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The Late-Round QB

contributed by Tyler Brickwood

Twitter: @adventtau


Everyone in Jacksonville is amped up for the emergence of promising rookie Quarterback Gardner Minshew, who as we all know was drafted in the 6th round in 2019. But, when we look at other late round QBs, does history predict a stud? Or a dud? Everyone knows the story of Tom Brady going from the 6th Round to one of the greatest quarterbacks and possibly the greatest player the league has ever seen. But beyond Tom Brady, is there a precedent for Minshew to be the star that many in Jacksonville believe he is? Let’s examine what NFL history has to say about late round quarterbacks emerging as reliable players in the NFL.

The three most notable late round quarterbacks to impact the NFL are dismissible for the purpose of this article. Tom Brady exists as a human outlier who needs not be examined. Bart Starr was drafted in the 17th round in 1956, into an NFL that was completely different than the game we see today. Lastly, Roger Staubach was a 10th round pick in 1964, and had a military commitment looming over his draft status, causing him to plummet down the draft boards of the NFL. Beyond these three exceptions, we begin with Jaguars legend Mark Brunell, a 5th round pick of the Packers in 1993. Brunell would need a trade to land him a starting spot in the NFL. But, once he got his chance in the limelight, Brunell would lead the Jaguars for 9 seasons making his way to three Pro Bowls and leading the league in passing yards in 1996 before then being traded again to the Washington Redskins. He would go on for seven more years mostly spent as a bridge quarterback, backup, and mentor with the Saints and Jets.

The many outfits of Mark Brunell.

Next we examine a pair of quarterbacks whose biggest moments were bound together. Rich Gannon played eighteen seasons in the NFL in which he won an MVP, went to 4 Pro Bowls, and led the NFL in passing yards in 2002. Gannon's career was a winding road beginning with being a 4th Round pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 1987. It took him 6 years to finally get his shot with the Vikings in 1992, and it was short lived as a hyper extended knee would see him sidelined and eventually benched. Gannon was then traded to the Washington Redskins where he saw very limited action, finishing his career with Washington 1-3. Gannon missed 1994 with a shoulder injury that required surgery before he landed with the Chiefs where he backed up Steve Bono, and eventually split time with Elvis Grbac. Finally, in 1999, Gannon joined the Jon Gruden led Oakland Raiders, where he made four straight Pro Bowls, and won an MVP during the 2002 season. Gannon led the Raiders to the Super Bowl in his MVP season and suffered what can only be described as a complete meltdown in that game, throwing 5 interceptions, 3 of which were returned for touchdowns. Many of the struggles that Gannon suffered in the Super Bowl were blamed on his former coach Jon Gruden, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, having an intricate knowledge of the Raiders offense. Gannon's career would be ended in 2003 after a shoulder injury and a 2-5 start to the season. Gannon's opponent in Super Bowl XXXVII was Brad Johnson, another late round quarterback who enjoyed a 15-year career that saw him make 2 Pro Bowls and the aforementioned Superbowl.

The only other quarterback to win a Super Bowl (as a starter) on our list of late rounders is Joe Theismann, who like Brad Johnson made 2 Pro Bowls and a victory in Super Bowl XVII, also going on to win an NFL Offensive Player of The Year in 1983. Theismann's NFL career got off to a rocky start as he failed to reach an agreement with the Miami Dolphins, who drafted him in the 4th round. Theismann would go on to play 3 seasons in the Canadian Football League, making two all-star games. In 1974 the Redskins would obtain Theismann’s rights for a 1st round draft pick. He would remain their starting quarterback from 1978 until 1985, winning a Superbowl along the way. In 1985 Theismann's career infamously came to a brutal end with a compound fracture to his leg during a trick play. Last but not least on our list, our most recent late round quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck was a Packers 1998 6th round draft pick who eventually landed in Seattle via trade. Hasselbeck would enjoy a lengthy 10-year career with the Seahawks that included 3 Pro Bowls, 11 post season starts, and a trip to Super Bowl XL.

A picture that needs no explanation.

While Gardner Minshew showed promise in his rookie year with the Jaguars, it might be best to temper expectations a bit until he has proven his place in the league. The list of successful quarterbacks taken later in the draft is a fairly short one. But if Jacksonville is willing to tailor their offense to him, put pieces around him, and stand by him through the growing pains... it's happened before and it will undoubtedly happen again.

Make us proud, Gardner.

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