Harrington landed in one of the most unfortunate situations ever when the Lions drafted him in 2002. He arrived after a great career with the Oregon Ducks but this didn’t translate to the NFL. It didn’t help that Detroit failed to protect him or give him decent weapons. Meanwhile, the front office was dysfunctional and a nightmare to work with.
It was an appalling environment for a young quarterback but Harrington didn’t help himself. He tried to be the player that the Lions’ fanbase thought he was. He was an interception machine and his optimism annoyed the long-suffering support. It’s a shame that it didn’t work out for the former Oregon Ducks’ prospect (via Bleacher Report).
NFL quarterbacks don’t like playing for Gang Green as we’ve learned over the past few decades. They’re still talking about Joe Namath after he retired in the 1970s. They hoped that they turned a corner when they made Pennington their number-one pick in 2000. He was brilliant for the Marshall Thundering Herd and had an outstanding rookie season.
But two devastating injuries changed his career. He dislocated his wrist in 2002 and tore his rotator cuff in 2004. These ailments drastically reduced his capacity to throw the ball. Yes, Pennington won two Comeback Player of the Year awards but the injuries took their toll. It’s a shame because he had a high ceiling but couldn’t reach it (via SBNation).
A wise man once said that Chicago is where NFL quarterbacks go to die. The Bears traded for Cutler in 2004 after he showed promising signs in Denver. Cutler occasionally threatened greatness but never fulfilled expectations. It’s wrong to call him a total failure but Chicago didn’t progress the way that they expected.
They thought that they were getting an elite star after he made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2008. But that was the only selection of his confusing career. Arguably, the Bears clung to Cutler for too long and should have moved on quicker. It’s difficult to pick an actual highlight from his time in the Windy City (via Sports Illustrated).
Roethlisberger had an outstanding career with the Steelers as he helped them win two Super Bowl victories. There’s no denying that he was an excellent player in his prime. But there are two reasons why he’s on this list as he broke fans’ hearts. First, he’s a horrible human being and this made it difficult to root for him.
A quick internet search will show that ‘Big Ben’ treats women like garbage. This turned off a lot of people because they didn’t want their kids to idolize him. Meanwhile, the Steelers arguably should have moved on from Roethlisberger earlier. Injuries and age seriously affected his form before his eventual retirement (via The Guardian).
Darnold became the NFL’s youngest starting quarterback since the merger in 1966. The Jets rubbed their hands together because they thought that they had a prodigy on their hands. Unfortunately, the former USC star didn’t have a great time in New York. Jets fans partially blame the inept Adam Gase for his garbage coaching.
He destroyed Darnold’s confidence but the young man didn’t help himself. The youngster infamously ‘saw ghosts’ in one nightmare performance against the Patriots in 2019. Finally, the Jets decided that it was time to move on and traded him to the Panthers. He entered the pantheon of failed Jets passers (via Outkick).
Many rival fans felt a sense of schadenfreude after Andrew Luck retired. The Colts went from NFL icon Peyton Manning to a brilliant replacement in Luck. However, he quit the sport earlier than anybody expected. Indy desperately scrambled to replace him with short-term stopgap options including Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz.
Finally, in 2022, they signed Atlanta’s long-tenured quarterback Ryan. The former MVP was one of the best NFL quarterbacks of his era. But he struggled to adapt to a new system and had the worst season of his career. The Colts signed him because of his experience, but in the end, it was a disaster (via ESPN).
It may seem weird to include a fourth-round draft pick on this list. But Wuerffel wasn’t an obscure college quarterback when he was taken by the Saints. He came off one of the best college years ever as he won the Heisman and Davy O’Brien trophies. But the Gators star had a nightmare in the NFL as he failed to make the grade.
New Orleans fans hoped that the franchise pulled off a coup when he fell to the fourth round. But they should have known better because he didn’t have what it took to be a professional starter. He enjoyed more success in NFL Europe than in the big league. It’s a shame that it didn’t work out for him (via Heisman).
The Texans made Watson a first-round draft pick in 2017 after his excellent title-winning college career at Clemson. He quickly proved that he was a blue-chip passer as he secured three straight Pro Bowl appearances. He was one of the best NFL quarterbacks in the league when he decided the Texans weren’t going anywhere.
To be fair, Watson wasn’t wrong because they were a dysfunctional mess. The fans forgave him for this because it was a wild situation. But he broke their hearts when news emerged of his chronic sexual misconduct with a huge number of massage therapists. This turned a lot of fans away from the Georgia native because it was gross behavior (via N.Y. Post).
NFL teams rarely experience two back-to-back Hall of Fame quarterbacks. The Niners achieved this with Joe Montana and Steve Young. Meanwhile, the Packers are replicating this feat with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. But imagine being a mediocre player who ends this incredible run of good luck (via Washington Post).
Sadly, Druckenmiller found himself in this position in 1997. San Francisco said they’d groom him as Young’s successor and this raised expectations through the roof. But he failed to impress and repeatedly threw the ball to opposing teams. This crushed the Niners fanbase as the franchise fell into a miserable malaise.
It says everything about the state of the 2006 quarterback draft class that Vince Young and Matt Leinart were the first two names off the board. The Cardinals selected Leinart as Kurt Warner’s replacement but he spent most of the time as a backup. This was very disappointing because they had high hopes for his ceiling (via Fansided).
Later, the injuries and interceptions began to increase and fans turned against Leinart. The 2004 Heisman winner didn’t have the NFL career that people projected. Remember, he opted to stay in USC for his senior year instead of declaring for the draft in 2005. Instead of going to Arizona, he would have gone to San Francisco.
It may feel harsh to include Newton on this list because he’s arguably the most talented Panthers player ever. The 2015 MVP had an iconic season as his franchise stormed to the Super Bowl. In the end, they lost that game but their fans expected them to be back. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as Newton fell off a cliff (via Sky Sports).
Newton was amazing for Carolina before his form deteriorated and injuries struck. Then he was never the same player again. He tried to make comebacks in New England before rejoining the Panthers again. Few NFL quarterbacks had his stunning combination of attributes. Newton brought the Panthers so close to the promised land before fading away.
The Colts couldn’t believe their luck when Luck fell into their laps in 2012. This came after Peyton Manning missed the entire year because of neck surgery. They went 2-12 and finished with the worst record in the NFL. Meanwhile, Luck had decided to finish his degree at Stanford before entering the NFL Draft (via ESPN).
Suddenly, Indy had the perfect successor to their franchise icon. There’s no denying that Luck was a brilliant player and he made four Pro Bowl appearances. He also led the league in passing yards in 2014. But they wasted his amazing talent by failing to protect him and he shockingly retired right before the 2019 season at the tender age of 29.
Earlier we spoke about Matt Leinart and the terrible quarterback draft class of 2006. The Titans made Young the third overall pick that year after his amazing exploits at Texas. His performances for the Longhorns arguably made him the greatest quarterback in their history. Finally, Tennessee had a genuine franchise quarterback to bring them forward.
Everything went well in Young’s rookie year as he made the Pro Bowl and won Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. But he was an interception machine and it increasingly became a problem. Meanwhile, Young had problems off the field and lost his $35 million fortune. Psychological problems affected the young star and unfortunately, his life fell apart (via Bleacher Report).
Unlike most of the players on this list, Brees is on this list because he was brilliant. He was one of the best NFL quarterbacks for 20 years and became a New Orleans icon. The Saints fans couldn’t believe that it was the end of an era when he finally retired. It also left a gaping hole in their offense.
Brees was the best pure passer in the NFL when he was in his prime. He set a ridiculous number of passing records and won a Super Bowl with the franchise. Meanwhile, he broke hearts again when he confirmed that he was stepping away from football. He had no interest in becoming a coach one day (via Essentially Sports).
The Cleveland Browns have had some terrible luck drafting quarterbacks over the years. However, the warning signs were already flashing before they drafted Manziel in 2014. The former Aggies’ prospect had an outstanding college career but he loved partying and drugs. Meanwhile, some coaches found his arrogance to be more than they could handle.
Despite this, the Browns made him a first-round pick and invested their future in him. Unfortunately, he joined the ranks of Heisman Trophy winners who flopped after they turned pro. It hurt the fans because they hoped that they’d turn a corner with Manziel under center. Instead, he was out of the NFL after just two seasons (via Sportskeeda).
It’s easy to forget that a significant minority of analysts thought that Leaf had more long-term upside than Peyton Manning before the 1998 NFL Draft. The Chargers secured Leaf as the second overall pick after Manning went to Indianapolis. However, these NFL quarterbacks had contrasting careers as Leaf experienced the worst of lows.
Leaf was one of the biggest busts in history because he never reached his full potential. Yes, a wrist injury damaged his prospects but there were massive problems before this. His immaturity and personal issues made him a nightmare for coaches to deal with. Leaf’s career was over before he inevitably walked away from the NFL (via Deadspin).
Foles will always be a hero in Philadelphia after his incredible Super Bowl MVP performance. However, Jacksonville fans prefer to pretend that he doesn’t exist. The franchise signed him to one of the worst contracts in history in 2018 with $50 million guaranteed. They couldn’t predict that he’d only play four games for them.
Foles had a nightmare in Florida but spare a thought for their front office because this was shocking. Injuries and poor form limited his performances to less than a handful. In the end, they traded him to the Bears where he reverted to backup status. This one hurt the fans because it was a lot of money spent foolishly with no return (via SBNation).
The New York Jets continued their fruitless search for a franchise quarterback in 2021. They controversially opted for BYU star Zach Wilson over the likes of Trey Lance, Mac Jones, or Justin Fields. Critics observed that Wilson played against limited competition in college. They saw the move as a risk but he was still a top prospect (via The Mirror).
In the end, it was Wilson’s garbage performances that told fans everything. The brash young star threw interceptions like nobody’s business and made dumb decisions. During the offseason, he broke up with his girlfriend after allegedly sleeping with her mother. His immaturity and poor play made him one of the worst busts in the Jets’ history.
Denver fans were ultra-optimistic when the franchise successfully lured Wilson to Mile High City in 2022. He was one of the most consistent NFL quarterbacks for a decade in Seattle. They believed that the perennial MVP contender would bring them back into contention. But Wilson broke their hearts because his form fell off a cliff after he left Pete Carroll.
It didn’t help that rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett couldn’t teach a dog to bite a postman. However, Wilson posted career-record lows across every metric and disappointed everyone. Meanwhile, he annoyed his teammates with his alleged arrogance behind closed doors. This wasn’t what fans expected at all (via Seattle Sports).
Favre remains one of the greatest quarterbacks in Green Bay history. But the Cheeseheads don’t have the same emotional attachment to him anymore. That’s because he damaged his relationship with the franchise after he departed in a rage. They wanted to move on with Aaron Rodgers after Favre’s millionth retirement.
It hurt the Packers fanbase when Favre allegedly told his coaches about his old playbook. But it stung them more when he ended his career with the Vikings. This move was too much for many Green Bay natives and they never forgave him for this. It’s a shame because he achieved a lot during his time in Wisconsin (via Daily Beast).
It’s fair to say that Vick changed the sport when he played for the Atlanta Falcons. He wasn’t the first rushing quarterback but he was the best that fans had ever seen. The former Virginia Tech star was brilliant during his time in Georgia and was on course for a Hall of Fame career. But then a federal investigation uncovered his notorious dogfighting ring.
Vick broke his fans’ hearts on and off the field. Diehard football fans couldn’t believe that he betrayed the franchise and left them in the doldrums. Meanwhile, decent people thought that his behavior was horrific and couldn’t support him anymore. Vick made an NFL comeback but there was always an asterisk next to his name (via MSN).