Nathan Peterman’s name will forever be etched in the annals of terrible first games.
The hapless Buffalo Bills quarterback was intercepted five times in his first career start, which ended in a 54-24 thrashing at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
Displaced starting QB Tyrod Taylor had to mop up the mess and was good on 15 of 25 passes fro 158 yards and a touchdown (against zero interceptions).
The quarterbacking controversy now embroiling Buffalo will likely end up in Taylor bolting after the 2018 season, which would leave Peterman as the quarterback of the future.
This season has not been kind to freshmen pivots, what with the season-ending injury to Houston’s Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer being exposed to the circus that is Cleveland Browns football. They both, however, didn’t have the worst first games ever.
For that, we’ve found an unlucky 13 quarterbacks who had the misfortune of having bad first days at the office, in front of thousands no less (and even live TV). In descending order, of course.
13. Art Schlichter – Baltimore Colts (1982)
The only number former NFL quarterback Art Schlichter is wearing these days is a prison number given to him by Ohio Corrections. The disgraced pivot is serving a 10-year sentence for fraud and has fallen about as far from grace as any former athlete could. A stud for Ohio State for four years — but already a budding gambler — Schlichter was drafted fourth overall by the Colts in 1982 and was expected to be part of the solution to turning around a team that had four straight losing seasons after making the playoffs in 1977. He was anointed the starter for Baltimore’s season-opening game against New England on Sept. 12, 1982. It wouldn’t take him long to lose the starting job, completing just six of his first 18 NFL passes for 103 yards and an interception. That first start would taint a career that went nowhere fast, making him a huge bust. He started just six games in his 13-game career and was out of the NFL by 1986.
12. Bert Jones – Baltimore Colts (1973)
Baltimore sure did see its fair share of awful first impressions by rookie quarterbacks. Nine years before Art Schlichter made the Colts Hall of Shame for his terrible debut, future NFL MVP Bert Jones didn’t impress anyone in his first ever start. Jones was picked no. 2 overall by Baltimore in 1973 out of LSU, with the intent in mind that he replace aging superstar Johnny Unitas, who was traded that year to San Diego. With the starting job all his and some monstrous shoes to fill, Jones was probably feeling the weight of expectation before a season-opening contest with Cleveland. It was not to be a classic, even though he hit a receiver for a 33-yard TD strike to tie the game at 7-7 in the second quarter. Jones would finish with just six completions on 22 pass attempts for 56 yards. In addition to the touchdown strike, he was also intercepted once. Overall, he didn’t have a great first year as rebuilding Baltimore went 4-10.
11. Jeff Komlo – Detroit Lions (1979)
The late Jeff Komlo, for his part, wasn’t expected to be the savior of the Detroit Lions franchise when he was selected 231st overall in the 1979 draft out of tiny Division II school Delaware. The Lions, who weren’t terrible in 1978, going 7-9, had injuries to starting quarterback Gary Danielson and back-up Joe Reed, thrusting an untested Komlo into the starting role. The young QB from Cheverly, Maryland could not have had a worse day, completing five of 21 passes for 45 yards and zero TDs. To his “credit” he didn’t throw an interception, but did manage to take his combined yards down by running for -2 yards on two carries in a 31-16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Komlo managed to start 14 more games that season, but his career would be over by 1983.
10. Mike Kirkland – Baltimore Colts (1978)
After Johnny Unitas was traded in 1973, the Baltimore Colts were only a good team in three out of 13 seasons. Sandwiched between the awful debuts of Bert Jones (1973) and Art Schlichter (1982) was the unfortunate first game put in by 1976 fifth round pick Mike Kirkland. A former started at the University of Arkansas, Kirkland was pressed into action in 1978 when Jones and back-up Bill Troup came up lame for the season opener against a powerful Dallas Cowboys team. In what would one of just two career starts, Kirkland was over-matched against Dallas’ famed “Doomsday Defence.” He managed to complete just nine of his first 20 pro passes for 116 yards and two interceptions in a 38-0 loss to the Cowboys. The ’78 season would be Kirkland’s only one, and he finished with 211 yards passing, one TD and eight interceptions.
9. Tony Graziani – Atlanta Falcons (1997)
Tony Graziani was an All-Star and a champion, just not in the NFL. After a sub-par NFL career, he was a fixture in arena football, copping First Team All-Arena with the Los Angeles Avengers and a championship with the Philadelphia Soul in 2008. As a NFLer, the former University of Oregon pivot had a cup of coffee and was gone. Drafted 204th overall by Atlanta in 1997, there was no pressure on Graziani to succeed. About mid-season of a year the Falcons would go 7-9 and miss the playoffs, Graziani got a start against Carolina. He wouldn’t be good at all, hitting on just four of 18 pass attempts, with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. The Panthers’ defence also sacked him once before he was replaced by Billy Joe Tolliver in a 21-12 loss.
8. Don Gault – Cleveland Browns (1970)
Long before some guy named Johnny Manziel arrived on the scene in Cleveland, the Browns had another name synonymous with failure in their ranks at the beginning of the 1970s. A star at Hofstra University in the late 1960s, Don Gault was never drafted and signed with Cleveland as a free agent in 1968. For his first two seasons, Gault was well down the depth chart and by 1970, he was still third string behind Bill Nelsen and Mike Phipps. After an injury to starter Nelsen, he would get his first start in a Oct. 3, 1970 contest against Pittsburgh and fellow rookie Terry Bradshaw. It would prove to be an unmitigated disaster. He completed just one out of 16 passes fro 44 yards and two interceptions for a 0.0 passer rating (the lowest anyone can get). However, back-up Phipps came in and restored order, leading the Browns to a 15-7 victory.
7. Quincy Carter – Dallas Cowboys (2001)
In comparison to most quarterbacks on this list, Quincy Carter’s career didn’t turn out half bad (albeit short) after his lousy first game. Carter was a star at the University of Georgia and had the distinction of being the first freshman in 53 years to start for the Bulldogs, doing so in 1998. He declared after his junior year and was chosen 53rd overall by the Cowboys in 2001. Carter was actually the Cowboys first selection that year — and it’s said Jerry Jones meddled in this one — as they had traded two first rounders for receiver Joey Galloway. With Troy Aikman gone in retirement, Carter came out of training camp second on the depth chart to Tony Banks. Even though it was thought he’d apprentice for a while, Carter got the start in the team’s first game that year against Tampa Bay. It couldn’t have gone any worse, as he completed nine of 19 passes for all of 34 yards and two interceptions for a passer rating of 14.5. Carter was also sacked twice in the 10-6 defeat.
6. Steve DeBerg – San Francisco 49ers (1978)
Steve DeBerg never let the horrible first game he had in the NFL get to his psyche. Good thing, since he would go on to a fairly lengthy career that spanned 17 seasons over 20 years and six teams. Originally drafted in the 10th round, 275th overall, in 1977 by the Dallas Cowboys, DeBerg failed to stick there and was signed to the Niners’ taxi squad. Later the first to implement Bill Walsh’s successful “West Coast Offence”, DeBerg would have a miserable debut for his new team in 1978. San Fran was visiting Cleveland in the first game of the ’78 campaign and would eventually lose 24-7. DeBerg did complete 16 passes in 32 attempts, but amassed just 174 yards and one TD, against three interceptions. All in all, it wasn’t a great first year for the rookie pivot, as he finished with a 1-10 record and 40.0 passer rating.
5. Lynn Dickey – Houston Oilers (1971)
Later in his career, Lynn Dickey would star for the Green Bay Packers, leading the NFL in passing yards (4,458) in 1983, as well as touchdowns (32) and interceptions (29). That last stat he came by honestly, if his first game and first season were any indication. Drafted 56th overall out of Kansas State in 1971 by Houston, Dickey would share the spotlight with first round (3rd overall) pick Dan Pastorini. On Sept. 19, 1971, the Oilers were in Cleveland to face the Browns, with Dickey behind center. The Oilers would get drubbed 30-0 and Dickey finished just 8-for-20 for 144 yards and three interceptions. In seven games that year, he didn’t throw one TD pass and finished with nine interceptions for a passer rating of 13.3.
4. Randy Fasani – Carolina Panthers (2002)
After the Panthers had a 1-15 season in 2001, there was absolutely no pressure put on the shoulders of 2002 fifth round pick (137th overall) Randy Fasani. A starter at Stanford, Fasani’s career in the NFL would be brief and inglorious. The 2002 Panthers would improve to 7-9 (one year before a season that ended up in a trip to the Super Bowl), but not without a debut from Fasani that ranks here as fourth worst all-time. He had cleaned up in garbage time of a 30-0 loss to Atlanta on Oct. 20, 2002 and was designated starter with Rodney Peete and Chris Weinke shelved for a game against visiting Tampa on Oct. 27. Fasani, who had completed six of 18 for 100 yards and an interception in the reserve role the week previous, was horrid as the starter. He was good for only five completions on 18 pass attempts for 46 yards. And this time he chucked three errant balls for interceptions and a 0.0 passer rating, as well as getting sacked three times in a 12-9 defeat.
3. Brandon Weeden – Cleveland Browns (2012)
Brandon Weeden is still kicking around as a NFL quarterback with the Tennessee Titans, despite his oh-so-humble beginning. The native Oklahoman was picked 22nd overall by the Browns in 2012. But get this, he was already 28, having spent time playing pro baseball in the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers minor league systems before going back to school at Oklahoma State. He was anointed Browns starter one year removed from a brutal 4-12 Browns’ campaign in 2011, which has been pretty much a fact of life since 2002. Weeden and the Browns would keep it close against visiting Philadelphia in his debut contest, losing 17-16. But, that close score masked the third worst start by a rookie QB in NFL history, as he completed 12 of 35 passes for 118 yards and four interceptions. He was sacked twice and finished with a dismal rating of 5.1. His opposing QB that day? None other than Michael Vick. Yikes.
2. Alex Smith – San Francisco 49ers (2005)
Talk about falling flat in front of a football legend. Now a two-time Pro Bowl quarterback himself, Alex Smith had an awful first start for the San Francisco 49ers in 2005, against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Before that first ever start, Smith starred at Utah and was taken first overall by the 49ers in the 2005 draft (ahead of even Aaron Rodgers). After subbing in during two previous contests, Smith got the start on Oct. 9, 2005 and from the get-go it was a disaster. Not only did his team lose 28-3 to Manning and the Colts, but Smith would complete just nine of 23 passes for 74 yards and four interceptions for a dubious rating of 8.5. He wasn’t good at all that year (one TD pass and 11 interceptions), but managed to shed a potential “bust” label with some fine seasons later for San Fran and now with Kansas City.
1. Nathan Peterman – Buffalo Bills (2017)
And the trophy for “Worst Ever Performance by a Rookie Quarterback” goes to Buffalo’s Nathan Peterman. The only good thing about former Pitt quarterback Peterman’s first start was that he wasn’t sacked by the Los Angeles Chargers in a 54-24 beatdown. Social media savaged him about the five-interception outing, even though the Bills’ coaching staff should shoulder 50 percent of the blame for putting him in position to fail in the first place. With the Bills in the midst of a losing streak after starting the season 5-2 and looking bound for the post-season, head coach Sean McDermott handed the start to Buffalo’s 5th round pick in this year’s draft after Tyrod Taylor had a bad outing. He completed just six of 14 passes for 66 yards, with the five picks — in just one half of play, too — being an all-time low. The QB controversy now bubbling in Buffalo, which is now 5-5, may continue unabated until the end of the season.