Have You Forgotten These Former NFL Quarterbacks?
Perhaps no single position in any American sport garners more glory than quarterback. Look no further than the likes of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to see how star quarterbacks can transcend sport and permeate mainstream pop culture. But not all quarterbacks have the staying power of Manning or Brady. QBs who were once seemingly the brightest of stars have burned out — or at least withdrawn from the spotlight, often not by choice. Here's where some of those quarterbacks are now.
As the quarterback at Notre Dame from 2003 through 2006, Brady Quinn had it all: the looks, the wins and the NFL scouts eyeing his every move. Quinn played in a number of big-stage games commanding the Fighting Irish football team, throwing for over 11,000 yards and 95 touchdowns during his collegiate career.
Joey Harrington was a star in college at Oregon, but he never achieved that status in the NFL. In fact, he never came close to living up to the lofty expectations that inevitably come with being selected early in the NFL draft. It wasn't all Harrington's fault; the Detroit Lions teams he played on just weren’t that great.
Jared Lorenzen was known by the nickname "The Hefty Lefty" because he threw left-handed and was well above the weight for the typical quarterback. But despite well-known struggles with his weight, Lorenzen was able to lead the University of Kentucky to relevance in the Southeastern Conference — a rare feat for the school.
Byron Leftwich is arguably the most important quarterback in the history of Marshall University, which is saying more than you might think. His iconic winning drive in which his offensive lineman carried him down the field because of his broken shin will forever live on in college football lore, but it wasn't the end of his story.
Marc Bulger was always one of those quarterbacks who never said much but always seemed to put up strong statistical numbers, even though it was often for bad teams. The sixth-round draft pick outperformed expectations based on all metrics; making a Pro Bowl is rare for any sixth-round pick. Bulger made two.
Another former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback, and yet another underdog/overperformer, David Garrard carved out a nice little career as a hybrid starter-backup in the NFL. The Jaguars franchise cratered upon his departure in 2010, seemingly showing that Garrard was more valuable than the team recognized.
Jason Campbell won a National Championship at Auburn, and when he was drafted by the Washington Redskins with the 25th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, the hope was that Campbell would help bring those winning ways to the District of Columbia. That didn't end up happening, and Campbell went on to a journeyman-like career in the league.
Kyle Orton never quite got the respect he may have deserved as a little-touted quarterback prospect from Purdue. But he went on to have steady stints with the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos, passing for over 18,000 yards in his career, with 101 touchdowns to 69 interceptions.
Jake Locker is a cautionary example of what can happen when a high draft pick isn't surrounded with talent. Locker was chosen in the 2011 NFL Draft and quickly took on the unfavorable nickname "The Hurt Locker." Locker has admitted that he quickly lost his passion for football and took to drinking in unhealthy amounts.
Josh Freeman became one more in a slew of hopeful savior-quarterbacks drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when the franchise selected him as the 17th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Freeman was big and strong and had a powerful arm. He got off to a hot start by leading the Bucs to a 10-6 record in 2011.
Daunte Culpepper was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL when he was paired with Randy Moss on several Minnesota Vikings teams that were favorites to reach the Super Bowl. But Culpepper's time in Minnesota was marred by the infamous team boat party involving "exotic dancers," lots of booze and alleged drug use.
Browns fans, apologies are in order for even mentioning the name Tim Couch. But Couch will forever have a spot in football buffs' memories, if only as a cautionary tale. Couch was always on terrible teams, and his career didn't start off on the right foot — he threw 13 interceptions to only 15 touchdowns.
In Latin, "Rex" means "king," and for a while, Rex Grossman was the king of the quarterbacks. In college at the University of Florida, Grossman earned a reputation as a winner, and the Chicago Bears drafted him and made him their starting quarterback. He led them to a Super Bowl and lost, and his career never reached the same heights.
Jeff Garcia played in a time before small-statured quarterbacks were considered just as capable of winning as those who are tall. The odds were against him, yet he managed to win starting positions in San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Philadelphia, to varying degrees of success.
Jeff George's arm was as powerful as his personality was brash, which is to say he threw the ball far and ticked off a lot of people. George was the number-one pick in the 1990 NFL Draft, as the Colts chose to take a shot on the loquacious QB who threw for over 6,000 yards in two college seasons.
Christian Ponder was a first-round quarterback in the NFL, but he’s arguably less well-known than his sportscaster wife, which tells you what you need to know about Ponder's career. It quickly became apparent that Ponder was going to be unworthy of draft position, and ultimately that he was a disappointment.
Jon Kitna's career is the platonic ideal for a backup; he maximized his sub-in time to cash in and carve out a nice little NFL legacy. Kitna was undrafted out of Central Washington in 1996. He was signed to the Seattle Seahawks practice squad and won MVP in NFL Europe before returning to the NFL.
Chad Pennington had a reputation as a winner coming out of Marshall University, despite having below-average arm strength by NFL standards. He became the starter for the New York Jets in 2002 and had a solid string of seasons between then and 2008. Eventually, Pennington gained a reputation as injury prone despite remaining a quality starter into his 30s.
NFL fans know David Carr as the first quarterback drafted by the Houston Texans franchise, becoming the first overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. Being drafted by an expansion team sometimes guarantees a rocky start to a career, and that’s exactly what David Carr got. He led the league in sacks for three consecutive seasons before moving onto a backup role.
Vinny Testaverde was a critical member of the Golden Era Miami Hurricane football teams, and it allowed him to be selected first by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1987 NFL Draft. It turns out that being drafted by the Bucs during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s was not amazing for anyone's career.
Todd Marinovich was once heralded as the QB of the future, raised from birth by his father to be the ultimate quarterback specimen. For a while, it appeared that Marinovich would live up to his billing, as he was selected 24th overall in the first round of the 1991 NFL Draft (despite well-founded speculation that Marinovich was a party guy).
Rich Gannon was one of those mid- to upper-tier quarterbacks who became a quasi-star once he teamed up with coach Jon Gruden on the Oakland Raiders. Gannon and the Raiders got to the Super Bowl and, in a twist of fate, played against their coach the previous year; Gruden had been traded to the Bucs the previous offseason.
Drew Bledsoe has become known as the man who allowed Tom Brady to be Tom Brady. He was the starter for the Patriots, and a pretty darn good one, before an injury allowed a little-known sixth-round pick named Tom Brady to take the position. And he never let it go.
Doug Flutie is the squatty Boston College quarterback who was way under six feet but never let that prevent him from playing at the highest levels of football. He wasn't given a real shot at the NFL out of college, so he went to the Canadian Football League...and dominated.
When the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Kevin Kolb in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft out of the University of Houston, most casual fans collectively asked, "Who?" Kolb was not the biggest name, and he would spend multiple seasons backing up long-time Eagles starter Donovan McNabb, but Kolb looked solid enough for fill-in duties.
Troy Smith is in the lineage of Collegiate Hall of Fame quarterbacks to play at Ohio State University and got his team to the National Championship Game, where the Buckeyes lost to the Florida Gators. Smith would go on to a four-season NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, mostly serving as a backup.
When the Minnesota Vikings picked Tarvaris Jackson in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft, experts viewed the small-school product as a likely boom or bust player. Jackson was surprisingly steady as a primary backup for 10 seasons in the League with the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks.
Jimmy Clausen was a polarizing figure from the day he wore a white fur coat to his college commitment press conference as a high schooler. And, after being drafted in the second round by the Carolina Panthers, Clausen became known as a massive disappointment.
Jake Delhomme was an unlikely NFL star who actually reached the Super Bowl with the Carolina Panthers, setting the high-water mark for his career in the process. Delhomme was an unabashed Southern boy and an underdog who started only two games in the first five seasons of his NFL career before finding major success.
"Kyle Boller: So Much Hype, So Little Production." Unfortunately, that would be a fitting tagline for Kyle Boller's career, which started with him being a first-round draft pick and ended with a whimper. But it’s his post-playing life that makes him a true winner.