TT is an online writer with over six years of experience writing about sports and pop culture.
Each year, sports fans and journalists alike speculate about how the year's top draft picks are going to pan out for their respective teams. In this article, I recap the college and professional careers of the 2009 NFL Draft's top five quarterbacks and discuss what they are doing today.
1. Matthew Stafford
- College: University of Georgia
- Drafted: 1st overall by the Lions
After graduating early from high school, Matthew Stafford became the first true freshman to start for Georgia since Quincy Carter in 1998. As a sophomore, he helped the Bulldogs to an 11–2 record and a Sugar Bowl victory. In his junior year, he led the SEC in passing yards with 3,459 and achieved a Georgia single-season record of 25 passing touchdowns. Stafford chose to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Stafford was immediately named the starter going into his rookie year. In a comeback victory over Cleveland during Week 11 of his first season, he became the youngest quarterback in league history to throw five touchdowns in a game. After an injury-filled sophomore campaign, Stafford threw for 5,038 yards and 41 while being named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
In 2014, he helped the Lions to an 11–5 record and the playoffs. He was selected to his first Pro Bowl that season and was eventually named the Pro Bowl Offensive MVP. In his 10 seasons, he has completed 3,372 of 5,405 passes for 38,526 yards and 237 touchdowns and rushed for 14 scores.
Stafford was drafted by the first team in history to go winless in a 16-game season. Aside from wide receiver Calvin Johnson, there weren't many star players on the roster at the time, so Stafford often felt like he had to play hero ball early in his career. Once he got an offensive-minded coaching staff under Jim Caldwell, his true potential became apparent as his completion percentage rose and his interceptions dropped.
It's clear that Stafford is as talented as any quarterback in the league, and when he has help, the Lions are a solid team. He holds every major Lions passing record and many NFL records, including most passing attempts in a season, most game-winning drives in a season and most career pass attempts per game. While he's led Detroit to the postseason three times, he has yet to win a playoff game.
Where Is He Now?
Stafford is under contract with Detroit through the 2022 season. Whether he's capable of getting the Lions over the hump and maintaining a consistent level of success is unknown given the fact that Detroit has arguably been one of the worst-run teams in the league.
2. Mark Sanchez
- College: University of Southern California
- Drafted: 5th overall by the Jets
Mark Sanchez, then the nation's top quarterback coming out of high school, spent his first three years on the scout team and as a backup. In 2008, he was named the starter and threw for a career-best 338 yards in a season-opener win over Virginia. He and the Trojans ended the season 12–1 and No. 3 in the AP Poll and defeated Penn State 38–24 in the Rose Bowl.
Sanchez won the 2009 Rose Bowl MVP award for his performance on offense, as his 413 passing yards were the second-most in Rose Bowl history. In his one year as a starter, he finished with 3,207 passing yards and 34 touchdowns.
Going into his rookie year with the Jets, Sanchez was listed as the backup behind Kellen Clemens, but he was named the starter just before the season opener. That year, New York made the playoffs as the fifth seed and defeated Cincinnati in the wild-card round and San Diego in the divisional round before falling to Indianapolis in the AFC championship.
The following year, the Jets improved to an 11–5 record, but that was only good enough for the sixth playoff seed. After winning on a last-second field goal over Indianapolis in the wildcard round, Sanchez helped upset top-seeded New England in the divisional round with 194 yards and three touchdowns. The following week, the team fell to Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship despite a strong second-half comeback.
In 2011, he set career highs with 3,474 passing yards and 26 touchdowns, but the Jets were eliminated from the playoffs in the season finale. In 2014, Sanchez signed with Philadelphia and was named the starter after Nick Foles broke his collarbone. He played well to start with a 3–1 record as the Eagles sat atop the NFC East, but the team lost three of their last four to miss the postseason.
He spent his final years in Denver, Chicago, Dallas and Washington before retiring after the 2018 season.
After his first two seasons, Sanchez was looking like a rising star, having helped New York reach two straight AFC Championships. However, in reality, the Jets were a team with a strong running game and an elite defense. He was praised for standing in the pocket and hitting the open man early in his career, but after the 2012 season, his accuracy diminished, and he became more indecisive, which ultimately led to his benching in New York.
He was also criticized by numerous teammates for his poor work ethic and his inability to improve. Thanks to his dropoff in play and his infamous butt fumble, he will always be seen by some as a tease.
Where Is He Now?
Since retiring after the 2018 season, Sanchez has taken a job with ESPN's college football coverage team as an analyst.
3. Josh Freeman
- College: Kansas State University
- Drafted: 17th overall by the Buccaneers
After originally committing to Nebraska, Josh Freeman decided to attend Kansas State. As a freshman, he started 11 of 13 games and had two comeback wins. The following year, he set new single-season school records for pass attempts, completions and passing yards. In 2008, he set a single-season school record by a Wildcat quarterback with 14 rushing touchdowns.
In his three seasons at Kansas State, Freeman completed 680 passes for 8,078 yards, 44 touchdowns and 34 interceptions in 35 career games while setting a school record with 8,427 total yards.
Freeman started his first game as a rookie midseason after Byron Leftwich went on injured reserve. He helped defeat the Packers, ended the Buccaneers' 11-game losing streak and became the youngest quarterback in franchise history to start and win his first game.
The following year, he was extremely efficient, throwing for 3,451 yards, 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions as the team barely missed the playoffs with a 10–6 record. After a rough 2011, Freeman bounced back in 2012 with 4,065 yards and 27 touchdowns. After stops with the Vikings, Giants, Dolphins, Colts, Fall Experimental Football League and CFL, he retired in 2018.
At six-foot-six and 240 pounds, Freeman should have been a solid NFL quarterback. But, for whatever reason, he couldn't sustain any consistent success. The talent was clearly there, and he had decent talent around him. He holds several Tampa Bay franchise records, but he couldn't sustain success over back-to-back years.
It wasn't like he was locker room poison or even uncoachable. I think of it as a Jason Campbell–like situation where a player went through many coaches and coordinators and continually had to learn new systems. Had he been drafted into a more stable franchise, things might have been different.
Where Is He Now?
Freeman has remained quiet post retirement.
4. Pat White
- College: West Virginia University
- Drafted: 44th overall by the Dolphins
Pat White passed up a lucrative baseball career to play quarterback at West Virginia. In his four years as a Mountaineer, he was the ultimate dual-threat quarterback. He and running back Steve Slaton formed one of the top run duos in college football.
White finished his college career with 6,051 yards and 56 touchdowns passing and 4,480 yards and 47 touchdowns rushing for a total of 10,531 yards and 103 touchdowns over four years and became the first quarterback in college football history to go 4–0 in bowl games.
Miami announced that they wanted to use White as their wildcat quarterback and as a receiver. His first big play was on a 33-yard run against New England. In the season finale, a helmet-to-helmet hit left him unconscious, and he was carted off the field.
White was waived the following year after two preseason games. After a year in the UFL, he joined Washington in 2013 where he played in every preseason game before being released. He spent his final year with the Argonauts before retiring in 2015.
White was an elusive runner with solid arm strength, but he was never asked to throw the ball all over the field like he did in college. Given his athleticism, he could have played a Kordell Stewart–like role as a quarterback/running back/wide receiver hybrid. However, Miami was quick to jump ship on the investment, and both parties ultimately suffered because of it. White wasted his prime years out of football, and the Dolphins were relegated to mediocrity until they made the playoffs in 2016.
Where Is He Now?
In April 2018, White was hired to be the quarterback coach at Alcorn State.
5. Stephen McGee
- College: Texas A&M University
- Drafted: 101st overall by the Cowboys
As a redshirt freshman, Stephen McGee was more or less the backup quarterback until the final two games of the season. The following year, he broke the A&M single-season completion record, completing 62% of his passes and recording 12 touchdowns to only two interceptions. As a junior, he accounted for 62% of the offense's total yardage and helped the team defeat Texas for the second straight season. His senior season was plagued by injuries, and Texas A&M finished 4–8.
Dallas viewed McGee as a project player, as he played in an option system in college, and he was named the third-stringer after Tony Romo and Jon Kitna. In 2010, with Romo on injured reserve and Jon Kitna going down on Christmas Day against Arizona, McGee stepped in and threw a late touchdown to give the Cowboys the lead, but the Cardinals marched late to win the game on a field goal.
In the season finale against Philadelphia, he went 11–27 for 127 yards and a touchdown pass to Jason Witten with under a minute left to give Dallas a 14–13 victory over their divisional rival. After being released by Dallas in 2012, he signed a future contract with Houston but was released a few months later. He played two seasons in the CFL with the Tiger-Cats before retiring in 2014.
Looking at his stats, I'm not sure why another team didn't give him a try or why Dallas didn't retain him. Jon Kitna was at the end of his career, and Romo needed a solid backup. McGee played well given his limited experience in a pro-style offense, and it was surprising that he didn't end up on another roster. While his career completion percentage isn't ideal, the right coaching could have improved on that, and he could have developed into a capable starter down the road.
Where Is He Now?
McGee is involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and gives speeches at Texas schools. He still remains close to Texas A&M and is an avid outdoorsman with hopes of becoming a professional deer hunter in the future.
Other Notable Quarterbacks
- Rhett Bomar, Sam Houston State: Drafted 151st overall by the Giants, nothing more than a third-string quarterback
- Nate Davis, Ball State: Drafted 171st overall by the 49ers, never played in regular season, current Indoor Football League QB
- Tom Brandstater, Fresno State: Drafted 174th overall by the Broncos, played in just one regular-season game in his final season
- Mike Teel, Rutgers: Drafted 178th overall by the Seahawks, third-stringer on three teams
- Keith Null, West Texas A&M: Drafted 196th overall by the Rams, three career touchdowns to nine interceptions
- Curtis Painter, Purdue: Drafted 201st overall by the Colts, below-average backup
- Brian Hoyer, Michigan State: Undrafted, capable short-term starter, above-average backup
- Chase Daniel, Missouri: Undrafted, career backup, reliable