There are NFL players who were so good that, even decades after they retired, they will always be remembered by sports fans as being among the best players in the history of the league. Then there are some players who played in the league, but they were so bad that they are quickly forgotten, and in some cases even thought of as being among the league’s worst players ever.
Bob Timberlake falls into that latter category, but he has a unique distinction as he failed spectacularly at two different positions after being a high draft pick. Who is Bob Timberlake?
Bob Timberlake’s college career
Timberlake played three seasons as a quarterback at Michigan, playing in 24 games from 1962-64. He completed 48.6% of his passes for 1,578 yards and eight touchdowns, with 12 interceptions.
He also carried the ball 315 times for 906 yards and 10 touchdowns, and he even had 11 receptions in his first season, gaining another 164 yards. Timberlake finished fourth in Heisman voting in 1964, when he led the school to its first Big Ten title in 14 years.
Timberlake subsequently led the Wolverines to a victory over Oregon State in the Rose Bowl. The Giants took him in the third round (No. 33 overall) in the 1965 NFL draft.
Bob Timberlake is among the NFL’s worst players
When Deadspin named its worst players in NFL history, Timberlake had the dubious distinction of being No. 2 on the list, behind only QB Rusty Lisch. So what made Timberlake so bad?
For one thing, despite being the 33rd pick in the draft — which would be the equivalent of the top pick in the second round today — he couldn’t even earn the Giants’ starting quarterback job after signing a two-year, $85,000 contract.
When Earl Morrall beat out Timberlake as the Giants’ No. 1 quarterback, they decided to go in a different direction with Timberlake. The team’s primary kicker suffered an injury, so the team replaced him with Timberlake. Timberlake missed his only field goal try in his first career game on Sept. 26, 1965, then he nailed a 43-yard field goal on October 3, helping the Giants beat the Steelers, but it was all downhill from there.
Timberlake went on to miss his next 14 field goal attempts, and the Giants cut him before the next season. So in his 12 games in 1965, Timberlake ended up going 1-for-15 in field goal attempts, but on the positive side he was 21-of-22 in PAT attempts. Timberlake would never play another game in the NFL.
Bob Timberlake is the “father of the Super Bowl?”
After the Giants cut Timberlake, they signed Bills kicker Pete Gogolak, who was football’s first soccer-style kicker. That signing ended a “gentleman’s agreement” between the NFL and AFL to not sign each other’s players.
A string of similar interleague signings would follow, which eventually led to the NFL-AFL merger. The merger of the two leagues subsequently led to the start of the championship game that would become known as the Super Bowl.
Since Timberlake’s release set all of this into motion, legendary NFL Films producer Steve Sabol has called Timberlake the “father of the Super Bowl.”
According to Football Outsiders, after he flamed out in the NFL, Bob Timberlake found his ultimate calling as an ordained Presbyterian minister, thanks to his well-documented devotion to Christianity. He has also been a hospital administrator at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. In 2003, he joined Marquette University to teach courses on community service and faith, as well as mentoring the school’s student chapter of Habitat for Humanity.