They were brought in to be the faces of their franchise, but all the team received was disappointment. Today, I rank the top 10 quarterback draft busts of all time.
10. Andre Ware
He was a record setting quarterback in college, but couldn't do anything at the pro level.
At the University of Houston, Andre Ware was the first black quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy in 1989. In his junior year, he threw for 4,699 yards, 44 touchdowns, and set 26 NCAA records. Many of the records were thanks to the innovative use of the Run & Shoot offense. The Cougars ended the season ranked the #14 team in the nation and he decided to forego his senior year and enter the NFL Draft.
Ware was the seventh overall pick in 1990 by Detroit. He spent four years with Detroit, playing in only 14 games and starting only six. Head coach Wayne Fontes generally only played Ware when the Lions were out of the playoffs or already losing a game by a wide margin. He spent offseasons with the Raiders and Jaguars but never made the roster. He spent his final years in the CFL and NFL Europe before retiring in 1999. In his four year career, he threw only five touchdowns compared to eight interceptions.
Notable quarterbacks in draft- Jeff George, Scott Mitchell
9. David Klingler
He broke all of Andre Ware's records and had the same level of pro success as Ware.
The quarterback rewrote numerous college passing records for the University of Houston Cougars from 1988-1991. In a game against Eastern Washington in 1990, Klingler threw 11 touchdown passes and later that season, he set the Division I record for most passing yards gained in a single game with 716. In his four seasons at Houston, he completed 726 of 1,262 passes for 9,430 yards and 91 touchdowns, all of which were school records at the time.
Klingler was the sixth overall pick in 1992 by Cincinnati. He was brought in to be the successor to Boomer Esiason, but all the Bengals got was disappointment. Constantly battered due to a poor offensive line, he was continually sacked and had to have reconstructive shoulder surgery by his third season. Because of this, he lost nearly all his arm strength and never could throw the same way again. He spent his final years as a backup in Oakland before retiring in 1998 throwing 16 touchdowns to 22 interceptions.
Notable quarterbacks in draft- Tommy Maddox, Jeff Blake, Brad Johnson
8. Joey Harrington
He was drafted to be the future of the rebuilding Lions, but never lived up to expectations.
A three year starter at Oregon, Joey Harrington threw for 2,415 yards and 23 touchdowns in his senior season and finished his college career with a 25-3 record. His best collegiate game was arguably the 2002 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl when he threw for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns and led the Ducks to a 38-16 victory over Colorado and was named the Pac-10 offensive player of the year.
Harrington was the third overall pick in 2002 by Detroit. His four year career in Detroit was largely unsuccessful. Front office mismanagement, woeful offensive line protection, lack of talent at other skill positions, and an erratic philosophical change in the team's identity to a conservative West Coast Offense oriented attack may have played a factor in Harrington not realizing his potential professionally. He spent his final seasons in Miami, Atlanta, and New Orleans before retiring after 2008. In his seven seasons, he threw 79 touchdowns and 85 interceptions.
Notable quarterbacks in draft- Josh McCown, David Garrard, J.T. O'Sullivan
7. Heath Shuler
The now congressman was a dismal NFL quarterback.
At Tennessee, Heath Shuler gained national attention as one of the SEC's top quarterbacks. He held nearly all Volunteer passing records at the end of his career. In 1993, he came in second in the vote for the Heisman Trophy.
Shuler was third overall pick in 1994 by Washington. He held out of training camp due to Shuler's agent and the Redskins general manager discussing the parameters of the option buyback contract. The Redskins had fallen on hard times since winning Super Bowl XXVI, and he was looked on as the quarterback of the future. However, Shuler's poor play contributed to a quarterback controversy with fellow 1994 draft pick seventh rounder Gus Frerotte. Public and fan sentiment soon came to back Frerotte as was evident when Shuler threw five interceptions in a game against the Cardinals. He started 18 games in his first two years with the team and was benched in his third year, as Frerotte became the starter. He spent his final season in New Orleans before retiring in 1997. He was 8-14 as a starter and threw just 15 touchdowns against 33 interceptions.
Notable quarterbacks in draft- Trent Dilfer, Gus Frerotte, Glen Foley
6. Art Schlichter
"The Straight Arrow" let his personal issues affect what could have been a promising career.
A four year starter at Ohio State, Art Schlichter was the last starting quarterback for legendary Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes. He nearly led the Buckeyes to the national championship in 1979, and left the school as its career leader in total offense. He finished his four years at OSU with 7,547 passing yards and 50 touchdown passes, with 46 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,303 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Schlichter was the fourth overall pick in 1982 by the Colts. ). Expected to be the starter, he lost the job to fourth round pick Mike Pagel, but was expected to be the Colts' quarterback of the future. He had been hiding a gambling addiction since his days at Ohio State. When the league went on strike in his rookie year, gambling took over his life and he bet away over $700,000 that year. In 1982, he was suspended for the entire season for gambling. Schlichter was reinstated, was caught again, then was banned for life in 1987. He finished his career going 0-6 as a starter and only threw three touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions.
Notable quarterbacks in draft- Jim McMahon, Mike Pagel
5. Tim Couch
He was brought in to be the face of the new Browns, but injuries and no talent around him kept him from being successful.
At the University of Kentucky, Tim Couch was named the starter mid way through his freshman year to lead the new pass-oriented "Air Raid" offense. In 1997, Couch set several school records as the previously anemic Kentucky offense topped national offensive rankings and finished 5-6 on the season. In 1998, he led the team to seven wins and a spot in the Outback Bowl. Couch's career totals at Kentucky included completing 795 of 1,184 passes for 8,435 yards and 74 touchdowns. He decided to forego his senior year and enter the NFL draft.
Couch was the first overall pick in 1999 by Cleveland in their first season returning to the league. He was joining a team that had been hastily assembled in the wake of the former Browns squad moving to Baltimore three years earlier. He spent five seasons as a starting quarterback for Cleveland which his performance ranged from leading the team to a playoff appearance, to boos and inconsistent play, which was partially a result of being constantly plagued by injuries. These injuries were due in turn to his exposure to pressure due to the expansion Browns inexperienced offensive line. In 2002, he threw for 2,842 yards and 18 touchdowns in leading the upstart Browns to a 9-7 record and a playoff appearance but broke his leg in the final game and backup Kelly Holcomb played through the playoffs. Holcomb then beat out Couch for the starting job the next offseason. He repeatedly tried to make comebacks but a shoulder injury he sustained in Cleveland prevented him from making a roster. In his career, he threw 64 touchdowns and 67 interceptions.
Notable quarterbacks in draft- Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, Aaron Brooks
4. Rick Mirer
Bill Walsh once called him the next Joe Montana. Needless to say he didn't live up to that stigma.
At Notre Dame, Rick Mirer accumulated a 29-7-1 record as starter including 3 bowl games. He took over the starting job in 1990 and led the team to the Orange Bowl. In 1991, Mirer set the single season touchdown record with 18 and was named co-MVP with teammate Jerome Bettis leading Notre Dame past Florida in the 1992 Sugar Bowl. He finished his career at Notre Dame by leading them to victory in the 1993 Cotton Bowl. Mirer accounted for more points running and throwing than any other player in Notre Dame history. He left Notre Dame first in career touchdowns with 41 and second all time for total offense, completions, and passing yards.
Mirer was the second overall pick in 1993 by Seattle. Unlike other busts on this list, he actually had success early on as he set all time NFL rookie records for attempts, completions, and yards. The problem was he never got better after that. Over his next three seasons in Seattle, Mirer experienced a rapid decline throwing only 29 touchdowns and 39 interceptions, including 20 during the 1995 season. Teams discovered he couldn't throw accurately to his left so defenses would stack every thing to his right to force him throw left. He finished his career playing for seven different teams and never lived up to the hype of being the next Joe Montana.
Notable quarterbacks in draft- Drew Bledsoe, Mark Brunell, Elvis Grbac, Trent Green
3. Akili Smith
He was a one year wonder in college and his time in the pros was a waste.
A one year starter at Oregon, Akili Smith came to the foreground of draft discussions because of his performance in his senior season throwing 32 touchdown passes in only 11 starts in college.
Despite his low football IQ with a wonderlic score of nine out of 50, Cincinnati took a chance on Smith and selected him with the third overall pick in 1999. He missed large periods of 1999 training camp due to contract disputes and his absence from this part of training camp hurt him in the seasons to come. Despite showing athleticism in his early games, he failed to grasp the Bengals playbook fully, and never established himself with the team. During the four years he was with the Bengals, he would start in only 17 games and throw just five touchdown passes next to 13 interceptions.
Notable quarterbacks in draft- Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, Aaron Brooks
2. JaMarcus Russell
He was supposed to make Oakland a powerhouse again, but instead sank them further into mediocrity.
At LSU, JaMarcus Russell became the starter in 2005. In his two years as a starter, he finished with a 21–4 record. In 2006, he threw for 3,129 yards, 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions and was second in the SEC with 2,923 yards from scrimmage. In the Sugar Bowl, he accumulated over 350 yards of passing and rushing combined and scored three touchdowns while being named the games MVP in a victory over Notre Dame. He decided to forego his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Russell was the first overall pick in 2007 by Oakland. He held out through training camp and into the first week of the season, until he signed a six-year contract worth up to $68 million, with $31.5 million guaranteed. In his first start, he finished the game against Jacksonville with seven completions on 23 pass attempts for 83 yards, with one touchdown pass, three interceptions and a lost fumble. Russell finished his rookie season with 36 completed passes on 66 attempts for 373 yards scoring two touchdowns and four interceptions. Over the next few years, his play continued to decline. Between offseasons, it was reported that he had weighed up to 300 lbs. between seasons. In 2009, Russell's 48.8 completion percentage was the lowest in over a decade by a quarterback. His final stats during his tenure as a Raider were 52.1% pass completion, an 18 to 23 touchdown to interception ratio, a passer rating of 65.2, and 15 lost fumbles.
Notable quarterbacks in draft- Brady Quinn, Kevin Kolb, Drew Stanton, Troy Smith
1. Ryan Leaf
The quarterback selected ahead of him is one of the greatest ever, but he is one of the leagues worst.
At Washington State, Ryan Leaf started in 24 games. In his junior year, he averaged 330.6 yards passing per game and threw for a then Pac-10 conference record 33 touchdowns. Leaf also led the Cougars to a win over the Washington for the first time at Washington since 1985, and helped bring the Cougars their first Pac-10 championship in school history. He was named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year and decided to forego his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Leaf was the second overall pick in 1998 by San Diego. San Diego's high hopes for Leaf were soon dashed, as his rookie season was marred by poor behavior. Leaf did well in the preseason and led the Chargers to victory in the first two regular season games, but the next week in Kansas City, he was one of 15 for four yards with five turnovers. He related poorly to both the media and his teammates, whom he tended to blame for his poor play. In a locker room incident during Leaf's rookie year, he was caught on camera screaming "Knock it off!" at a reporter and was physically restrained by Junior Seau. After being injured the entire 1999 season, he came back in 2000 and the Chargers went 1-15. In three years with the team, he won just four games. He finished his career throwing 14 touchdowns to 36 interceptions.
Notable quarterbacks in draft- Peyton Manning, Charlie Batch, Brian Griese, Matt Hasselbeck