In 2000, a second-year Akili Smith was given the starting job and posted a miserable 52.8 passer rating. A year later, Jon Kitna took over for the Bengals, and his 61.1 rating was the worst among qualifying passers.
In 1993, Mark Rypien finished with the worst passer rating in the league two years after winning the Super Bowl. Washington drafted Heath Shuler the following year, and as a rookie, Shuler finished with the worst passer rating in the NFL.
The Seahawks almost pulled off this feat in the prior two years. In 1992, Stan Gelbaugh had the worst passer rating as part of the historically inept Seattle passing attack. In 1991, Jeff Kemp finished with the worst passer rating in the league. Kemp, the son of Jack , started the year with Seattle but finished it with Philadelphia. He didn’t have enough attempts with the Seahawks to qualify, so I probably wouldn’t include the ’91-’92 Seahawks in this category, although that may be pickin’ nits.
The table below shows the quarterbacks to finish with the lowest passer rating in the NFL in each year since the merger. For each passer, I’ve included his age as of September 1st of that season, his traditional metrics, and his passer rating.
- Incredibly, six different quarterbacks finished with the lowest passer rating in the NFL one year and wound up winning a Super Bowl later in their careers: Trent Dilfer, Troy Aikman, Phil Simms, Doug Williams, Jim Plunkett, and Terry Bradshaw. John Elway came close, with the 2nd lowest passer rating in the NFL during his rookie year (and he was less than one point from finishing in the basement). It was before the merger, but we also know that Bart Starr had a miserable start to his career.
- Rypien is the only quarterback to finish with the lowest passer rating after winning a Super Bowl. Joe Namath had the 2nd lowest rating in the NFL in ’76; Eli Manning had the 3rd lowest in 2013, although a few other quarterbacks have done that, too.
- Two franchises have had four quarterbacks finish with the lowest rating in a season. You probably won’t be surprised to see the Bears are one of them. But the Giants are the other, with all four quarterbacks coming between the years of 1973 and 1983.