Culpepper was a member of one of the best Vikings’ teams in recent memory. The QB never won a Super Bowl and some fans hold this against him. But the three-time Pro Bowler suffered a gruesome knee injury after the best season of his career. This effectively brought his Minnesota tenure to an early end. However, Miami offered him a second chance in 2006.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. He only started four games for the franchise as he tanked miserably. It was brutal but mercifully short. Culpepper took 21 sacks in those games as opposition teams exposed his lack of mobility (via ESPN). He played for Oakland before a couple of seasons with the Lions but his time as a starter was finished.
Rivers departed the Chargers after 16 seasons with the franchise. His form deteriorated in his final couple of seasons but the Colts snapped him up as a free agent. They offered him $25 million as a single-season stop-gap solution to their quarterback problem. Overall, his time in Indiana was a mixed bag. But his Colts tenure definitely didn’t start well.
To be fair, he wasn’t all bad throughout his debut against the Jaguars. But he tanked in the final quarter as he literally threw the game away. Rivers picked the worst moment to throw a second interception and the Jaguars claimed their only win of the season. CBS Sports revealed that the latter part was the worst detail of this horrible start to his Colts tenure.
The Indianapolis Colts were desperate to draft Manning in 1998 because they knew he had a high ceiling. However, every rookie endures teething problems and the future Hall of Famer was no different. A single quarterback can’t revitalize a team’s fortunes on their own. Manning’s Colts went 3-13 in his first season because it took another summer to put a team together.
Furthermore, he tanked in his debut against the Dolphins. The future icon completed just 21 of 37 passes and threw three interceptions (via CBS Sports). Meanwhile, Miami sacked him four times in a rough start to life as a professional. Hilariously, some fans believed that Indianapolis should have taken Ryan Leaf instead of Manning.
By the end of his career, Smith won a lot of love and respect because he overcame grueling odds. But the quarterback didn’t have a good start to his career. In fact, his rookie season is the stuff of notoriety because it was horrendous. The opposition sacked him 29 times and he threw 11 picks throughout the year. Meanwhile, he only achieved a single touchdown pass in the 11 games he started (via KSL Sports).
That touchdown came in the final game of the season against the Texans. It’s safe to say that he tanked as a rookie. But Smith grew into the role of starting quarterback and blossomed under Jim Harbaugh in 2011. Furthermore, he was part of one of the greatest comeback stories in NFL history. It looked like his career was over after he broke his leg in 2018 but he rebounded.
Elway is arguably the most iconic personality in Denver history. But the legendary Broncos quarterback tanked completely in his debut for the franchise. Fans eagerly anticipated his first appearance against the Pittsburgh Steelers but it didn’t go the way that they expected. Elway only made it to halftime as he bruised his right elbow. This forced Denver to pull him from the game.
In all honesty, it was a relief because he played terribly. He completed just one of eight passes for 14 yards in the first half (via The Washington Post). Meanwhile, the Steelers sacked him four times and intercepted him once. He also fumbled the ball for good measure. It was the worst possible start to his career but luckily things improved drastically over the years.
Foles’ tenure as Jags quarterback ended after just 119 throws. They signed him to an $88 million four-year contract after he won the Super Bowl with Philadelphia. But this deal was a disaster from start to finish. Things started badly as he broke his clavicle on his debut. The team actually stabilized when they brought Gardner Minshew in as his replacement.
But Foles returned in Week 11 and tanked miserably. The Jaguars lost to the Colts and the Titans before the end finally came. Tampa was smashing Jacksonville 25-0 when the Jags finally benched him for Minshew. They had no choice but it was a move that hurt the franchise in many ways. It impacted his trade value and also cost numerous coaches and administrators their jobs (via SBNation).
An all-time great for Pittsburgh, Bradshaw is a name synonymous with success. But to say that he tanked his rookie season is an understatement. He was lucky that social media didn’t exist in the 1970s because fans would have crucified him online. Bradshaw established the worst single-season passer rating in NFL history at just 30.4 (via Fansided).
This came about after he completed just 83 passes for 1410 yards. He threw 24 interceptions with just six touchdowns all year. Meanwhile, some cruel critics insulted his intelligence because of his rural roots. Nobody thought that he was going to become a four-time Super Bowl champion but he proved the doubters wrong. What a turnaround it was.
McNabb had a great career in Philadelphia but things didn’t go so well in Minnesota. He proved why it’s not always a good idea to bring in a veteran quarterback on a short-term contract. It was a painful season for the NFL veteran because he ended his time in the league as Christian Ponder’s backup. But the writing was on the wall after several poor performances.
It didn’t help that he tanked on his debut against the Chargers. He threw an interception on his first attempt and completed less than half of his passes. Things became worse when he went one for two in the second half for just two yards (via Twin Cities.com). In the end, he finished the game with a grand total of just 37 yards against a mediocre San Diego defense. That’s why he started only six games for the franchise.
Allen deserves a lot of respect because things were tough for him in his first year. The Bills’ quarterback set records in passing and running but that doesn’t tell the full story of his season (via The Ringer). His coach dropped him in the deep end when they brought him on against the Baltimore Ravens. The Bills were down 40-0 and he had no chance of making an impact on that game.
Meanwhile, his first start against the Chargers was also a loss. Allen showed flashes of talent but ultimately he tanked. The Chargers sacked him five times and picked him off once. He showed improvements year after year in the NFL before becoming one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league in 2021.
Luck’s overall rookie season wasn’t bad but he definitely tanked his debut. The Colts star faced off against the Chicago Bears on the first day of the new semester. He received a baptism of fire because the Bears rattled him with their ferocity. He completed just 23 of 45 pass attempts for 309 yards. Meanwhile, the opposition sacked and intercepted him three times respectively (via ESPN).
Fortunately, things improved for Luck and the Colts. They ended up posting an 11-5 season and made it into the postseason. Luck’s debut didn’t inspire confidence but he rebounded and became one of the team’s most important players. He also instigated seven game-winning drives as a rookie. This goes to show how he developed and learned from his mistakes.
One of Dallas’s best-ever quarterbacks, Aikman spent 12 seasons with the franchise. The three-time Super Bowl champion played during one of the Cowboys’ most successful eras. But things didn’t start well for the future Hall of Famer. In fact, his rookie season debut was horrendous. The team tanked and Aikman was winless in his 11 starts (via Sportscasting).
The Saints hammered Dallas 28-0 on his season debut as Aikman discovered the reality of life in the NFL. Things didn’t get easier over the course of the season as the Cowboys only won a single game. Nobody expected him to become the longest-tenured QB in franchise history, but Aikman turned it around. In the end, the hapless rookie became a franchise legend.