NFL Heartbreakers: Quarterbacks Who Left Their Fans Devastated

Darren - March 15, 2023

NFL Heartbreakers: Quarterbacks Who Left Their Fans Devastated

Darren - March 15, 2023

NFL quarterbacks receive more attention than anybody else in the sport and deservedly so. They conduct everything on the field, combining athletic prowess with sharp minds. Every team dreams of finding the most elusive athlete in the game: the ‘franchise quarterback.’ However, this is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Today we’ll look at 30 NFL quarterbacks who tore out their fans’ hearts. Many draft busts on this list arrived with massive expectations but didn’t live up to them. Many other seasoned stars also left their teams behind for rival franchises. Meanwhile, some older veterans failed to impress when they signed new and lucrative contracts with other teams. But they all had one major thing in common, and that was the fact they let their fans down in devastating fashion. Check out the quarterbacks that broke fans’ hearts below.

Sky Sports

Carson Wentz

Wentz is one of the most confusing NFL quarterbacks ever. He enjoyed a decent rookie season before leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl appearance in 2017. However, the former second-overall pick didn’t play in the championship game following a torn ACL in a late-season game against the Rams. He watched as his backup Nick Foles became the game’s MVP and the only signal-caller to lead the Eagles to a Lombardi. Wentz’s career quickly went downhill in a startling manner from this moment  (via Indy Star).

Sports Illustrated

Over the next couple of seasons, Wentz lost the respect of the locker room. His play declined and he began throwing interceptions like they were going out of fashion. In the end, MVP contender Jalen Hurts usurped him as Philly’s starter. It was disappointing for the fans because he arrived with so much potential as the team mortaged much of the future to draft him. Since then, he has played for Indianapolis and Washington without much success and was most recently cut by the Commanders.

NFL Spin Zone

JaMarcus Russell

The Oakland Raiders thought that they drafted the quarterback of the future when they selected Russell with the top overall pick in 2007. But he held the team to ransom until they agreed to pay him $68 million. Meanwhile, there was the slight problem that head coach Lane Kiffin didn’t want him. But Al Davis overruled him as the Raiders made him the first pick.

Sports Illustrated

In the end, the former LSU prospect only spent three seasons in the league. He disappointed fans on and off the field as he showed a complete lack of professionalism. This vindicated Kiffin after Davis harshly fired him because he knew it would go wrong. Few NFL quarterbacks have destroyed their reputations as quickly as Russell (via Sporting News).

The Spun

David Carr

It’s harsh to include Carr on this list because it’s not entirely his fault. The former Fresno State star arrived in Houston as the first overall pick. Their fans thought that they had signed one of the most exciting NFL quarterbacks ever. But they didn’t see the best of the signal-caller because he took too many sacks behind the expansion team Texans’ nonexistent offensive line (via Pro Football History).

Pro Football History

Carr ludicrously took 249 sacks during his five-season tenure in Texas. The Texans failed to protect him properly and this affected Carr’s game. The rattled star began throwing more interceptions as he released passes too quickly. It was crushing for the fans because they thought he would be an all-time great but it didn’t happen.

Matthew Stafford

Stafford spent a decade in the wilderness with the Detroit Lions before he joined the Rams. He had an up-and-down career in the Motor City with some great performances but occasional declines in form. However, the overall consensus was that he was one of the most underrated NFL quarterbacks (via CBS Sports).

Sporting News

Sean McVay agreed and decided that he was the man to get the Rams over the line in their Super Bowl quest. McVay and the Rams soon sent former Super Bowl starter Jared Goff and multiple first-round draft picks to Detroit for Stafford. The move worked perfectly and Stafford departed to win his first ring. Most Detroit fans gave Stafford their blessings when he left the franchise. But there’s no denying that he broke some hearts because they wanted him to stay.

Washington Post

Robert Griffin III

Griffin had a sensational rookie season as he shattered records. The Baylor product lit up the league with Washington and made the Pro Bowl. Washington fans gleefully rubbed their hands together because they thought they had a future Hall of Famer. However, a torn ACL injury when he met the Seahawks in the playoffs destroyed the careers of one of the most exciting young NFL quarterbacks ever.

Washington Post

The story was that Griffin damaged his knee ligaments before the playoffs. But the Redskins and head coach Mike Shanahan rushed him back into action and he further damaged them. The quarterback was never the same player after he came back and eventually lost his place as a starter. He recently finished his career as Lamar Jackson’s backup in Baltimore before retiring (via CBS Sports).

Sports Illustrated

Tom Brady

Brady is in an unusual position on this list because he didn’t do anything wrong. The legendary QB spent 20 seasons with the Patriots before he finally departed. This came after his relationship with Bill Belichick deteriorated. However, it broke the hearts of the New England fanbase because they adored him.


Many of them wanted understandably wanted the greatest quarterback of all time to retire as a Patriot, but that didn’t happen. Instead, he joined the Buccaneers and became a Tampa legend when he won his seventh Super Bowl ring. Furthermore, they added gloss by winning the coveted prize in their stadium. Brady cut ties with Foxborough and cast his flag in Florida (via NBC Sports).

Florida Times-Union

Blake Bortles

The Jaguars made Bortles the third overall pick in 2014 because they desperately needed a quarterback. The former UCF star had a great college career and he had a powerful physique. Jacksonville bet the house on him but he failed to live up to expectations. Bortles remained the Jaguars’ starter for five seasons but threw a stupid number of interceptions.


Finally, they lost patience and Bortles fell to QB3 status as he drifted around the league. It’s safe to say that he never replicated the form that made him a star in Central Florida. Yes, he helped the Jaguars to one AFC Championship game but he wasn’t the reason why they got there (via Sporting News).

Bleacher Report

J.P. Losman

The Bills spent two decades trying to replace Jim Kelly without success. They thought that they struck gold when they drafted Losman in 2004. Remember, there were some outstanding NFL quarterbacks in this class. Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger all entered the league this year.

Sports Illustrated

A freak accident in his rookie season summed up Losman’s Bills’ career. His teammate ran into him and broke his leg as he lost momentum. 2006 was his best year because he started every game but had poor weapons. Losman disappointed the fans because he wasn’t the player they thought they were getting (via Bleacher Report).


Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers became an icon in Green Bay after he replaced fellow legend, Brett Favre. The Super Bowl winner became a four-time MVP with the franchise as he elevated their levels. However, he arguably betrayed them in 2022 as he threatened to leave. This came after a season that saw Rodgers fake vaccinations and frequently discuss conspiracy theories.

Sports Illustrated

The Denver Broncos saw an opportunity to snatch one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks ever. However, Green Bay didn’t want to lose their star and they paid him his dues. But this move divided the Packers fanbase because some of them felt like he lacked respect. The franchise gave him everything but he showed his true nature (via Sportskeeda).

Detroit Free Press

Joey Harrington

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.

BVM Sports

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).


Chad Pennington

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.

Sports Illustrated

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).

New York Times

Jay Cutler

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.

Front Office Sports

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).

Sporting News

Ben Roethlisberger

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.

Sporting News

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).

Sky Sports

Sam Darnold

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).

Sporting News

Matt Ryan

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).

CBS Sports

Danny Wuerffel

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).


Deshaun Watson

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).

Pro Football History

Jim Druckenmiller

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).

Pro Football History

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.

USC Athletics

Matt Leinart

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).

L.A. Times

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.


Cam Newton

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).

The Athletic

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.

Fox News

Andrew Luck

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).

San Diego Union-Tribune

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.

Bleacher Report

Vince Young

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.

National Football Foundation

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).

L.A. Times

Drew Brees

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).

Sports Illustrated

Johnny Manziel

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.

All Sport

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).


Ryan Leaf

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.

Ezra C. Shaw

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).

NBC Sports

Nick Foles

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).

Bleacher Report

Zach Wilson

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).

Sky Sports

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.

New York Times

Russell Wilson

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).

CBS Sports

Brett Favre

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).

NBC Sports

Michael Vick

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.

Sky Sports

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).