With noted southpaw quarterback Tua Tagovailoa now the starting QB for the Miami Dolphins, the NFL finally ended its left-handed QB drought. Prior to Tagovailoa, no lefty QB had thrown a pass in a regular-season NFL game since 2015.
And with that trend seemingly close to ending, now would be a good time to take a look back at left-handed quarterbacks. Only 32 southpaws have played quarterback in NFL history. Here are the most notable ones:
Albert was the first notable left-handed quarterback in NFL history. He went 10th overall in the 1942 NFL Draft to the Chicago Bears, but he didn't debut in the league until 1946 because of WWII. Albert never played for the Bears, but he was the first starting quarterback in the history of the San Francisco 49ers. He played for the 49ers from 1946-52 and made the Pro Bowl in the team's first NFL season in 1950.
Here is a picture of Albert as head coach of the 49ers in 1956.
The Los Angeles Rams drafted Baker first overall in the 1963 NFL Draft. The then San Diego Chargers also picked Baker in the AFL draft the same year. Baker made just five starts in three seasons for the Rams and ran for more yards than he passed. He finished his football career in the CFL, retiring after the 1968 season.
"The Snake" is the first of two Hall of Fame quarterbacks on our list. Stabler played 15 seasons in the NFL, 10 of which for the then Oakland Raiders. He led the Raiders to six straight playoff appearances from 1972-77, and from 1973-77, Oakland made the AFC championship every year. Stabler and the Raiders finally broke through with a Super Bowl victory during the 1976 season. He made four Pro Bowls and won MVP in 1974. Stabler finished his career with the Oilers and Saints from 1980-84.
Douglass began his career with the Bears, going to the organization as a second-round pick in 1969. He never posted a winning record during a season in which he started more than one game, but Douglass did set an NFL record with 968 rushing yards in 1972. That stood as the most for a quarterback in an individual NFL season until 2006. Douglass also played for the Chargers, Saints and Packers. He threw for 6,500 yards and rushed for more than 2,600 in 10 seasons.
The Raiders added Humm as Stabler's backup during the 1975 draft. He was a career backup, playing for the Raiders, Bills and Colts from 1975-84. Humm won Super Bowl XI with the Raiders and then returned to the team in 1983 when the then Los Angeles Raiders won Super Bowl XVIII. Humm started just one game in his career for the then Baltimore Colts in 1980. He threw for 753 yards during his 10-year career.
The Dallas Cowboys signed Zorn as an undrafted free agent in 1975, but he didn't make the team. The following season, Zorn started 16 games for the expansion Seattle Seahawks. Zorn made 100 starts as Seattle's first starting quarterback from 1976-84. He finished his career with the Packers and Buccaneers. In 2008-09, he was head coach of the Washington Redskins. Zorn threw for more than 21,000 yards and 111 touchdowns during his 11-year career.
McDonald was mostly a career backup, but he started all 16 games during the 1984 season for the Browns. Cleveland drafted him in the fourth round of the 1980 draft, and he made 21 starts for the Browns. He finished his career for the Cowboys in 1987. McDonald threw for 5,269 yards and 24 touchdowns in seven seasons.
Still one of the best left-handed passers in NFL history, Esiason played in 14 NFL seasons, including 10 years for the Bengals, and he led Cincinnati to Super Bowl XXII. Unfortunately for him, late heroics from Joe Montana and the 49ers robbed him of an NFL title. However, Esiason won MVP that season (1988) and earned four Pro Bowls during his career, the last of which was with the Jets in 1993. He also played one season for the Cardinals. Esiason led the NFL in yards per attempt in 1986 and 1988, finishing his career with nearly 38,000 passing yards and 247 touchdowns.
Regarded as the greatest left-handed quarterback of all time, Young won two MVP Awards and made the All-Pro team three times. From 1992-94, he posted three of the best consecutive seasons from any signal-caller in NFL history, let alone southpaws. Young led the 49ers to the NFC championship game during each of those three years, and the team finally broke through in 1994. San Francisco won Super Bowl XXIX, and Young was named the game's MVP, after setting a Super Bowl record with six touchdowns. He retired with the highest passer rating in history, finishing his career with more than 33,000 passing yards, 4,000 rushing yards and 232 passing touchdowns. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
A career journeyman, Mitchell began his career with the Dolphins and played well for the team when Dan Marino was injured in 1993. That led to an opportunity with the Lions, where he spent five seasons and led Detroit to the playoffs in 1995 and 1997. Mitchell won 10 games as a starter in 1995, which a Detroit quarterback wouldn't do again until 2011. Mitchell threw for 15,692 yards and 95 touchdowns with the Lions, Dolphins, Ravens and Bengals in 11 NFL seasons.
A first-round pick in the 1991 draft, Marinovich spent two seasons in the NFL, starting eight games for the Raiders from 1991-92. He went 3-5 as a starter, throwing for 1,345 yards, eight touchdowns and nine interceptions. Unfortunately he never lived up to his first-round hype, mostly because of a substance-abuse problem he dealt with throughout his NFL career. He failed a drug test and was suspended for the 1993 season, and he never played in the NFL again.
Drafted in the fifth round of the 1994 NFL Draft by the Packers, Brunell spent just one season in Green Bay before joining the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars. He started 10 games in the team's first season and then led the Jaguars to winning records each of the next four years, from 1996-1999. Jacksonville went to the AFC championship twice during that span, including in 1999 when the team posted a 14-2 regular season record. Brunell and the Jaguars weren't able to repeat that success moving forward, though, and he left Jacksonville in 2003. Brunell played seven more seasons, for the Redskins, Saints and Jets. He went 78-73 as a starter and posted more than 32,000 passing yards and 184 touchdowns during his career.
A Saints fourth-round pick during the 1996 NFL Draft, Nussmeier played in New Orleans for two seasons. He made two starts, losing both, during the 1996 and 1997 seasons. He also appeared in three other games during that span. Nussmeier spent three other years in the NFL but didn't appear in a game again after 1997. He threw for 455 passing yards and a touchdown in five career games.
Similar to Nussmeier, McNown appeared in NFL games during only two seasons, 1999 and 2000, but he got the chance to start 15 games for the Bears. Chicago selected McNown No. 12 overall in the 1999 NFL Draft, but he went just 3-12 as a starter with 3,111 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and 19 interceptions with the Bears. Chicago traded McNown to the Miami Dolphins after the 2000 season, and then the Dolphins flipped him to the 49ers the following offseason. He never played in an NFL game again after 2000.
He's still one of the most controversial figures in recent NFL history, but Vick was spectacular on the field. He was an immediate star when he finally received the chance to play regularly in 2002, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and rushing for almost 800 that season. Vick starred for the Falcons through the 2006 season, leading the team to the 2005 NFC championship and breaking Bobby Douglass' rushing quarterback record with 1,039 yards in 2006. Then because of a dog-fighting scandal, Vick spent time in jail and missed the next two seasons. He returned to the NFL with the Eagles in 2009 and again became a star. Vick led the Eagles to the NFC East title in 2010 and finished his career with the Jets and Steelers. Vick went 61-51-1 as a starter with more than 22,000 passing yards and 6,000 rushing yards during his career.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Simms in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft. He didn't appear in a game until 2004, but he played four seasons in Tampa Bay and went 6-4 as a starter in 2005. Simms didn't win another game after that season, though, and finished his career with the Titans and Broncos. He passed for 3,117 yards and 12 touchdowns in six NFL seasons.
Joining the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2006, Lorenzen spent two seasons in New York. He appeared in two games during both the 2006 and 2007 seasons, but he attempted just eight passes. Lorenzen then spent training camp with the Colts in 2008 but didn't make the final cut.
Despite three interceptions, Palko nearly led the Chiefs to a victory over the Steelers on "Sunday Night Football" in 2011, but that is about his only claim to fame. The undrafted quarterback out of Pitt played two seasons for Kansas City from 2010-11, making four starts in 2011. He finished his career with 831 passing yards and two touchdowns in eight games.
Leinart came into the league with high expectations, going 10th overall to the Arizona Cardinals. But he proved to be a bust, as he barely even earned the right to start for most of his tenure with Arizona. The 2004 Heisman Trophy winner went 8-10 as a starter and threw for a little more than 4,000 yards in 33 games. He finished his career with the Texans and Raiders. Leinart threw for only 15 touchdowns in six seasons.
The Dolphins drafted White in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, but he probably arrived in the league a decade too early. While he was a better runner than thrower, White wasn't elusive enough to avoid a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit (legal at the time) against the Steelers in the 2009 season finale. White played in the UFL and CFL, and he attempted a brief comeback to the NFL after that hit, but he never appeared in an NFL game again. White played in 13 games and rushed for 81 yards. He attempted five passes and didn't complete any of them.
Tebow rounds out our star college quarterbacks but NFL disappointments on our list. Drafted in the first round in 2010, Tebow took the league by storm during his second season, leading the Broncos to the AFC West title and a playoff victory in 2011. After scoring a touchdown, he would take one knee in the end zone, which became known as "Tebowing." But the Broncos signed Peyton Manning the following offseason and traded Tebow to the Jets, where he was never fully embraced by coach Rex Ryan. Tebow bounced around in various training camps after 2012, but his insistence to play quarterback and his inaccuracy eventually led to the end of his career. Tebow threw for 2,422 yards and 17 touchdowns while rushing for almost 1,000 yards in 35 career games from 2010-12.
The former Boise State star joined the Lions as an undrafted free agent in 2012. He never played for Detroit, though, finally receiving his chance to play in 2015 when the Cowboys experienced quarterback troubles without Tony Romo. Moore threw for 779 yards and four touchdowns during two starts with Dallas. Moore suffered a season-ending injury in 2016 and then was the third string Cowboys quarterback in 2017 before joining the Dallas coaching staff in 2018. As of September 2020, his 2015 appearance is the last time the NFL had a left-handed quarterback on the field in a regular-season game.
Tagovailoa had an up-and-down year during his first season in South Beach. In 10 games played, he ended up with 1,814 passing yards, 14 total touchdowns with five picks. He was also benched twice for Ryan Fitzpatrick as Miami pushed for a playoff spot that ultimately went to Indianapolis. Tagovailoa still appears to be the future QB for Miami, but he will need to show real improvement in 2021 to keep that job.
Dave Holcomb began working as a sports writer in 2013 after graduating from Syracuse University. Over the past six years, he has covered the NFL, NHL, MLB, fantasy sports, college football and basketball, and New Jersey high school sports for numerous print and online publications. Follow Holcomb on Twitter at @dmholcomb.
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