| USA TODAY
On Sunday, Tua Tagovailoa – the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft – will make his first start for the Miami Dolphins against the Los Angeles Rams.
He will become the first left-handed quarterback to start an NFL game in five years.
The last left-handed quarterback to start an NFL game was Kellen Moore, who started two games for the Dallas Cowboys in the 2015 season. Moore lost both starts, got hurt in 2016 and retired in 2018 to become the Cowboys’ quarterbacks coach. Moore has been the team’s offensive coordinator for the last two seasons.
Before Moore? Tim Tebow had a magical run as the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos in 2011. That same season, Tyler Palko started four games for the Kansas City Chiefs. So, it’s been a rough decade for left-handed quarterbacks since the days of Mark Brunell, Michael Vick and Chris Simms in the early 2000s.
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Here’s a look at the greatest left-handed quarterbacks in NFL history, a collection that includes two Hall of Famers.
10. Tim Tebow
Teams: Broncos (2010-11), Jets (2012)
For one season, Tebow was magic. In 2011, the Denver Broncos started 1-3 under Kyle Orton. Coach John Fox replaced Orton with Tebow, and the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner went 7-4 as a starter, including four come-from-behind victories. For a few precious weeks, #TebowTime was a thing and the excitement hit a crescendo when Tebow helped the Broncos defeat the Steelers in overtime in a wild-card playoff game. The game-winning moment was an 80-yard touchdown play to receiver Demaryius Thomas. That was it for #TebowTime in Denver, which got walloped in the divisional playoffs by the Patriots, as he was traded away to the Jets when Peyton Manning was acquired in the 2012 offseason. In 2012, Tebow started two games for the Jets, but one was at tight end and the other at fullback.
9. Scott Mitchell
Teams: Dolphins (1991-93), Lions (1994-98), Ravens (1999), Bengals (2000-01)
After four years of backing up Dan Marino in Miami, Mitchell scored the richest free-agent contract of the 1994 offseason from Detroit, which plugged the quarterback into an offense that already featured heavy hitters such as running back Barry Sanders, and wide receivers Herman Moore and Brett Perriman. In 1995, Mitchell became the Lions’ full-time starter and produced eye-popping numbers: 4,338 yards, 32 touchdowns. His yardage total was second in the NFL behind league MVP Brett Favre’s 4,413 yards. In the playoffs, however, Mitchell crashed and burned. Mitchell threw four interceptions as the Lions got hammered by the Eagles in a wild-card game, 58-37. Mitchell remained the Lions’ starting quarterback for two more seasons before being replaced in 1998 by Charlie Batch.
8. Bobby Douglass
Teams: Bears (1969-1975), Chargers (1975), Saints (1976-77), Packers (1978)
In 1972, Douglass had a career year. While his career-highs in passing yards (1,246) and touchdowns (9) might look paltry, Douglass’ 968 yards rushing were a record for quarterbacks that stood for 34 years when it was broken by another left-handed quarterback, Michael Vick. Douglass was a dual-threat quarterback long before the term even existed. In a 1973 game against the Packers, Douglass rushed for four touchdowns. Only two QBs in NFL history have done that (Billy Kilmer is the other). If you like fun football highlights, you need to see this Douglass-to-Dick Butkus touchdown on a botched field goal attempt.
7. Frankie Albert
Team: 49ers (1946-1952)
Albert was a pioneer of sorts in post-World War II pro football and the early days of the revolutionary T-formation. Albert is known as an early innovator of the bootleg play, which as a left-handed quarterback was probably quite a mind-blowing enterprise for opposing defenses at the time. Albert’s first four seasons were in the All-American Football Conference, where his 49ers had the great misfortune of having to compete against the greatest team of the era, the Cleveland Browns. He did lead the AAFC in passing touchdowns twice and posted a 102.9 passer rating in 1948 (the same passer rating Joe Montana posted during the 49ers’ Super Bowl-winning season in 1984).
6. Jim Zorn
Teams: Seahawks (1976-1984), Packers (1985), Buccaneers (1987)
Thanks in large part to Zorn’s connection with receiver Steve Largent, the Seahawks went from hopeless expansion outfit to winners in just their third season. By the time the Seahawks became a regular playoff contender in the mid-1980s, Zorn had been replaced by Dave Krieg, but the southpaw quarterback already left quite a legacy in Seattle. Zorn, a second-team All-Pro in 1978, was inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor in 2001.
5. Michael Vick
Teams: Falcons (2001-06), Eagles (2009-2013), Jets (2014), Steelers (2015)
A dynamic dual-threat quarterback, Vick was one of the NFL’s most exciting players in the early-2000s before his involvement in a dog fighting ring derailed his career. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and his 6,109 yards rushing over his 13-year career are the most ever for an NFL quarterback. In a 2002 NFC wild-card game, Vick led an upset of the Packers at Lambeau Field, which was the first time Green Bay lost a playoff game at the legendary venue. In 2006, Vick became the first quarterback to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season, finishing with 1,039 yards and breaking Douglass’ 34-year-old mark. (Vick’s record was broken by Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, who ran for 1,206 yards in 2019.)
4. Mark Brunell
Teams: Packers (1994), Jaguars (1995-2003), Washington (2004-06), Saints (2008-09), Jets (2010-11)
Brunell helped the expansion Jaguars quickly become contenders. He led Jacksonville to the AFC championship game in just the franchise’s second season, in what was the first of four consecutive playoff appearances for what was one of the AFC’s best teams in the late-90s. In the 1996 playoffs, Brunell helped the Jaguars pull off one of the biggest upsets in NFL postseason history, a 30-27 win over the top-seeded Broncos. Brunell was a three-time Pro Bowler, and won a Super Bowl ring as a backup to Drew Brees in New Orleans in 2009. Brunell finished with 32,072 yards and 184 passing touchdowns over his 17-year career.
3. Boomer Esiason
Teams: Bengals (1984-1992, 1997), Jets (1993-95), Cardinals (1996)
One of the most prolific passers of the 1980s, Esiason was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and the NFL MVP in 1988, when he led the Bengals to Super Bowl XXIII. Esiason posted seven seasons with 3,000 or more passing yards. In a 1996 game against Washington, Esiason – then with the Cardinals – posted a 522-yard passing game, tied for fourth all-time.
2. Ken Stabler
Teams: Raiders (1970-79), Oilers (1980-81), Saints (1982-84)
Stabler didn’t post robust stat lines, but made up for it in legendary moxie and clutch performances. “Snake” was part of some of the most iconic games in NFL history: The Immaculate Reception, Sea of Hands, Ghost to the Post and the Holy Roller. Member of the 1970s all-decade team, Stabler was the 1974 NFL MVP and led the Raiders to ultimate glory in Super Bowl XI. In 2016, Stabler became the second left-handed quarterback to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
1. Steve Young
Teams: Buccaneers (1985-86), 49ers (1987-1999)
The greatest left-handed quarterback in NFL history was a 2005 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Young emerged from the shadow of fellow Hall of Famer Joe Montana in San Francisco, leading the 49ers to victory in Super Bowl XXIX, a game in which he was named MVP. Young was a two-time league MVP (1992 and 1994), and a seven-time Pro Bowl selection. One of the most accurate passers in NFL history (he retired as the career leader), Young led the league in completion percentage five times and touchdown passes four times. An adept scrambler, Young produced one of the most dramatic touchdown runs in league history.
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