History is against teams with 4 different starting QBs

Here's my first BTSC post, and it started with this thought.  It's possible the Steelers could have 4 different starting quarterbacks this season.  If Lefty isn't ready to go against Tampa Bay and Batch gets the nod, followed by Lefty going against the Ravens, the Steelers would have four different starters.

I started wondering how many times that has happened in the NFL.  Then I started researching.  Hours later, here are the results over the jump.  It ain't pretty.

I decided to keep this in the modern (post merger) era, but I only noticed that 4 different starters only happened with two teams before the merger, both in the AFL.  The Bills and the Broncos both had 4 different starters 3 different seasons during the AFL years.  Not one of those seasons had a winning record. 

As most could expect, rarely do teams start 4 different QBs and post a winning record.  This level of QB instability usually follows a perfect storm of havoc; injuries, ineffective play, coaching changes and front office ineptitude lead to a mess on the field.  Add in the 87 "strike season":  6 teams started 4 or more QBs that year, (Chargers, Chiefs, Pats, Bills, Giants and Bucs) with only the Chargers posting an 8-7 record.  The rest, well, read on to the following list.....

Team, year, record, starters.  1987 in italics, winning records in bold.


Eagles:  1991 (10-6) Jim McMahon, Jeff Kemp, Brad Goebel, Randal Cunningham

Giants:  1987 (6-9) Phil Simms, Jeff Rutledge, Mike Busch, Him Crocicchia

Cowboys:  2001 (5-11) Quincy Carter, Anthony Wright, Ryan Leaf, Clint Stoerner

Bears:  2004 (5-11) Rex Grossman, Johnathon Quinn, Craig Krenzel, Chad Hutchinson

            1984 (10-6) Jim McMahon, Bob Avellini, Steve Fuller, Rusty Lisch, Greg Landry

Tampa:  1987 (4-11) Steve Deberg, Vinny Testaverde, John Reaves, Jim Zorn

Saints:  1998:  (6-10) Kerry Collins, Danny Wuerffel, Billy Joe Tolliver, Billy Joe Hobert

             1997:  (6-10) Heath Shuler, Billy Joe Hobert, Danny Wuerffel, Doug Nussmeier

Panthers:  2007 (7-9) Vinny Testaverde, David Carr, Matt Moore, Jake Delhomme

49ers:  2007  (4-12) Alex Smith, Tim Rattay, Sean Hill, Chris Weinke

            2005  (5-11) Alex Smith, Trent Dilfer, Ken Dorsey, Cody Pickett

            1974  (6-8) Tom Owen, Joe Read, Dennis Morrison, Norm Snead

Rams: 2002 (7-9) Marc Bulger, Kurt Warner, Jamie Martin, Scott Covington



Jets:  1989 (4-12) Ken O'Brien, Tony Eason, Pay Ryan, Kyle Mackey

Pats: 1992 (2-14) Hugh Millen, Scott Zolak, Tom Hodson, Jeff Carlson

         1989 (5-11) Steve Grogan, Marc Wilson, Tony Eason, Jeff Carlson

         1988 (9-7) Doug Flutie, Steve Grogan, Tony Eason, Tom Ramsay

         1987 (8-7) Steve Grogan, Tom Ramsey, Tony Eason, Doug Flutie, Bob Bleir

Bills: 1987 (7-8) Jim Kelly, Brian McClure, Willie Trotten, Dan Manucci

Cheifs: 1987 (8-7) Bill Kenney, Todd Blackledge, Matt Steavens, Frank Seurer, Doug Hudson

Chargers 1987 (8-7) Dan Fouts, Rick Neuheisel, Mark Hermann, Mike Kelley

Broncos 2003 (10-6) Jake Plummer, Danny Kanell, Steve Beuerlein, Jarious Jackson

Browns 2008 (4-12)  Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski

               1988 (10-6) Bernie Kosar, Mike Pagel, Gary Danielson, Don Strock


And that's it.  A few things really jumped out at me.  First off, despite nearly 80 years of fail, the Cardinals in all their forms never started 4 QBs in one season.  I guess they've been bad enough everywhere else.  Surprisingly, the Oakland Raiders don't appear either.  This also shocked me, given the owner might be alive or might be dead but is definitely crazy and sucking the life out of the fan base.

So, let's throw out the strike season of '87, because that's what everyone does when talking about NFL records and look at these numbers.  Teams starting 4 different QBs have a record of 115-171.  (Ugh.  I'm reaching for some heartburn meds.)  But we can take some solace in the five teams that posted winning records, right?  They must have done well, gone on deep runs in the post season?

Uh, no.  The 88 Pats and the 91 Eagles didn't even qualify for the postseason, at 9-7 and 10-6 respectively.  The 88 Browns and 03 Broncos (both 10-6) both came second in their divisions and lost the wild card, Cleveland at home and Denver on the road.  The 84 Bears won their division (getting a bye in the old format) and won a game at RFK against the 'Skins before getting shut out by the '49ers in the NFC championship game.  That story reads like a Greek tragedy.  There's no Steeler consolation in the idea that Ben would be back for the stretch run; the 03 Broncos had their alpha starter and still got killed by the Colts in the playoffs.  Of course, that starter was the immortal Jake Plummer.  But still......

The list of teams that have started 3 different QBs in a season is for another to compile.  It will be much longer than this one, but included on that list is some team that won the Super Bowl in 2005.  I guess the point here is starting 4 different QBs in a season hasn't led to much postseason success, which is what the Steelers expect every year.  So please get (and stay) healthy, Byron Leftwich.  This team really needs you the next two weeks.  I like Charlie Batch, I think he's a great guy.  But I just don't want to see him under center this weekend, unless he's going to face Baltimore.  (Gulp.)

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