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Top Five: Worst Quarterbacks In Arizona Cardinals History

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No matter how bad the Arizona Cardinals quarterback situation is right now, it's been worse. Come inside to find out how and when.

If the traffic numbers for SB Nation Arizona are any indication, the people reading these articles are mildly invested in some sort of quarterback situation developing for the Arizona Cardinals.

To catch any outsiders up, Matt Leinart was named the Cardinals starter going into training camp for the 3rd time in Ken Whisenhunt's 4 camps. Yet for the second time he lost the gig in preseason - the first was in 2008 to Kurt Warner but this time he lost the job to free agent quarterback (and 44% passer) Derek Anderson.

With Leinart's release Saturday afternoon, Anderson officially has the starting job on lock with his only backups being undrafted rookie Max Hall and recent 5th round draft pick John Skelton. If you're like me, seeing those three names as the Cardinals quarterback depth chart helps you break out in a heavy case of flop sweat.

But fear not my friends, I'm here to prove that it has in fact been worse! To prove it I've produced the list of the worst starting quarterbacks in Arizona Cardinals history. 

The criteria:

  • Must have started at least one game for the Cardinals. That loud exhale you just heard came from Tony Sacca.
  • Must have been since the Cardinals moved to Phoenix. That's 1988 and on - I don't want your history St. Louis or Chicago.
  • Must make me feel better about Derek Anderson and Max Hall. Me personally, not you.

Honorable Mention:

  • Timm Rosenbach - Started 20 games over four seasons for the Phoenix Cardinals (1989-1992). Was the full-time starter for the 1990 edition and was actually solidly average (3,098 yards passing, 16-17 TD/INT ratio). However when he returned from a knee injury in 1992 he started 3 games and appeared in 8 while tossing no touchdowns and 6 interceptions (41.2 QB rating). He does however get bonus points for his being the Cards starter in Super Tecmo Bowl.
  • Cliff Stoudt - Appeared in all 16 games for the inaugural version of the Phoenix Cardinals in 1988 and started a pair for an injured Neil Lomax. Phoenix was 7-4 when Stoudt took over but they lost both of his starts, while Stoudt threw 6 touchdowns to his 8 picks.
  • Gary Hogeboom - He was a contestant on the CBS show Survivor and basically the Cardinals full-time starter in 1989. Though he threw for 2,591 yards in his 13 starts he had a negative TD/INT ratio (14/19) and a QB rating under 70. He also didn't win on Survivor.

No. 5 (t) - Dave Brown

How We Got Into This Mess: 

Brown was a first round supplemental pick by the New York Giants in 1992 and started 53 games for the team before losing his job to the immortal Danny Kanell in 1997. Arizona grabbed him before the 1998 season to serve as the backup to Jake Plummer.   

After Plummer suffered a broken finger in 1999, Brown got his chance to start and actually managed to post a 3-2 record as starter. Brown would start 2 more games for the 3-13 Cards in 2000 with Plummer nursing sore ribs.

Pertinent Numbers:

First of all, that 3-2 record in 1999 was highly deceptive since Brown's numbers for the season were 49.7% passing on 169 attempts for just 944 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. That's a tidy 55.9 QB rating for those of you scoring at home.

In his 7 starts and 16 total games for the Cardinals, Brown proved himself to be every bit the well below average quarterback that caused a young Scott Howard to inform then-Giants head coach Jim Fassel that "Dave Brown sucks" (true story).

  • 3-4 record as starter
  • 126/243, 51.9% completion percentage
  • 4 touchdowns, 9 interceptions
  • 6 fumbles, 29 sacks taken
  • 60.1 QB rating
  • Zero hearts won

What Would Become Of Him:

Following the 2001 season, the 31 year-old Brown never played in an NFL game again - no word on whether he retired or was just generally unwanted by the NFL/earth.    

No. 5 (t) - Shaun King

How We Got Into This Mess: 

King was selected by the Buccaneers in the second round of the 1999 NFL Draft and was almost immediately forced into action after Trent Dilfer suffered a season ending injury. Though he was a rookie, he managed to stay out of the way while the Tampa defense dragged the team all the way to the NFC Championship Game.

Tony Dungy retained King as his starter in 2000 but by 2001 Brad Johnson had arrived and resigned King to a reserve role.

King became a free agent in 2004 and signed with Dennis Green's Cardinals to backup Josh McCown. After 9 average games by McCown, Green named King the starter, a job he would hold for just two games before Green handed the job to another stud on our list.

Pertinent Numbers:

In his three games and two starts King was exactly as bad as you have to be to lose a job to the number 3 guy on this list. 

  • 0-2 record as starter
  • 47/84, 56% completion percentage
  • 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions
  • 4 fumbles, 6 sacks taken
  • 57.7 QB rating

What Would Become Of Him:

Arizona brought Kurt Warner in before the 2005 season and lost the need to have King around. Though Shaun King never played another NFL game, he was with the Lions and Colts during parts of a few preseasons. He also had a brief spell in both the Arena Football League and CFL before retiring.

No. 4 - Tom Tupa

How We Got Into This Mess: 

The Cardinals grabbed Tupa out of Ohio State with a third round pick in the 1988 NFL Draft - how he was still available, only God knows.

Tupa started a couple games for the Cardinals in his second season - one due to injury while the other was probably due to interim head coach Hank Kuhlmann thinking it would be hilarious. When incumbent starter Timm Rosenbach went down with an injury before the '91 season, Tupa became the man. Usage of the term "the man" in this instance requires you to suspend disbelief.

Pertinent Numbers:

The future punter started 13 games for the Cardinals over his four seasons with the team and appeared in 14 more than that. His numbers are exactly what you expect and probably a little worse.

  • 4-9 record as starter
  • 234/455, 51.4% completion percentage
  • 9 touchdowns, 22 interceptions
  • 11 fumbles, 39 sacks taken
  • 59.5 QB rating

What Would Become Of Him:

Phoenix released Tupa before the 1992 season and he joined the Indianapolis Colts as a backup QB. Tupa was released by Cleveland prior to the 1993 season and didn't return to the league until 1994.

But here's the fun part, Tupa returned in '94 as a punter, a position he would fill on various teams over the course of the next 12 seasons. He even made a Pro Bowl in 1999. I suppose the punting should give him a leg up on the rest of the guys on this list (pun well intended).

No. 3 - John Navarre

How We Got Into This Mess: 

The Cardinals picked Navarre in the 7th round of the 2004 NFL Draft, probably just assuming that picking a late round QB from Michigan worked out pretty well for the Patriots,so they'd give it a shot.

Navarre was expected to serve as the third stringer behind Josh McCown and Shaun King but as the other two fell prey to Dennis Green's itchy trigger finger when it came to QBs, Navarre got his chance in Week 13. 

Pertinent Numbers:

He made just one incredibly unimpressive start (18/40, 4 interceptions and a 25.8 QB rating) before succumbing to a finger injury and losing his job. The next season he was back in the third string role and appeared in just one game.

  • 0-1 record as starter
  • 32/64, 50% completion percentage
  • 2 touchdowns, 5 interceptions
  • 1 fumble, 5 sacks taken
  • 43.9 QB rating

What Would Become Of Him:

The big, immobile Michigan man never again played for the Cardinals and though he went to training camp with the Colts in 2007 he didn't make it onto the active roster.

Since Wikipedia informs me that he was last seen working for something called Alro Steel in Michigan, I'm going to go ahead out on a limb and say his chances of returning to the league are slim. 

No. 2 - Stoney Case

How We Got Into This Mess: 

Case has a bit of a cool story since he was the quarterback of the Permian Panthers the season after the events described in the book Friday Night Lights. After a starring career at New Mexico, Case was selected by the Cardinals in the third round of the 1995 NFL Draft (10 picks in front of WR Antonio Freeman...nice). 

A quarterback to whom the best compliment you can offer of his skills is that he's handsome, Case appeared in only one game over his first two seasons. After Kent Graham suffered an injury in 1997, coach Vince Tobin wasn't quite ready to turn the job right over to rookie Jake Plummer so he let Case start in Week 8.

The one start was all Case would get, and he didn't even last the entire game.

Pertinent Numbers:

Stoney had just the one start for Arizona and appeared in 5 games total. His stats were only a tad better than what we probably could have gotten out of his ex-girlfriend Ali Landry (you know her better as the Doritos Girl

  • 0-1 as a starter
  • 30/57, 52.6% completion percentage
  • 0 touchdowns, 3 interceptions
  • 3 fumbles, 10 sacks taken
  • 48.5 QB rating

What Would Become Of Him:

Mr. Doritos Girl lasted with the Cardinals up through 1998 before joining Baltimore for the 1999 season. Unlike many of the other distinguished stars presented here, Case actually did go on to start 5 more games in his NFL career - 4 with Baltimore and 1 with Detroit in 2000. However his performance was just as expected with him throwing 3 times as many interceptions as touchdowns (4/12).

Case played four seasons in the Arena Football League before retiring in 2007.

No. 1 - Stan Gelbaugh

How We Got Into This Mess: 

Dallas picked Gelbaugh in the 6th round of the 1986 NFL Draft but he didn't make the roster there. In 1987 he split his time between being a punter in the CFL and a backup quarterback for Buffalo.

Gelbaugh spent 4 seasons in Buffalo, one on injured reserve, and appeared in a game exactly once. Cincinnati took a flier on the ex-Maryland star but he again didn't make it through camp.

After an MVP performance in the World League of American Football - I know you didn't forget his star turn with the London Monarchs (or that there was a World Football League of America) - Gelbaugh rejoined the CFL and used that to catapult his way into Phoenix.

With Tom Tupa as the number one guy, Gelbaugh was brought aboard to provide depth. Since you know exactly how Tupa worked out, Gelbaugh was given the keys to the crap castle in Week 12. He lasted three starts.

Pertinent Numbers:

He's number one on a list of quarterbacks who are all particularly awful, I bet you can predict the kind of numbers Gelbaugh posted in his 3 starts and 6 total games in his one season in the Valley.

  • 0-3 record as starter
  • 61/118, 51.7% completion percentage
  • 3 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
  • 4 fumbles, 10 sacks taken
  • 42.1 QB rating

Just for fun, here's a video of him gagging away the final start of his Cardinals career:

What Would Become Of Him:

Shockingly enough the Cardinals didn't want to bring the guy who threw 10 interceptions in just 118 attempts back into the QB fold. As for Gelbaugh, he returned to the World League and again used that subpar talent of his to get himself an NFL job.

Seattle took him on and due to what I can only imagine was some sort of dinosaur attack that killed all viable QB options, Gelbaugh started a whopping 8 games for the Seahawks. He won none of those starts.

Though he was terrible at playing quarterback, Seattle must have thought he was a really nice guy or good influence on the locker room since he lasted with the team through 1996 before retiring. 

While Stan Gelbaugh was my "winner" it's pretty safe to say that any of the candidates would have been worthy of the top spot.

I suppose the goal for Derek Anderson (or Max Hall...shudder) this season will be to avoid the indignity of making me consider them for this list. Aim for the middle fellas!