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TTaylorTyrod Taylor was a sixth round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2011. Since then, he’s thrown just 35 passes over four years, before signing with the Bills as a free agent in the 2015 offseason. Now, after beating out Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel in training camp, Taylor will be the Buffalo Bills opening day starter in 2015.

How rare is this? Taylor was in the NFL for at least four seasons and never started a game in his NFL career; now he’s his team’s opening day starter. Since 1970, there are just four other quarterbacks who meet that profile. In reverse order…

J.T. O’Sullivan, 2008 49ers

O’Sullivan was the 186th pick in the 2002 Draft; Taylor was the 180th pick nine years later. O’Sullivan was drafted by the Saints, and bounced around several teams before landing with the Detroit Lions and offensive coordinator Mike Martz in 2007. Martz was fired by the Lions, but signed on as the 49ers offensive coordinator in 2008.

The 49ers entered training camp in 2008 with Alex Smith and Shaun Hill as the presumptive front runners for the job, but O’Sullivan ended up winning the race (in part because of his familiarity in Martz offense) — that’s not too dissimilar to what happened in Buffalo this year. O’Sullivan and the 49ers started 2-1, but his play quickly went south. In 2008, he ranked 30th out of 34 qualifying quarterbacks in ANY/A, and he threw just 11 passes the rest of his career.

Doug Pederson, 1999 Eagles

Pederson entered the NFL in 1993 with the Dolphins, and was a backup with the Packers from ’96 to ’98. The quarterbacks coach those last two years in Green Bay was Andy Reid, who was named the Eagles head coach in 1999. Philadelphia then drafted Donovan McNabb with the second overall pick, but Reid turned to Pederson to start the season until McNabb was ready. Pederson was not any good, despite his familiarity with Reid’s offense: he ranked 34th out of 37 qualifying passers in ANY/A (although McNabb ranked 37th). Pederson resumed that caretaker role the next season, this time for Tim Couch and the expansion Browns. His performance was even worse in Cleveland, though, and Pederson finished out the rest of his career as Brett Favre‘s backup.

Gary Hogeboom, 1984 Cowboys

Gary Hogeboom was a fifth round pick by Dallas in 1980, who was stuck behind Danny White during his first four years. He played well in relief of an injured White in the 1982 NFC Championship Game, and was named the team’s starter after a strong preseason in 1984. His season started with a 347-yard performance on Monday Night Football, but Hogeboom ranked 27th out of 30 qualifying quarterbacks in ANY/A that season. Hogeboom went 0-2 with the Cowboys in ’85, and was then traded to the Colts, where he had moderate success for several seasons.

Pat Ryan, 1984 Jets

For six years, Ryan sat on the bench behind Richard Todd (and even Matt Robinson) in New York. An eleventh round pick in 1978, Ryan threw just 86 passes through 1983. But before the ’84 Draft, the Jets traded Todd to the Saints for the 15th overall pick, used to select Arkansas defensive lineman Ron Faurot (who played just 20 games for the team). The Ryan trade opened the door for the Ken O’Brien era to begin, New York’s first round pick the prior year. But — and this is hard to believe, but trust me, it’s true — a bizarre off-the-field incident kept the Jets starting quarterback off the field. O’Brien and teammate Mark Gastineau were involved in a fight1 at a Manhattan bar, and the resulting court case kept O’Brien away from the team during camp. Ryan played decently well and actually finished his career with an 11-8 record, but 1984 was his only season as a starter.

Again that backdrop, it’s hard to get tooexcited for the Tyrod Taylor era. And while beating EJ Manuel is nice, it’s not exactly new territory for Taylor, either.

  1. Not with each other, at least. []
  • Jack

    Seems hard to draw anything from this, such a small sample set and the situations are all pretty different. Taylor did sit behind a good quarterback and the team was successful so they rightfully had QB inertia. The first chance Taylor had to compete for a starting job, he won it (and if you listen to Bills fans, he won it pretty convincingly). So those are encouraging facts.

    But alas, I draw the same conclusion as you. It is hard to get excited about a late rounder that beat out Cassel and Manuel. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

    • Oh, no doubt. By no means am I implying that because these four QBs weren’t that good, that it means Taylor won’t be good. I just found it interesting that since 1970, only four QBs met this profile of being their team’s week 1 starter despite having been around for awhile and never started a game. The fact that they stunk is mostly irrelevant, although given the search parameters, not necessarily surprising.

      • I was surprised there were this many.

        I wish Gary Hogeboom had been a better player, because Hogeboom is a really fun name.

        • It is a good name. I used to always mentally mix up Hogeboom with other Cowboys backups of the era, Babe Laufenberg and Steve Beuerleine. Once Beuerleine put together some decent years with the Panthers in the late ’90s, it helped a little bit.

        • Richie
  • Richie

    I guess Kurt Warner doesn’t quite make your list, since he wasn’t actually in the NFL for 5 seasons? He was first brought into an NFL training camp 5 years before he started opening day 1999.

    Theoretically, Warner looked worse than the other guys on the list because he couldn’t even make an NFL roster.

    Is it possible that his success in the Arena league was enough of a differentiator to show that maybe he could have success in the NFL?

    Can anybody think of any other QB’s who would match Warner’s criteria of: 6 years after college, first NFL start is a season opener. Excluding anybody who started games in the USFL or CFL.

    • sacramento gold miners

      In a word, yes. Arena football enhanced Warner’s talent, the speed and tighter windows helped him process things faster.

      This is something Warner has spoken about in the past, he had a very brief look with the Packers earlier when coming out of college. This does bring up the issue of developing QBs, with the NFL interested in bringing back some kind of development league. The list of promising QBs under the age of 30 is very small in today’s game.

    • bobrulz

      I think this is only counting drafted players. If we counted undrafted players, there would presumably be a lot more.

      • Richie

        Can you think of any undrafted examples?

        • bobrulz

          I was about to come up with several examples of undrafted quarterbacks that started their first game after more than 4 seasons, but then I remembered that this is only talking about Week 1 starters, in which case Kurt Warner is the only recent one I can find. He went undrafted in 1994 but started his first game of 1999. Of course, he had that Arena League experience, so you could argue that it doesn’t truly count, but I assume we’re only talking about NFL experience here.

          Warren Moon is another example. He went undrafted in 1978, but started from the first game of 1984 in the NFL, and we all know what happened after that.

          The closest recent example is Tony Romo, but he started in his fourth season, so he didn’t quite make this cutoff.

          There’s a LOT of undrafted QBs that take many years to get their first start, but on further examination, very few of them had their first start in Week 1 of at least their fifth year out of college (which is how I’m counting it, not how many years they actually spent on an NFL team).

          I did find another somewhat recent example – Shane Matthews was undrafted in 1993, but made his first start in Week 1 for the Bears in 1999. Doug Pederson was undrafted in 1991, but did the same for the Eagles in 1999 as well. It seems 1999 was a big year for undrafted QBs to get a shot (Jeff Garcia would get his first start in the 4th game, and Jay Fiedler and Jake Delhomme both started their first games that year as well).

          That’s what I found since 1990.

          It seems that once upon a time, teams were more willing to sit and develop these undrafted players, and they also seemed more likely to develop in other leagues before coming to the NFL. Nowadays, these QBs will be given a shot within the first 3 or 4 seasons, and if they don’t get their shot by then, they probably never will.

          • Richie

            It seems (though I don’t remember if I’ve seen any statistical evidence) that teams are just generally less willing to groom a QB. Now, he gets thrown to the fire, and he either succeeds or he fails and is out of the league.

            I assume this is because most high schools and colleges have ditched the run-first, wishbone-types of offenses. So these guys have way more experience throwing the ball, so the assumption is that either “they’ve got it” or “they never will”.

            • bobrulz

              Yeah I think that’s true. It’s not just undrafted QBs that don’t get much of a chance, it’s any QB in general.

    • Warner’s rookie season was 1998, so yeah, that’s why he doesn’t count. But I won’t blame you if you think he should count.

  • James

    So Rex Ryan pulled some shenanigans that is muddling things. I didn’t see the play myself, but people are saying Matt Cassel received the first snap and therefore was the “starting QB” for the game. However, Tyrod was also on the field and so both QBs ended up being credited with a “start” on PFR.