their first-ever Super Bowl appearance (when they’d lose to the San Francisco 49ers).
Worst: Cincinnati Bengals – Akili Smith
A one-year wonder who parlayed that brief success into the #3 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, Smith’s NFL career was an unmitigated disaster. First, the Bengals turned down the “Godfather” offer from the New Orleans Saints; Mike Ditka was selling the farm to move up to grab Ricky Williams, allegedly offering the Bengals a whopping nine draft picks (Cincinnati turned down the offer). He started off his tenure in Cincinnati completely on the wrong foot, missing a substantial portion of the team’s training camp, which many believed irreparably stunted his development in the NFL.
Of course, once he did sign, his off-the-field habits didn’t help either. Smith was later quoted as having given in to the temptations of his high draft selection, flying back and forth between Cincinnati and San Diego to party with his friends and multiple women regularly; he’s called himself “a complete embarrassment off the field.” Smith played in 22 NFL games and posted a career passer rating of 52.8. In one year at Oregon, he threw for 30 touchdown passes; in four seasons in the NFL, he threw for a total of five.
Best: Cleveland Browns – Otto Graham
The perennial revolving door at quarterback is nothing unfamiliar for fans of the Cleveland Browns. Whether it was before the team moved to Baltimore, or even after they were reincarnated in 1999, the team’s search for a long-term answer at quarterback has seemed endless.
Guys like Frank Ryan and Brian Sipe did bring some stability to the position, but none of them could ever hold a candle to the great Otto Graham, who took the Browns to the NFL Championship (in the pre-Super Bowl era) ever year between 1946 and 1955, winning the championship seven times in that span.
Worst: Cleveland Browns – Brandon Weeden
In 2012, NFL scouts and teams were first learning the drawbacks of drafting a quarterback who played in a spread offense in college. But after watching what Brandon Weeden looked like when he got to the NFL, it made front offices downright terrified of taking quarterbacks from those offenses. There were plenty of analysts who cautioned against taking Weeden with an early draft pick, but true to form, Cleveland threw all wisdom to the wind, selecting him with the 22nd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
It was clear from the get-go that Weeden wasn’t ready when, in his first game, he finished with a 5.1 passer rating after throwing four interceptions in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. That was the sixth-lowest passer rating in a season opener by any quarterback attempting at least 15 passes since the merger in 1970..
Best: Dallas Cowboys – Roger Staubach
A real-life football version of “Captain America” himself, Roger Staubach was a Vietnam War veteran, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback the at U.S. Naval Academy, and the first quarterback in INFL history to lead his team to the Super Bowl five times and the first of four players to ever win the Heisman Trophy and Super Bowl MVP (the latter of which he won after leading the Dallas Cowboys to a win in Super Bowl VI).
He might not have the Super Bowl wins of Troy Aikman or the stat totals of Tony Romo, but Staubach was the one who truly made playing quarterback for the Cowboys one of the most iconic positions in American sports.
Worst: Dallas Cowboys – Chad Hutchison
In the era between Troy Aikman and Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys went through a comedy of errors at the quarterback position (and at head coach, too). Chad Hutchinson was one of those spectacular errors, as we witnessed during the 2002 season.
Despite the fact that he set the NFL record for most passes thrown by a rookie without an interception (95), Hutchinson still finished with a 2-7 record in the nine games he started, throwing only seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. One year later, when the Dallas Cowboys hired an actual grown up to coach the team (Bill Parcells), Hutchison was benched in favor of Quincy Carter. Two years after that, Hutchinson was out of the NFL.
Best: Denver Broncos – John Elway
As the saying goes: sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. If it weren’t for John Elway’s famous refusal to play for the (then) Baltimore Colts if they drafted him in 1983 (which they did), and if it wasn’t for crazy owner Bob Irsay commandeering a less-than-ideal trade to send him for Denver, Elway would’ve never ended up on the Broncos.
But, he did, and over the course of his 16-year NFL career, he smashed every team passing record you could think of, and led the team to five Super Bowl appearances — famously winning the last two, which took place the last two years of his career.
Worst: Denver Broncos – Steve Tensi
When John Elway was merely a child in Northern California, the Denver Broncos were being quarterbacked by a gentleman named Steve Tensi. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry; you’re not really missing much by not thinking about him.
Between 1967 and 1970, Tensi spent four years in Denver, and in all four years, he failed to finish with a winning record. During that span, he had a 10-21-1 record as the starter.
Best: Detroit Lions – Bobby Layne
Ironically, the guy many people would consider to be the best quarterback in the history of the Detroit Lions wasn’t even drafted by the team. The Chicago Bears selected Bobby Layne with the third overall pick in the 1948 NFL Draft, but the two-time All-Pro spent most of his career leading the Lions. Prior to the end of the 2018 season, Layne was the only quarterback in franchise history to lead the team in passing for eight consecutive seasons.
While most people would look at Matt Stafford’s passing numbers and say he deserves to be in this spot, Stafford has never been selected as an NFL All-Pro (while Layne has twice been selected as such), and probably won’t be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (as Layne was in 1967)
Worst: Detroit Lions – Joey Harrington
Even though Joey Harrington wasn’t drafted to an expansion team in the 2002 NFL Draft, he suffered a lot of the same fate as David Carr, who was drafted the year before him: suffering from a lack of talent, especially along the offensive line, as the quarterback of the Detroit Lions.
The Lions tried to find Harrington a wide receiver in the 2003 NFL Draft in Charles Rogers, but the latter’s career was destroyed because of injuries and substance abuse issues. Meanwhile, Harrington struggled under Steve Mariucci’s “win-now” approach, which culminated in the coach bringing in Jeff Garcia to replace Harrington.
Best: Green Bay Packers – Brett Favre
Thanks to the foresight of former Green Bay Packers General Manager Ron Wolf (and the shortsightedness of former Atlanta Falcons head coach Jerry Glanville), Brett Favre went from riding the pine in Atlanta to becoming one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history as the starter.
Favre’s combination of a howitzer of a right arm, toughness of a cheap steak, and relishing making plays in the midst of chaos made him one of the most dynamic players of the 1990’s. The three-time NFL MVP and six-time All-Pro was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016. He currently sits in 3rd place on the NFL’s all-time passing yardage list, having thrown for 71,838 yards in his career.
Worst: Green Bay Packers – Randy Wright
Before Aaron Rodgers, there was Brett Favre. Before Favre, there was Don Majkowski, whose career was cut short due to injury.
But before even Majkowski, there was Randy Wright, who played four miserable seasons for the Green Bay Packers, finishing his career with a laughable 7-25 record as the starter, and 57 interceptions thrown in five seasons.
Best: Houston Texans – Matt Schaub
After having David Carr getting his brain beaten in during the first five years of his career (and the franchise’s existence), the Houston Texans decided they didn’t have the time to draft and develop another quarterback, so they instead traded for Matt Schaub, the backup quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons.
Over the next seven seasons, Schaub would emerge as a steady-if-not-unspectacular quarterback, throwing for at last 22 touchdowns three times and being named to the Pro Bowl after the 2012 season after leading the NFL in passing yards that year (with 4,008 yards). In 2009, Schaub threw for a career-high 4,770 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Worst: Houston Texans – David Carr
The first overall selection in the 2002 NFL Draft, and the first pick in the history of the Houston Texans franchise, David Carr spent the early part of his NFL career getting his brain beat in behind the Texans porous offensive line. He was sacked 76 times in his rookie season, and fumbled the football 12 times. In 2004, he was sacked 49 times, which was still the highest in the NFL.
Eventually, questions arose as to whether Carr was getting gun shy in the pocket (who could blame him?) and whether he was truly committed to football. After getting sacked 249 times during his first five years in Houston, the Texans replaced Carr by acquiring Matt Schaub via trade.
Best: Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning
No quarterback is more befitting of the description of “cerebral assassin” more than Peyton Manning; there’s a great chance the he knew everything about the opposing defensive scheme he was playing against, better than the opposing defensive coordinator himself. During his 11-year career with the Indianapolis Colts (and four-year stint with the Denver Broncos), Manning piled up yards and touchdown passes like hoarders pile up… well, anything and everything.
Mentioning that Manning led the Colts to their first Super Bowl win in 36 years doesn’t even scratch the surface of his unquestioned Hall of Fame career. His 539 touchdown passes remains the most in NFL history, and until 2018, he previously held the record for most passing yards in NFL history.
Worst: Indianapolis Colts – Jack Trudeau
How’s this for starting your career? During Jack Trudeau’s rookie year with the Indianapolis Colts, in which he started 11 games, he lost every single one of them. In that same rookie season, he also threw 18 interceptions.
Not exactly an auspicious start. Outside of one non-terrible season in 1989, Trudeau was another quarterback that’ll be swept away in the ashes of history, and rightfully so.
Best: Jacksonville Jaguars – Mark Brunell
The 1990’s represented a proverbial Golden Age of quarterback play in the NFL, which is why it was easy to overlook the accomplishments of Mark Brunell.
Acquired in exchange for a couple of draft picks prior to the 1995 season, the lefty Brunell was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons in Jacksonville, and took the team all the way to the AFC Championship game in 1996 and then again in 1999.
Throwing the ball to stud wide receivers like Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell, Brunell was 2nd in the NFL in passing yardage in 1996, throwing for 4,367 yards. He sits atop the franchise record book in nearly every statistical category, by a rather sizable margin (and it aint like Blake Bortles is going to catch him anytime soon).
Worst: Jacksonville Jaguars – Blaine Gabbert
Blaine Gabbert was one of the first cautionary tales of the transition quarterbacks who play in a spread system face when coming into the NFL. Gabbert was forced into action as a rookie on the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the results weren’t pretty. In the three seasons he spent in Jacksonville, he was either injured, or just played terribly in general.
Less than three years after picking Gabbert, the Jaguars traded him for a 6th-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers. The best part of this pick? Gabbert was taken one spot of some guy named JJ Watt.
Best: Kansas City Chiefs – Len Dawson
After Len Dawson set the record for most touchdown passes thrown in a single season by the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs (30) way back in 1964, that record stood for 54 years, until Patrick Mahomes broke it in late 2018. Since Mahomes has quite a ways to go to be mentioned in this vein, Dawson gets the nod for the best quarterback in the history of the Chiefs’ franchise, as the only quarterback that has ever taken the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.
Dawson was the MVP of Super Bowl IV, which is the franchise’s only win in the big game. Dawson also has more than twice as many touchdown passes in franchise history (237) than the guy behind him, Trent Green (118).
Worst: Kansas City Chiefs – Todd Blackledge
The Kansas City Chiefs thought so highly of Todd Blackledge that they made him the seventh pick of the 1983 NFL Draft, ahead of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks like Jim Kelly and Dan Marino. Even Blackledge himself admitted to being surprised that the Chiefs selected him over some of the other quarterbacks in the draft, and expected to hear his name called somewhere closer to the second round of the draft.
He spent most of his career being pulled in and out of games by the Chiefs coaching staff, never throwing for more than 1,707 yards in a season. After seven forgettable seasons in the NFL, Blackledge retired.
Best: Los Angeles Chargers – Dan Fouts
Most people are automatically think of Philip Rivers as the greatest quarterback in the history of the Chargers’ franchise, but old timers who watched football in the 1970’s and 1980’s would beg to differ. That’s because Dan Fouts was probably a similar — but better — version of Rivers: a guy who was born to throw the football, putting up piles of passing yardage, having a connection with a Hall of Fame tight end, but always coming up short in the postseason.
Playing in the “Air Coryell” offense (the “Godfather” of a lot of passing concepts we see in the NFL today), Fouts led the NFL four years in a row (1979-1982) in passing yardage, and was named league MVP in 1982. Even as of today, he’s 16th in the NFL’s all-time passing yardage list.
Worst: Los Angeles Chargers – Ryan Leaf
This one couldn’t have been more obvious. Where are we supposed to start with Ryan Leaf’s second season with the San Diego Chargers? Was it the fact that he threw five interceptions in his first two games? Or how about the fact that he was benched for backup quarterback Moses Moreno prior to the third game of the season?
Ironically, the piece de resistance wasn’t even the fact that Leaf finished with a 1-8 record as the team’s starter after shuttling in and out of the lineup, trading stints with Moreno. The worst part has to be the fact that he allegedly faked a hand injury, using that as an excuse to miss practice, and instead use that practice time to head to the golf course.
Best: Los Angeles Rams – Kurt Warner
It’s the story we’ve heard many, many times over: the guy who went from being an Arena Football League castoff to grocery store bag boy to completely unknown backup quarterback to the starting quarterback of the most prolific offense in NFL history (to date). After Dick Vermeil was forced to turn to the virtually unknown Kurt Warner as the starting quarterback of the St. Louis Rams, most people feared the worst. Instead, Warner and the Rams set the record for the most productive offense in NFL history in 1999, en route to winning the franchise’s only Super Bowl championship.
Warner’s career 93.7 passer rating is the 10th-best in NFL history, and his 4,830 yards passing in 2001 (when the Rams would go on to lose to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl) is the 21st-most single season passing yards in NFL history.
Worst: Los Angeles Rams – Dan Pastorini
Even though he spent only one year with the Los Angeles Rams (in 1981), Dan Pastorini certainly made his mark on franchise history… but not in a good way. Pastorini threw two touchdown passes, but a laughable 14 interceptions that year, giving him an unbelievable 1:7 ratio of touchdown passes to interceptions.
It shouldn’t be any surprise that he was one-and-done in Los Angeles, retiring just one season later.
Best: Miami Dolphins – Dan Marino
Truth be told, watching Dan Marino throw the football must have been like watching Beethoven compose a symphony or Michelangelo paint a painting; it was literally art in motion. After egregiously falling to the second-to-last pick of the first round of the famed 1983 NFL Draft (thanks to completely bogus rumors about off-the-field concerns), Marino walked into the NFL and started redefining the way we thought about passing offenses.
At only 22 years old, Marino threw for 5,084 yards (in his second NFL season), which not only set the single-season yardage record, but stayed in place for the next 37 years. To this day, he’s still 5th on the all-time passing yardage list.
Worst: Miami Dolphins – Rick Norton
It has to be brutal on your psyche, as a quarterback, if you don’t win a single game as a starter for your first three seasons in the NFL. Welcome to the life of former Miami Dolphins quarterback Rick Norton, who went 0-5 during his first three years in the league, and finished his career with a 1-10 overall record.
Ironically, after Norton retired, the Dolphins would go on to their glory years of the early 1970’s, when they won back-to-back Super Bowls.
Best: Minnesota Vikings – Fran Tarkenton
The “original gangster” of dual-threat quarterbacks, NFL players, media, and fans were in awe of Fran Tarkenton’s mobility and scrambling ability long before 24/7 media coverage and internet access made highlights so easy to watch. While many of them have been broken as of today, when Tarkenton retired from the NFL in 1978, he was the owner of virtually every quarterbacking stat you could think of.
In fact, Tarkenton’s 47,003 career passing yardage is still 11th-most in NFL history. In addition, he ran for 3,674 yards and 32 touchdowns over his career. Between 1973 and 1978, Tarkenton led the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs every single year, and that span included three Super Bowl appearances.
Worst: Minnesota Vikings – Spergon Wynn
One of the quarterbacks famously selected before Tom Brady in the 2000 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns tried to do their best to ruin the career of ultra-raw project quarterback Spergon Wynn. Dumping him one season after drafting him, Wynn came to Minnesota, and started only two games for the Vikings.
Needless to say, they weren’t pretty; he threw six interceptions in those two games, both of which were losses for Minnesota.
Best: New England Patriots – Tom Brady
There’s nothing left to debate on Tom Brady’s résumé, as far as his legitimacy as the GOAT — “Greatest of All Time” — at his position. After assuming the mantle as the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots in 2001, Brady as accumulated five Super Bowl wins (tied for the most in NFL history), four Super Bowl MVP awards (most in NFL history), and three NFL MVP awards (second-most in NFL history).
At the end of the 2018 season, Brady sat in fourth place in the all-time passing yards list, and should easily move into second-place all time by the end of 2019.
Worst: New England Patriots – Mike Taliaferro
Even though they’re probably reveling in their unprecedented streak of success, fans of the New England Patriots know it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for the team at the quarterback position. In their decades of sadness prior to the Bill Belichick era, the team has had some awful entries in their quarterbacking history.
Among that group includes Mike Taliaferro, who won 8 of 25 games during his three seasons with the Patriots, back when they were still the Boston Patriots (1968-1970).
Best: New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees
There are very few greater “what if’s” in Super Bowl history than “what if the Miami Dolphins weren’t stupid enough to not sign Drew Brees in the 2006 offseason.” Obviously, Miami’s failure became New Orleans’ fortune, as Brees came to the Big Easy and, paired with Sean Payton, became the most prolific passer in NFL history, breaking the record for most passing yards in the history of the NFL in 2018.
Brees’ run of 12-straight seasons with more than 4,000 yards passing, including five seasons with more than 5,000 yards passing, is beyond staggering. The minute Brees decides to retire from the NFL, you can basically set your clock to five years from that day, because that’s when he’ll become eligible to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (and he’s going to be a no-brainer first-ballot induction).
Worst: New Orleans Saints – Heath Shuler
It’s amazing that Heath Shuler actually went to another team and, despite having more NFL experience under his belt, actually got worse. After flaming out as starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins (who originally drafted him in 1994), Shuler tried to salvage his career in New Orleans, when the team brought in Mike Ditka.
But Shuler was a total disaster — like everything in the Ditka regime — in New Orleans, leading noted football analytics site FootballOutsiders.com to declare Shuler as “The Least Valuable Quarterback of 1997.”
Best: New York Giants – Eli Manning
Eli Manning’s place in NFL history, including a future spot in the Hall of Fame, is something of a lightning rod debate. While being the quarterback of two of the New York Giants’ four Super Bowl wins might sway voters into putting him into Canton one day, critics will tell you that he was the beneficiary of teams that could run the ball and play defense at a very high level (and played very well in their two Super Bowl wins over the New England Patriots).
All of that being said, Manning has more than 22,000 yards passing than any other quarterback in New York Giants’ history, and more than 170 more touchdown passes.
Worst: New York Giants – Dave Brown
The backup quarterback for the New York Giants who had the misfortune of following guys like Phil Simms and Jeff Hostetler, Dave Brown failed to tally a winning record in three of his first four seasons as a starter for the Giants, leading the once-proud franchise that dominated in the 1980’s to wander around the NFL wilderness in the 1990’s.
During his six seasons in New York, Brown never threw for more than 12 touchdowns in any year.
Best: New York Jets – Joe Namath
New York Jets’ fans probably won’t like hearing this, but the facts shall set you free: the Jets franchise doesn’t have a single player among the top 60 quarterbacks in all time passing yardage. By comparison, guys like Jake Plummer and Andy Dalton have thrown for more yards than any quarterback in franchise history. So, almost by default, this designation would have go to “Broadway” Joe Namath.
Though Namath finished his career with a losing record and threw 45 more interceptions than touchdowns during his 13-year NFL career, he still has the most wins, passing yards, and touchdown passes in team history. And, of course, he was the Super Bowl MVP of the Jets’ lone Super Bowl appearance (and win).
Worst: New York Jets – Browning Nagle
Former University of Louisville quarterback Browning Nagle will forever go down in infamy if for nothing else but one fact — that he was selected exactly one pick before a rifle-armed kid from the University of Southern Mississippi named Brett Favre.
Nagle really only played one true season with the New York Jets after being drafted in 1991. In 1992, Nagle won only three of the 13 starts he made, throwing 17 interceptions.
Best: Oakland Raiders – Ken Stabler
The Raiders’ franchise is still looking for the stability and high-level play from the quarterback position that they enjoyed in the 1960’s and 1970’s. After Daryle Lamonica, aka “The Mad Bomber,” there was Ken “The Snake” Stabler, one of the greatest quarterbacks of the 1970’s, and the leader of the team that went to five-straight AFC Championship games, and won Super Bowl XI (the franchise’s first of three Super Bowl wins).
Stabler was named the league’s Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year in 1974, and lead the NFL in touchdown passes in 1974 and 1976. Even after leaving Oakland in 1979, Stabler’s 150 touchdown passes as a member of the Raiders has yet to be surpassed.
Worst: Oakland Raiders – Jamarcus Russell
Who can forget the fact that heralded NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper raved about Jamarcus Russell’s private workout, comparing his passing ability to that of John Elway? Russell had one of the strongest arms we’ve ever seen from an NFL Draft prospect, but one of the worst work ethics we’ve seen from a quarterback prospect as well.
Between his battles keeping his weight down, and his well-publicized issues with misusing codeine, Russell was out of the NFL just three seasons after being selected #1 overall.
Best: Philadelphia Eagles – Donovan McNabb
Fans of the Philadelphia Eagles had something of a love-hate relationship with Donovan McNabb during his time in Philadelphia between 1998 and 2009, even though the Eagles made the playoffs eight times in 10 years with McNabb as the team’s starter, which included four straight trips to the NFC Championship game, the last of which included a win and a subsequent Super Bowl appearance (and loss).
Regardless of how anyone feels about his tenure with the Eagles, McNabb smashed all the passing records set by Ron Jaworski, and currently sits at 25th in all-time passing yardage (37,276) and 30th in passing touchdowns (234).
Worst: Philadelphia Eagles – Bobby Hoying
Despite being a third-round selection in the 1996 NFL Draft, Bobby Hoying really had no business playing in the NFL. While he was a decorated player coming out of Ohio State University, he was a disaster in the NFL, getting benched midway through his second season after failing to lead the Philadelphia Eagles to a single win.
He was a major reason why the team finished with 3-13 record, which led to the Eagles’ hiring Andy Reid.
Best: Pittsburgh Steelers – Terry Bradshaw
The list of quarterbacks who have won at least four Super Bowls comprises Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw… and that’s it. That’s rarified company.
Worst: Pittsburgh Steelers – Mark Malone
Riding the fumes of those great Pittsburgh Steelers’ teams of the 1970’s, after Terry Bradshaw retired, quarterback Mark Malone — the team’s top pick in the 1980 NFL Draft — assumed the role of starting quarterback.
After not playing in his rookie season, Malone would go on to throw more interceptions than touchdowns in each of his first three seasons, and “helped” the Steelers to a 6-10 record in 1986, which was their lowest win total in 15 years.
Best: San Francisco – Joe Montana
When you look back, it seems ridiculous that 81 players were taken in the 1979 NFL Draft, before Joe Montana. But, after winning a national championship as quarterback of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Montana went on to become the most decorated quarterback of his generation in the NFL. As the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, Montana won four Super Bowls, went to eight Pro Bowls, and was named to the NFL’s All-Pro team five times.
Worst: San Francisco 49ers – Steve Spurrier
Before he became the head ball coach at the University of Florida and University of South Carolina, Stephen Orr Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy in 1966, and became the third overall pick of the 1967 NFL Draft. But when Spurrier got to see the field as the team’s quarterback (in admittedly limited and infrequent fashion), he flat out stunk.
For all his pass-happy offenses as a coach, Spurrier didn’t throw a touchdown pass in the NFL until his third year in the league. The only position where Spurrier ended up starting for the 49ers, at least early on, was at punter.
Best: Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson
The Seattle Seahawks franchise has had a remarkable history of relative consistency at the quarterback position. The organization has had four different quarterbacks lead the team in passing for at least seven straight years, despite being in existence for less than 50 years. But, the catch is that three of those four guys — Jim Zorn, Dave Krieg, Matt Hasselbeck — weren’t really that great, in retrospect.
The fourth player among that group — Russell Wilson — doesn’t share that distinction. After winning the starting job as a rookie over Matt Flynn, Wilson led the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl win in franchise history in his second season in the NFL, led the team back to the Super Bowl the following year, and was a dark horse MVP candidate in 2017.
Worst: Seattle Seahawks – Stan Gelbaugh
There are a lot of players who played in the (now defunct) World League of American Football, and came back to the NFL and made a successful career. Stan Gelbaugh was not one of them. The former London Monarchs quarterback was named the Offensive MVP of the WLAF.
But after coming to the NFL, he spent his last four seasons in Seattle, throwing only seven touchdowns — compared to 12 interceptions — in four seasons. In fairness, he only started nine games in Seattle, riding the pine for most of his time there.
Best: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Brad Johnson
If you look back through the history of quarterbacks of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s not pretty. Making this selection is almost like when you’re completely out of clothes to wear since you haven’t done the laundry, and trying to find the underwear with the least holes in it. Do you give it to Vinny Testaverde, who has the most passing yards in franchise history but a .333 career record in 72 games? Or Josh Freeman, who had only one winning season?
Trent Dilfer finished with a .500 record in Tampa, but had 80 interceptions in six years? We say no, and by process of elimination, give this distinction to Brad Johnson, who helped the Buccaneers win their only Super Bowl in franchise history in 2002.
Worst: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Vinny Testaverde
Even the 1986 Heisman Trophy winner and best quarterback in college football couldn’t overcome the misery that was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for most of the 1970’s and 1980’s. In his first three seasons in the NFL, Testaverde threw an unfathomable 63 interceptions, winning a grand total of 10 starts in 33 games.
Outside of his rookie season, when he started in only four games, Testaverde threw at least 15 interceptions in each of his five subsequent seasons in Tampa.
Best: Tennessee Titans – Warren Moon
Warren Moon never seems to get the credit he really deserves, despite his phenomenal passing abilities and production he had, orchestrating those high-powered offenses of the old Houston Oilers in the in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s (back before they moved to Tennessee and became the Titans).
Moon remains the Houston Oilers’ (and Titans’) record-holder for virtually every passing statistic you can think of. After starting his career in the Canadian Football League (and winning five-straight Grey Cup Championships), Moon was named to the Pro Bowl nine-straight times between 199 and 1995, and was selected as the NFL MVP in 1990 after throwing for 4,690 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Worst: Tennessee Titans – Billy Joe Tolliver
the longtime journeyman backup quarterback who spent time on six NFL teams in 13 seasons, Billy Joe Tolliver saved his worst for his one year as the quarterback of the Houston Oilers (the predecessors of the Tennessee Titans).
In 1994, Tolliver went 0-7 as the team’s starter, tossing only six touchdowns (and seven interceptions) in seven games, while averaging a career-low 5.4 yards attempt.
After leaving Tennessee, Tolliver went 2-11 when starting over the remainder of his career.
Best: Washington Redskins – Sammy Baugh
One of the reasons Joe Gibbs was so respected among both his contemporaries and fans inside of our nation’s capital is because of the fact that he’s the only head coach in NFL history to win three Super Bowls in a decade, with three different starting quarterbacks.
The Washington Redskins have had guys well-above-average guys like Sonny Jurgensen and Joe Theisman at quarterback, but the only true “superstar” that they’ve had at the position played before most of our parents were even born: “Slingin” Sammy Baugh. Baugh wasn’t only an elite quarterback (leading the NFL in passer rating six times) back in the 1930’s and 1940’s, but also served as a defensive back and even a punter.
He was among the first-ever group of players inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.
Worst: Washington Redskins – Ralph Guglielmi
A stud quarterback at the University of Notre Dame, the Washington Redskins selected Ralph Guglielmi with the 4th overall pick way back in the 1955 NFL Draft.
Let’s just say that, from there, they didn’t get much return on their investment. After finishing his rookie year with a 3-0 record in the games he played, Guglielmi eventually went 2-12-3 as the quarterback over the next three years.
After spending four years in Washington, like a bad decision made in an election, Guglielmi was gone.