The Weird History of AFC West Quarterbacks

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 28, 1975: Quarterback Ken Stabler #12 of the Oakland Raiders drops back to pass against the Baltimore Colts September 28, 1975 during an NFL football game at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Stabler played for the Raiders from 1970-79. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
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The AFC West is a very strange division. It’s played a crucial role in the development of the NFL, and it boasts seven Super Bowl teams. But in a division that has seen some of the most innovative and explosive offenses of all time, there are very few quarterbacks that have been drafted in the division. When you actually look at which AFC West legends were drafted by their perspective teams? You find a surprisingly short list.

The Weird History of AFC West Quarterbacks

The Oakland Raiders

As weird as it sounds, the Oakland Raiders are better at drafting quarterbacks than any other team in the AFC West. The Raiders selected Derek Carr in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, and he might be the best quarterback in the division. And while the Raiders have had their fair share of journeymen, they also claim a legend in Ken Stabler, also a second round pick, way back in 1968.

As mentioned above though, the Raiders have enjoyed their fair share of second chance signal callers. Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls for the team, but not until long after the New England Patriots selected him with the first overall pick in 1971. And Rich Gannon played for three other teams, including the rival Kansas City Chiefs, before helping restore some of that Raider greatness in the early 2000’s. Even “the mad bomberDaryle Lamonica┬ástarted his career with the Buffalo Bills.

However, compared to the other teams on this list, the Raiders are clearly the best at drafting quarterbacks. And that’s being said despite the drafting of JaMarcus Russell, arguably the biggest bust in NFL history.

The Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs are the most recent benefactor of a travelling quarterback, landing current starter, Alex Smith. As almost everyone knows, Smith was the first overall pick of the San Francisco 49ers back in 2005. What everyone might not know is that Smith isn’t the first 49er quarterback to swap reds and golds.

Back in 1993, perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time, Joe Montana, was traded from San Fran to Kansas City. He only played two years for the team, and he was a shadow of his former self, but he still managed to lead the team to an AFC Championship appearance.

Other notable quarterbacks to play for the Chiefs that they didn’t draft? Both of the team’s all-time leading passers, Len Dawson and Trent Green. Yup, Dawson, the only quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl for Kansas City, was actually a first round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

To date, the Chiefs have yet to draft a franchise quarterback. That is, unless first round pick Pat Mahomes develops into something spectacular. Time will tell, but historically, air raid quarterbacks have struggled in the NFL.

The Denver Broncos

Obviously, the first name that comes to mind is Peyton Manning. Everyone knows that Peyton Manning cut his teeth and enjoyed most of his Hall of Fame career as a member of the Indianapolis Colts before he moved on to the Denver Broncos. But interestingly enough, just like Alex Smith and Joe Montana went from San Francisco to Kansas City, Manning wasn’t the only Colt to grow into a Bronco.

As many fans probably know, John Elway was once selected with the first overall pick by the Baltimore Colts. However, in the most ironic twist of fate in sports history, Elway refused to play for the Colts because they were bad, and he didn’t want to be the “next Archie Manning,” meaning that he was a great quarterback on a bad team. How funny that Manning’s played big roles in the beginning of his pro and executive careers.

Arguably the third best quarterback in Broncos history is Craig Morton. He’s still third in Bronco’s history in passing, even helping the Orange Crush make… and ultimately lose a Super Bowl. Despite that, Morton wasn’t drafted by Denver either! He played most of his career as a Dallas Cowboy. If you want to find a quarterback the Broncos drafted that achieved statistical success… your best bet is Jay Cutler.

The Los Angeles Chargers

This is where most people think my list loses credibility. After all, the Los Angeles Chargers have a history of great quarterbacks. John Hadl, Dan Fouts, and now Philip Rivers! However, Hadl threw more interceptions than touchdowns more often than not, and his entire offense consisted of lofting the ball to Lance Alworth. And while Dan Fouts was very good, it would be a stretch to call him great. As for Rivers, that’s a funny story. He’s only ever lined up under center as a member of the Chargers, but he wasn’t the one the Chargers drafted back in 2004.

That’s right, because yet again, the pesky Manning family got involved in the history of the AFC West. Because with the first overall pick, the Chargers actually selected Eli Manning. Just like Elway, he negotiated his way out of San Diego, orchestrating a trade with the New York Giants, who had actually drafted Rivers. Which leads to the question. Who was the greatest quarterback ever drafted by an AFC West team? Oddly enough, the man he replaced.

The Best Quarterback…

The best quarterback drafted by any team in the AFC West was… Drew Brees. While he was relatively unspectacular in his time with the Chargers, he’s been nothing short of amazing in New Orleans. His worst season in New Orleans? 2006, when he threw for 4,418 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. That would be top ten in the history of each team in the division, and top two in Oakland and Kansas City. Again, that’s his worst season.

He’s got a ring, he’s got the stats, and he’s a bonafide first ballot hall of fame quarterback. There’s an argument to be made for Stabler’s legacy, and who knows what Derek Carr will accomplish in the future, but when it comes to the best quarterback actually drafted by an AFC West team? He did most of his damage playing in the southeast.


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