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Giving up a pick-six is one of the most embarrassing moments possible for an NFL quarterback. All sorts of mistakes can leave a stain on their careers. But this particular brand of interception often signals the moment when a game truly spirals out of control.

When it happens, giving up a pick-six feels like the end of the world to fans — and likely to the QB themselves. But the perception of how a pick-six affects a football career might not be as true in reality. On the list of QBs who have given up the most pick-sixes, there are some surprising names near and at the top of the list.

How is a pick-six different from other types of interceptions?

Outside of touchdowns themselves, the moment a QB gives up an interception gets the biggest crowd and sideline reactions in the game. The pick-six is both at once. Games are regularly won or lost based on whether a quarterback makes this kind of critical error — or lacks the offensive line to prevent it.

According to SportsLingo, the term “pick-six” is about as literal as they come. It’s throwing a pick, another word for giving up an interception. But then, said “pick” is converted by the (unintended) receiver into a touchdown. Six points, hence the six. And there you have it: a “pick-six,” one of those common NFL terms that sounds abstract at first blush but turns out to very directly describe a simple concept.

The top 10 all-time quarterbacks who have thrown the most pick-sixes

So which QBs threw the most pick-sixes in their careers? The big names on this list — via Pro Football Reference — may surprise you:

  1. Brett Favre: 32
  2. Dan Marino: 29
  3. Matthew Stafford: 29
  4. Joe Namath: 28
  5. Drew Brees: 27
  6. Peyton Manning: 27
  7. Philip Rivers: 25
  8. Carson Palmer: 23
  9. Vinny Testaverde: 23
  10. Eli Manning: 22
Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Roger Staubach, Brett Favre, and John Elway stand on the field in red jackets at NFL 100 All-Time Team honors
NFL 100 All-Time Team participants Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Roger Staubach, Brett Favre, and John Elway | Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Notably, many of the QBs on this list are the best to ever do it. You can’t wash out of the league too quickly to make this list. And generally, you’ll be the type of quarterback to take big chances, which can lead to bigger failures.

So it makes perfect sense that someone like Favre would top the list. The Green Bay Packers legend had an excellent career for many years. He played hard, piling up some grievous mistakes along the way.

Then, his past resume carried him through some rough final years. Most infamously, his very first pass for the Atlanta Falcons was a pick-six that defined the rest of his time with the team — mainly on the bench.

The top five current NFL QBs with the most pick-sixes

The all-time list is one thing, a measure of the bad that comes with being great over an extended period. The current list of active players, on the other hand, matches that intuitive feeling of giving up too many pick-sixes a bit more directly, as Sportskeeda reports. Here are the top five QBs active within the last season to give up a few too many pick-sixes:

  1. Matthew Stafford: 22
  2. Matt Ryan: 19
  3. Ben Roethlisberger: 18
  4. Tom Brady: 17
  5. Andy Dalton: 15

Here, we get a list of QBs with major question marks over their careers. Roethlisberger and Brady met the end of their careers last season. Stafford spent much of his career struggling under the Detroit Lions and needed to prove himself with the Rams. Ryan’s number is spread across 14 seasons. And Dalton is settling into the final years of his career, transitioning toward a backup role.

It’s actually the guy who Dalton played backup for — who doesn’t appear on this list — that had the most talk about his rate of pick-sixes lately. Back from a season-long injury recovery, Dax Prescott was under the microscope for his mistakes. A horrific Week 18 pick-six against a fairly mediocre Washington Commanders team was perhaps the most talked-about interception of the year.


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