Last season, when the Seattle Seahawks were easily recognized as the best defense in the NFL and the Jacksonville Jaguars were seen as the worst offense/team, I wrote about Seattle's record for futility (-7 yards in one game) and how they could possibly deliver a worse blow to the Jags that week. Unsurprisingly, I caught a little bit of flack for even talking about it, but guess what:
A) I wasn't predicting the unpredictable, I was using an opportunity to talk about history in an interesting way
B) Karma and jinxes don't exist. If I could affect the outcome of a game, the Washington State Cougars wouldn't suck so bad. (More on that later.)
This week the Seahawks play the Arizona Cardinals. The biggest difference between the Jaguars and the Cardinals is that in this game, if Arizona wins, they'll have the division and the number one seed in the NFC. They are a good team, they are at home, and they are also starting the second-worst QB in the NFL this week. (It's incredible that the Houston Texans have managed to do worse.)
Ryan Lindley had one of the worst seasons of all-time in 2012. Last week, he came into the game in relief of Drew Stanton and was 4-of-10 for 30 yards. By his standards, it wasn't that bad. I don't mean to come off as a big old jerk, it's just a fact that relative to most NFL quarterbacks, Lindley has not been good. And here's another fact: Most professional quarterbacks are "bad" relative to "good" quarterbacks. For every one Russell Wilson, there are 25 Ryan Lindley's. And that's even adjusting for the fact that for every one Ryan Lindley (a guy who has made it onto an NFL roster) there are 100 Mike Fouts's.
(Mike Fouts was a guy I briefly knew once that played QB at Utah, and was pretty good, and is the nephew of Dan Fouts, and couldn't get into the NFL.)
Lindley might not be "terrible" on Sunday, but he probably won't be great. It's the league's best secondary against one of the league's least-accomplished starting quarterbacks. He might be okay, I don't know. We don't know much about who Lindley is today, if he's improved in two years, but just like last year I want to take this opportunity and look back and say,
"What would it take for him to have the worst performance of all-time?"
Fewest team passing yards: -52, by the Bengals against the Oilers in 1971
Halloween night, 1971. A time when football was played by men. And coached by men. And run by men. And "flight attendants" were "stewardesses." And men were paid three times as much as women. It was a more sexist time, is what I'm saying.
One of those men was Ken Anderson, a 22-year-old rookie making his third career start with the Bengals. If you had judged him on this one game, then you would have never guessed that Anderson would play for fifteen more seasons, including an appearance in the 1981 Super Bowl against the 49ers, and four Pro Bowls. But on this night against the Houston Oilers, he looked every bit the part of a player who just a year earlier was playing at Augustana College in Illinois.
Anderson was 4-of-13 for 11 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. He had a passer rating of 8.2. He was so bad that he was replaced by his backup, Dave Lewis. Who is Dave Lewis? Oh, he's just Cincinnati's punter. Lewis was 2-of-7 for five yards. Both men had more attempts than yards. They were sacked nine times for a loss of 68 yards, which is how the final team total comes to -52.
Now are you ready for the kicker? No, I don't mean that the kicker came in and started taking snaps at QB (though what would they have had to lose?) I mean the irony of it all.
Anderson wasn't the worst QB that day. Neither was Lewis. It was Dan Pastorini, the rookie quarterback for the Oilers and the guy who got the win. Pastorini was 6-of-15 for 86 yards, no touchdowns, and four interceptions. It was so bad that rookie Lynn Dickey (who had no touchdowns and nine interceptions that year) came in and went 1-for-5 for seven yards. That's why the final score was 10-6. The deciding touchdown?
Anderson only threw one pick, and it was returned 48 yards for a touchdown by Ken Houston. None of Pastorini's interceptions were as costly.
Earlier in October, General Mills introduced two "scary" new cereals: Count Chocula and Franken-Berry. Both have outlasted Anderson, but you've got to give him credit for surviving as long as he did after a night like that. And what of Pastorini? The next season he led the NFL in...
When football was played by men.
A year earlier Baltimore's quarterback was 39-year-old Johnny Unitas, arguably the best quarterback of all-time. By the next season, things were quite different.
You'd think that in a game involving Joe Namath, he'd be the one to throw all the picks, but alas he came away unscathed. Well, not "unscathed." He was hurt and left the game after going 3-of-4 for 34 yards, missing more than half the season. But the most cringeworthy performance came on Baltimore's side.
Rookie Bert Jones was the second overall pick and the starter right out of the gate. They probably should have kept that gate closed a little longer. Jones was 12-of-23 for 176 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. "Okay Jones, you're out. Domres!! DOMRES! GET ME DOMRES!!!"
That's Marty Domres, the ninth overall pick in 1969 (I'd have been shouting "Do it for Marty's torso!!" if I had been alive back then) he had already been deemed a bust in San Diego and was now in his second season with the Colts. Shirley, he could do no worse than Jones. (Shirley is the name of the imaginary person I'm writing to when I write an article.)
Domres was 5-of-12 for 39 yards, no touchdowns, and four interceptions. A third of his passes were picked off.
Poor Marty's torso.
(Almost) Worst completion percentage: 11.11%, by Joe Namath against the Bills in 1974
Broadway Joe! You made it after all! I wanna kiszzs yuo.
On a minimum of 15 attempts,
nobody has only one person come close to the 11.11% completion percentage by Namath on 9/29/74. Fitting, since he didn't come close to any receivers. At least not on the Jets: He had more interceptions than completions.
Namath was 2-of-18 for 33 yards, no touchdowns, and three picks.
Now of course, like every other example, there's an interesting twist... Namath completed more passes than the Buffalo Bills did that day. Bills' QB Joe Ferguson was 0-for-2. Buffalo ran the ball 61 times for 223 yards and two touchdowns, including 117 yards from the NFL's most lovable player, OJ Simpson.
Potentially actual worst game of all-time: Ryan Leaf, September 20, 1998 against the Kansas City Chiefs
So in that last section I accidentally overlooked one game with a worse completion percentage but it wasn't worth scrapping that excellent few paragraphs on Joe Namath. It was still a really terrible game. But not the worst.
"Rookies" are a common theme in worst games of all-time, and while Lindley is not a rookie, his first season with the Cardinals (2012) gives plenty of reason to believe he will have a hard time ever adjusting to the NFL. In six games, his best passer rating was 58.4. He threw at least one interception in all four starts. He had four interceptions against the Rams. He had 2.32 Y/A against the Jets. But to his credit, he was never as bad as Ryan Leaf.
In his third career game, just months after some debated if he should be selected ahead of Peyton Manning, Leaf faced off against the Chiefs in Kansas City. The Chiefs didn't have a great defense that season, they were middle of the road, but they'd have looked even worse if they didn't get to face off against Leaf.
Keep in mind that Leaf played in the entire game ...
He was 1-of-15 for four yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. He had a passer rating of 0.0. He completed 6.6% of his passes. He had 0.27 Y/A and -5.73 adjusted yards per attempt.
Kansas City's Rich Gannon completed passes to eight different receivers and they all had more receiving yards individually than Leaf had passing yards, even though seven of them only had one catch. Well, I mean, it's only four yards. His two interceptions were returned for 35 more yards than he had all day.
He also fumbled four times and lost three of those. It was literally the next day that Leaf did this:
Tight. Go Cougs?