But it was with the Raiders where he became pro football's first Hispanic starting quarterback. Flores took advantage of the AFL's need for players in its inaugural season of The first AFL draft took place in , so with both leagues having drafts, it was again very difficult for an undrafted player to break into pro football.
While some players were drafted in both leagues, that was still an excessive amount of rookies to fill 22 total pro football rosters. Imagine being deemed not good enough to be among those choices. Cuozzo threw five touchdown passes against the Vikings in The 36 quarterbacks studied averaged 62 starts in their career, with potentially more to come from the active players. Only a couple of those quarterbacks played more than Jim Hart, who started games and threw 5, passes for the St.
None of it may have happened had Don Shroyer not invited Hart to a tryout with the team. Shroyer was Hart's coach at Southern Illinois, and had taken a job as an assistant with the Cardinals in Hart made the team and ended up taking over as the starter in after Charley Johnson had to fulfill an ROTC commitment. Hart was closer to a Drew Bledsoe or Kerry Collins in his era than a star, but he did make the Pro Bowl four years in a row from to This makes him one of the top undrafted quarterbacks to ever play the game.
There were still 17 rounds and in excess of players drafted each year, but the leagues were no longer fighting over the rights of the same players. Some businessmen saw football's rising popularity as an opportunity to challenge the NFL with their own league. The World Football League started in before folding during its season. Gary Danielson was a member of that league before he turned in a decent career with the Detroit Lions.
Joe Pisarcik took his talent to Canada for a few years before winding up with the Giants, where he infamously botched a sure win with the Miracle at the Meadowlands play in Seattle put itself on the map early by finding the quarterback-receiver duo of Jim Zorn and Steve Largent. Zorn went undrafted in , failing to make the final roster cut with the Dallas Cowboys. The Seahawks picked him up and he led the league in pass attempts in , starting all 14 games.
The Seahawks found even better success when they added the undrafted Dave Krieg to be the third-string quarterback in Krieg eventually took over for Zorn and enhanced the passing success with Largent while the team began to make the playoffs.
Baugh was the greatest QB of his era, and probably among the top 10 of all time. Volek also came off the bench to help the Chargers to a playoff win over the Colts in the divisional round. Billy Volek went undrafted in , but who can forget his success with the Titans in when a Jeff Fisher-coached team decided to throw the ball all over the field? And he missed 17 games, so really he played less than four. Baugh was a great passer, and his influence popularized passing as a legitimate offensive strategy. Raiders fit betetr in Oakland vbut nfl very money oriente. The 36 quarterbacks studied averaged 62 starts in their career, with potentially more to come from the active players.
Warren Moon and Jeff Kemp also eventually played for Seattle in their careers, but their origin stories are much different. He worked his way up to third on the depth chart in , then second in , and first when Vince Ferragamo was hurt three games into the season. Moon was MVP of the Rose Bowl for Washington, but was unable to break the racial barrier and stigma against black quarterbacks at the time.
Moon went undrafted in even though Doug Williams actually was drafted in the first round that year, 17th overall by Tampa Bay. He eventually became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, but was never the type of consistent passer that Moon was. Since then, black quarterbacks have often been selected in the first round, including four times as the No. A prospect like Moon in today's NFL likely would have been drafted without hesitation, but there was a different climate in He led the Michigan Panthers to the championship in , and almost pulled off another title in Hebert went to the downtrodden Saints in the fall of , and by he was the starting quarterback for the team's first ever winning season and playoff berth.
The rival Falcons tried the undrafted starting quarterback approach as well with David Archer in and , but that was unsuccessful.
Archer lacked the previous pedigree Hebert had shown in the USFL where the level of competition was significant. Going to a quarterback-needy team is always a wise move for an undrafted quarterback. Mike Tomczak was basically a game manager at Ohio State when he went undrafted in , but he won a Super Bowl ring with the legendary Bears.
Jim McMahon was often injured as Chicago's main quarterback, and in , Tomczak actually led the team in quarterback starts with seven. He was one of four quarterbacks to start for that Chicago team, which still went before falling short in the playoffs with Doug Flutie who would go on to become another CFL success under center. Tomczak fell out of favor in Chicago and later tried to revive his game manager role with Bill Cowher's Steelers in , a playoff season that also ended in disappointment. We recently covered the season in DVOA on this site.
The three weeks of replacement games with "scab" players arguably led to two more careers of significance from undrafted quarterbacks. Sean Salisbury went undrafted in , but Seattle yes, again gave him a shot. He signed with the Colts during the strike in and stuck around through the playoffs where he even got to throw six passes, completing one to his team and one to the opponent. He even started a playoff game for the Vikings, but again played terribly. In fact, in four playoff games, Salisbury completed of passes for yards and three interceptions.
He would rank high on the list of most improbable quarterbacks to start a playoff game. Erik Kramer had a much better career than Salisbury, but he too caught a break with the strike when he joined the Falcons.
He started two of those replacement games, and in his final appearance , he threw for yards and three touchdowns, leading a point comeback in the fourth quarter. He started Detroit's playoff win over Dallas, throwing for yards and three scores in what is still the most recent Detroit playoff win. Kramer eventually wound up in Chicago -- I even own that jersey for reasons that cannot be explained -- where he had a stellar season, leading all quarterbacks in DYAR.
The Bears were also grooming Shane Matthews, who eventually helped lead two highly improbable comebacks in back-to-back weeks in the season. Doug Pederson is known mostly for being Brett Favre 's backup in Green Bay and the current head coach of the Eagles, but mentor Andy Reid liked him enough to give him nine starts in after the team drafted Donovan McNabb No. Pederson also got eight starts in Cleveland in , and the Browns had drafted Tim Couch first overall in So if Couch and McNabb had been Week 1 rookie starters, as is now so often the case for top picks, Pederson likely never would have cracked attempts.
Pederson first got a tryout with Don Shula's Dolphins back in , but also spent time in in something called the World League of American Football. Does that even ring a bell? The World League of American Football eventually rebranded itself as NFL Europe, a developmental league that helped engineer some of the league's best rags-to-riches stories in the late s and early s. Most of those players even found themselves in postseason action, or in Huard's case, owner of the lowest single-season interception rate ever for the Chiefs.
Between Salisbury in and Huard in , 11 of the 12 undrafted quarterbacks to get career attempts first gained experience in an alternative league. This is undeniably a huge part of the success for these players, who often excelled in those other leagues against lesser competition. No one had more success than Warner, a camp arm with the Packers. He went on to be a very prolific Arena Football League quarterback from to At about the same time, Jeff Garcia was very productive in the CFL from to , leading a game-winning drive in the Grey Cup before finally getting a shot with the 49ers at age Delhomme was actually Warner's backup in Europe, and he went back for another stint with the Frankfurt Galaxy, helping lead that team to a title.
He almost pulled off a Super Bowl upset of the Patriots with Carolina in Two years later he was in the playoffs with Seattle against Dan Marino and the Dolphins. This was a great time for unheralded quarterbacks to show their worth in other ways before NFL teams were comfortable enough to put them on the field. Add in some high-profile injuries and a lot of turnover with so many Hall of Fame quarterbacks retiring, and that is how that late '90s and early '00s period featured quarterbacks from grocery stores and the Amsterdam Admirals.
A few more undrafted quarterbacks did catch on after Warner's stunning success for the Rams. Billy Volek went undrafted in , but who can forget his success with the Titans in when a Jeff Fisher-coached team decided to throw the ball all over the field?
Volek also came off the bench to help the Chargers to a playoff win over the Colts in the divisional round. I resigned as president of the Shaun Hill Fan Club last season, but still believe he is one of the best backup quarterbacks, undrafted or otherwise, of his era. Is it any surprise that he was able to stand out in NFL Europe? He really is the last notable NFL player to do so at quarterback. However, the success stories dried up once teams returned to conventional methods to find starting quarterbacks.
In the draft, five quarterbacks were selected in the first 12 picks, still a record to this day. In that same year, one in which illegal contact was famously reinforced, Carson Palmer rose from the bench in Cincinnati after a redshirt rookie season, and Drew Brees finally broke out in San Diego. The NFL was moving towards a pass-happy game controlled by highly skilled franchise quarterbacks. Teams also eventually wised up on how many quarterbacks an active roster should carry, which limited the number of jobs available to undrafted quarterbacks.
For instance, the Steelers kept Anthony Wright as their fourth-string quarterback in , a move very unlikely to happen in today's NFL. The Jets kept four quarterbacks last season, but that was the result of paying Ryan Fitzpatrick and carrying three recent high draft picks. For the second time this week , we are left wondering why the Jets drafted Christian Hackenberg in the second round.
Sometimes, it pays to keep a quarterback around if your team believes in him. The Cowboys had their faith in Tony Romo pay huge dividends. Bill Parcells was the coach at the time, but assistant head coach Sean Payton is credited for the main support in Romo, a talented quarterback out of Eastern Illinois who did attend the combine. Romo was a third-string quarterback in , and might have lost his spot a year later had it not been for Quincy Carter 's release following a substance abuse allegation.
Romo was the holder in and , making 22 game appearances that way, but never threw a pass until , when Parcells had seen enough of Drew Bledsoe 's sloppy play. While coach of the New York Giants, Parcells once kept Jeff Hostetler around for five years before he even threw his first regular-season pass.
Hostetler's frustration had him contemplating retirement, but he eventually had his moment of glory in when Phil Simms was injured and Hostetler helped the Giants to a Super Bowl win. Romo's story never hit that point in Dallas, but he helped keep the team competitive and relevant again for a decade before his own injury paved the way for Dak Prescott , the fourth-round stud in the first part of this week's study.
Romo never had any seasoning in another league, but he always had that unique talent of improvising plays when things broke down. He took advantage of Dallas' patience with him, which is something few high draft picks are afforded in today's NFL. Romo shined in preseasons, which are really the best shot for these quarterbacks to put something on tape, and he continued to elevate himself in the organization the right way.
Had Romo played for another team besides the overexposed Dallas Cowboys, his reputation would likely be a lot different today. He would be lauded more as the successful rags-to-riches story he is instead of being continuously criticized for the shortcomings of his team. The exposure that comes with playing for Dallas can be problematic in this regard. For as quick as Romo was built up to legend status -- let's say by Thanksgiving -- he was even more quickly branded a choker -- obviously after one fateful botched hold in a playoff game in Seattle.
While Romo lacks Moon's volume and Warner's playoff success, he is a similar caliber of player. The fact that he happened to break through at a time in the NFL when teams turned so strongly to the top of the draft to find a franchise quarterback is all the more remarkable. Instead of pointing out the things that Romo did not do in Dallas, we should be asking why teams can't find another Romo. Has the draft process really gotten that good? One thing is for sure: With teams looking to the draft for starters and veterans, and many teams only carrying two quarterbacks on the active roster, the jobs for undrafted quarterbacks are increasingly sparse.
This is why we only have three players listed from the post-Romo decade, and they may be more likely to elicit groans from fans than adulation. After the success of Romo, Dallas almost immediately landed another undrafted standout to back him up in The Cowboys had Matt Moore in the preseason, but he did not survive the final roster cuts. The Panthers were interested, and Moore lucked out when Jake Delhomme was injured early in the season and the team went through David Carr and a year-old Vinny Testaverde before Moore started three games. Moore took over for a broken Delhomme in , but ended up in Miami in where he got a shot after Chad Henne was injured.
We had barely seen Moore play in that time, but an injury to Tannehill last December led to another starting opportunity for Moore, including the team's wild-card playoff loss in Pittsburgh. He remains one of the few competent backups in the league. Then we have the interesting case of Brian Hoyer , who turned in a poor senior season at Michigan State before going undrafted in Hoyer sparingly played in New England, but showed enough in his opportunities to hang around the league.
He also made a good contact in offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, who would later add him to his Houston quarterback carousel in , even starting a playoff game that went horribly wrong against the Chiefs. Hoyer and his agent have been brilliant at landing him jobs on quarterback-needy teams, such as the pre-Bruce Arians Cardinals, the Browns, Texans, Bears, and now the 49ers. Hoyer's connection with Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland surely helped bring him to San Francisco, where he could be the Week 1 starter. He's a bridge quarterback at best, but teams can do worse than Hoyer.
Finally, there is Case Keenum. If you followed his college career, which felt like it lasted an eternity, then you know he was another insanely productive system quarterback for the University of Houston's run-and-shoot offense. Keenum had three seasons in college where he threw for at least 5, yards and 44 touchdown passes. He didn't even get drafted like similar Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan sixth round, did, but Keenum always felt like he had a better chance at success than a lot of the system quarterbacks.
You can say that he's proven that too. In 24 NFL starts, he has rarely been good, but he has usually kept some bad teams competitive at least. Keenum is also fortunate that Matt Schaub's career completely imploded in for the Texans, and that only the Rams would trade a fortune to draft Jared Goff No. Keenum did outplay Goff last year, but that wasn't very hard to do given Goff's performance when he did take over in Week Keenum is now a backup again, but at least big-time college football's all-time leader in passing yards 19, can say he has had a relevant NFL career.
No one is waiting with bated breath to see if Austin Davis , Kellen Moore , or Scott Tolzien can cross the attempt barrier as undrafted quarterbacks, but those are some of the better options in the last few years. Moore had a prolific college career too at Boise State, and threw for yards in his second NFL start with Dallas in Arm strength was always the concern with Moore, just as there is often a significant physical deficiency that causes a quarterback to go undrafted.
Drafted late or not drafted at all, just getting an opportunity to play is very difficult for an unheralded quarterback. While most positions can contribute in non-starting roles, the quarterback is a singular leader each week. When teams want to put their very best at the most important position, it is too difficult to sell that a guy who was deemed not good enough to go in the plus picks in his draft is now good enough to lead one of the 32 teams.
There are 32 teams in the league now, and we can count on the number of undrafted quarterbacks to be greater than that each year. Teams need third-string quarterbacks, preseason prospects, or even just camp arms. A lot of these players get signed right after the draft ends, but very few every go on to make final rosters. When we say that Tony Romo has been the singular smashing success in nearly 20 years, what does the denominator look like in that success rate?
Is it out of or ?
We can't answer that with great accuracy, but we wanted to take a look at a typical year for the plight of the undrafted quarterback in today's NFL. We chose the season in particular to study. It is recent, and there is plenty of information available about it online. Also, it was one pretty bad quarterback draft. We touched on this in the round-by-round study earlier this week, as quarterbacks once expected to go really high ended up falling to the fourth round. EJ Manuel was the first quarterback off the board to Buffalo, and he only went 16th.
When a draft doesn't have a quarterback go in the top 10, that usually means trouble for that quarterback and that class of quarterbacks. Our attempt at getting a rough estimate of how many undrafted quarterbacks were vying for success in included several sources. The page had quarterbacks listed, 81 ranked, and 10 ultimately drafted into the NFL 11 including B. Daniels, who was later converted to wide receiver. Obviously the remaining players did not all venture into NFL locker rooms at any point, but some did. We made use of Spotrac's transactions search to find every quarterback who was involved in a transaction for the season.
Out of unique names, 43 were undrafted players, including 21 undrafted rookies for This is why I suggested up to for the Romo success denominator -- if there are usually 20 new undrafted quarterbacks each year, then 19 drafts since would represent about players.
He led the NFL in passing yards four times and in passer rating six times. Baugh was the dominant passer of his generation, and he excelled both as a single-wing tailback prior to and a T formation quarterback afterwards. Unsurprisingly, Baugh made a smooth transition into the post-war Modern era; were among his best seasons. Baugh was the greatest QB of his era, and probably among the top 10 of all time. Baugh was also a decent runner, a good defensive back, and the best punter of his generation.
Because of his value in every phase of the game, Baugh is commonly ranked as the greatest player in NFL history. He was a six-time all-pro in seven seasons, and he joined Baugh as the only signal-callers in the first Hall of Fame class. Clark passed for about as many yards in his career as Kirk Cousins did in Clark was also a talented dropkicker, who led the NFL in scoring three times.
The story about Clark which is told everywhere is that his eyesight was so weak he had trouble seeing his receivers. Part of what distinguished Sammy Baugh is that he was the first player to go out there and throw missiles. During his tenure, the Giants went in the regular season. But his most famous moment came a year earlier, as a rookie in the NFL Championship — better known as the Sneakers Game. On a field blanketed by ice, the Giants switched from cleats to sneakers for better footing.
Unlike many of his peers in the s, Danowski was fairly one-dimensional. Few stats were kept in the s. John Driscoll was an effective passer and runner, but particularly distinguished himself as a kicker and punter. He led the NFL in field goals four times, and he successfully dropkicked a yarder in You sometimes hear old quarterbacks discussed as triple threats. Prior to or so, quarterback was a different position. We apply that term to Driscoll because he took the ball from center and directed the offense, but he was truly a run-pass-kick triple threat.
In this low-scoring environment, teams would sometimes punt, or dropkick a field goal attempt, before fourth down.
Driscoll scored a lot of points on those dropkicks. Baugh was a great passer, and his influence popularized passing as a legitimate offensive strategy. But Friedman, by all accounts, was a magnificent passer, without peer among his contemporaries. Friedman was inducted into the Hall of Fame in , more than 20 years after his death. At least three reasons contributed to the long wait. First, and most obviously, there were very limited passing statistics during his career. At a time when baseball, boxing, and college football ruled the sporting landscape, stats were among the few ways for players to make a mark that would be remembered.
But if we had more comprehensive stats, we could outline exactly far ahead of his contemporaries Benny was as a passer. New York went , but Green Bay went and was awarded the title. The Packers did beat the Giants, , the week before Thanksgiving. The Giants went the next year, but again lost the title to Green Bay.
Friedman bragged about his own greatness in a way that turned people off.
But he was right. Friedman was by far the best passer of his era, as well as a successful runner and kicker. Don Hutson joined the Packers in Herber and Hutson flourished together, but Herber was successful before ever meeting Don Hutson. Isbell picked up where Herber left off. Isbell was actually far more efficient than Herber, in every major stat.