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Some Clarification is in Order: Mid-Season Quarterback Changes

So with Tebow's first start a big W now in the books, I wanted to get some perspective on mid-season quarterback changes in the NFL. When I set out to do this Some Clarification is in Order, I wasn't sure what to expect, for most of these studies I have a general idea of what I am going to find, with this one I didn't have the foggiest idea. So with no real idea what I'd find, I set out without a clear set of boundaries for my research, and that's always a bad idea.

Once I went back a number of years I started seeing patterns and was able to put together the post you will now read. Now a huge disclaimer, take this post how you will. I am not in favor of seeing Orton on the field again, and believe Tebow should finish the season out, no matter how he plays. So please, I am just laying out history here, take it any way you want, but I'm not here to say mid-season quarterback changes are good or bad, though I do have personal ideas based on history.

Let's get to it.

The Parameters:

I decided, after starting this research, I would only go back a decade. I do this because during the past ten years there have been 63 teams that have switched quarterbacks, so the sample size is large enough, and if I went back another decade, the post would be even longer, and since I know I can only keep attention for so long, the shorter the better. So let's look at this:

- Look at 2001 to 2010
- Exclude injury changes. I do this because this wasn't a choice by the team, rather it had more to do with fate than a choice. So Orton's benching this season would be included, but Orton's benching from last season wouldn't be included.
- Since a team may have an injury quarterback switch and then have the two backups may have switch, so on the table the total games shown in the record may no add up to 16.
- Quarterbacks who are injured, but don't start as soon as they get healthy but start due to the current starters poor play is included. Grossman's return and Orton's benching in 2005 would fit that bill.
- I will include the players records.
- After I list all the quarterback changes, I will list whether that change was good in the short term, i.e. the switch saw immediate improvement. The 2006 Tennessee Titans switch from an 0-3 Collins to an 8-3 Young would be considered good. The 2004 New York Giants switch from a 5-4 Warner to a 1-6 Eli Manning would be considered bad. There is also the option of no change, for example the change lead to no improvement. Now I took into consideration offensive rankings and statistics, so while those aren't shown because of spacing issues, my verdict isn't based purely on record. I will also take into account starting a rookie or young QB, or vice versa. So if a team switches from a vet to a younger player and sees no change, I would include that under good since the team is able to judge the younger player and saw no downturn in play. The opposite would be true, benching a younger player for a vet and seeing no change would be labeled bad.
- I will also give a judgement on whether the move was good in the long term. This is based on whether that quarterback change led to further quarterback controversy, Vince Young and Kerry Collins constantly flip flopping was bad long term. We used the switch from Warner to Eli Manning as an example as a bad short term switch, but was good long term. Now the third option here, and that is No Effect. This is when all the quarterbacks involved in the switch are either not starters next season or they are not on the team. Take the Anderson/Hall?Skelton switch of last season, since all three are either off the team or not likely to ever start, those changes had no effect long term since the Cardinals went with Kevin Kolb.

Now I know there is a lot there so take your time, I can wait...


The Table:

NOTE: Like all my posts, and most posts  on Mile High Report, this is best viewed on the Wide Setting, so please go to the top right of the page and make the switch from narrow to wide, it does wonders.

Year Team Starting QB Record 2nd QB Record 3rd QB Record 4th QB Record 5th QB Record Short Term Long Term
2010 Washington McNabb 5-8 Grossman 1-2             Bad No Effect
2010 Buffalo Edwards 0-2 Fitzpatrick 4-9             Good Good
2010 Tennessee Young 3-2 Collins 1-0 Young 1-2 R. Smith 0-1 Collins 1-5 Bad No Effect
2010 Carolina Clausen 1-9 Moore 1-4 St. Pierre 0-1         No Change No Effect
2010 Oakland Campbell 1-1 Gradkowski 1-2 Campbell 4-1 Gradkowski 0-1 Campbell 2-1 Good No Effect
2010 San Fran A. Smith 1-6 T. Smith 3-2 A. Smith 2-2         Good Good
2010 Arizona Anderson 2-7 Hall 1-2 Skelton 2-2         No Change No Effect
2009 Buffalo Edwards 1-4 Fitzpatrick 4-5 Brohm 0-1 Fitzpatrick 1-0     Good Good
2009 Tennessee Collins 0-6 Young 5-1 Collins 1-0 Young 2-1     Good Bad
2009 Cleveland Quinn 0-3 Anderson 1-4 Quinn 2-4 Anderson 2-0     Good No Effect
2009 Oakland Russell 2-7 Gradkowski 2-2 Frye 1-2         Bad No Effect
2009 Carolina Delhomme 4-7 Moore 5-2             Good No Effect
2009 Tampa Bay Leftwich 0-2 Johnson 0-5 Freeman 3-6         Good Good
2009 St. Louis Bulger 0-2 Boller 0-3 Bulger 1-4 Boller 0-2 Null 0-4 Bad No Effect
2009 San Fran Hill 3-3 A. Smith 5-5             Good Good
2008 Buffalo Edwards 6-5 Losman 0-3 Edwards 1-1         Bad Bad
2008 Cleveland Anderson 3-5 Quinn 1-2 Anderson 0-1 Dorsey 0-3 Gradkowski 0-2 Bad Bad
2008 Kansas City Croyle 0-1 Thigpen 0-3 Huard 1-1 Croyle 0-1 Thigpen 1-9 Bad No Effect
2008 Minnesota Jackson 0-2 Frerotte 8-3             Good No Effect
2008 Detroit Kitna 0-4 Orlovsky 0-4 Culpepper 0-5 Orlovsky 0-3     No Change No Effect
2008 San Fran O'Sullivan 3-6 Hill 5-3             Good No Effect
2007 Miami Green 0-5 Lemon 0-5 Beck 0-4 Lemon 1-2     No Change No Effect
2007 Buffalo Losman 0-2 Edwards 3-2 Losman 2-2 Edwards 2-3     Bad Bad
2007 Kansas City Huard 4-5 Croyle 0-2 Huard 0-2 Croyle 0-3     Bad Bad
2007 Oakland J. McCown 0-2 Culpepper 2-3 J. McCown 0-2 Culpepper 1-2 McCown 1-3 Bad No Effect
2007 Chicago Grossman 1-2 Griese 3-3 Grossman 1-3 Orton 2-1     Good Good
2007 Arizona Leinart 1-2 Warner 7-6             Good Good
2007 St. Louis Bulger 0-4 Frerotte 1-2 Bulger 2-3 Berlin 0-1 Bulger 0-3 No Change Bad
2007 Atlanta Harrington 3-7 Leftwich 0-1 Harrington 0-2 Redman 1-2     No Change No Effect
2007 San Fran A. Smith 2-2 Dilfer 0-2 A. Smith 0-3 Dilfer 1-3 Hill 2-1 Good Bad
2006 Tennessee Collins 0-3 V. Young 8-3             Good Good
2006 Jacksonville Leftwich 3-3 Garrard 5-5             No Change Good
2006 Cleveland Frye 3-8 Anderson 0-3 Frye 0-2         Bad Bad
2006 Miami Culpepper 1-3 Harrington 5-6 Lemon 0-1         Bad No Effect
2006 Oakland Walter 2-5 Brooks 0-6 Walter 0-1         Bad No Effect
2006 Denver Plummer 7-4 Cutler 2-3             Bad Good
2006 Dallas Bledsoe 3-3 Romo 6-5             Good Good
2006 Washington Brunell 3-6 Campbell 2-5             No Change Good
2006 Minnesota Johnson 6-8 Jackson 0-2             Bad Good
2006 Arizona Warner 1-4 Leinart 4-7 Warner 0-1         No Change Bad
2006 Tampa Bay Gradkowski 3-8 Rattay 1-2             No Change No Effect
2005 Buffalo Losman 1-3 Holcomb 3-2             Good No Effect
2005 Cleveland Dilfer 4-7 Frye 2-3             No Change No Effect
2005 Detroit Harrington 4-7 Garcia 1-4             Bad Bad
2005 Chicago Orton 10-3 Grossman 2-1             No Change No Effect
2005 New Orleans Brooks 3-10 Bouman 0-3             Bad No Effect
2005 San Fran Seven   Quarterback   Changes           No Change Bad
2004 Miami Fiedler 0-1 Feeley 0-2 Fielder 1-5 Feely 3-3 Rosenfels 0-1 No Change No Effect
2004 Cleveland Garcia 3-7 McCown 0-4 Holocomb 1-1         Bad No Effect
2004 New York Giants Warner 5-4 E. Manning 1-6             Bad Good
2004 Washington Brunell 3-6 Ramsey 3-4             No Change No Effect
2004 Chicago J. Quinn 0-3 Krenzel 3-2 Hutchinson 1-4         No Change No Effect
2003 Jacksonville Brunell 0-3 Leftwich 5-8             Good Good
2003 Cleveland Holcomb 1-2 Couch 2-3 Holocomb 1-4 Couch 1-2     No Change No Effect
2003 San Diego Brees 2-9 Flutie 2-3             Good Bad
2003 Chicago Stewart 1-4 Chandler 3-3 Stewart 1-1         Good No Effect
2003 Atlanta D. Johnson 1-5 Kittner 1-3 D. Johnson 0-2 Vick 3-1     Good Good
2002 Cincinnati Frerotte 0-3 Akili Smith 0-1 Kitna 2-10         No Change No Effect
2002 Pittsburgh Stewart 1-2 Maddox 4-2-1 Stewart 2-0 Maddox 3-1     Good No Effect
2002 Dallas Carter 3-4 Hutchinson 2-7             Bad Bad
2002 Washington Matthews 1-2 Ramsey 1-2 Matthews 2-2 Wuerffel 1-2 Ramsey 2-1 No Change Bad
2002 Chicago Miller 1-4 Chandler 1-4 Miller 0-3 Chandler 1-1 Burris 0-1 Bad No Effect
2001 Washington George 0-2 Banks 8-6             Good No Effect



  • Short Term Stats:
    - 23 changes were good (37%)
    - 21 changes were bad (33%)
    - 19 changes cause no change (30%)
  • Long Term Stats:
    - 16 changes were good (25%)
    - 14 changes were bad (22%)
    - 33 changes cause no effect (52%)
  • So the biggest thing to me was that 52% of all quarterbacks involved in mid-season changes are either benched, traded or cut the following season. So half the time, all quarterbacks involved are not in the long term plans of the team.

Now I know some will disagree with a few of the short term and long term effects, and that's fine, but I did my best to base this on rankings, records, youth, stats as well as situations between players and coaches. I will say if you disagree with effect I listed, feel free to just look at everything except the last two columns. So there you have it, a historical look at quarterback changes and make your own conclusions. Hope this was helpful for those like myself who wanted to look mid-season quarterback changes.