NFL rookie quarterbacks are making a splash. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were drafted No. 1 and No. 2 in the 2012 draft, and along with Brandon Weeden, Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill, this class is looking to surpass the 2004 class that included Philip Rivers, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.
But enough about the quarterbacks that are drafted highly and actually perform well. I am looking deep into the past 30 years to find the five worst quarterbacks that were drafted in the top five of the NFL draft.
Let this be a cautionary tale for all NFL scouts, GMs and owners to do the most research possible when it comes to drafting a quarterback highly. I invite you to sit back and enjoy the folly of multimillion-dollar mistakes.
I am sure that they didn’t want to be mentioned at all on this list, yet I would be remiss if I didn’t include them.
- Matt Leinart
Drafted in 2006 by the Arizona Cardinals at No. 10, people in the desert were excited to have such a high-caliber quarterback drop all the way to the 10th spot. The former Heisman Trophy winner was horrid with a 56.8 percent completion percentage, 11 touchdowns to match his 12 interceptions and four fumbles in 12 games during his rookie season.
- David Carr
Drafted No. 1 overall by the brand-new Houston Texans, Carr had a terrible offensive line of rookies and washed up players looking for a new home in Houston. With such an abysmal offensive line, it was no surprise that he set the record for most sacks taken in a season.
- Tim Couch
- Drafted No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Browns in 1999, Couch suffered the same fate as David Carr trying to start for a new team. The Browns were an expansion team that went away and then came back in 1999. Couch played five years for the Browns and finished with 64 touchdowns, 67 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 75.1.
- Joey Harrington
- Drafted No. 3 in 2002 by the Detroit Lions out of the University of Oregon, Harrington had the biggest hype going into the Heisman Trophy voting with 23 touchdowns and only five interceptions, eventually finishing fourth. In Harrington’s six season with Detroit, the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons, he amassed 79 touchdowns, 85 interceptions and 18 fumbles.
Now for the really big blunders.
5. Rick Mirer
Drafted No. 2 in 1993 by the Seattle Seahawks, many believed that Mirer was the next Joe Montana. After an illustrious college career at Notre Dame, the Seahawks were ready to put Mirer to work and started him every game his rookie season, during which he threw 12 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and had five fumbles.
Mirer played the most of any quarterback on the list, playing games in eight of his 12 seasons for seven different teams. He finished his career with an abysmal record of 24-44 with 50 touchdowns and 76 interceptions.
4. Akili Smith
Drafted No. 3 in 1999 by the Cincinnati Bengals, Akili Smith had only one year of Division I football experience under his belt at Oregon. The Bengals were offered a nine player deal by Mike Ditka and the New Orleans Saints to draft Smith but the Bengals declined and picked the untested quarterback.
Smith started seven games in his rookie season and threw two touchdowns, six interceptions and had two fumbles. In his four years in Cincinnati, he played 22 games with a total of five touchdowns, 13 interceptions and 13 fumbles.
Smith was signed and released by the Green Bay Packers and then played for the NFL Europe’s Frankfurt Galaxy. He then signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but was released before the season started and headed north to play for the Calgary Stampeders in a season he would not make it through with the team.
3. Art Schlichter
Drafted No. 4 by the Baltimore Colts in 1982, Schlichter was the last quarterback coached by legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes. Schlichter had a huge gambling addiction that curbed his ability to reach his full potential, and was arrested in 1987 by the FBI and banned for life from the NFL.
After spending the equivalent of 10 years in 44 various prisons and jails across the Midwest, he even gambled while in prison and was placed in solitary confinement until his release in 2006.
Schlichter supposedly cleaned up his act and started a non-profit organization, Gambling Prevention Awareness, to educate others about compulsive gambling. He even appeared with his mother to oppose the opening of Ohio casinos statewide.
In February 2010, however, he was once again arrested and eventually sentenced to nearly 11 years in prison in September 2011 for his involvement in a million-dollar ticket scam.
2. JaMarcus Russell
Drafted No. 1 in 2007 by the Oakland Raiders, JaMarcus Russell was a big guy with a lot of arm strength. Fresh off a stellar college career at Louisiana State where he only lost one game, Russell had a head nearly as big as his belly. His holdout lasted into the season and he didn’t start until the final game.
Over his short career, Russell got increasingly larger and lazier as time passed. At the end of his three-year contract, he had a record of 7-18 with 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and 22 fumbles. He was unceremoniously released and never found another job in the NFL again.
Legal troubles were also abound when Russell was arrested for possession of codeine syrup without a prescription. Russell was arrested for possession of a recreational drug in the hip hop community called “Purple Drank,” a concoction formed by adding the syrup with soda and Jolly Ranchers. Russell was never indicted but it’s safe to say that he will never play football again.
1. Ryan Leaf
A horrible quarterback with an even worse attitude, Leaf threw only two touchdowns in his rookie season to his 15 interceptions and two fumbles. At the end of three years in San Diego, he had amassed only four wins and 14 touchdowns to match his 36 interceptions and eight fumbles.
Leaf was also known for wrecking the locker room, tormenting reporters while being restrained by fellow players and coaches as well as blaming others for his lack of skill at the NFL level.
After being released from the Chargers, he was signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and released prior to the season. He was later signed by the Dallas Cowboys and played four games, all losses, and was released again. Leaf was then picked up by the Seattle Seahawks but “retired” prior to the beginning of the 2002 season.
Leaf went on to be a volunteer quarterbacks coach for West Texas A&M University but was put on indefinite leave after it was discovered he burglarized a player’s home looking for pain pills. He then went into a tailspin, being arrested several times over the next three years for burglaries and possession of controlled substances.
I am from San Diego and consider myself to be a Chargers fan. It was a dreadfully painful stretch dealing with Leaf and it didn’t get any better with stars such as Craig Whelihan and Marcus Moreno. I did my best to root for Leaf and support my team, but I could no longer handle his outbursts and horrible play.
It is truly sad to see what can happen to a player with a lot of money and a feeling of invincibility. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for as you just might get it.