2. Vinny Testaverde, QB, Ravens
- 1986 Heisman Trophy winner
- Ravens tenure: 1996-1997
Before Lamar, before Flacco, before McNair, before Boller, and before Dilfer, there was Vinny Testaverde — the first quarterback ever to start a game for the Baltimore Ravens.
You’ll occasionally find Testaverde’s name in the NFL record book if you look hard enough, although generally, these records have more to do with longevity than actual talent.
Testaverde somehow hung around in the league for 21 seasons despite rarely rising above the level of “mediocre.” In four different seasons, he led or tied for the league lead in interceptions thrown.
Still, Testaverde saw something of a career renaissance starting in 1994, when he led the Bill Belichick-era Cleveland Browns to a playoff berth.
This would be Cleveland’s last bit of success in their original form, as the team packed their bags and left for Baltimore two years later with Vinny in tow.
Then something weird happened. Vinny Testaverde magically turned into Brett Favre.
Testaverde’s 1996 season may be the greatest statistical outlier for any quarterback in NFL history. To that point, he had yet to throw for more than 3,240 yards in a season. In 1996, he somehow passed for 4,177 yards and 33 touchdowns against 19 interceptions.
Unfortunately, this unexpectedly productive season wasn’t enough to help the Ravens win more than four games, as the defense — despite the presence of rookie Ray Lewis — was truly execrable, allowing the most yards in the NFL that season.
Testaverde’s play regressed badly in 1997, and the Ravens released him after the season. He would play 10 more seasons in the NFL for four other teams, including a successful run with the New York Jets.