NFL Draft: 50 Biggest Quarterback Busts in NFL Draft History
During each NFL season, we hear the hotly debated story about who the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL are and how we should juggle eras, styles and other factors when evaluating them. Once the season comes to a close, we are reminded that, for every Tom Brady steal there's a first-round bust.
Here's a look at the 50 biggest quarterback busts in the NFL Draft's history.
50. Mike Kruczek
Drafted: Round 2, 47th Overall 1976
A better coach than player, Kruczek actually held the record for victories as a rookie until Ben Roethlisberger, with the same team, broke it in 2004. That would the highlight of Kruczek's playing career.
So why does a little-known guy make the list? Well, he was picked rather high for a guy who's career ended in 1980 after only five years and extremely mediocre statistics. The thought was he could develop into a starter, but he never really took to it.
Kruczek has been a coach since retirement and has done a great job in that profession. It seems that some poor NFL quarterbacks make better coaches at some level.
49. David Woodley
Drafted: Round 8, 214th Overall, 1980
Woodley will be best remembered for bridging the gap in Miami Dolphins history between Bob Griese and Dan Marino. He also spent a couple years with the Steelers as a part-time player. While never considered to be a top prospect, Woodley was regarded as a starter.
He has mediocre career numbers and never caught on with an NFL team. Like Kruszek, he's a toss-up player for the bust list, but the reality is he never really produced in the NFL despite flashing some good talent at LSU as a college player.
48. Kordell Stewart
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Drafted: Round 2, 60th Overall, 1995
For a guy who had basically one really good season (2001), Stewart stuck around the league for a decade. He was a phenomenal athlete and author of one of college football's greatest-ever plays.
But he never could cut it as an NFL starter.
The Steelers hoped to use Stewart as a combination quarterback/running back/receiver/punter/everything-else player, but Stewart had his hopes pinned on being a quarterback. He didn't like the Slash role that he was so good at and that could have made him an enduring star.
After wearing out his Pittsburgh welcome in 2002 when Tommy Maddox unseated him, Stewart flopped badly in Chicago before finishing his career as a backup quarterback and emergency punter for the Ravens in 2005.
47. Charlie Frye
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Drafted: Round 3, 67th Overall, 2005
Frye was one in a long line of quarterbacks who failed to get the Cleveland Browns out of the cellar. He was taken in the third round of the 2005 draft and was considered one of the more underrated passers in the class after a stellar career at Akron.
Unfortunately, Frye never developed into a good starter and eventually had to split time with other quarterbacks before leaving to become a backup in Seattle and Oakland.
He's a borderline on the bust list, but the fact that he was highly touted out of college and such a flop in the NFL puts him on this list.
46. Quincy Carter
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Drafted: Round 2, 53rd Overall, 2001
The Cowboys searched for a long time to find an heir to Troy Aikman. One of the first guys they tried was Carter, who was a great two-sport athlete in college. The baseball and football star was mobile and had a nice arm.
Unfortunately, Carter wasn't accurate and became part of a revolving door of Cowboys passers. His best year was 2003, when he led the Cowboys to a 10-6 record and playoff berth under Bill Parcells. However, he was released after the season under dubious circumstances.
After his release, he suffered drug problems during a short stint with the Jets and was released during the 2005 season. A promising career derailed by drugs gives Carter a cautionary tale to tell.
45. Danny Wuerffel
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Drafted: Round 4, 99th Overall, 1997
The 1996 Heisman winner was drafted in the middle of the 1997 draft by the New Orleans Saints, a quarterback deficient team hoping to develop a new passer.
Unfortunately, he was a lousy player.
He didn't have the arm strength or ability required of an NFL player. He had played in Steve Spurrier's offense at Florida and hadn't been able to transition to the pro level. He bounced around, eventually finishing with Spurrier's Redskins in 2002.
For his career, he threw only 12 touchdowns with just over 2,100 yards and never lived up to some very gaudy college numbers.
44. Rob Johnson
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Drafted: Round 4, 99th Overall, 1995
Johnson spent two seasons behind Steve Beuerlein and then Mark Brunell in Jacksonville before being trade to the Bills for a first- and fourth-round pick in 1998. Johnson had started one game to that point (in 1997), but the Bills thought a lot of him.
Sight unseen, he signed a five-year deal worth $25 million and he was spectacularly mediocre and injury prone. He couldn't hold off Doug Flutie, who proved to be more of a wizard under center despite his size deficiency.
Eventually, his inability to get rid of the ball earned him the nickname "Robo-sack." He would go on to became a journeyman backup who was better at getting injured while showing signs of life in camp and the preseason then in games that mattered.
He never lived up to his contract and ranks as one of the few guys who was a bust for a team other than the one who drafted him.
43. John Beck
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Drafted: Round 2, 40th Overall, 2007
Beck was brought in as yet another possible solution to replacing Dan Marino in Miami. He'd been great at BYU and the thought was he could develop into an NFL passer behind Trent Green, the team's then-starter.
After Green was hurt and backup Cleo Lemon flopped, the team turned to Beck in his rookie year. He lost all five of his starts and, instead of being given a second chance, was pushed back to number three when the team drafted Chad Henne and signed Chad Pennington.
Beck bounced to the Ravens in 2009 as a backup and stayed there in 2010 before moving on to the Redskins in 2011. Still trying to start his career, he was awful in a brief starting stint to relieve Rex Grossman in 2011.
42. Browning Nagle
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Drafted: Round 2, 34th Overall, 1991
Taken a pick after the Falcons selected Brett Favre, Nagle never lived up to the former's numbers. It was thought he could be the next quarterback for the Jets, but he lasted only three years in New York before moving on to the Colts.
He bounced around the NFL to the Falcons until 1996, when he left. He resurfaced in the Arena league in 1999 and 2000.
Nagle, for a guy selected just outside the first round, never had much of an impact in the NFL.
41. Giovanni Carmazzi
Tom Hauck/Getty Images
Drafted: Round 3, 65th Overall, 2000
The phrase "victim of circumstance" applies here. Carmazzi was taken in the third round and it was thought that he might be the team's future at the quarterback position. He never did.
Tim Rattay, drafted in the seventh round of the same draft, beat him out in 2001 and became the team's top backup behind Jeff Garcia—later a starter for a brief time. Carmazzi was out of the league after 2001.
He never threw a touchdown or interception and has a 0.0 rating. He also was drafted ahead of Tom Brady, Bay Area-native and Joe Montana and 49ers fan.
40. Mike Elkins
Drafted: Round 2, 32nd Overall, 1989
Elkins, who now fronts his own country band, found success in the music industry where he didn't find it on the football field.
Elkins was drafted in 1989 as a potential starter for the Chiefs, who'd whiffed earlier in the decade on Todd Blackledge (more on him later). Elkins never really found his place in the NFL. He played one season with the Chiefs before leaving for the World League of American Football (ever heard of it?). He returned in 1991 with the Browns and 1992 with the Oilers, but he never caught on.
He finished his short career with five yards passing and an interception for a 16.7 passer rating. That, folks, is a massive failure for a guy who was selected at the beginning of the second round of the NFL draft.
39. Jason Campbell
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Drafted: Round 1, 25th Overall, 2005
Campbell is still kicking, but he has disappointed to this point in his career. His lone saving grace here is that he's the best of the worst first rounders. They'll be no more non-first-round picks from this point forward.
Campbell started with the Redskins, but had trouble picking up the offense and making plays. He is turnover-prone on the field and has always struggled with injuries throughout his time in football. He's had better success in Oakland, but the team didn't believe in him enough to not trade the farm for Carson Palmer when he was hurt.
Campbell still has time to work his way off the list. But right now he ranks as a disappointing first-round pick by a team that's needed a franchise quarterback for a long, long time.
38. Daunte Culpepper
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Drafted: Round 1, 11th Overall, 1999
The brutal 1999 draft starts here (we'll see more of it littering this article). Culpepper was the most successful of the busts on this list, which isn't really saying much.
He put up some great numbers in spurts—particularly in 2004—but he never developed into the leader the Vikings needed to replace Randall Cunningham. His athleticism was often offset by injuries and ineffectiveness. He fumbled often as well, likely because of smaller hands.
Culpepper endured a terrible knee injury in 2005 and never really recovered. Despite making three Pro Bowls in his career, he's a bust because his career never really took off and was basically over after 2004.
37. Matt Leinart
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Drafted: Round 1, 10th Overall, 2006
The jury still might be out, but Leinart is running out of chances to impress in a league who's letters often can stand for "not for long."
What we do know is that Leinart was drafted in 2006 to lead the Cardinals but instead found himself on the bench in favor of Kurt Warner after he failed miserably to develop into a quarterback that Arizona could be proud of.
Leinart won a Heisman at USC, but that has never been a good indicator of NFL success. He's had accuracy and injury problems and is currently a backup with the Texans.
Maybe he can become a late bloomer. But he's been in the league for six years with nothing to show.
36. Rex Grossman
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Drafted: Round 1, 22nd Overall, 2003
You knew he'd probably show up somewhere.
Considered a gunslinger coming out of college and expected to be a Brett Favre-type quarterback at the pro level, Grossman has been both excellent and awful in his career. In almost a decade in the NFL, he's been to a Super Bowl and been benched multiple times by multiple teams.
Grossman has one major issue: interceptions. He throws them with great frequency and often at the worst of times. He has a career rating of 71.6, but he has only rarely been impressive. His best year was 2006, when the Bears reached the Super Bowl.
He's debatable, but it's just about safe to say he's a disappointment given the fact that he was a first-round pick and expected to be a franchise passer.
35. Byron Leftwich
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Drafted: Round 1, 7th Overall, 2003
The 2003 draft was slightly unkind to quarterback-needy teams. The Jaguars, struggling to replace aging Mark Brunell, took Leftwich as the heir apparent. He took over four games into the season.
Leftwich was a tough, strong quarterback who had a slow windup motion and no mobility. But the Jaguars thought he would be sturdy enough to survive in the NFL and would be able to use his biggest assets: a stronger-than-average arm and decent accuracy.
Unfortunately, Leftwich was a disappointment and has become an oft-injured backup. While he did win a Super Bowl ring in 2008 as a backup in Pittsburgh, his overall career is very disappointing for a top 10 selection.
34. Patrick Ramsey
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Drafted: Round 1, 32nd Overall, 2002
There are busts and then there are reaches who didn't work out. Ramsey is a bit of both.
He was highly regarded coming out of Tulane in 2002 and Steve Spurrier snapped him up to replace Tony Banks to run his high-power offense.
Ramsey was a reach at 32 in some ways, but he was also hurt by Spurrier's inability to groom a young quarterback. Ramsey bounced in and out of the lineup under Spurrier.
When Joe Gibbs was named the head coach, Ramsey was victimized by a bad line.
Ramsey has since been with eight teams as a backup and didn't make an NFL roster in 2011. With his career is likely over, he finishes as one of the least successful first-round quarterbacks ever.
33. Chad Pennington
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Drafted: Round 1, 18th Overall, 2000
We're in an area where the first-round picks are harder and harder to label busts because they either had some success or were set up for failure for various reasons.
Pennington was a mid-round selection in 2000 by a team eager to replace Vinny Testaverde, who was ancient at that point. He finally became a full-time starter in 2002 and quickly led the Jets to the playoffs.
Then the injuries began.
Pennington has endured success in brief spurts punctuated by endless injuries. His lack of arm strength hurts him and he's to the point now where staying as a backup will be difficult because he can't stay healthy.
32. Ken O'Brien
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Drafted: Round 1, 24th Overall, 1983
The hallowed 1983 draft produced Hall of Famers and busts. O'Brien is somewhere in the middle along with another guy (Tony Eason) we'll see later. O'Brien had some good and bad years but he never really distinguished himself.
The Jets brought him in after the Richard Todd experiment failed badly. He was taken three picks ahead of Dan Marino. His up and down career spanned 11 years and included a great 1985 season and tons of mediocre ones.
He stayed with the Jets until 1992 and split 1993 with the Packers and Eagles before leaving the game. His legacy is disputed because of decent numbers. But he never achieved the success expected of him given the year and the placement in the draft.
31. Mark Malone
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Drafted: Round 1, 28th Overall, 1980
The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Malone in the first round with the idea that he'd be the next great Pittsburgh quarterback after Terry Bradshaw. He stayed with the team until 1987. He had some good and bad years, but he never really took hold of the team.
Malone could never really shake the mediocrity in the NFL and routinely put up pedestrian numbers. He had tantalizing moments of success followed by periods of awful play. The Steelers traded him away in 1988 to San Diego and, after a game in 1989 with the Jets, he was done.
Malone is more mediocre than major bust. But in the NFL, first-round quarterbacks are supposed to anchor franchises, not play middling football for less than a decade.
30. Kerry Collins
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Drafted: Round 1, 5th Overall, 1995
Perhaps this is a bit unfair considering Collins has been in the NFL for well over a decade now. But he has never quite become the player people envisioned when Carolina brought him in during the 1995 draft.
Again, where you're drafted makes a difference. A guy failing after coming in from the sixth round isn't as big of a surprise.
Collins didn't so much fail as he just never lived up to the hype.
He had off-field problems with alcoholism and on-field problems with turnovers. But Collins was able to rebound and had some good years (and a Super Bowl appearance) with the Giants before fading back into mediocrity with the Raiders and Titans.
Overall, he had a disappointing career.
29. Brady Quinn
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Drafted: Round 1, 22nd Overall, 2007
The precipitous drop of Quinn on draft day (combined with the minute-by-minute coverage of him sitting alone in the Green Room waiting to be introduced) was some of the better theater ever in draft coverage.
But it foreshadowed what was to come.
Quinn was taken by the Browns after they traded back into the first round. It was thought he would team with fellow rookie Joe Thomas to help rebuild the Cleveland offense.
The fact that he'd been coached by NFL offensive guru Charlie Weis didn't help when he failed miserably with the Browns and was subsequently and unceremoniously dealt to Denver in 2010, where he now sits behind Tim Tebow.
28. Tony Eason
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Drafted: Round 1, 16th Overall, 1983
Eason is perhaps a victim of the year. The 1983 class might have been the best ever. Eason was picked two picks after Jim Kelly and before Dan Marino, yet he never had the same success.
Eason's best years were early, from 1984 to 1986, where he led the Patriots to a Super Bowl and was expected to replace the aging Steve Grogan. Unfortunately, Eason never put up the numbers expected of a top passer.
He moved on to the Jets in 1989, but never again regained the starting job regularly. His Super Bowl XX performance ranks as the worst ever and he is one of few quarterbacks to actually be benched during the title game.
27. Richard Todd
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Drafted: Round 1, 6th Overall, 1976
The Jets decided to replace one Alabama star (Joe Namath) with another when they selected Todd as the sixth pick in 1976.
Unfortunately, Todd would never replicate the success Namath—whom he replaced in the 1976 season—had with the Jets.
Todd had an awful first five years in New York and was well-known for having shoved a reporter into a locker following that reporter's assertion that the backup quarterback was a better option.
He rebounded some in 1981 and 1982 before leaving for the Saints in 1984. After two years in New Orleans replacing another Alabama legend (Ken Stabler), Todd was let go. He tried to go back to the Jets in 1986 but didn't make the cut.
26. Kyle Boller
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Drafted: Round 1, 19th Overall, 2003
Long known for having a great defense but little offense, the Ravens and coach Brian Billick opted for Boller in 2003 to hopefully end the revolving door at the quarterback position.
Unfortunately, the arrival of Boller led to Billick's eventual demise.
Boller had been a strong-armed quarterback at Cal, but never could master the NFL's defenses and speed. He was turnover as well as injury-prone.
By 2008, the Ravens gave up on Boller, who's moved on as a backup for the Rams and Raiders. He's still unable to generate much offense when on the field and has locked down his spot as the worst of the 2003 draft class of quarterbacks.
25. Jeff George
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Drafted: Round 1, 1st Overall, 1990
The Colts, looking for a franchise quarterback after a long period of futility, traded up in 1990 to get George and gave him the richest contract in league history for a rookie.
He would be playing for his hometown team, a blessing for most NFL players. For George, it was a curse.
He was a foul player on the field and displayed an equally foul attitude off it. He made rude gestures to fans, argued openly with his head coach (Ted Marchibroda) and demanded a trade. After four years, he got his wish and was shipped to Atlanta.
George experienced some success in Atlanta before his temper got him suspended by June Jones and shipped out again. He bounced around after that until 2006, last seeing significant action in 2004 with the Bears as their backup after a spat of injuries.
24. J.P. Losman
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Drafted: Round 1, 22nd Overall, 2004
Of the four quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2004 draft, the Bills got the worst of them. At the time of writing, the other three have three Super Bowl rings between them (one by Eli Manning and two by Ben Roethlisberger) and all are among the elite passers in the league.
Losman struggled with the Bills from 2004 through 2008 before moving to the UFL and then back to the NFL in 2009 as a backup for Oakland, Seattle and Miami. He's never showed the skills that made him a first-round pick.
The hardest part of this for Buffalo is that they actually traded back into the first round to get Losman, who's name is perhaps the best harbinger of future events ever.
23. Rich Campbell
Drafted: Round 1, 6th Overall, 1981
With Lynn Dickey an injury-prone starter coming off his lone healthy season, Bart Starr chose Campbell with the sixth overall pick after a disastrous 1980 season in Green Bay.
Campbell was a questionable choice given the fact that he displayed one of the weakest arms in league history with bad accuracy to match. After four years in Green Bay, his career was over when the team released him and no other team took a chance.
Green Bay would have been better off with Dickey under center, but Starr felt that a young player without the injury problems would be a better choice.
22. Tommy Maddox
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Drafted: Round 1, 25th Overall, 1992
With John Elway heading toward the second half of his career and having taken quite a pounding as a runner and passer, the Broncos decided to look for a guy who could be groomed behind him and be ready to step in once his career ended.
Two problems here. First, the Broncos underestimated Elway, who played through the end of the decade.
Second, and more importantly, they overestimated Maddox—who was selling insurance by the time the decade was up.
Maddox never developed and probably left school too early. He moved from Denver to the Rams, Giants and Falcons and was out of the league by 1997. He later sold insurance before returning surprisingly in 2001 with the Steelers.
Maddox won NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors in 2002 after leading the Steelers to a 10-5-1 record and the playoffs. He started in Pittsburgh until an injury forced a guy named Roethlisberger into action.
21. Vince Young
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Drafted: Round 1, 3rd Overall, 2006
Young was the favorite of Titans owner Bud Adams and was drafted over the objections of coach Jeff Fisher. He was not from a pro-style offense, had poor throwing mechanics and didn't score very highly on intelligence tests.
Young displayed some fine athleticism in his NFL career but never developed into a good passer. He could combine great throws with awful interceptions and his attitude and immaturity quickly led to problems with Fisher.
After some odd off-field incidents, both coach and quarterback were gone. Young has moved on to Philadelphia as a backup and it seems like he may never see the field again as a team's starter.
20. David Carr
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Drafted: Round 1, 1st Overall, 2002
After a good career at Fresno State, Carr was taken as the first ever draft pick of the Houston Texans. He quickly was baptized by virtually every pass rusher in the league and set a mark for most sacks taken in a season.
Carr never had much of a chance. He played behind the league's worst line and with a dearth of talent around him as far as runners and receivers.
He finally (mercifully) moved on as a backup for a few different teams, but he never found success in his career. He was likely rushed into action by a new team without the proper preparation or protection.
Carr may have been a victim of circumstances, but he ranks as one of the worst top draft picks ever.
19. Joey Harrington
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Drafted: Round 1, 3rd Overall, 2002
Another brutal draft for quarterbacks as the 2002 first round featured another bust, Joey Harrington.
Many thought the Oregon product should have won the 2001 Heisman, going so far as to display their frustration on a billboard in New York.
He was the opposite of the top guy on this list, always smiling and trying to maintain a good and positive outlook. Unfortunately, he was awful on the field and never developed into the franchise quarterback Detroit hoped for and needed.
He moved on as a backup for a few years. But has since moved on to show skills as a musician and chef.
18. Jack Thompson
Drafted: Round 1, 3rd Overall, 1979
Today, Troy Polamalu is the "Flyin' Hawaiian." In 1979, the Bengals drafted the "Thrown' Samoan" to be their next quarterback.
Jack Thompson had been a prolific college passer and seemed like a play who could move on to be a good NFL quarterback. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.
He spent a few seasons with the Bengals, but didn't impress. He was shipped off to Tampa Bay where he lost out to the much-traveled Steve DeBerg as their starting quarterback.
Thompson was the first in a long string of bad quarterback picks for the Bengals (stay tuned).
17. Kelly Stouffer
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Drafted: Round 1, 6th Overall, 1987
How long ago was this? The Cardinals were still in St. Louis (and the Rams were still in Los Angeles). As a team that never had much consistent success, being on this list should come as no surprise. Being on it more often is kind of an achievement.
Stouffer sat out his first season in a contract dispute (seems like a trend for busts to have contract problems). After the Cardinals tired of his act, they sent him to Seattle where he became a backup quarterback for the Seahawks.
Stouffer became an announcer after his career ended (another bust trend), but his NFL career never lived up to the hype given to being a first round pick for a struggling franchise.
16. Jim Druckenmiller
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Drafted: Round 1, 26th Overall, 1999
One of the worst quarterback classes in history, 1999 wasn't kind to San Francisco. Searching for an heir apparent to aging Steve Young, the 49ers drafted Druckenmiller late in the first-round as that guy.
He had great size (6'5") for a quarterback and a cannon for an arm. The story was that the kid from Allentown, Pa. could throw a football 100 yards.
Unfortunately, he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with the throw. His inaccuracy became legendary and he lasted only two years in San Francisco before being dealt to and released by the Dolphins. He attempted a comeback as a backup with the Colts in 2003, but didn't make it.
He threw for fewer than 300 yards in his brief career and had only a 29.5 quarterback rating.
15. Mike Phipps
Drafted: Round 1, 3rd Overall, 1970
The oldest name on this list, Phipps came out of Purdue after a fine collegiate career only to find the NFL was not so kind. The 1969 Heisman runner-up was taken by Cleveland two picks after the rival Steelers selected Terry Bradshaw.
What hurts more than anything about Phipps' journey to the Browns was that they traded their best receiver (and future Hall of Famer) Paul Warfield to get high enough to draft Phipps.
His on-field work was awful, but he did last until 1981. He finished with almost twice as many interceptions as touchdowns (55-108) and a passer rating of 52.6, one of the worst of all time in the modern era.
14. Jerry Tagge
Drafted: Round 1, 11th Overall, 1972
One of the older names on this list, Tagge will always be remembered for being under center for Nebraska in the "Game of the Century" against Oklahoma.
Unfortunately, he didn't spend much time under center in Green Bay.
He played three years with the Packers—his hometown team—and tossed only three touchdowns in that time period (against 17 interceptions).
When Bart Starr, who knew something about quarterbacking in Green Bay, took over as coach, Tagge was gone. He moved on to the equally unsuccessful WFL. He found some success in the CFL before a knee injury cut his career short.
13. Tim Couch
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Drafted: Round 1, 1st Overall, 1999
Trying to get an expansion team off on the right foot is never an easy task. But the Browns botched it from the word go when they drafted Couch as their first-ever draft pick in 1999.
Couch wasn't exactly a complete bust as the Browns did eek out one playoff season with him at the helm (partially). But he never became the Pro Bowl-caliber guy that Cleveland envisioned as their original building block.
He spent a lot of time injured, struggled behind a bad line and never distinguished himself in his brief career. He was out of football by 2007 after a failed comeback in Jacksonville.
12. Cade McNown
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Drafted: Round 1, 12th Overall, 1999
McNown was drafted in a rough year for quarterbacks, but that doesn't help disguise his bust-level much.
McNown was brought in with the thought that he'd finally give Chicago a quarterback to build around. The team had gone far too long with player after player failing under center.
Unfortunately, McNown was no better. He played only two years in Chicago and made enemies in and out of the locker room with his nasty attitude and lousy play on the field.
He moved on to Miami and San Francisco, but never managed to get on the field again as a starter. After only four years, he was gone for good from the NFL.
11. Dan McGwire
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Drafted: Round 1, 16th Overall, 1991
In the same draft that produced Brett Favre, McGwire was taken much higher as Seattle attempted to replace Dave Krieg. McGwire was a beast physically, a big guy who stood 6'8" and who was a strong-armed passer from San Diego State.
Unfortunately, small school success didn't equal professional success. McGwire struggled against stiff competition and forced the Seahawks to reconsider their quarterback position in the draft just two years later.
McGwire was out of the league after only five seasons and left a terrible taste in the mouths of Seattle fans who had hoped he would pan out as the next solid Seahawks passer.
10. David Klingler
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Drafted: Round 1, 6th Overall, 1992
We'll talk about Andre Ware in a minute, but Klingler was the same kind of player.
He put up huge numbers at Houston in a Run-and-Shoot system that was nothing like what was being done in the NFL. The Bengals bought into the numbers and took him.
But the player who once threw 11 touchdowns as well as 730 passing yards (both records) in a college game never transitioned it to the NFL.
Part of the problem was the Houston didn't then—and still doesn't—face the type of competition comparable to the NFL. He also didn't grasp a pro-style system. He was out of the league by 1998.
9. Todd Blackledge
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Drafted: Round 1, 7th Overall, 1983
The 1983 draft was a storied one, with some of the greatest ever quarterbacks to enter the league in the first round (John Elway, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino). That makes anyone who busted out of this draft, particularly at the quarterback position, a lightning rod.
Blackledge is that guy. He was picked by the Chiefs after a career at Penn State that included a National Championship in 1982. He was the second quarterback off the board (after Elway went first overall) and he had the hype to match.
Unfortunately, he never developed in the NFL and couldn't make the throws needed to compete. He had a short career and has since moved on to be a successful announcer.
8. Akili Smith
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Drafted: Round 1, 3rd Overall, 1999
The Bengals have a history of bad luck with quarterbacks. Smith might be the last one that was a huge bust, but he had a forgettable career with the Bengals.
He had a small sample size in college (one full season), but he was athletic and considered a two-sport star (he was a blue-chip baseball prospect too). All that athleticism, however, was teamed with a terrible ability to mentally prepare and grasp a playbook.
The Bengals could have traded this pick, but ended up staying put to draft Smith. They also get yet another spot on this list.
7. Andre Ware
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Drafted: Round 1, 7th Overall, 1990
One of the truths of the NFL is that college success doesn't equal NFL success. There may be no better poster boy for this than Ware, who won a Heisman at Houston but never did anything of note in the NFL.
One knock on college quarterbacks coming into the league is that so many of the guys with the big numbers do not play in NFL systems. They play in option, spread or, like Ware, run-and-shoot type systems
While teams have gotten smarter about this in recent years, Ware was thought to be a guy who could carry the Lions into the future along with running back Barry Sanders. He's found a home as a broadcaster, but he never could cut it in the NFL because of a lack of accuracy.
6. Rick Mirer
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Drafted: Round 1, 2nd Overall, 1993
He got off to a fast start in the NFL. As a rookie, he set records for yardage, completions and attempts. It seemed that the Seahawks had gotten it right this time after busting out on Dan McGwire two years earlier.
Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. Mirer never touched those numbers again and quickly became a forgotten journeyman backup quarterback and part-time starter for several teams in a career that didn't end until 2004 in Detroit.
He finished with a 63.5 quarterback rating but he never became anything close to what is expected of a first-round pick.
5. Heath Shuler
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Drafted: Round 1, 3rd Overall 1994
If you know anything about Peyton Manning's records at Tennessee, meet the guy who's records he broke. Shuler was an excellent player in college and the Redskins invested in him as their quarterback of the future.
Unfortunately, he never developed. He played two awful seasons in Washington before Gus Frerotte replaced him and he was traded to the New Orleans Saints.
He continued to struggle and then added injuries to his list of problems. Shuler retired with a 54.4 career passer rating and began a career in politics, where he's been much more successful.
4. Todd Marinovich
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Drafted: Round 1, 24th Overall, 1991
The Raiders selected Marinovich in 1991 with the idea that he'd be their star quarterback of the 1990s. Unfortunately, he never made it that far.
Marinovich was said to have been forced into a quarterback life by his father. His dad raised him for that career almost from birth and it eventually ruined him. He became a heavy drug user and has been arrested on multiple occasions for possession of various drugs.
He never excelled on the field either and was out of the league after 1993. He's now cleaned up his life and is an artist.
3. Art Schlichter
Drafted: Round 1, 4th Overall, 1982
More than anything, this was a sad story of unrealized potential and another cautionary tale about how something outside the game could ruin a career.
Schlichter was the last quarterback to work under legendary Woody Hayes at Ohio State and the Colts selected him fourth in the 1982 draft. Schlichter never developed into a pro passer from the standpoint of statistics, but his dark problems outside of football are what ruined his chances of ever finding success.
He had a gambling problem. He'd started gambling as a teen and by the time he reached the NFL, it was a full-blown addiction. He was arrested in 1987 as part of a gambling bust and gave the FBI information to keep from being penalized.
From a football standpoint, however, he was done. Like Pete Rose in baseball, he was banned for life by Commissioner Pete Rozelle.
2. JaMarcus Russell
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Drafted: Round 1, 1st Overall, 2007
Russell was said to possess a rare combination of arm strength and size. Many predicted it would be hard to pass on him with the first overall pick in 2007 and the Raiders didn't, selecting him to much fanfare. He then proceeded to hold out into the first week of the NFL season.
Then-coach Lane Kiffin elected to bring Russell along slowly in 2007 and he didn't make his first start until the final week. He was the starter again in 2008 and then again in 2009.
But by the end of the 2009 season, he'd developed a reputation as a lazy player who didn't work hard or prepare well and also as a player who was perpetually and massively overweight.
Russell was released in May of 2010 after a disappointing three-year campaign in Oakland and has not found employment in the NFL since. He's been considered one of the worst draft busts of all time and certainly could have been at the top of this list except for one player that might be a bit worse.
1. Ryan Leaf
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Drafted: 1st Round, 2nd Overall, 1998
He will forever be linked to someone at the very opposite end of the spectrum: Peyton Manning.
It's hard to believe now, but in 2012 there was once a fierce debate over whether or not Leaf or Manning would be the better quarterback in the NFL and who should go first overall.
In the end, the belief was that Manning was more mature and NFL-ready, so the Colts selected him first.
Leaf had the stronger arm and the more prototypical skills, but it didn't matter. He was awful in the NFL. He also had the worst attitude seen possibly ever. He wrecked the locker room, tormented reporters and blamed teammates for his lack of prowess.
Leaf was out of the league by 2002 and has become synonymous with the term "NFL bust." He may be the worst of all time, but he's certainly the worst among quarterbacks.