Arizona Cardinals QB Derek Anderson's NFL career may be summed up best by the late Dean Martin with one simple question: "How lucky can one guy be?"
His stats resemble that of a journeyman backup QB, with career totals of 46 TDs to 45 interceptions, 21 fumbles (eight lost), a pedestrian 52.9 percent completion rate, only 7,093 yards, and a woeful QB rating of 69.7.
Yet somehow, he appears poised to begin the 2010 season as the Cardinals' starting QB.
In 2005, Derek was selected in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens (213th overall), but he would never play a down in a Raven uniform. He was cut on Sept. 20, 2005, and was signed by the Cleveland Browns the very next day. So began an NFL career that any good poker player would recognize as nothing more than a dumb luck hot streak.
The Browns had featured nine starting QBs from 1999 through 2005 and made the playoffs only once in that stretch as a wild-card team. On Dec. 13, 2006, Anderson would become the 10th.
Starter Charlie Frye injured his wrist late in the first half of a game that the Browns were losing to the Kansas City Chiefs 28-14, and Anderson would enter the game in relief of the injured Frye. Anderson led the Browns to a 31-28 comeback victory in overtime, throwing two TDs to TE Steve Heiden in the second half, and so was ushered in the Derek Anderson "era" in Cleveland.
How many games will Derek Anderson start for the Cardinals this season?
The following year, Anderson started 15 of the team's regular season games. On the surface he looked successful, leading the team to 10 wins. Anderson threw 29 TDs to 19 interceptions, which does seem very respectable, but there were at least 12 more balls that bounced off the hands of defenders and, in some cases, bounced right off their chests.
Also, the Browns played what was quite possibly the easiest schedule in the entire league (AFC East, NFC West, Oakland Raiders, Houston Texans).
The Browns' Week 16 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals would put the team in a win-and-get-in playoff scenario, but Anderson threw five picks in his worst outing of the season and the most meaningful game of his young career. The Browns would fall short of a win, losing 19-14, and ultimately miss the playoffs yet again.
Even with the sting of a terrible season-ending loss still on Anderson's tongue, an injury to New England Patriots QB Tom Brady that he suffered in the playoffs left a Pro Bowl spot open, and Derek Anderson had already been named the first alternate QB, putting him into the Pro Bowl.
This turn of good fortune, compounded with his team falling just short of the postseason, left Browns fans very optimistic for their new QB and the 2008 season.
The team opted not to trade Anderson for value, despite many teams showing interest, and the fans were all set for a playoff run. But the 2008 season would be quite a bit different than the last.
The Browns were playing one of the five most difficult schedules in the league on paper. They started four different QBs over the course of the year with Anderson playing in only 10 games. He threw only nine TDs to eight picks, completing only 50.2 percent of his passes for a QB rating of 66.5. The team would finish 4-12, dead last in the division.
Still, Anderson was given the opportunity to compete for the starting job with second-year QB Brady Quinn in the Browns' 2009 training camp. The new head coach liked what he saw from Quinn, and with fans calling out for change, Anderson ultimately lost the job. It didn't look good for the young QB, but fate wasn't done smiling on Anderson just yet...
Quinn played so poorly in his first 10 quarters of action that Anderson was once again named the Browns' starting QB. The fans were happy with the change, but their enthusiasm quickly turned to disgust, as Anderson swiftly posted one of the league's lowest QB ratings and his worst statistical output in a season to date (three TDs, 10 INTs, 44.5 percent completions, 42.1 QB rating).
Anderson would start seven games, and Quinn finished out the year leapfrogging Anderson as the starter in a battle-of-the-not-as-bad QB. The team finished 5-11.
This season of bitter disappointment prompted yet another change at QB, and both Quinn and Anderson were let go in the offseason. Derek's future once again looked bleak.
Then Arizona Cardinals starting QB Kurt Warner walked away from $13 million and retired, leaving the team in the incapable hands of QB Matt Leinart. The Cardinals definitely had a hole at the QB spot that needed to be filled, and even after all of Derek Anderson's miserable play, he was called upon to fill it.
After the team's poor output in their second preseason game of this, the 2010 season, Anderson was named the starter of the third preseason game. Neither Anderson nor Leinart has looked anything better than average thus far, and all reports are pointing to old No. 3, Derek Anderson, winning the starting job for the season opener.
I'm inclined to root for Anderson to succeed. After all, with the stats that he has produced, he gives the everyman a window of hope: "If he can do it, maybe I can too!"
All jokes aside, though, Anderson has been given at least two more chances to succeed than most QBs ever get in the NFL. It's now up to him to show us all that he deserves the chances he has been given—or maybe, just maybe, his luck will finally run out.