The worst first starts in NFL history, and what happened next – NFL Nation

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Buffalo Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman can take solace in at least one dark fact: He is not alone.

But please, please, please: Let us avoid sugarcoating what was a historically awful performance Sunday. Peterman thrust himself into some ugly company after throwing five interceptions in 14 attempts during the first half of the Bills’ 54-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

Below you’ll find six similarly disastrous first starts in the history of professional football, dating back more than 50 years. Suffice it to say, things didn’t work out too well for most of these guys. (Special thanks to Paul Hembekides of ESPN Stats & Information, as well as the Elias Sports Bureau, for some quick research Monday morning.)


Six interceptions … by a punter

Yes, Peterman’s five interceptions aren’t the most thrown in a first career start. (Of course, who knows what would have happened if he had played in the second half Sunday.) Tom Tupa, a unique quarterback/punter drafted in 1988 by the Phoenix Cardinals, threw six picks against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 6 of the 1989 season. It’s worth noting that interceptions were much more frequent across the NFL in the 1980s. The average interception rate in 1989 was 3.9 percent. In 2017, it’s 2.4 percent.

Regardless, Tupa rebounded well in a relief appearance three weeks later against the Dallas Cowboys, throwing for 245 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 24-20 victory. He also avoided an interception in his second and only other start of the season, a 14-13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12. Ultimately, however, Tupa was judged to be more of a punter than a quarterback. He made 25 NFL starts as a quarterback, but none after 1991. He was almost exclusively a punter from that point until his 2004 retirement.

Three blocked punts!

Steve Broussard, a 28-year-old rookie who had kicked at Auburn and Southern Mississippi in college, won the Green Bay Packers‘ punting job to start the 1975 season. It did not go well. He punted nine times in his debut against the Detroit Lions. Three of them were blocked, which remains an NFL record for most punts blocked in a single game. The Lions returned one for a touchdown and recovered another in the end zone for a second score in a 30-16 victory.

Broussard lasted three more games, averaging a gross of 31.8 yards per punt, before the Packers moved on. He never appeared in another NFL game.

A pounding for David Klingler

The Bengals drafted Klingler in 1992 as the heir apparent to Boomer Esiason, banking that Klingler’s massive college statistics as a run-and-shoot quarterback at the University of Houston would translate in the NFL. He got his first start in Week 13 of his rookie season. It went poorly. The Pittsburgh Steelers sacked him 10 times in a 21-9 victory. (The NFL record for sacks in a game, then and now, is 12. Sacks became an official statistic in 1982.)

Klingler made three more starts that season, heroically absorbing eight additional sacks in that period, but was one of many Bengals draft busts in that era. He took 40 sacks in 13 starts the following season, departed Cincinnati in 1995 and was out of the league by 1997.

Passer rating MIA

Yes, Randy Fasani started a 2002 game for the Carolina Panthers, played the entire game, and finished with a 0.0 passer rating in a 12-9 loss to the Buccaneers. It is the only instance of a 0.0 debut passer rating since at least 2002. Fasani threw three interceptions to the Bucs and completed five (of 18 attempts) to his teammates, for a total of 47 yards.

A fifth-round pick of the Panthers that year, Fasani made two relief appearances thereafter and finished the season — and his NFL career — with an 8.8 passer rating.

Three misses — and you’re out

Long before he became the University of Louisville’s athletic director, and was fired last month after a sweeping FBI investigation into NCAA men’s basketball, Tom Jurich was a place-kicker. In 1978, he was a 10th-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was released before the season began, but in Week 7, the New Orleans Saints signed him as part of a season-long attempt to rectify a disastrous kicking situation. He made both extra point attempts, but missed on three field goal tries — including two from less than 30 yards. Those misses proved the difference in a 14-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Jurich is the only place-kicker since 1970 to miss three field goal attempts in his NFL debut. The Saints moved on, and Jurich never kicked in the NFL again.

A six-fumble intro for a Canadian star

Sam “The Rifle” Etcheverry was a star quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes, then of a league known as the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union, from 1952 to 1960. He won the league’s Most Outstanding Player award in 1954 and is part of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

In 1961, after a trade to Hamilton, he decided to try his hand in the NFL. As a 31-year-old “rookie” quarterback for the St. Louis Cardinals, he fumbled six times in the season opener — which the Cardinals somehow managed to win 21-10 over the New York Giants. No player has ever fumbled more times in an NFL debut.

Etcheverry went on to start 12 more games over the next two seasons for Cardinals teams that finished 7-7 and 4-9-1, respectively, before retiring and returning to Canada as a coach.



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