Tim Tebow and 15 QB Heisman Trophy Winners Who Flopped in the NFL

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15 QBs Who Won the Heisman, Then Failed To Make It in the NFL


The Heisman Trophy is a bizarre award. It's College Football's MVP award, but it far from guarantees success on the next level. In this slideshow we'll take a look at 10 quarterbacks who have won the coveted award and then failed in the NFL.

It used to be that the styles of play in college and pro football were radically different. There were schemes and styles ran in the world of CFB, that simply didn't (and still wouldn't) translate to the NFL. You still see some of these schemes and styles in college football (triple option, wishbone), but they aren't near as prevalent at the highest level.

The thing about CFB and the NFL today, is that the college game is most definitely influencing the pro game. This comes in the form of spread offenses. Spreading four and five guys out wasn't commonplace in the NFL until fairly recently. Now, you have guys like Chip Kelly bringing a proven college scheme to the NFL and actually having some success. The times are no doubt changing.

If you look back over the past few years of Heisman winners, you'll see that most of them are enjoying some level of success in the NFL. This trend is likely to continue, as it's easier than ever for QBs coming into the league from 'systems' to adapt and be successful.

Will the latest trends only last for a short time, or has the game changed forever? That's one of the big questions moving forward. For now, it looks like spread looks are here to stay.

But as for the last 25 years, here are 15 QBs like Tim Tebow who failed to make the leap from Heisman winner to winner in the NFL:

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Danny Wuerffel


Danny Wuerffel won the Heisman back in 1996, but failed to make ever make an impact in the NFL. He was selected in the fourth round of the 1997 draft by the Saints and also played for three other teams. In total over his six-year NFL career, Wuerffel compiled a record of 4-6.

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Eric Crouch


Crouch was a big time college star at Nebraska. The NFL? Not so much. After winning the Heisman in 2001, Crouch was selected in the third round of the 2002 draft by the Rams. However, they drafted him to play wide receiver. It wasn't meant to be, and after failed stints in the NFL, NFL Europe and CFL, Crouch's career basically came to an end in 2007.

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Chris Weinke


Another FSU alum, Weinke did manage to stay in the NFL for five years. In his time with Carolina and San Francisco, the former Heisman winner compiled a record of 2-18.

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Troy Smith


Troy Smith won the 2006 Heisman by a landslide. But in the years that followed, he failed to make an impact in the NFL. Unlike some QBs on this list, he was drafted (fifth round), but from 2007-2010 he only started eight games.

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Matt Leinart


Leinart took home college football's most prestigious award back in 2004. He entered the NFL in 2006 as the 10th overall pick, but his career never really got on track. Technically, Leinart is still an active player, but he hasn't started a game since 2011.

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Jason White


White won the Heisman in 2003, but was not drafted in 2005. Even after the draft was in the books, it was weeks before he even received a tryout. Eventually, bad knees led the QB to retirement after never playing an NFL down.

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Steve Spurrier

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

That's right, the Ol' Ball Coach won the Heisman back in 1966. But just like his coaching stint in the NFL, his playing stint wasn't successful either. Over 10 years, Spurrier compiled a 13-24-1 record as a starting QB.

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Andre Ware


Ware took home the Heisman back in 1989, but would only go on to compile a 3-3 record over four seasons in the NFL with the Lions.

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Charlie Ward


This former Heisman winner never attempted a pass in the NFL. He declared that he wouldn't play in the NFL if he wasn't a first round draft pick and that he would take his talents to the NBA to play PG. Ward was not drafted by an NFL team in 1995, but he was a first round selection of the New York Knicks. Therefore, Ward played in the NBA for 12 seasons and never took a pro football snap.

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Gino Torretta


Torretta had a great college career at Miami, going 26-1 and winning the Heisman Trophy in 1992. However, NFL scouts didn't see much in him. Torretta was a seventh round draft pick in 1993 and only played a couple of seasons in the NFL as a backup.

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Ty Detmer


Detmer took home CFB's greatest honor back in 1991, but like many other former winners, NFL scouts weren't liking what they were seeing. Detmer went in the 9th round (doesn't even exist anymore) of the 1992 draft to the Packers. Eventually he found his way to the Eagles and in 1996 he actually posted a winning record of 7-4. From that point on, however, it was all down hill. Detmer only won four games from 1997 on, before retiring after the 2005 season.

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Gary Beban


Beban won the Heisman in 1967 as the QB for UCLA, but he only attempted one pass in the NFL.

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John Huarte


Huarte is a popular Heisman QB winner because he played at Notre Dame, but he only threw for one touchdown during his six-year pro football career.

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Terry Baker


Way back in 1962, Baker became the first and only player from Oregon State to ever win the Heisman. His NFL career, however, was short and sweet. In total, Baker played three seasons and attempted 21 passes.

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Pat Sullivan


Sullivan is one of three Auburn Tigers to take home college football's highest individual honor, but his NFL career was a big time flop. He played four seasons for the Atlanta Falcons and went 0-5 as a starting QB.



Around the Web

  • http://www.irememberjfk.com Trappp

    Jim Plunkett had a lousy career until he finally clicked with Oakland, a feel-good story about sticking with it. A nice guy, too. Super Bowl MVP, I believe.

  • devlin howard

    Most are from florida colleges More than that are from high profile programs that the QB just has to throw the ball up. Best college QB from a florida school. Jim Kelly, Vinny testeverde, then it whoever you want. Warfuel,leak,wienke
    Ward never played in NFL because of NBA so he shouldn’t be on list.

    • Robert Coffin Nail Schumann

      Bernie Kosar?

      • devlin howard

        I’m not sure what you mean. If your asking then he was mostly crap. If your saying it like he’s supposed to be the exception, then read the above. He was marginal at best.
        He was a backup most of his career even when he started and had 124TD 23000 yds is 11 years. Please don’t think he is worth mentioning.

  • tk

    The problem I have making Tebow the poster boy here is that he really didn’t do all that bad in the NFL. Drafted by the Broncos, finally got the starting role, won eight in a row, won a playoff game and then got traded. Never really got a chance ever since. He may not be the prettiest quarterback but he found a way to win. Just saying.

    • Spider1952

      Didn’t do that bad????? Only QB to not throw for 50% over the previous 11 years. The lowest scoring Bronco QB in 30 years. The most 3 and outs of any QB ever. I hate to tell you this but timmy won a few games in the NFL in spite of his short comings.

      • Redeemed

        What’s his record as a starting QB? I don’t care about his stats …. what’s his record?

        • Spider1952

          A meager 9-7 (so explain to me how all he does is win). With the exception of the fluke playoff win every single one of his wins came against teams who did not have a winning record. Many of those against 2nd and 3rd string QB’s. The majority of those wins were because the D held opponents below 18 points because timmy couldn’t get the ball near the red zone. Matt Prater had to kick numerous 50+ yard FG’s after yet another patented timmy 3 and out. So tell me again why timmy doesn’t belong on this list.

          • Jackson Furst

            Please don’t include games QB’d by Kyle Orton in Tebow’s win/loss record

          • Spider1952

            What in the hell are you talking about? Do you tebowites know anything about football?

            2010 timmy started the last 3 games of the season.
            Record 1-3

            2011 started for a team that was already 1-4. Finished the regular season losing 4 of 5.
            Record 7-3

            Playoff record 1-1

            Okay genius add them up and tell me how my post included Orton’s record.

            BTW head to head.
            Orton 1 timmy 0

          • Obamya Loser

            9-7 and you are making out to be the worst ever. lol you are hilarious.

          • Spider1952

            I’m merely pointing out that he is the “all he does is win” that you tebowites praise him to be.

            But if you really think about it, other than the playoff game every single one of his wins were against teams who did not have a winning season, were normally playing their backup QB and the Denver defense held the opposition to 18 points or less.

            A couple of times had the ball bounced the other way i.e. Barber stays in bounds, the Miami defender at the beginning of the game doesn’t drop a sure pick 6 that timmy threw right at him and the SD kicker doesn’t choke on a gimme FG and timmy would have suffered a losing record in the NFL>

        • Phuchaphly

          Spider can’t seem to smell you out for what you are ‘Redeemed’ but I can…

          Tebow does have a winning record as a starter BUT don’t dismiss the FACTS about his play simply b/c he shares your belief…for whatever reason, he couldn’t take the job from Sanchez in NY and basically snubbed the his ‘faithful’ minions when he opted for NY over J’ville. Great guy, he could marry my daughter–but play NFL-level QB…ummmm, I’m waiting to see that still.

          • Dude

            Yeah, you’ll wait a long time, because the media who hates Christians will make sure he doesn’t get a chance to play. It’s all political and idiots like you believe ESPN, CNN and all of the other brainwashing, I mean news broadcasting outlets…

      • Jackson Furst

        Timmy won “a few games”? Seriously?!?!? Timmy revived a Bronco team that was doing nothing BUT “losing” and marched them to the playoffs for the first time in something like 6 years. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Tebow naysayer can haul out the stats to make their argument all they like but at the end of the day STATS don’t win games, PLAYS do. Tim had an electrifying season in 2011 that captivated the entire country. Many starting QBs currently in the NFL have never, and probably will never, see that kind of success their entire careers.

        • Spider1952

          “marched the team to the playoffs” ????

          Dude he lost 4 of the last 5 games of the season. With 3 games left in the season the Broncos had a 2 game lead over both the Chargers and the Raiders. After putting up a measly 3 points against the 1-14 Chiefs and HOF quarterback Kyle Orton (since your not the sharpest tool in the shed). That was sarcasm. They finish 8-8 tied with both the aforementioned teams only to take the West by a series of tie breakers and eke into the playoffs.

          The Orton led Broncos finished with the same 8-8 record the previous year and didn’t sniff the playoffs.

          The year that Brady got hurt at the start of the season Kassell took the Patriots to an 11-5 season and didn’t make the playoffs. You didn’t hear a bunch of star struck Justin Beber fans chanting his name.

          The worst record this year was 9-7 and barely eked into the playoffs. There were teams in the NFC with 10-6 records who missed the playoffs.

          So tell me again how timmy marched the Broncos to the playoffs. Tell me again how electrifying timmy’s 2011 season was.

          If he was such an electrifying QB how come he never started a game with the Jets and when Sanchez was injured the 3rd string QB got the start over the electrifying timmy.

          After timmy had the worst preseason of any QB in the league in 2013 (37% completions, 1-7 in a game for -1 yard passing and a QBR of 0 I guess the Patriots didn,t find him all that electrifying either.

        • Obamya Loser

          True enough. Spider must have missed the playoffs that year.

    • Jackson Furst

      tk said of Tebow “He may not be the prettiest quarterback”. Hmmmm…I beg to differ —- he’s pretty damn pretty LOLOL

      • Spider1952

        Well that explains all the timmy love. So Jackson what is it that you find so pretty about timmy? The lisp? The limp wrists? Or is it the butt ugly neck beard?

    • steve

      not to mention that fact that he was hatefully targeted because of his faith. none of the other quarterbacks listed came into the NFL with a huge target on their back; look I”m a Bronco hating Raiders fan, and even I can see that he did not get a fair shake; he would have been literally superman to overcome the assault.

      • MovieGuy2

        WRONG – he wasn’t “hatefully targeted” because of his faith, he was mocked because of his fanatical followers like YOU who cannot see the plain truth that he CANNOT THROW A FOOTBALL!
        You see the First, MOST important skill required of a Quarterback is to be able to THROW the ball to his receivers.

    • Savage

      Umm most of those 8 games he won were by pure luck in the 4th quarter or overtime.. He can’t throw a ball for shit.. He is more of a running back than a QB.

  • Scott Myers

    Tebow has a better win percentage in the NFL then most of these 2 and 3 year so called young super stars.

    • Savage

      Lets see tebow do it again… Have you forgot that most of those wins were because he got lucky in the 4th qtr? And a lot of them were won because the kicker made a 50+ yard field goal? I give the broncos kicker more credit for those wins than tebow.. Tebow sucks.

  • Spider1952

    Weren’t there a couple more Heisman winners from FU besides timmy and Spurrier who should be on this list?

  • C.n. Muhney

    Doug Flutie

    • Roger Thornhill

      What about him?

  • drewski1962

    Players from the deep dark, past definitely reflect a time when the college and pro game were more separate. Nowadays, with rule changes that make the games more similar, and with the huge amount of money involved at both levels, the college game is now more of a AAA farm-club situation than it was in the 1950s, 1960s, and even 1970s.

  • michael reid

    Yes your wrong.

    • MUBSY

      You’re wrong as well.

    • DoctorSteve

      How about the NEXT 15 games? That, I would imagine, would mean a lot more than this graphic – sustainability, and pocket passing.

    • Dude

      That’s awesome!

  • Quentinsentials James

    Very disrespectful to Charlie Ward. He didn’t flop in the NFL. He decided to go to the NBA instead.

    Also, why shame these guys for not having the talent to make it in the NFL. You are turning this into a mark on their character as if their worth as people is intertwined with their athletic success. You guys are assholes.

    • MovieGuy2

      You and the other Charlie Ward apologists keep acting like he had the “option” of going to the NFL and kind of “flipped a coin” or some other nonsense. Face it, Ward knew there was absolutely NO interest in him by any NFL teams to play QB. He was a smaller, slower version of Vick, and never would have lasted as a running QB. Oh, and he’s also a bigoted anti-semite. But, keep making excuses for him.

      • Quentinsentials James

        Guys like you make skip bayless look smart. I agree he was small and slow…yet he still won a heisman and played point guard in the nba for a whole lot of years. That’s commendable. I don’t know if he’s a bigot, but I doubt you really know either. My point is that just because he didn’t make it in the nfl doesn’t make him a loser.

      • artist_formally_known_as_cWj

        He never played an NFL game.

        How can you be considered a flop when you CHOOSE not to participate. He didn’t get on a team and not make it, he didn’t fail to get picked up as a free agent -he looked and decided that he was better suited for the NBA…. and then proved it was the right decision.

        Support it, with well-thought, considered reason, PLEASE support the assertion that ward was an NFL flop.

      • richard greene

        Wah Wah wah little girl you squat to pee

    • toddbook

      Agree, whether he would have been a flop or not is debatable. You simply can’t be a flop if you never participated. Whether there was interest in him in the NFL doesn’t matter. Not an NFL flop, he in the least avoided it.

  • The body of Jesus

    This article does not do justice…..it fails to mention that Tebow had a winning Record as a starting QB, won a playoff Game and took a team that was meant to be last in their division before he took over Starting QB….also was never given a second chance to play as a Starting QB after losing to the Patriots in the second round of the Playoffs

  • The body of Jesus

    Charlie Ward decided to go to the NBA instead of the NFL how many players do you know besides Iverson that could have done that

    • Jesse William

      A ton. So many. Many many players make a choice between sports. They should put a list together of current professional football players that were all-americans in other sports.

      Russel Wilson was just drafted onto a baseball team. I know it was just a publicity stunt, but he would have been drafted anyway. Kaepernick would have also been drafted as a pitcher. I know McNabb was an accomplished basketball player. Off the top of my head I don’t know any more, but there are so many. so so many.

  • Tim

    Tebow didn’t suck. He did great given he sat on the bench behind an inferior QB (Orton was immobile and useless) both seasons all season long, took over the helm of a despondent and beaten team who’s season was over, and came off the bench to give the team serious wins despite the fact that the team was not designed around him. After being traded, he was not given a chance to play despite nothing to lose. It is clear he was never going to be given a chance in the NFL, probably because he did not bow to the false football god on National TV. BTW – he won his first playoff game – something the Mighty Manning has yet to do.

    • Jesse William

      Both Mannings have superbowl rings though?

    • cuteizzy21

      Tebow may not have been the best QB in the NFL, but he led the Broncos to a playoff victory over the Steelers. He also provided many thrilling come from behind wins at the end of the games. For a while there, he was the darling of football.

    • devlin howard

      I loved Tebow in college but you didn’t just compare him to either Manning in the NFL did you? Both Mannings not only have rings. One with 2 killing Tom terrific and the other has 4 league MVPs and is in this coming Superbowl. I don’t see Tebow doing any of that.

      • Applnokr

        I did. Its the fact that they got a chance. Tebow never never did. No one would play him. The chances he got were minimal but he made the most of them. Two years in a row he took a team with nothing to gain who proceeded to win games even making the playoffs after he was considered as having no chance of doing such. In his first games his record exceeded that of John Elway in every way. Had they permanently benched John Elway after his 1st five games how would posterity have judged him???? http://athlonsports.com/nfl/tim-tebow-john-elway-comparison. Benching a rookie quarterback after a dozen games and writing about how terrible he is unfair by anyone’s standard.

  • brent graham

    In defense of Detmer, he was a ninth round pick who got the Eagles to the playoffs as a starter, and was a useable backup, who managed to have a 15 year career in the NFL. If that’s flopping I’ll have some of that.

    • Roger Thornhill

      The only problem is, there is no way Detmer deserved the Heisman over the dominant player in college football that year, Rocket Ismail.

      • brent graham

        Detmer single-handedly defeated a #1 Miami, which ultimately cost Dennis Erickson’s crew the national championship, for that Alone Detmer would merit the heisman, let alone setting records left and right. But Ismail? 6 TDs dude, that’s dominance? Typical of a golden domer to think they should be in the conversation based on the NBC (conflict of interest) hype machine regardless of position. Be happy you got Tim Brown. Hell you were probably pushing for Teo a year ago as well. And if you want to talk flops Ismail is your man/boy, unless maybe you’re from Canada.

        • Roger Thornhill

          Rocket and Notre Dame also defeated Miami that year in a much higher profile game. Rocket returned a kick 94 yards for a TD and easily was the most dangerous player in college football that year. Defenses were altered just to deal with him as a WR, tailback and returner. And yes, Teo clearly deserved the Heisman over “one big game” Johnny. Teo led ND to an undefeated regular season and the BCS title game. Johnny one game led his team to the weedwacker bowl.

          Laughable that NBC somehow constitutes a “hype machine” since they only broadcast 7 college football games a year. Compare that to CBS for the SEC and ESPN, which was on 24/7 Johnny Football hype mode. Its laughable how stupid you are. By the way, how did Ty baby do in his last 2 games that year, against Hawaii and Tex AM? lmao. System QB on a mediocre team that didn’t even finish in the top 20. Meanwhile Rocket was leading Notre Dame to national title games against the toughest schedule in the country and winning Orange Bowls if not for a blown call at the end of the game.

          • brent graham

            Right never mind TDs or yards let’s quantitate the players “Danger” level. Good one Will Robinson, of course Teo wasn’t all that dangerous against Alabama, so clearly just talking to another Noter Dame schill here.

  • Roger Thornhill

    Amazing the ridiculous choices the Heisman voters have made especially in the last 25 years. A bunch of quarterbacks who didn’t deserve squat and simply won because they were on a championship team or were anointed by the media. Detmer,Torretta, Weinke, Ward, Crouch, White, Smith, Lienart, Wuerffel all have made the Heisman a joke. Detmer should have never won over Rocket Ismail, and on and on. That run of Florida college QBs (Ward, Toretta, Weinke, Wuerffel and Tebow) is absurd and shows how biased and pro Southern the media now is. Absolutely ridiculous.

  • B662

    I will never forget the day Sullivan was named Heisman winner over Ed Marinaro, yes the actor, from Cornell, yes Cornell. Marinaro was by far the better player.

  • Jackson Furst

    Add Andrew Fischer to the long line of hack sportswriters who feel the need to use Tim Tebow’s name to get their lame articles attention. Only when a hack writer is referring to Tebow would reviving a lackluster team like the Broncos with a 1-4 record and helping lead them to within 2 games of The Super Bowl considered “sucking”.

  • Texas001

    Gary Beban should have been the headline story here. He entered his first NFL game, took one snap, came out of the game and told the coach the this was not for him. See what tk posted. He told the real story about Tebow. Tebow’s problem with the sports media is his is a God fearing man and that is what they hate. You see those football players, after a big play, raising one finger and pointing up, what they are saying is I an number one. When Tebow does it, he is saying God is number one.

  • Eric E. Heath

    “Therefore, Ward played in the NBA for 12 seasons and never took a pro football snap.” How is Charlie Ward even on the list? How do you rate a guy a flop when he never played NFL Football? Never suited up for a NFL team. Did Skip Bayless write this nonsense?

  • Mark Stephenson

    Charlie Ward would have owned the NFL, its an utter tragedy he went to play Basketball.

  • Rob Morris

    my problem with detmer on this list….he at least went to the pro bowl and took his team to the playoffs

  • Jason Sweeney

    Charlie Ward never played in the NFL. How bout an article with some research.

  • x277

    I stopped reading after Charlie Ward. How can he be on this list when he CHOOSE to go to the NBA instead. This author is an idiot.

  • Obamya Loser

    Tebow actually did pretty well WHEN he was given a chance. Unfortunately he was dissed by the media before he could get anywhere.

  • Robert Bradford

    NFL flopping is one of the http://j.mp/1f0oaSI

  • Tebowsfirst16

    You are VERY uninformed. Do at least a TINY bit of research before posting a worthless article just to name drop Tebow based on zero info to back it up.
    Turns out Tebow ranks higher than Brady, Favre, Elway, Montana, both Mannings, Brees, and more through their first 16 games.

    If he sucks, then 17 Super Bowl winners, 14 Super Bowl MVPs, and 11 Hall of Famers rank below he who sucks.


    Tebows first

  • Dano

    It is clear that what it takes to be a great QB in college is not the same as what it takes to be a great QB in the pros. In the pros, the defense is faster than in the college ranks, defenses are more equitable to their offensive counterparts as opposed to the broad gaps between the best and worst in college. In addition, running the option in the pros simply doesn’t work well, and it works great in the pros. Anyone looking at a QBs success in college as the ultimate indicator of success in the pros isn’t looking at the right stats. Look at Rothlisberger, Flacco, Brady, etc., all were good in college but certainly didn’t stun the nation with their greatness. Now look at them. Watch out, Johnny Football…

  • Sonny Day

    Tim Tebow wasnt a failure .. but nice lie

    • Big RRRRR

      I agree… what was he at Denver as the starter, 7 – 2 ? No other team even gave him a chance. They hate the fact that he’s a Christian and that’s all there is to it!

  • TxLibertarian60

    Jerry Stovall, not Terry Baker, should have won the Heisman in 1962. He had a stellar, all-pro career at safety with the St. Louis Cardinals, teaming with Larry Wilson, to become arguably the best safety tandem of all time. They made the safety blitz famous.

  • rachel

    hmm… i think this guy has the body to make it in any sport ;)


  • Chris Jones

    Did you proofread this before you posted it?

  • ObsamaObambi

    Barry Osama is the biggest flop we’ve ever seen, hands down. The Kenyan jihadist DICKtator has made a mockery of America for the past 5+ years. Truly sickening, makes me want to vomit. God Bless!!

  • jomo

    didnt take long fir all the tebows nit wits to start claiming it was a conspiracy to keep him from playing.
    tebow is no more religious than any other person who says they believe in god.
    so quit making up lame excuses to hide the fact that NO ONE IN THE NFL WANTED THE GUY ON THEIR TEAM.

  • Dude

    Tim Tebow didn’t fail to make it as a football player, He was ousted because of his Christianity and idiots like this author keep the lie going. It was all political because the hate for Christians is strong these days. Tim Tebow will be vindicated, just like all Christians and Jesus Himself will be crowned the King of Kings. The jokes on you, but then again, it’s not a joke and I feel bad for those who mock. Their day of mocking will last a short time and then reality will set in… Too bad…

  • No Text

    Tebow didn’t fail and neither did Charlie Ward.

    Tebow started one season, took a team that was 1-3 before he got the starting job to the playoffs and beat the storied Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Not his fault no one wanted him. It seems teams didn’t want the circus. He’s better than many QBs on NFL rosters now.

    Judge him by what he did in the NFL. He succeeded.

    Ward chose not to play, that’s not a bust.

  • toddbook

    Amazing how some guy are just awesome in college and can’t make it work in the NFL, while others don’t have stellar college careers but somehow shine in the NFL. It’s always cool when a guy is picked as a late round or signed after the draft and becomes a star or at least a solid pro.