If you watch professional football, this much is clear. No position, regardless of scheme, is more important than quarterback. Even in run-first offenses, the quarterback will touch the ball on the vast majority of snaps, if for no other reason than to hand the ball off. The quarterback is the conductor of the offense, and it’s hard to reach the Super Bowl without a damn good one. Just ask Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, they’ve started in 12 of the last 18 championship games. Everyone wants a great quarterback, which is why they’ve been taken first overall 14 times since the turn of the millenia.
However, not all quarterback classes are created equal. Just ask the 2013 draft class, which has fewer starters at the position in the NFL in 2019 than the 2000 class. Some classes have produced several stars, like the 2004 class, and others, others have disappointed. But in the long, illustrious history of the NFL, I don’t know if any class is more curious than the 2012 group, a cast of characters that has changed the face of the NFL completely.
The Twisted Tale of the 2012 Quarterback Class
1.1- Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck was, and if we’re being honest, still is, the greatest quarterback prospect of all time. Brains? Setting his degree in Architectural Engineering from Stanford aside, he was raised by Oliver Luck, a NFL quarterback himself. Brawn? At 6’4, 234 pounds, he not only looked the part, but was more than capable of playing it. Despite his size, he ran a 4.67 40 time, and could make all the throws. Luck could’ve thrived in just about any offensive scheme, with just about any supporting talent.
Unfortunately, we know this for a fact. Injuries and inept management hampered what could have been a Hall of Fame career. Luck suffered from a myriad of injuries over his time as Indy’s starting quarterback, and ultimately, it drove him to retire early, quoting a lost passion for the game.
Luck retired right before the 2019 NFL season, leaving Jacoby Brissett to take over as starting quarterback of the Colts.
Stats: 53-33 record, 2000/3290 for 23,671 yards, 171 touchdowns, 83 interceptions, and 332 rushes for 1,590 yards and 14 touchdowns.
1.2- Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
While Andrew Luck’s rise to prominence was notable years in advance, the explosion of super-athlete Robert Griffin the third came out of nowhere. The man they called RGIII play all four years at Baylor, but it wasn’t until his Heisman Trophy winning senior season that he really became a trendy pro prospect. Equally adept as a passer and a rusher, RGIII dazzled with his cannon of an arm and electric speed.
And for a year, that translated into the pro game. As a rookie, he accumulated 4,015 all-purpose yards, 27 total touchdowns, and led the Washington Redskins to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. But even during his phenomenal rookie campaign, his aggressive playing style and diminutive playing style didn’t mix. He got hurt at the end of the season, and ultimately couldn’t even finish his lone playoff start.
After two more underwhelming seasons in Washington where he failed to replicate his rookie success, he was released. He’s bounced around the league since then, starting for the Cleveland Browns during their 1-15 campaign in 2016, before serving as the back-up quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens, where he remains to this day.
Stats: 15-25 record, 774/1222 for 9,059 yards, 43 touchdowns, 26 interceptions, and 279 rushes for 1,679 yards and 10 touchdowns.
1.8- Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
If you couldn’t get Andrew Luck, and you missed out on the RGIII sweepstakes, the best consolation prize you could ask for was Texas A&M’s converted wide receiver, Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill had the ideal size for a starting quarterback, with exceptional versatility and athleticism, and consistent accuracy. The only knock on him was that there wasn’t a ton of film on him as a starting quarterback, and that he would need time to develop before he took the wheel for any franchise.
This turned out to be true, as the Dolphins immediately threw him into the fire, asking him to start all 16 games as a rookie. The thing about Tannehill is that he was never really great, but he wasn’t really bad either. On the career, he averaged 3,715 yards, 22 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, and eight wins a season.
Eventually, injuries and sub-par play cost him his job as Miami’s starting quarterback and he was traded to the Tennessee Titans, where he eventually supplanted Marcus Mariota as the starting quarterback. He’s the first quarterback, one of only three, that are still the established starter of a NFL team.
Stats (As of 10/23/19): 43-47 record, 1865/2956 for 20,890 yards, 125 touchdowns, 77 interceptions, and 256 rushes for 1,221 yards and six touchdowns.
1.22- Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
Oh boy, where to start with Brandon Weeden? He chose to play Minor League Baseball in his youth, so by the time he got to the NFL, he was already 29 years old. Even in the best case scenario, he simply wasn’t going to give a team the kind of production you expect from a first round pick.
Despite that, he was actually really productive in college, and he obviously grasped the concept of the position. He had the right frame, his passes had zip, he could make all the throws, and his accuracy wasn’t half-bad either. Maybe that’s why the Cleveland Browns decided to bite the bullet and spend a first round pick on him.
They realized pretty quickly that they’d made a mistake, as he failed to transition to the pros. In less than a year, he lost his job as Cleveland’s starter and found himself on the bench of the Dallas Cowboys. He got the occasional playing time, filling in for Tony Romo, and ended his career with the Houston Texans.
Technically, Weeden is still a NFL free agent, as he didn’t officially retire. Though I’m not sure who would be interested in a 36 year old back-up quarterback that never really found his footing in the NFL.
Stats: (booyaka booyaka) 6-19 record, 559/965 for 6,462 yards, 31 touchdowns, 30 interceptions, and 27 rushes for 111 yards.
2.57- Brock Osweiler, Denver Broncos
There’s a quarterback like Brock Osweiler that comes out every single season. He’s a large, gifted athlete with a few bad habits that can be coached away. Osweiler was a converted basketball player that opted to leave college a year too early, but had promising athletic traits, including a fantastic arm.
The Broncos agreed, and opted to take him as their quarterback of the future. He sat behind Peyton Manning for a few years before stepping in during the 2015 season when the future Hall of Famer was injured. He actually played moderately well, going 5-2 and keeping the eventual Super Bowl Champions afloat while Manning recovered.
Then it got funky. A free agent, he made his way to Houston on a monster contract… and failed to live up to it. So they traded him to the Cleveland Browns to lose the contract, and they straight up cut him. He went back to Denver, where he wasn’t able to replicate his success, and spent a part of last season with the Miami Dolphins.
This off-season, he retired, claiming a Super Bowl ring, and $41,396,679 in career earnings. He’s only 29, wealthy beyond his wildest dreams in unearned riches, and hey, we can call him a loser, but who wouldn’t switch places?
Stats: 15-15 record, 697/1165 for 7,418 yards, 37 touchdowns, 31 interceptions, and 92 rushes for 266 yards and four touchdowns.
3.75- Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
In hindsight, it’s baffling that Russell Wilson fell this far, but there were questions about his size and durability coming out of college. It’s funny now, thinking about how reliable Wilson has been, while RGIII couldn’t stay on the field, but Wilson’s height is the biggest reason he fell to the third round.
However, it didn’t take long for Wilson to make all the experts look foolish. Sure, the Legion of Boom and Marshawn Lynch were the stars early, but they’ve all moved on to greener pastures and the Seahawks remain successful under Wilson. The Hawks have never had a losing record under Wilson, and have double digit wins in every season but one. He’s taken the team to two Super Bowls, winning one, and so far in 2019, is well on his way to winning League MVP.
Stats (As of 10/23/19): 80-38-1 record, 2252/3491 for 27,569 yards, 211 touchdowns, 64 interceptions, and 684 rushes for 3,829 yards and 19 touchdowns.
3.88- Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
Perhaps the most interesting quarterback in this class, Nick Foles was an afterthought in this draft. It’s ironic that the guy known for catching a pass in the Super Bowl was knocked for his perceived lack of athleticism coming out of college, but considered a fundamentally sound prospect. Good-not-great at everything, this Shaggy lookalike was drafted to potentially replace Michael Vick in Philadelphia.
Which, of course, he eventually did. Vick’s injuries kept him off the field, and Foles played well when he stepped in. When he was finally given the job, he excelled, taking the Eagles to the playoffs and putting up good numbers. However, the next year, he fell off pretty dramatically, and guess what? That became a pattern.
He’d go somewhere to be the starter, struggle until he lost his job, become the back-up, and then thrive when he stepped into the limelight. This was especially true in his second run with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he took over for Carson Wentz and led the team to their first Super Bowl. The following year, he almost did it again.
These days, Nick Foles is paid handsomely to play quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but his spot on the team is in jeopardy. Since he’s been injured, upstart rookie, Gardner Minshew, has played moderately well in his absence. Maybe the Jaguars will give the vet the reigns back when he returns, maybe they’ll stick with the hot hand, but man, how ironic is it that Foles finds himself on this side of the starter/back-up dilemma dynamic?
Stats (As of 10/23/19): 26-19 record, 979/1589 for 11,240 yards, 69 touchdowns, 33 interceptions, and 125 rushes for 125 yards and five touchdowns.
4.102- Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
How bizarre is it that 100 picks after the Redskins took RGIII, they took another quarterback, and of those two, only the second one is still a starter? Kirk Cousins, who was never meant to be more than a relatively athletic camp arm, is one of the highest paid quarterbacks in NFL history, and RGIII has to sit behind a quarterback with essentially the same skillset as him?
But you guys know the story. After RGIII flamed out, Cousins stepped up, and actually played pretty well, even taking the squad to the playoffs on two different occasions. Though ultimately, the Redskins decided he was good, but not great, and not worth the going rate of a starting quarterback, so they let him hit free agency.
In 2019, he’s barreling towards his fifth straight 4,000 yard season as the starting quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings.
Stats (As of 10/23/19): 39-39-2 record, 1929/2891 for 22,215 yards, 142 touchdowns, 68 interceptions, and 188 rushes for 539 yards and 15 touchdowns.
6.185- Ryan Lindley, Arizona Cardinals
Lindley is really the last quarterback on this list to see any kind of real playing time, and it’s easy to see why. Any time you get a quarterback prospect with his kind of size and arm, teams will take a risk. He wasn’t an incredible athlete, but he was good enough to evade pressure in the pocket, and on a good day, was fairly accurate.
Between 2012 and 2014, Lindley had some opportunities to play for the Arizona Cardinals, but it never really went well. In both career games where he threw for at least 300 yards, he had two touchdowns compared to seven interceptions, driving home the point that the more involved he was in the offense, the worse things would be for the team’s success.
Lindley has been out of the league since 2015.
Stats: 1-5 record, 140/274 for 1,372 yards, three touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and four rushes for seven yards.
7.243- B.J. Coleman, Green Bay Packers
Coming out of Chattanooga, B.J. Coleman had the prototypical quarterback look, standing at 6’3, 233 pounds, and was actually pretty accurate when schemed properly. Sadly, he struggled with many of the positions fundamental requirements. He didn’t have an exceptionally strong arm, and he failed to go through his reads quickly.
Unfortunately, teams agreed, and he was released a year later before he saw any regular season action. He also had stints in the Arena and Canadian Football Leagues, but didn’t really make an impression there either.
7.253- Chandler Harnish, Indianapolis Colts
Coming out of Northern Illinois, Chandler Harnish was a phenomenal physical prospect. He had a stout frame and impressive athleticism that had many comparing him to Tim Tebow. Sadly, that’s not where the comparisons ended. He also struggled with accuracy, and was considered by many to be a project player at best.
Sadly, Chandler Harnish never took a single snap in the regular season of a NFL game, and after essentially bouncing around practice squads, he essentially retired from the game of football in 2015. How strange is it that the Colts selected a quarterback with the very first and the very last picks in this strange, magical class?
The 2012 Quarterback Class
All in all, the 2012 quarterback class has a record (as of 10/23/2019) of 278-240-3, they’ve thrown for 123,896 yards, 832 touchdowns, and 423 interceptions, as well as rushing for 9,367 yards, and 73 touchdowns. They’ve won three Super Bowls, and started games for 15 different teams.
Everyone loves to talk about how Dan Marino fell so far in 1983, how the San Diego Chargers drafted Eli Manning, and how Lamar Jackson was taken 31 spots after Baker Mayfield, but to me? Nothing comes close to the 2012 quarterback class, maybe the strangest of all time.