The Quarterback Abstract:

Ranking the Quarterbacks in Modern Day History

Online Supplement

This book contains entries on 367 men and attempts to answer three questions about each quarterback: Who was he? What was his playing style? How good was he?. The bulk of the group is made up of 338 quarterbacks who have started at least 10 games in the NFL since 1950. Beginning with 1950, two-platoon football was made permanent allowing the T-formation quarterback to focus solely on offense without also having to play defensive back anymore. The advent of the two-platoon game also made it easier to track starting quarterbacks. In the book, I also included 27 pre-1950 signal callers, some of whom played at least part of their career as single-wing tailbacks. These men either were likely to have started at least 10 games at quarterback or were passers of such significance that they could not be ignored.

I used a cutoff point of 10 NFL starts in order to keep the book to a manageable length, but there are at least another 240 quarterbacks who started a game in the league. This online supplement contains capsule entries on each of those field generals, divided into seven web pages.

Quarterbacks with 1-9 Starts

A-C | D-G | H-K | L-M | N-Q | R-S | T-Z

Quarterbacks N-Q


Ray Nagel
Cards 1953
UCLA’s Ray Nagel had a 0 to 5 touchdown pass to interception ratio and a 21.7 passer rating in his one year as a Cardinal. Nagel embarked on a long career in college coaching and administration. Ray coached future pros Lee Grosscup at Utah and Larry Lawrence and Ed Podolak at Iowa, but his Hawkeye coaching tenure ended with an ugly season haunted by a boycott of the team by its Black players. Nagel served as the athletic director at Washington State from 1971-76 and at Hawaii from 1976-83. George Seifert was one of his assistants at Utah.
John Navarre
Cards 2004-05
The immobile 6’6” Navarre passed for over 9,000 yards at Michigan, where he replaced Drew Henson who had replaced Tom Brady. Navarre was a seventh round draft pick like Brady, but has won no Super Bowls and married no supermodels. In John’s only NFL start, he completed 18 of 40 passes for a measly 168 yards in a 26-12 loss to the Lions in 2004.
Rick Neuheisel (replacement)
SDC 1987
Rick Neuheisel was a walk on at UCLA who replaced an injured Steve Bono as a senior and became the MVP of the Rose Bowl. Rick spent two years with San Antonio in the USFL and threw 32 touchdowns and 40 interceptions. His only NFL shot came in the 1987 replacement player strike games when he alternated with Mike Kelly in leading the Chargers to a 3-0 record. His 18 for 22 performance against Tampa set a team record for completion percentage. Still, his assessment of the experience was mixed, “The memories are great, but I’m not sure it was worth it.” He has been a highly successful and controversial college coach at Colorado, Washington and UCLA.
Terry Nofsinger
PIT 1961-64 Cards 1965-66 ATL 1967
Nofsinger followed All American Lee Grosscup at Utah and was a 17th round draft choice of Pittsburg in 1961. Terry played behind Bobby Layne and Ed Brown for four years before the Cardinals traded defensive tackle Ken Kortas to acquire him. In 1966, The Cards were 7-1-1 when Charley Johnson got hurt. Nofsinger stepped in, but threw two touchdowns and eight interceptions, and St. Louis dropped four of five to fall out of playoff contention. The next season, Terry finished his NFL career as a backup in Atlanta.
David Norrie (replacement)
NYJ 1987
Norrie was drafted in the 11th round out of UCLA by Seattle in 1986, but his only NFL playing time came for the Jets during the 1987 replacement player strike games. Norrie lost both his starts and was sacked 11 times by Dallas in the first one. New York’s regular backup, Pat Ryan, returned for the final strike game, and Norrie was ready for his new career in broadcasting. He has worked for ABC Sports and ESPN.
Doug Nussmeier
NOS 1996-97
The line of succession of quarterbacks at Idaho went from Scott Linehan to John Friesz to Doug Nussmeier. Both Friesz and Nussmeier won the Walter Payton Award as the best player in 1-AA football, and Linehan was the Vandals’ offensive coordinator when Doug was under center. The left-handed Nussmeier was drafted in the fourth round by the Saints in 1994. Doug had the lowest passer rating of any of the four starters Coach Mike Ditka tried in New Orleans in 1997. Nussmeier later played and coached in the CFL and eventually became the Rams quarterbacks’ coach under Scott Linehan.
Cliff Olander
SDC 1977-79
At 6’5” and 190 pounds, Cliff Olander was built like Ichabod Crane, but still was drafted in the fifth round out of New Mexico State by the Chargers in 1977. Olander had followed Joe Pisarcik at NMS and both were NFL rookies in 1977. With Dan Fouts holding out in a contract dispute deep into the season and James Harris and Bill Munson hurt, Olander was given the nod to start against Oakland on November 20th. When reporters asked him if he was nervous about facing the defending NFL champions, Olander replied, “Piece of cake.” Despite completing just five of 13 passes for 51 yards and two interceptions, Cliff led the Chargers to their first victory over the Raiders in 10 years. He never started again in the NFL.
Vince Oliver
Cards 1945
29-year old rookie Vince Oliver started for the Cardinals in week two of the 1945 season when they lost to the Cleveland Rams 21-0. It was the 28th consecutive loss for the franchise. Paul Christman joined the team soon after and the losing streak ended at 29 two weeks later.
Dan Orlovsky
DET 2005, 2008
0-7-0 active
The Houston Texans were so impressed by Dan Orlovsky’s 0-7 record as a Lions’ starter in 2008 that they rewarded the 6’5” field general who once accidentally ran out of his own end zone for a safety with a three-year $nine-million contract to replace Sage Rosenfels as their backup. Orlovsky was drafted in the fifth round out of Connecticut by Detroit in 2005. The Texans clearly agree with Dan’s self assessment: “I play this game because I love it. I’ve never claimed to be the greatest, but I know I’m not the worst.”
Chuck Ortman

PIT 1951

DTX 1952

0-2-0 emergency
Ortman was a single-wing tailback out of the University of Michigan who was drafted in the second round by the single-wing Steelers in 1951. Chuck completed just 40% of his passes and threw three touchdowns to 13 interceptions while averaging 5.5 yards per carry rushing in his one year in Pittsburgh. When the Steelers became the last NFL team to move to the T formation in 1952, Ortman was let go. Early in 1952, the desperate Dallas Texans signed Chuck and gave him two starts at quarterback before they acquired Frank Tripucka. Nonetheless, Ortman was the first Wolverine NFL quarterback.
J.T. O’Sullivan

GBP 2004

DET 2007

SFF 2008

2-6-0 active
O’Sullivan was drafted out of UC Davis in the sixth round by New Orleans in 2002, but never played for the Saints. He passed through Green Bay, Minnesota, New England, Carolina and Europe before finally impressing Mike Martz in Detroit in 2007. When Martz became the offensive coach for the 49ers, he brought along O’Sullivan and made him the starter. In one half season in San Francisco, J.T. showed himself to be a turnover machine, throwing 11 interceptions and fumbling 11 times while getting sacked 32 times in nine games. He signed with Cincinnati for 2009 as a potential upgrade over Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Tom Owen
SFF 1974-75 NEP 1976, 1978-79, 1981
A 13th round pick out of Wichita State in 1974, Owen started half the season for the 49ers as a rookie as one of five quarterbacks with Steve Spurrier, Norm Snead, Joe Reed and Dennis Morrison. Two years later, Owen was the throw in part of the deal for Jim Plunkett in which San Francisco gave up three first round picks and a second rounder as well. Over six years in New England, Tom got to start just one more game. The Redskins traded Tom Flick for him in 1982, and Owen won a Super Bowl ring that year despite never appearing in a game for Washington. He ended his career as a 48% passer with 14 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions.
Jesse Palmer
NYG 2002-03
After his first NFL start, Jesse Palmer was still confident, “I felt pretty good. I took the hits. I kept playing, and I didn’t freak out.” Unfortunately, the Giants lost to the Saints 45-7 that day. Palmer was a handsome fourth round draft pick from Florida who became more famous as The Bachelor on TV than as a pro quarterback. Jesse was born in Canada and finished his career in the CFL where his father had once played.
Al Pastrana
DEN 1969-70
Broncos Coach Lou Saban selected Pastrana, whom he had coached at Maryland, in the 11th round of the 1969 draft. Al got to start three games in 1970 and threw one touchdown and eight interceptions in them, including five picks against Kansas City. In one game, the clock ran out while Denver was driving because Pastrana was knocked unconscious and was the only player authorized to call a time out.
Brent Pease (replacement)
Oilers 1987-88
Pease was an 11th round pick of the Vikings in 1987, but ended up as the Oilers’ quarterback for the three replacement players strike games that year. Brent stuck with Houston for a couple of years as Warren Moon’s backup and then jumped to the CFL. In 1991, Pease was the first player selected in the inaugural player draft of the World League of American Football and played in Europe and Arena ball before going into college coaching. Brent has coached at the college level for the last 15 years.
Craig Penrose
DEN 1976-79
San Diego State’s Penrose was taken by Denver in the fourth round of the 1976 draft. He was never more than a third stringer for the Broncos but did get to play briefly in Super Bowl XI for them. Penrose was a throw in to the deal with the Jets for Matt Robinson in 1980, but never played in the NFL again. He did resurface with the Denver Gold of the USFL three years later, throwing 17 touchdowns and 22 interceptions compared to his five and 12 in the NFL.
Todd Philcox

CIN 1990

CLE 1991-93 SDC 1997

Todd Philcox was a hero at Syracuse for leading the Orangemen over Penn State in 1988. The Bengals signed him as an undrafted free agent and lost him in Plan B free agency to Bill Belichick in Cleveland. In his first start, the Browns beat Oakland with Todd completing ten of twenty passes for three touchdowns and three interceptions. In 1993, Belichick signed Vinny Testaverde and released fan favorite Bernie Kosar in midseason despite Vinny being injured. Philcox started for the next four weeks and the Browns lost the first three games. In the first game against Seattle, Philcox was sacked and fumbled on the first play, foreshadowing a day in which Cleveland lost 22-5 with Philcox accumulating two interceptions, two fumbles and one sack in the end zone for a safety. The next week against the Oilers, Todd threw four interceptions. He later passed through Tampa, Jacksonville, San Diego and New England.
Cody Pickett
SFF 2004-05
The 6’3” 220-pound Picket was drafted out of Washington in the seventh round by the 49ers and became something of a fan favorite by covering kicks and punts on special teams. Given a chance to start in November 2005, Cody led the team to 15 points in two games and completed just one of 13 passes against the Bears in the second game. He moved on to the CFL.
Steve Pisarkiewicz
Cards 1978-79 GBP 1980
In 1977, the Cardinal coaches wanted to draft linebacker Robin Cole, but owner Bill Bidwill insisted on Steve Pisarkiewicz, a local hero at Missouri, despite his having just 10% of his vision in one eye. Steve instantly became a bone of contention between Bidwill and new coach Bud Wilkinson in 1978 because Wilkinson could see that Pisarkiewicz was a 44% passer who could not play. Bud continued to start Jim Hart and was fired after 13 games in 1979. Interim coach Larry Wilson inserted Pisarkiewicz as the starter for the last three games and they were the last three starts of his career. Steve later played in the USFL and then moved to Europe where he organized a team in Cardiff three years before the World League of American Football began.
Jim Powers
SFF 1950-53
1-1-0 emergency
USC’s Jim Powers was shifted to defensive back by the 49ers who drafted him in the 26th round in 1950. After three years on defense, Powers hung on as the team’s punter in 1953. When Y.A. Tittle broke his cheek against the Lions on October 12th, Powers stepped in as quarterback over rookie Hal Ledyard for the next two weeks. San Francisco beat the Bears 35-28 with Powers throwing a touchdown pass and blocking a field goal attempt. A week later, the 49ers lost to the Lions again. Tittle returned in November.
Brady Quinn
CLE 2007-08
1-2-0 active
By holding out of training camp as a first round draft choice in 2007, Notre Dame’s Quinn lost his chance to start, and Derek Anderson took advantage of the opportunity by passing for 29 touchdowns and over 3,500 yards for Cleveland. When the wheels came off for Derek in 2008, Quinn replaced Anderson in November for three games before a broken finger sidelined him for the rest of the year. He topped off a second lost year by getting punched in the face in a weight room fracas with defensive tackle Shaun Smith.
Jonathan Quinn

JAX 1998, 2000-01

KCC 2002

CHI 2004

Quinn followed Kelly Holcomb at Middle Tennessee State and was a third round pick of Jacksonville in 1998. The 6’6” 240-pound Quinn was generally a third quarterback who got a handful of starts in Jacksonville and Chicago before moving on to Arena Football. He was the MVP of the World Bowl European championship game in 2001 and is now a college coach.




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Updated 8/20/09