Counting Down The 10 Biggest Quarterback Busts Of All Time

The 2021 NFL Draft is two days away and quarterback needy teams are scrambling to find their franchise QB. Trevor Lawrence will be taken first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the New York Jets will more than likely select Zach Wilson second overall, but the uncertainty starts with San Francisco at number three.

The history of the NFL Draft is replete with quarterback busts and we’re sure to see a few out of the 2021 draft class. Only time will tell.

Here are the ten biggest QB busts in NFL history.

Think we missed someone? Feel free to drop a comment below.

10.  Johnny Manziel, #22 overall pick in 2014, Cleveland Browns

Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images

The Browns took a big swing and a miss when they took a chance on the troubled Heisman Trophy winner out of Texas A&M in 2014. Manziel’s off the field issues were well-documented, and it certainly appeared to take a toll on his playing career. 

Manziel would start just eight games in Cleveland, finishing his career with 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.

9. Cade McNown, #12 overall pick in 1999, Chicago Bears

McNown, drafted out of UCLA with the 12th overall pick, lasted only two years in a Chicago Bears uniform before being traded to the Miami Dolphins for a few late-round picks. 

McNown went on to start in just 15 NFL games, finishing his playing career with 16 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.     

8. Vince Young, #3 overall pick in 2006, Tennessee Titans 

After completing a perfect season and leading the Texas Longhorns to the College Football National Championship, Young was taken third overall by Tennessee. The expectations were sky high for Young, but he was never able to live up to his college success. 

The Titans went to the playoffs twice with Young in uniform, but his relationship with head coach Jeff Fisher never truly worked. He was out of the league after the 2011 season. 

Young ended his NFL career with 46 touchdowns and 51 interceptions in 50 career starts.

7. Joey Harrington, #3 overall pick in 2002, Detroit Lions

Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

After his Oregon Ducks were controversially denied a National Championship game appearance in 2001, Detroit took Harrington third overall. Scouts salivated over his duel-threat potential and toughness, and Lions fans hungry for success after years of failure lauded Harrington as their savior. 

However, his time in a Lions uniform was short-lived, as he was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2006 for a sixth-round pick, following a few lackluster seasons. 

Harrington finished his career with 79 touchdowns and 85 interceptions in 76 career starts.

6. David Carr, #1 overall pick in 2002, Houston Texans

Carr was drafted out of Fresno State in 2002 as the first ever draft pick by the NFL’s newest expansion team — the Houston Texans. 

Carr may have been the victim of an unfortunate situation — particularly an abysmal offensive line that left him sacked more than any other quarterback in a signal season at the time — but that doesn’t make him any less of a bust.

Carr lasted five years in Houston before being shipped out of town. He finished his career with 65 touchdowns and 71 interceptions in 75 career starts. 

5. Matt Leinart, #10 overall pick in 2006, Arizona Cardinals 

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

After deciding to return to USC for his senior year — taking classes in ballroom dancing as his focus — Leinart was expected to be an NFL great. With a smooth and accurate release, and the knowledge of how to operate a pro-style offense under USC head coach Pete Carroll, “bust” was not a word associated with Leinart. 

Oh, how wrong we were. 

After starting 11 disappointing games as a rookie, Leinart spent three years as a backup before the Cardinals cut him ahead of the 2010 season. 

Leinart ended his career with 15 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in 18 career starts.

4. Tim Couch, #1 overall pick in 1999, Cleveland Browns

The poor Browns. In a long line of quarterback busts, the Browns selected Couch to be their savior. 

Though Couch led the Browns to a playoff berth, he was out of Cleveland after just five seasons. Blame his surrounding cast, coaches, or injuries, but Couch just never seemed to have what it takes to win games as an NFL quarterback. And when you’re taken number one overall, winning games is the bare minimum. 

3. Akili Smith, #3 overall pick in 1999, Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals took Smith number three overall out of the University of Oregon. His sample size in college was relatively small — Smith played two years at Grossmont College before transferring to Oregon — but a 32 touchdown performance in his senior year was enough for the Bengals to take him with their first pick.

Smith held out of the 1999 training camp and missed valuable practice time as part of the contract dispute. From 1999-2002, Smith was 3-14 in 17 starts, completing only 46.6% of his passes, with five touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He was out of the league by 2002.

2. Jamarcus Russell, #1 overall pick in 2007, Oakland Raiders 

Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Russell was a physical freak coming out of LSU in 2007. His mammoth frame and rocket arm had scouts salivating. He could reportedly  throw a football 70 yards in the air from his knees. 

Russell held out of training camp with the Oakland Raiders going into his rookie year, demanding a record contract before he’d suit up. Eventually, he secured the biggest guarantee in NFL history for a rookie, raking in $31.5 million.

Russell’s work ethic was more than questionable. Rumor has it, his coaches gave him blank game tapes to see if he was actually watching game film. When asked about the tapes, Russell lied about what he saw (there was nothing on them) and the coaches learned he wasn’t putting in the work. 

The Raiders cut the quarterback in 2010 after three up and down seasons, and he’s been out of the league ever since.

Russell ended his career with 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in 25 career starts.

1. Ryan Leaf, #1 overall pick in 1998, San Diego Chargers

Some may have forgotten, but in 1998 there was serious debate about whether Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning should be selected first overall in the NFL draft.

It turns out, the difference between the two couldn’t have been wider. 

Leaf had issues with the media, and his teammates, almost immediately. 

Leaf finished his career completing only 48.4% of his passes, and throwing 36 interceptions to just 14 touchdowns in 21 starts.

With the success Manning had, Leaf has to be the biggest bust in the history of the NFL.

Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers and the NBA for Sporting News.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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