One of the few players on this list with a redemption story, Newton is currently reigniting his career with the New England Patriots. However, this comes after an extraordinary decline that saw him spend significant time as a free agent. Finally, Bill Belichick decided to take a chance and brought him in to fill Tom Brady’s boots.
The 2015 MVP regressed significantly in 2019 as a combination of injuries and a lack of motivation affected him. After suffering a Lisfranc fracture, the Panthers placed him on injury reserve. There were big questions over his ability to convince a franchise that he should play but he has a second chance.
The Dallas Cowboys’ backup is near the end of his career. After eight seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, Dalton finally moved on following the arrival of Joe Burrow. Dalton threw for over 3,000 yards in each of his first three seasons. Furthermore, he helped his team to the playoffs five times, which nobody can sniff at.
However, Dalton is also the definition of mediocre. He doesn’t do anything brilliantly to set himself apart from his counterparts. But he remains a model professional. Despite his decline, Dallas signed him to help Dak Prescott. By no means a worldbeater, he is still a solid athlete.
Rivers left the Los Angeles Chargers for the Indianapolis Colts after 16 years of service. The 38-year-old is perhaps the least-vaunted of the golden generation of elite veteran quarterbacks but has a cannon of an arm. Furthermore, he made the Pro Bowl eight times in his career.
But there is no doubt that his level has dropped. Rivers was awful in his last season for the Chargers. Of course, he didn’t have much protection or the greatest weapons, but it still felt like the right time for them to cut ties with him. Now he has to prove that his decline isn’t insurmountable with the Colts.
NFL fans remember McMahon for his thrilling Super Bowl season with the Chicago Bears. However, injuries decimated his career and caused him to abruptly fall into decline. In short, McMahon suffered an obscene number of concussions that affected his on-field ability and off-field life.
His form dropped dramatically and he never recovered. Eventually, the Bears had enough and traded him to San Diego. That kicked off a nomadic period for the quarterback and he only managed three more seasons as a franchise. To sum up, the game took its toll on the veteran.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers thought that Freeman was their franchise quarterback and the early signs were good. However, his decline was swift. For two seasons he was solid, but then it all went downhill very quickly. In 2013, he completed less than 50% of his total pass attempts in three straight losses.
Then the Buccaneers traded him to the Vikings and things didn’t get better. His single start for Minnesota saw him complete just 20 out of 53 passes. It was horrendous. Freeman only played one more game in the NFL.
When Winston entered the NFL, it looked like he had it all. After an excellent first season, he even made it to the Pro Bowl after Tom Brady withdrew from the showpiece event. Ironically, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would replace Winston with Brady just a few seasons later.
There is no doubt that Winston has the potential to turn things around. However, he throws far too many interceptions and has the most pick-sixes in an NFL season. His decline is stark and Winston now sits on the bench behind Drew Brees in New Orleans.
There’s no doubt that Cassel had a bizarre career. He served for years as Tom Brady’s backup before finally taking over the position in 2008 while Brady recovered from injury. This convinced the Kansas City Chiefs that he was worth bringing to Missouri, and it all started so well.
Cassel had the season of his life as he helped the Chiefs to the playoffs and even made the Pro Bowl. However, it was all downhill from there as he went into severe decline. He served as a back-up at every other franchise he played for and never lived up to his full potential again.
One of the most notorious figures in NFL history, Vick initially rebounded successfully from his time in jail. He helped the Eagles to an NFC East title. In sum, it looked like two years of warming a jail cell hadn’t damaged his abilities. But it wasn’t the case.
The following year, his turnover rate doubled. Just like that, he lost his place as the Eagles’ starting quarterback. From there he went on to become the Steelers’ back-up and floated around the NFL until the end of his career. Nobody wanted him as he sat as a free agent for his final year.
Poor Griffin. His career is ongoing but there’s no doubt that it has never recovered from the traumatic ending to his rookie year. A revelation with the Washington Redskins, he won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award to cap a brilliant season. But then the record-breaker tore ligaments in his knee.
In sum, the decline was immediate. Despite significant rehabilitation, Griffin was a ghost of his former self. Instead of becoming a franchise quarterback as the Redskins expected, he has drifted around the league as a back-up quarterback. Finally, he serves as a warning to all young quarterbacks how quickly things can change.
It’s very easy to forget that Kaepernick wasn’t good in his final season with the San Francisco 49ers. For all of his social justice work outside of football, his on-field contribution was in severe decline. Of course, people don’t like to mention that when they condemn NFL teams for not signing him.
If Kaepernick was elite like Patrick Mahomes, then they would be after him in a flash. But the reality is that he couldn’t nail down the starting QB slot ahead of Blaine Gabbert in his last two years in San Francisco. From 2015 on, he was never the same player as before.