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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Top 10 Worst Quarterbacks in the History of the NFL Ranked

Top 10 Worst Quarterbacks in the History of the NFL Ranked

Publish Date: 04/11/2024
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

It’s much easier to pick the top 10 Quarterbacks of all time than to choose the worst. Today, we will rank the top ten worst quarterbacks in NFL history. You will see a lot of names here that you might remember, and you might also see a player or two you have forgotten about. Plus if you are drafting a Quarterback in the first round you can still end up with one of the worst quarterbacks of all time.

The quarterback position is the most challenging one to play in all sports, and all of these guys were great players until they got to the NFL, but the NFL is a different sort of beast. This list is much more interesting than a list of the best; that’s easy to do. So sit back and enjoy our walk down memory lane; if your team had one of these quarterbacks at the helm, it might be more like a nightmare.

Active Quarterbacks will not be eligible to be on this list.

Criteria

The main criteria would be a penchant for turning the ball over and losing. A significant factor could be why a player failed; it could be just put into a dire circumstance; those quarterbacks will get off a little easier than the guys drafted in the first round and failed because of work ethic, mechanics, and attitude. I’m sure any true NFL fan can name a handful of bad quarterbacks, and we will lean more towards guys who were expected to be stars but came up well short.

10) Dave Brown, New York Giants

There haven’t been many quarterbacks taken in the supplemental draft who have excelled in the NFL, and even fewer from Duke who made an impactful debut after making it out. The Giants selected Dave Brown with their top selection in 1992’s Supplemental Draft; during his rookie year, when three other quarterbacks became injured unexpectedly, he made his first start on opening day!

Brown was injured during that game (not an ideal period for Giants offensive line play), yet led the G-Men to a 9-7 record during 1994 as their full-time starter. They won 11 games combined the following two seasons under Danny Kanell as a starter; that should tell you something!

  • Career Record 26-34
  • TD/Int 44/58
  • Completion Percentage 54.6
  • Career Passing Yards 10,248
  • Career Passer Rating 67.9
Video: Every Dave Brown Touchdown

Every Dave Brown Touchdown

9) Quincy Carter, Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets

Following several years of playing baseball professionally, Carter attended Georgia and was selected in the second round of the 2001 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys.

Carter never had more touchdowns than interceptions during his career with the Cowboys despite their record 10-6 mark. Unfortunately, after this success, he was released for “undisclosed reasons”, meaning Bill Parcells didn’t like him or saw no future for him. Carter signed on with the Jets, where he finished out his NFL tenure before dabbling in Canadian Football League and the Arena Football.

Maybe Bill Parcell’s greatest accomplishment was getting a Quincy Carter-led team to the playoffs!

  • Career Record 18-16
  • TD/Int 32/37
  • Completion Percentage 56.5
  • Career Passing Yards 6,337
  • Career Passer Rating 71.7
Video: Quincy Carter Highlights

Quincy Carter Highlights

8) Jack Thompson, Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Thompson ranks on this list as one of the biggest draft busts at quarterback ever. Drafted third overall in the 1979 NFL Draft (alongside Phil Simms and Joe Montana), Thompson’s college career at Washington State far outshone his professional one, setting numerous Pac-10 records and becoming college football’s all-time leader for passing yards at that time.

Bengals starter Ken Anderson had been often injured in the late 70s, and Thompson was supposed to be his replacement. Instead, he ended up third-string behind Anderson and Turk Schonert before he went on to fail in Tampa Bay also.

Thompson never won more than two games as a starter in any given year in the NFL and held a career completion percentage of 53.1; thus, he left football after six seasons.

  • Career Record 4-17
  • TD/Int 33-45
  • Completion Percentage 53.1
  • Career Passing Yards 5,315
  • Career Passer Rating 63.4
Video: Jack Thompson - Career Highlights

Jack Thompson – Career Highlights

7) Heath Shuler, Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints

Shuler was considered Washington’s quarterback of the future after being selected third overall and given a seven-year deal in 1994, yet began his rookie season with a 1-7 record, leading him to eventually be replaced by seventh-round pick Gus Frerotte after two disappointing campaigns. Frerotte finally took the starting job from Shuler after Shuler threw five interceptions in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals, where Shuler threw five interceptions.

Shuler retired from football due to a persistent foot injury after compiling two touchdowns and 14 interceptions for the Saints during one season. While football wasn’t his passion, Shuler became a North Carolina’s 11 District representative.

  • Career record 8-14
  • TD/Int 15/33
  • Completion Percentage 49.2
  • Career Passing Yards 3,691
  • Career Passer Rating 54.3
Video: Heath Shuler - Career Highlights

Heath Shuler – Career Highlights

6) David Klingler, Cincinnati Bengals

University of Houston product David Klingler was one of college football’s most acclaimed quarterbacks, once throwing 11 touchdown passes in a single-game and setting the single-season touchdown record with 54 in 11 games.

Unfortunately, Klingler could not carry his college success into professional football after being the sixth overall selection in 1992, playing on four less-than-stellar Bengals teams and being shipped off to Oakland. An elbow surgery in 1994 further limited his ability, eventually forcing him out by 1998.

Klinger’s biggest issue may have been that his offense at Houston in College was a run-and-shoot offense, and when he went to Cincinnati, they tried to turn him into a pocket quarterback. It also did not help matters that Klingler’s first start was against a great Steelers defense that sacked the rookie quarterback eleven times. Klingler is another one that proves that drafting a quarterback in the first round can still result in you having one of the worst  NFL quarterbacks.

  • Career Record 4-20
  • TD/Int 16-22
  • Completion Percentage 52.2
  • Career Passing Yards 3,994
  • Career Passer Rating 65.1
Video: David Klingler Career Lowlights

David Klingler Career Lowlights

5) Rick Norton, Miami Dolphins, Green Bay Packers

Norton was selected by the Miami Dolphins with the second overall pick in the 1966 AFL Draft, playing one season. A member of the Kentucky Wildcats Hall of Fame. As his passing game wasn’t nearly as developed as it needed to be for the NFL, Norton helped set an example of what not to do as a quarterback, once going 7-for-26 for 43 yards and five interceptions against them (32-7 loss).

As a Green Bay Packers quarterback, Norton had the highest-rated performance of his career when he completed 3-of-5 passes for 64 yards and one touchdown during his only appearance for the Packers. Norton holds the distinction of throwing the last professional touchdown pass at Wrigley Field. It came on a 29-yard pass to John Hilton in the fourth quarter of a 35-17 Chicago Bears victory over Norton’s Packers on December 13, 1970. At least he went out with a bang.

  • Career Record 1-10
  • TD/Int 7/30
  • Completion Percentage 41.6
  • Career Passing Yards 1,815
  • Career Passer rating 30
Video: 1969 Season - Miami Dolphins V.S. Denver Broncos Highlights!!!

1969 Season – Miami Dolphins V.S. Denver Broncos Highlights!!!

4) JaMarcus Russell, Oakland Raiders

Considering his ridiculous demands for a $61 million contract with $32 million guaranteed, Russell may have received one of the worst quarterback salaries ever offered in professional history. Russell amassed 23 career interceptions and 25 fumbles over three professional seasons while often arriving to training camps out-of-shape and overweight; he once came to Raiders camp nearly 300 pounds!

Russell lacked the work ethic or intelligence to be an NFL Quarterback. The Raiders coaching staff once gave him a blank videotape to break down the opposing team’s defense, and the tape was blank. Russell reported back what he saw from the tape, once again it was blank and proved what the raiders coaching staff suspected, Russell never even watched film.

I would go through Russell’s career highlights, but there are none.

  • Career Record 7-18
  • TD/Int 18-23
  • 25 career Fumbles
  • Completion Percentage 52.1
  • Career Passing Yards 4,083
  • Career Passer Rating 65.2
Video: How BAD Was Jamarcus Russell Actually?

How BAD Was Jamarcus Russell Actually?

3) Akili Smith, Cincinnati Bengals

Smith never managed to match up to his physical talent in terms of mental fortitude. On an NFL-administered Wonderlic Test (a score of 20 is considered average intelligence), and Smith only scored 16 out of 50 – barely enough to be considered literate!

Smith spent four seasons playing professional football in the National Football League before switching over to NFL Europe with the Frankfurt Galaxy before playing for various Canadian Football League clubs. This abortive career may have been better served with a professional baseball team instead, as Smith was a talented baseball player.

The Bengals turned down the Saint’s offer to trade their entire draft for the third pick in the draft. The Saints wanted to draft Ricky Williams, but the Bengals’ front office was so stupid that they passed on the trade because they thought Akili would lead them to the promised land. Smith was only the starter for one year in College, and he had a great season, but it was in an offence that was nowhere near an NFL offence. The Cincinnati Bengals have three quarterbacks on this list, so they are stacked with many of the worst possible quarterbacks in NFL history from the draft, the Bengals have been a home for NFL Draft Busts.

  • Career Record 3-14
  • TD/Int 5-13
  • Completion Percentage 46.5
  • Career Passing Yards 2,212
  • Career Passing Rating 52.1
Video: Akili Smith Career Lowlights

Akili Smith Career Lowlights

2) Ryan Leaf, San Diego Chargers

Ryan Leaf was an outstanding college quarterback at Washington State, yet he became the biggest draft bust ever in NFL history after he was selected at No. 1 overall in the 1998 NFL Draft. Many thought it was close when picking between either Leaf or Peyton Manning at No. 1. However, Leaf only played three awful seasons for the San Diego Chargers, with frequent verbal altercations with media members and coaching staff leading him while only completing 48.8 per cent of his passes!

When an NFL quarterback as highly-touted and physically gifted as Leaf takes this route, he becomes one of the worst ever seen in history. Nobody on this list was expected to be as good as Leaf. He seemed to have it all, and he did physically, but he lacked the intangibles to be an NFL Franchise Quarterback. he was immature and generally unprepared to get it done in the NFL. He had one game in his short career with a passing rating over 100.

  • Career Record 4-17
  • TD/Int 14/36
  • Completion Percentage 48.4
  • Career Passing Yards 3,666
  • Career Passing Rating 50
Video: The Biggest Bust In NFL History | The Story Behind Ryan Leaf

The Biggest Bust In NFL History | The Story Behind Ryan Leaf

1) Kim McQuilken, Atlanta Falcons

McQuilken may not have been around long, but what he accomplished in 26 games and seven starts is astoundingly forgettable. A third-round pick from Lehigh University, his 17.9 passer rating is the second lowest ratio ever seen in NFL history who had attempted at least 200 passes. He won only two of his seven starts as a Falcon Quarterback, reaching his arguable lowest point in a 1975 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, when McQuilken made 26 attempts with only five completions – and five interceptions.

His career spanned seven NFL seasons before he retired and joined the Washington Federals of the United States Football League, where he recorded seven touchdown passes and 14 interceptions during their 4-14 campaign in 1983.

  • Career record 2-5
  • TD/Int 4/29
  • Completion Percentage 39.7
  • Career Passing Yards 1,135
  • Career Passing Rating 17.9
Video: Kim McQuilken - Career Highlights

Kim McQuilken – Career Highlights

Honorable Mentions

Jack Trudeau, Indianapolis Colts

Trudeau began his rookie campaign 0-11, throwing 18 interceptions and eight touchdown passes. Although he stuck around for nine years after being drafted by Indianapolis, he never achieved the success expected of him when they originally signed him. Additionally, in 2007, after hosting his daughter’s high school graduation party, he was arrested for contributing to delinquency, an arrest that made headlines all across America and further highlighted his failing father skills—failing dad with bad quarterback skills.

Rick Mirer, Seattle Seahawks

Rick Mirer never managed to post a better than 7-6 season record during his NFL career, something the Seattle Seahawks did not anticipate when they selected him second overall in the 1993 NFL draft. Instead, Mirer finished his tenure with a 20-31 record before being traded to the Chicago Bears.

Chris Weinke, Carolina Panthers

Chris Weinke wasn’t exactly expected to provide Carolina Panthers much when they drafted him in the fourth round of the 2001 NFL draft; in hindsight, they likely would’ve done better by selecting skinny tie-wearing Bachelor Jesse Palmer instead. Still, Weinke threw the ball all over his rookie season both to teammates and opponents alike, finishing up with nearly 3,000 passing yards but no longer seeing much field time after losing his starting spot to Jake Delhomme after a 15-loss 2001 campaign. He finally ended his career in San Francisco in 2007. Weinke was one of the all-time great college Quarterback and he still ended up being one of the worst NFL Quarterbacks ever.

Andrew Walter, Oakland Raiders

Walter posted a career 3- 16 touchdown-to-interception ratio. A tall quarterback with a rifle for an arm, Walter never quite realized his potential. Immobile in the pocket and struggling to locate Randy Moss on the field. Additionally, Walter found it hard to read complex defenses. If given another opportunity, we’re confident he would’ve performed even worse and placed higher on our list!

J.P. Losman, Buffalo Bills

Sometimes, it can be instructive to view how college quarterbacks performed and wonder what NFL general managers think when making their choices. While Losman made headlines at Tulane University with his prolific passing totals. Losman suffered an injured leg early in 2004 for Buffalo and that would be his finest season for them because he didn’t play.

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