NFL greats like Eli Manning are moving on, and fans have seen some unexpected exits, like Andrew Luck. This adds up to a lot of second- and third-string QBs playing when they wouldn’t normally. With a high bar set by starters like Patrick Mahomes, there’s a huge gap in overall quality. But even these third-stringers guys haven’t racked up loss records like Vinny Testaverde.
This journeyman QB extraordinaire has a mind-boggling number of losses in the NFL. Testaverde bounced from team to team like a pinball. But is he really one of the worst NFL quarterbacks? The answer might surprise you.
The worst teams Vinny Testaverde played for
Testaverde had high hopes from the start. The Heisman Trophy winner, came off a great run with the Miami Hurricanes as the first overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft. According to Sports-Reference, he was the Hurricanes’ all-time leader in touchdown passes, at 48. So, the Buccaneers cashed in their top pick and kept Testaverde in Florida.
The Bucs weren’t very good during his rookie year, but you can hardly put that on Testaverde. In his second year, as the starter, the QB was a mess. He gave up 35 interceptions that year, enough to personally shoulder that year’s struggles. Pro-Football-Reference has the Bucs’ 1988 win/loss record at 5-11, well behind the division-leading Chicago Bears at 12-4.
During the back half of his career, Testaverde racked up more losses with the 2005 New York Jets. That 4-12 season was deeply forgettable except for one quirky stat. In a game against the Patriots, a 42-year-old Testaverde squared off with 43-year-old backup QB Doug Flutie. Both completed passes, making it the first time two QBs over 40 did so in the same game.
Was Testaverde a terrible QB or just an unlucky one?
Testaverde hit the national stage at the University of Miami and went on a tear. He was unequivocally great. Then, he faced the drastic leap in competition of the NFL, with a Bucs squad with little to offer in terms of assistance.
But Testaverde righted himself even during his stint in Tampa Bay. Reflecting on his career there, he told the Tampa Bay Times his frustrations were more in line with putting in work while taking losses. “In college, you can say I was one of the better players, but I had the talent around me. When I came to the Bucs, [it was] a lot of rookies learning together and making a lot of mistakes … It is a lot to handle for a young man.”
Testaverde experienced what countless players in team sports face every year. He personally brought the kind of play that tips games from the L column to the W column. The QB joined the under-discussed but large club of elite athletes who played for poor teams.
Why focusing on win/loss rate is misleading even for quarterbacks
Testaverde’s stats bear this out. He turned in performances that would put him in the Hall of Fame discussion if he did it on better teams. This includes throwing a career 46,233 yards. Testaverde even threw a 91.3% completion rate in one game in 1993, a record Drew Brees finally broke in 2019.
The QB with by far the most career losses might have a reasonable case as a dark-horse candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Over 21 seasons, eight teams, and demoralizing losses, Testaverde persevered. He never stopped putting in the best possible performances he could give.