Nathan Peterman was named the Buffalo starter, for the second time in the last 12 months, and proceeded to lay one of the biggest eggs ever, again. When we talk about the “worst” quarterbacks of all-time, I think there is a distinction between the guys who were thrust into action at the end of a lost campaign, as the third stringer or a guy signed off the practice squad, and those that were entrusted with the franchise at the outset.
This is my list of the worst opening day starting quarterbacks ever. This IS NOT a list of the worst opening day games (though there may be some overlap) but rather an evaluation of the overall career performance of the quarterbacks who are part of the fraternity that started a season as the starting quarterback. All research on games started via Pro Football Reference.
#1 NATHAN PETERMAN
Recency bias? I’m putting Nathan Peterman at the top of this ignomious list. There are guys from the 1970’s who put up worse counting stats, but that was an era when quarterbacks got bludgeoned and interceptions were common. Nathan Peterman is responsible for the two worst starts in the last three years, by a long shot. He has started three games. His combined stats from those starts: 16 of 42, 147 yards, 1 pass TD, 7 interceptions.
The Bills have lost games where they gave up 47 and 54 points when he starts. Add in that he came in the playoff game and threw a pick in three passes, and his combined ability to throw interceptions while not completing passes is truly astounding.
But head coach Sean McDermott needs to see the game film.
#2 RANDY HEDBERG
An eighth round rookie out of Minot State, Randy Hedberg started the season opener for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers entering their second year in the league (and still looking for their first win) when Gary Huff had a sprained knee. Hedberg threw 10 interceptions while never throwing a touchdown pass, and the Bucs scored 13 points in Hedberg’s four starts before Huff returned to action.
#3 MIKE KIRKLAND
Bert Jones had been the star quarterback for the Colts, winning MVP two years earlier, but 1978 marked the start of his injury decline. When he and backup Bill Troup could not make the start, it was unheralded Mike Kirkland who started the season opener.
Kirkland threw one touchdown and eight interceptions in his two career starts, getting intercepted once every five passes.
#4 ART SCHLICHTER
Art Schlichter makes this list by starting the 1985 season opener for the Colts, in what turned out to be his final NFL game. He had already been benched and suspended for a full season for his gambling activities, and was released by the Colts shortly after his final start, based on reports that he was still involved in gambling.
Schlichter averaged 5.0 yards per pass and threw 3 TDs versus 11 INTs for his career.