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Johnny Manziel And First Round Quarterback Busts

Worse than Tim Couch

Worse than Tim Couch

Johnny Manziel was drafted by Cleveland with the 22nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. That wasn’t a very long time ago, but Manziel was released yesterday after two tumultuous seasons. He went 2-6 as a starter with more off-the-field headlines than wins (or, probably, starts). There were 50 quarterbacks who threw 200 passes since 2014, and Manziel ranks 47th among those players in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt.

Let’s ignore Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, who were traded for each other the day both players were drafted. And Kelly Stouffer, Jim Everett, and John Elway, who couldn’t work out contracts with the teams that drafted them (Cardinals, Oilers, Colts) and instead began their playing careers with other teams (Seahawks, Rams, and Broncos). That leaves 95 quarterbacks drafted in the first round since the common draft began in 1967.1

Manziel became the 9th of those 95 quarterbacks to finish with zero, one, or two wins with the team that drafted him.

Dan Marino198327mia17420240147
Peyton Manning19981clt13399208141
Ben Roethlisberger200411pit12272169113
Terry Bradshaw19701pit14212158107
Jim Kelly198314buf11237160101
Phil Simms19797nyg1419915995
Troy Aikman19891dal1216516594
Bob Griese19674mia1419215192
Donovan McNabb19992phi1121614292
Aaron Rodgers200524gnb1125711980
Steve McNair19953oti1115613176
Joe Flacco200818rav816212275
Matt Ryan20083atl820212674
Drew Bledsoe19931nwe916612363
Steve Bartkowski19751atl1115412155
Tommy Kramer197727min1315911054
Dan Pastorini19713oti99610753
Ken O'Brien198324nyj912410650
Carson Palmer20031cin71549746
Bert Jones19732clt91229246
Jim McMahon19825chi7676146
Cam Newton20111car51177845
Richard Todd19766nyj81109442
Matthew Stafford20091det71639342
Greg Landry196811det11808440
Daunte Culpepper199911min71358038
Trent Dilfer19946tam6707638
Alex Smith20051sfo7817538
Michael Vick20011atl6716738
Archie Manning19712nor1111512935
Jim Harbaugh198726chi7506535
Andrew Luck20121clt41015535
Doug Williams197817tam5736733
Mark Sanchez20095nyj4686233
Chad Pennington200018nyj8826132
Marc Wilson198015rai8775031
Vince Young20063oti5424730
Ryan Tannehill20128mia4876429
Tony Eason198315nwe7604928
Vinny Testaverde19871tam6777224
Josh Freeman200917tam5805924
Mike Phipps19703cle7405124
Byron Leftwich20037jax4514424
Chris Miller198713atl7876623
Jim Plunkett19711nwe5626123
David Carr20021htx5597522
Tim Couch19991cle5645922
Kerry Collins19955car4474222
Mark Malone198028pit7544621
Jason Campbell200525was4555220
Rick Mirer19932sea4415120
Kyle Boller200319rav5454220
Rex Grossman200322chi6333119
Joey Harrington20023det4605518
Sam Bradford20101ram4594918
Jay Cutler200611den3543717
Teddy Bridgewater201432min2282817
Jeff George19901clt4414914
Christian Ponder201112min4383614
Robert Griffin20122was3403514
Steve Fuller197923kan4223113
Steve Spurrier19673sfo9332613
Todd Blackledge19837kan5262413
J.P. Losman200422buf5333310
Patrick Ramsey200232was4342410
Jake Locker20118oti427239
Blake Bortles20143jax246298
Tim Tebow201025den217148
JaMarcus Russell20071rai318257
Matt Leinart200610crd414177
EJ Manuel201316buf319166
Jerry Tagge197211gnb33126
Blaine Gabbert201110jax322275
Brandon Weeden201222cle223205
David Klingler19926cin416244
Chuck Long198612det519214
Ryan Leaf19982sdg213184
Heath Shuler19943was313134
Greg Cook19695cin215114
Don Horn196725gnb41664
Marty Domres19699sdg3564
Akili Smith19993cin45173
Cade McNown199912chi216153
Brady Quinn200722cle310123
Todd Marinovich199124rai2883
Andre Ware19907det4563
Johnny Manziel201422cle2782
Dan McGwire199116sea4252
Steve Pisarkiewicz197719crd2342
Jack Thompson19793cin41351
Jim Druckenmiller199726sfo2111
John Reaves197214phi3770
Art Schlichter19824clt3360
Tommy Maddox199225den2640
Rich Campbell19816gnb4300

In the last 15 years, four quarterbacks were drafted in the first round and won five or fewer games with their original team. Three of those men were drafted by the Browns. I’m not sure where Manziel ranks on the Brady QuinnBrandon Weeden quarterback bust scale, but it seems he has earned a special place on that continuum.

  1. Excluding quarterbacks drafted in the Supplemental Draft. []
  • Topher Doll

    Sadly the Browns should be used to it with three 1st round QB’s winning less than 6 games for them that they drafted in the past decade.

  • sacramento gold miners

    Some of these first round busts played early, and just couldn’t handle the adversity, or live up to the expectation. But future stars like Peyton Manning, Aikman, and Bradshaw overcame tough starts and grew with improving organizations. Other first round QBs like Rodgers and McNair were brought around slowly and emerge later.

  • Robert Ford

    As a long-suffering, long-traumatized Brown’s fan, I’d have to say Manziel is every bit as bust-a-rific as Brandon and Brady. I was at the Browns draft party in ’14 when Manziel was drafted, and the place utterly erupted when the pick was announced. I’ve never heard such deafening cheering in an enclosed space, and I was at an indoor Ted Nugent concert once.

    Many Cleveland faithful insist it’s the curse of Paul Warfield, an HOF receiver Modell traded to Miami to get Mike Phipps. Phipps wasn’t quite as bust-a-licious as people seem to remember, but he did throw 25 TDs to 56 INTs over a 4-year stretch. Manziel’s been a nightmare, but one the front office only had to ignore 56 blimp-sized red flags to bring to Cleveland.

    The only saving grace of it all is that I wasn’t one of those madly cheering fools the night of the ’14 draft. My wife invented at least 9 brand new curse words just for the occasion. Two guys were basically coming to blows over the pick outside the convention center as were leaving. We didn’t stay, but I hope the cops didn’t get there until the anti-Manziel knocked pro-Manziel out cold. Nah, I’m just kidding…maybe.

    • sacramento gold miners

      Phipps somehow lasted 12 years in the NFL, but such a disappointment, with nearly twice as many picks as TDs. Those 1970-73 Browns had talent, and Cleveland was counting on Phipps to succeed Bill Nelson. But Phipps’ poor play was part of the Browns decline, and he was later dealt to Chicago. Another disappointing Purdue great QB was Mark Herrman about a decade later.

      • John

        It seemed to me that the Browns may have ignored a red flag about Phipps (i.e the Bears and Packers not taking him at #2) when they traded up to get him. I also heard that the Steelers would have bypassed Phipps if they lost the toss to the Bears, and the Bears took Bradshaw.

  • Alejandro

    The Tommy Maddox precedent gives me optimism that Johnny Manziel will lead the Los Angeles Chargers to a 4th-quarter comeback win in the 2026 Wild Card Round over the San Antonio Raiders. Hopefully this site’s still up in ten years so that people can say they saw it here first!

    • Richie

      And maybe a YQFL championship as well!

      • JeremyDeShetler

        XFL reference? Otherwise, I give up. Youth Quality Football League? Yon Quaint Football League? Yemen-Qatar Football League?

        • Richie

          haha Yeah, whatever the XFL equivalent is in 2026.

  • Take the number out to 4 wins and you get to the Bengals decade of futility, Dave Klingler in 92 and Akili Smith in 99 (with the KiJana Carter bust added in for good measure). Damn the 90’s sucked. But there is hope. The Bengals turned it around. It would help if they could land a Carson Palmer level player with a top of the draft pick. If any team needs a no brainer pick like that its the Browns.

  • Josh Sanford

    Here’s how I enjoyed this list the most: expand to “Show 100 Entries” and then sort by the “Team” column. You can see the rising and falling of a lot of franchises on that chart. Assuming Tannehill keeps starting, the Dolphins look like the cream of the crop.

    • Richie

      “the Dolphins look like the cream of the crop.”

      How so?

      • Josh Sanford

        Three 1st round picks, none too close together, and a decent number of wins from each of the three picks.

        • Richie

          I’m excited to hear anybody consider Tannehill “cream of the crop” in any way!

          • Josh Sanford

            Wel…my caveat was that he has to stay there and keep winning…AND so many 1st round picks are busts–he won’t have do much to become above average…and he has Marino pulling your team WAY up…

  • TN

    Jack Thompson was a weird story – the Bengals took him at Number Three overall when Ken Anderson was right in the middle of his near-Hall-of-Fame-quality career. I guess they thought Anderson was on the downslope, but he took the Bengals to their first Super Bowl in Thompson’s third season.

    • sacramento gold miners

      My guess is that Bengals were concerned about Anderson’s future heading into his age 30 season in 1979. He had a mediocre 1977, and a bad 1978 season in which he threw just 10 TDs and 22 picks. So it must have been a combination of apparent need, coupled with a high ranking for Thompson. Of course, the Steelers made a worse mistake, bypassing Dan Marino in the ’83 Draft, and keeping first round bust Mark Malone.

      • JeremyDeShetler

        Can’t fault the Steelers too much when at least half a dozen teams made mistake before their pick at 21.

  • Clint

    Rich Campbell though. No starts! How was that guy a 1st round pick?

    • sacramento gold miners

      I don’t know why Rich Campbell failed, he was a highly touted All-American QB at Cal. Good size, and had a great game against Florida his senior year. His school had a good reputation for producing pro QBs, and Campbell played at Cal soon after the highly regarded Joe Roth. Sadly, Roth died of skin cancer before the draft.

      Campbell was a Bart Starr draft choice, and also failed to make the Rams.