Quarterbacks are the most celebrated players in the NFL. They provide the most historic moments because they are effective conduits for their teams’ success on the playing field. But unfortunately, this exposure makes their mistakes all the more visible to their fans as well as the watching world.
Today, we’re going to look at some historic quarterback mistakes. This article comes with a trigger warning because it will bring back some painful memories for a lot of fans. Firstly, there are iconic Super Bowl-winning QBs who made errors at the worst possible time in key games. Then, there are the back-ups who haunt the dreams of their franchises’ fanbases because they were so awful. Check out the list below via Radio.com.
35. Wasted Opportunity
2020 saw Dwayne Haskins blow his big opportunity as a starter with the Washington Football Team. He made waves after breaching health regulations to visit a strip club. Meanwhile, it was the night of a loss and the week of a playoff push. He also endangered his head coach Ron Rivera, a cancer survivor. Furthermore, many of his teammates avoided their families over the holiday season out of dedication to the team.
“He’s like a Johnny Manziel-lite,” Washington fan Bill Myers wrote. “Flashes of competent play in yet another losing effort, but it’s all wrapped up in an immature guy who is oblivious to the opportunity he’s destroying. He doesn’t show respect for the game, and he definitely isn’t showing respect for the team.” Overall, Haskins made a terrible error of judgment by any comparison.
Carson Wentz had an incredibly bad 2020. Eventually, Eagles head coach Doug Pedersen benched the mega-money quarterback for Jalen Hurts. They first benched him in the third quarter of a game against the Packers which saw him complete just six of 15 pass attempts for 79 yards. Furthermore, he had led the league in interceptions and incomplete passes at that point.
Jake Ellis became a Wentz fan when he watched the QB play for NDSU. He was disappointed but still had faith in the Super Bowl champion. He said, “People that don’t know football probably think he was a blowout in the end. But people that know football know that it’s not just him.” In the end, it didn’t matter much because the Eagles traded him to the Indianapolis Colts at the end of the season.
One of the most unique mistakes on this list saw Baker Mayfield get into it with one of his own fans in Cleveland. The Browns quarterback endured a very difficult time in 2019 before turning things around the following season. The fan warned him not to lose to the Cincinnati Bengals because they were a 1-14 team at the time. However, Cleveland did exactly that in a miserably historic season for the franchise.
But Mayfield responded to the fan and told him to come down and say it to him. “We’re not allowed to, you know that,” the fan responded. In short, he implied that Mayfield only trash-talked him because he had protection on the field. Mayfield’s mistake saw the fans on his back as they heckled him and told him to come up to the stands and talk to them. It definitely wasn’t a smart move.
“Joe Flacco against New England was the worst ever,” one Baltimore fan said. “He went four for 10 for 34 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception. I think his QBR or whatever, was 10. He added five rushing yards. That was one of the ugliest, one-sided playoff games I’ve ever seen in my life.” This game came on Wild Card Weekend in 2009 and it didn’t go well for the Ravens at all.
To be fair, injuries compromised him and it wasn’t even the worst game of his career. But it’s unfortunate when a quarterback as effective as Flacco at his best was unable to assert himself upon a game. Instead, the Patriots went to the next round by winning 33-14. It was a dismal day for the Ravens who expected much better. But New England is one team that is historic for finding ways to win.
It’s easy to forget that the Chiefs went for 50 years without a Super Bowl appearance but the reality is that they were terrible for many years. However, they broke their playoff duck against the Houston Texans in a comprehensive 30-0 blowout. This was a historic result for Kansas City but it was also a diabolical display by Houston quarterback Brian Hoyer who arrived as a free agent the previous offseason.
“Hoyer against the Chiefs,” one Houston fan acknowledged. “The Chiefs are a team notorious for choking in the playoffs and broke the trend largely thanks to him.” The Texans had five turnovers all game and he was directly responsible for them all. Four interceptions and a fumble meant that his stat line made for grim reading after the game. In the end, fans booed him off the field.
“Felt like Neil O’Donnell was paid off in Super Bowl XXX against Dallas,” one Steelers fan said darkly. This installment of the NFL’s showpiece game took place in 1996 and saw Pittsburgh suffer their first-ever Super Bowl defeat. Their quarterback O’Donnell played a key role in their defeat because he really was bad. Nobody wants to play so poorly on such a historic occasion, but there’s no excusing his performance.
His three interceptions cost his team the game. Meanwhile, his passing wasn’t on point as he completed just 28 of 49 pass attempts. Finally, they released him after the game and he ended up playing for the New York Jets. But he wasn’t very good for them either as his career petered out. Unfortunately, that’s the way it goes for some players. It’s just difficult to bounce back from a Super Bowl defeat.
“Definitely not the all-time worst because there were zero expectations, but Connor Cook was heinous,” a Raiders fan said. The former Michigan State standout has one historic statistic accolade to his name. He was the first quarterback to make his first start in the postseason, but that was as good as it got for him.
He did throw a single touchdown in that game against the Texans. However, he also threw three interceptions and completed just 18 of 45 passes for 161 yards. That was effectively the end of his NFL career because he never played in the league again despite popping up in multiple preseasons and practice squads. Furthermore, he briefly signed up to play for the XFL, but the league fell apart.
“Brock Osweiler vs. the Patriots in the 2016 divisional round almost ruined football for me,” a Houston fan said. “The Texans’ defense had that game close and would have had a shot to win that game if any other QB was in the place of Osweiler. Osweiler decided to throw three picks in the second half and cost the Texans the game.” It’s insane that the Texans were there in the first place with their 9-7 record, but Osweiler made certain they were sent home early.
This game is infamously historic for many Texans fans because he was so awful. The Texans have had very little to celebrate throughout their reasonably short existence but who knows what would have been possible if Osweiler kept his composure. They already benched him for Tom Savage earlier in the season and fans expected the latter to start this key game but the rest is history.
“I recently watched Super Bowl XXXIX, and it’s honestly shocking the final score was remotely close,” an Eagles fan wrote. “McNabb’s stats aren’t too terrible: 30 out of 51 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns. But three interceptions and four sacks tell the whole story. Man, that was rough.” Donavon McNabb endured mixed fortunes against the Patriots in 2005.
While he did play a significant part in the Eagles’ late surge, he was also responsible for some key errors. In such a key game, these proved extremely costly. It could have been a historic day for Philadelphia, but McNabb didn’t handle the pressure. There’s no doubt that he deserved a Super Bowl ring more than Nick Foles a few years later, but football is a funny game. Oh, and he puked.
In 2005, Ben Roethlisberger was a pimple-faced rookie and helped the Pittsburgh Steelers to the AFC Championship Game. However, the young man didn’t play well against the New England Patriots and tried to claim that he broke two of his toes. His three interceptions were extremely detrimental to the Steelers’ cause and he only completed 14 of his 25 pass attempts.
“According to Ben, he had two broken toes, although coach Cowher and the Steelers organization both made it clear that no such injury ever occurred,” one fan said. This historic fact is one of the strangest sidenotes from the game. Needless to say, it wasn’t the end to the season that the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year expected. But those are the breaks.
“Dan Marino in his final game was so bad,” a Miami fan acknowledged. “If I remember right he actually threw more passes to the Jags defense than his own receivers. The last three quarters were all garbage time.” This fan was correct because the Jacksonville Jaguars demolished the Dolphins in Marino’s final NFL game. They felt no sentiment for the legendary NFL quarterback in a blowout victory.
The final score of this ugly and historic game saw the Jaguars emerge 62-7 winners. Finally, after a single series in the second half, the Dolphins pulled him from the game. It wasn’t that he was the only terrible player on the field but obviously he received a lot of attention because of the occasion. Meanwhile, it also ended his last hope of winning a Super Bowl.
“Your QBs may be bad,” one long-suffering Niners fan said. “But they’ll never be Cody Pickett going 1-13 for 28 yards and an interception bad.” In sum, Pickett was horrendous. He only started two games in his two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers but he forced everybody to sit and suffer. The game that this fan referred to was against the Chicago Bears in 2005.
It was the second of his two starts for the Niners that was the clear worst of the bunch. Pickett threw two incomplete passes in the first half and was almost equally ineffective in the second. But he almost scored a touchdown before running into Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher. He is definitely one of the most dreadful historic quarterbacks as he made mistake after mistake.
Jake Delhomme was a consistent NFL quarterback until his 34th birthday. Then came a historic turning point in his career because he proceeded to have a meltdown at the worst possible time. The Carolina signal-caller turned the ball over six times against Arizona as he handed the game to the Cardinals. It was unexpected and disappointing from the Panthers star.
“It’s insane, too, because he was actually a very decent QB to that point,” one Panthers fan said. “But man, was he bad from there on out. If I remember correctly, it was also his birthday the day of that game.” This latter detail only made this game even more notorious because people felt like it was even more pathetic. Up until this NFC Divisional round game, the Panthers were unbeaten at home all season.
Steve Stenstrom only played three games for the San Francisco 49ers but they were so bad it wasn’t right. One of those games saw them host Pittsburgh and it still haunts fans of a certain generation. They had two awful quarterbacks in Stenstrom and Jeff Garcia. In short, the Steelers destroyed the Niners on that day and their two QBs played like high schoolers.
“I attended this game, rode in a hatchback to Candlestick, drunk, wet, and windy,” one older fan revealed. “I was miserable and that performance by Stenstrom/Garcia was the worst I had seen in my real young football life. It is still the worst QB performance I have ever seen in person.” The Niners Nation were accustomed to historic greats like Joe Montana and Steve Young but this was a massive decline.
The Dallas Cowboys have had some poor quarterbacks down through the ages. However, one fan was emphatic about who their worst historic signal-caller ever was. “It’s got to be Brandon Weeden,” he said. “But the worst actual play by a QB I’ve seen on my team was when Cassel threw an interception and getting called for intentional grounding on the same play.”
This shambolic play came in 2015 against the New York Jets. Matt Cassel threw the ball straight into the hands of the Jets’ Darrelle Revis. No receiver was nearby so this prompted an intentional grounding call in an unusual and unflattering situation. Unfortunately, every quarterback is capable of making a ridiculous error but this is one that Cassel struggled to shake off.
“Curtis Painter,” a Colts fan said. “During the 14-2 season in 2009, we benched Manning and let Painter play. In those two games, he threw the ball 28 times and completed just eight passes with two picks.” In sum, Painter was an absolute disaster for Indianapolis. Of course, it’s almost impossible for a franchise to have two mature elite quarterbacks at the same time. But the step down from Peyton Manning to Painter was substantial.
His first appearance that season was against the New York Jets. Painter played terribly as he threw an interception. He also fumbled the ball which resulted in the Jets returning it for a touchdown. Things didn’t improve because he played horrendously in the first quarter of their next game too. Finally, they took him out of the firing line because he was so bad. But at least he had luscious hair.
The 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year had an incredible story. Alex Smith almost died after he broke his leg and it turned septic. Nobody expected him to play again, but he proved the world wrong. However, the star quarterback hasn’t always had an easy time on the football field. In one game for the San Francisco 49ers, he was subject to one of the bleakest chants ever. It was in 2010 when the Niners played the Eagles.
This moment is infamous and is also historic. “We definitely had worse QBs than Alex but that ‘We Want Carr’ game was one of the lowest moments in recent history for Niner fans,” agreed one Niner. Smith fumbled the ball and the Eagles returned it for a touchdown. Meanwhile, there were three straight incompletions that sent fans over the edge. Mike Singletary almost listened to the fans but Smith talked him out of it.
“If we’re counting preseason, I don’t know how Tyler Palko got to the NFL, much less how he got a contract elsewhere after he left New Orleans,” one Saints fan mused. He was absolutely right because Palko was definitely out of his depth in the NFL. In 2007, he was the Saints’ third quarterback in the preseason but it didn’t go well. Their final preseason game saw him mishandle three snaps in a 7-0 win over Miami.
He never played a game for the Saints and proceeded to bounce around practice squads for the next couple of years. However, Palko ended up in Kansas City where he still sends shudders down the spines of their fans. Let’s just say that there is a big difference between Palko and Patrick Mahomes. He was their starter for four games in 2011 but the only thing historic was how bad he was.
Daniel Jones had the unenviable task of taking over from Eli Manning. Somehow, he managed to avoid the criticism that the likes of Sam Darnold and Carson Wentz endured because everybody forgot that he existed. Everybody that is except for New York fans who watch him every week. One moment in 2020 stands out because it was hilarious and it summed him up as a player.
The Giants played the Eagles when Jones found himself in space. He sprinted for 80 yards before falling over his own feet. “It was such a Giants thing to happen,” said John Gromadzki. “If it was the Jets, he would have given himself a concussion.” This moment is guaranteed to become a historic NFL blooper because it was so laughable. Maybe Sam Darnold’s ghost tripped him up.
“I just had a flashback of Troy Smith against the Packers,” one Niners fan shudders. “Gotta take my break from work now.” This was an appropriate response because Smith was one of the worst quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen. Even the best signal-callers make mistakes, but in this case, he was the mistake. The Packers defeated San Francisco 34-16 in that game while Smith was appalling.
Smith started six games for San Francisco before the Niners replaced him with Alex Smith. He did have some good moments in red and gold, but the reality was that he lacked the consistency to make it as an NFL starter. Finally, he left the league for the CFL where he finished out his football career with the Montreal Alouettes. It just goes to show that not every Heisman Trophy winner will become a historic legend.
Some quarterbacks know they will never be regular starters in the NFL. That’s okay because they still make a lot of money and avoid a lot of head trauma. But they are also the butt of many people’s jokes because they have no meaningful legacy. When they do play, fans shake their heads in frustration. “Brian St. Pierre in 2010 at home vs. the Ravens,” said a Panthers’ loyalist. “I was in attendance like always and boy was that awful performance.”
By the time St. Pierre joined the Carolina Panthers in 2010, he had only thrown five passes in his NFL career. Furthermore, he had two appearances to his name. But they made him their starter for a game against Baltimore and paid the price. He completed just 13-of-28 passes and threw two interceptions, with one touchdown. That was his final NFL appearance.
It’s difficult to dislike Tim Tebow unlike some of the athletes on this list. But by any historic measure, he was one of the worst quarterbacks in NFL history. The former Florida Gators standout had a stellar college career but failed to establish himself as a legitimate starter with the Denver Broncos. Finally, he ended up in the Patriots practice squad where he made one preseason appearance. Overall, it was painful.
“I don’t remember the exact stat, but it was horrendous,” said one loyal Pats fan. “In his one quarter, Tebow went one for seven, with zero touchdowns, an interception, and like -5 yards passing.” Surely, fans should have praised Tebow for his unique ability to achieve negative yardage because that’s very rare in professional football. Needless to say, the Patriots didn’t add him to their regular-season roster.
When it comes to quarterback mistakes, the New York Giants have made some historic bad decisions. For a long time, the franchise was safe in the hands of Eli Manning. They did win two Super Bowls with him as their starter but he wasn’t as brilliant as some people say. However, when it comes to their worst ever, then Tommy Maddox enters the equation. In short, he was terrible.
“Tommy Maddox had the worst one-game performance I’ve seen out of a QB,” one Giants fan agreed. ” But Dave Brown was probably the worst long-term starter.” Maddox was a special kind of bad. He didn’t start many games for New York but he was terrible when he played. Against the Eagles in 1995, he completed just six out of 23 passes with three interceptions and a sack.
Sadly it’s impossible to say anything kind about Simms’ time with the Denver Broncos. “Oh, lawd (sic) was Simms terrible,” said a Broncos fan. “To put in perspective how terrible he played for us, we put an injured Kyle Orton back in because we couldn’t endure another second of him.” This is entirely true. Simms started a single game for Denver but it was an absolute disaster.
His lone start came in 2009 against the San Diego Chargers. Simms only played the first quarter because his performance was so poor. He managed to complete just two of four passes for a meager ten yards. Orton suffered a sprained ankle in their previous game against Washington but the Broncos still brought him on. In his final stats, Simms completed just five of 17 passes with no touchdowns and a single interception.
Cam Newton joined the New England Patriots in 2020 as a free agent. The former NFL MVP admitted that this was a case of the last-chance saloon to be a starting quarterback. But the Patriots went through a period of transition and he struggled for consistency. They lost a must-win game to the Buffalo Bills as Newton made a disastrous mistake by fumbling the ball at the end of the game.
This infuriated the fans because they missed the greatest quarterback in NFL history in Tom Brady. One of the more reasonable comments was from a fan named Ryan Jackson. He wrote, “I hate to pile on because it’s not all his fault, but he is the opposite of Brady. He has now lost two times in game-winning situations.” Meanwhile, the less kind supporters targeted Newton’s wild fashion choices and penchant for dancing.
Philip Rivers retired after a single season with the Indianapolis Colts, but it was his final two years with the Chargers that showed he was on the way out. One game against the Kansas City Chiefs in December 2018 displayed the weaknesses of his game. First, his first pass of the game resulted in a Chiefs’ touchdown. Then Kansas intercepted his final pass of the half.
Jason McIntyre reacted to his Rivers’ mistakes. Unlike many fans who shredded the quarterback, McIntyre made it clear that he respected the veteran. “Classic Philip Rivers,” he wrote. “Great drive and then an interception in the end zone. Big Rivers fan, yes he’s going to the Hall of Fame but that is his career in a nutshell.” It’s also why he lacks the same historic aura as contemporaries Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
“Kent Graham was so bad, it was like watching Drew Bledsoe with asthma and cataracts,” said a Pittsburgh fan. “Distinctly remember him throwing like 5 INTs against the expansion Browns.” Graham spent most of his 10-year NFL career as a backup. The former Ohio Buckeyes standout was never a consistent starter for any franchise because he simply wasn’t reliable enough.
Speaking of which, he started just five games for the Steelers but that was enough to seal his place in infamy. The game against the Browns was just one of several terrible displays. He went 13-for-28 in completed passes in that game as the Browns hammered them. Finally, Pittsburgh pulled the plug on this disastrous experiment and installed Kordell Stewart as their starter.
Billy Joe Hobert neglected to read the playbook,” said a Bills fan. “Maybe we start there? There are some crazy historic quarterback mistakes on this list but most of them are in-game mistakes. Those are somewhat forgivable but Hobert committed one of the worst offenses in NFL history. Many regard the QB position as the most difficult in the world of sport because they must remember so many plays.
However, Hobert simply didn’t bother. In 1997, the Bills played the Patriots and Todd Collins suffered a shoulder injury. Then, Marc Levy told Hobert it was his time to shine. Hobert hadn’t expected to play and so he didn’t spend any time preparing for the game. Needless to say, it was a disaster and the Bills didn’t feel forgiving afterward. They waived him for his negligence.
Todd Collins played for the Chicago Bears in 2010 after he agreed on a one-year deal with the franchise. This was a quarterback whose most historic achievement was a record 10-year gap between NFL starts. But for some reason, the Bears decided to take a chance and sign him up. He only made three appearances including a single start in Week Five against the Carolina Panthers.
“Todd Collins was so bad it made me wonder how exactly he was employed as an NFL quarterback,” wrote a Bears fan. “That game against Carolina where he threw four picks and six completions and we won was maybe the oddest game I’ve ever seen.” Collins completed just six of 16 passes for 32 yards. Meanwhile, he threw four interceptions before the Bears took him out of the game.
The New York Jets sank to a new low during Adam Gase’s reign as head coach. Before his arrival in the Big Apple, he made it clear that he was a quarterback guru. However, the opposite proved to be the case as he totally ruined Sam Darnold. One of Darnold’s worst games came against the New England Patriots in 2019. This game is historic because he infamously said, “I’m seeing ghosts.”
“He was seeing ghosts,” explained a Green Gang member. “The whole night he was seeing things that weren’t there. He was continuously getting picked off, and outsmarted by the Patriots defense. Worst game I’ve ever seen Sam Darnold play. Must’ve felt like a complete idiot at the end of it.” Darnold went 11-for-32 in completed passes and also threw four interceptions against the Patriots.
“When Clausen played for us against the Seahawks a couple of years ago, our team had more punts than he had completions,” a Bears fan revealed. “Our punter was punting so much, he got injured from overexertion.” Of course, he’s talking about the nightmare that was Jimmy Clausen. Clausen began his NFL career with the Panthers but ended up in Chicago after they waived him.
The game this fan referred to was in Week Three of 2015. It clearly illustrates the historic problem the Bears have in the QB position. Clausen was grim in that game because he was so out of his depth. Firstly, he completed just nine of 17 passes and threw just 48 passing yards. After this terrible display, he never started for the Bears again and joined the Ravens a few weeks later.
Beck was one of the worst quarterbacks ever to step onto an NFL field. “I’ve never seen someone look so scared and out of place on the field,” wrote one Washington fan. “Just terrible.” This was very true. The former Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year award winner failed to adapt to the professional game. Beck started his career with the Miami Dolphins and was horrendous for them.
It’s not that he committed a single historic mistake but rather the fact that he was the mistake. In one “solid performance” for Washington, he threw 22 out of 37 attempts against the Carolina Panthers. “I remember when he got his first start against us in 2011,” reacted a Carolina fan. “Our defense was terrible. He was even worse.” To sum up, he was terrible.
“Every once in a while I feel melancholy and contemplative. I turn off my phone, pour a whiskey, and put on my old Gabbert jersey,” wrote one Jaguars fan. “Then I just sit there. In the quiet. I think of every mistake I made in my life, like paying full price for a Gabbert jersey. I’ll go to bed sad and let a deep sleep take over. When I wake in the morning it’s refreshing. I survived the darkness.”
In short, Blaine Gabbert still makes Jacksonville fans shudder. His 2013 season was terrible by anybody’s standards because he played terribly and endured injuries. In three games he threw seven interceptions and just a single touchdown. Incredibly, this journeyman signal-caller is a Super Bowl winner because he served as Tom Brady’s backup in Tampa Bay.
“He’s washed up,” said Pittsburgh fan, Juan Johnson. “That’s not hating. His deep ball had been falling off for years. Ball has no zip on it. Defenses don’t have to fear the deep pass so they can stop the run and short passing game. Nice franchise player, I appreciate what he did but Ben is done.” After Pittsburgh suffered a historic loss to the Cleveland Browns in 2021, their fanbase turned on ‘Big Ben.’
The general consensus was that he was too old. In sum, a combination of injuries and age had damaged his ability as a starter at the highest level. Roethlisberger threw four interceptions with three picks in the first 20 minutes of game time. It was a shambolic start for the veteran but things didn’t improve. Cleveland forced him into a very active game but he was incredibly wasteful throughout.
Tom Brady had one of the worst games of his career in Week nine of 2020 against the New Orleans Saints. He threw three interceptions with no touchdowns and also posted a 40.4 passer rating. Meanwhile, the Saints blew the Buccaneers out of the water with a 38-3 scoreline. Then, the media and fans immediately dissected all of Brady’s mistakes and asked if he was simply too old.
Alonso Cavera, a Tampa fan, defended Brady in front of the masses. “How did 2003, 2014, and 2018 end for Tom Brady’s teams?” he said. “Anyone know?” Of course, in 2003, 2014, and 2018, the legendary quarterback won the Super Bowl with the Patriots. Furthermore, Cavera proved correct because that is exactly what happened as he won a historic seventh ring. That’s more than any franchise ever.