Steve Beuerlein: Forgotten Careers

Steve with the panthers
Via Allen Key (AP)

I’ve had a weird thing in my growth as a sports fan where I like to go find some random player and research his career. Some research experience is short, some of it is lengthy. This one was a little bit more lengthy, and with my newfound platform on Fantom Sports, I’d like to talk about one of my favorites: Steve Beuerlein. In his 17 seasons that he was in the league, (He sat out 1990 due to a contract dispute, was hurt in 1987, and spent 2001 as a free agent) Steve played for 6 different teams. Let’s talk about him.

Steve Beuerlein at a glance

For those who may not want to look for his Pro Football Reference page, here are his career numbers.

  • 102 games started
  • 47-55 career record
  • 56.9% career comp. pct.
  • 24,046 Yards
  • 147/112 TD/INT
  • 80.3 Passer Rating
  • 1x Pro Bowler
  • 1x Superbowl Champ (1992)

At a glance, the numbers are kind of…ehhhh. While numbers don’t lie, they will never tell the full story of a player’s career.

Las Angeles Raiders (1987-1990)

Beuerlein with the raiders
Credit: Las Vegas Raiders

Beuerlein was drafted in the 4th round of the ’87 draft by the now Las Vegas Raiders (Then the L.A. Raiders.) He wouldn’t see a regular season snap in ’87, hurting his shoulder in preseason play. The injury gave him time to “soak things up and learn how to be a professional football player.”

He would debut in 1988 under Raiders head coach Mike Shanahan, and would win his very first start vs the Chargers, 24-13. The game was played in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, where two years prior during his time at Notre Dame, upset the USC Trojans on that same field. Steve would bounce in and out of the lineup during the ’88 season, being replaced, and then re-replacing Jay Schroeder.

89′ would see Beuerlein take over for a struggling Raiders squad in week 10. Shanahan was fired after a 1-3 start, and Jay Schroeder was struggling mightily. So, replacement head coach Art Shell would throw Beuerline in for the final six games, where Steve would accumulate a record of 4-3, leading the Raiders to an 8-8 finish, good for third in the AFC West.

Steve would go into the 1990 season seemingly cemented into the Raiders’ starting gig, however he would be set to be the lowest paid starting quarterback in the NFL. A contract dispute would ensue, and while Steve would get his contract, he would get none of the glory. Al Davis was always a petty man, (Ask Shanahan.) He would not let the coaches play Beuerlein, and the Raiders went 12-4 under Schroeder with a trip to the AFC Championship.

Dallas Cowboys (1991-1992)

Beuerline calling signals at the line
Credit: Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones had his man at quarterback. Everyone knows that Troy Aikman is a Dallas Legend. However, Jerry didn’t have a backup quarterback that he liked. What do you do? Call Al Davis and trade for the one he hates! Steve was traded less than a week before opening day in ’91, cementing him as Troy’s backup. Steve would start games that season, racking up a 4-0 record, 909 yards, with a 5/2 TD to INT ratio. He would see the only playoff action of his career as a starter that season, with Aikman sidelined for injuries. Beuerlein would go 1-1 in those playoff games, beating the Bears in the ’91 wildcard round before falling to Detroit the next week. He would play sparingly in ’92, only attempting eighteen passes en’ route to a Superbowl victory.

Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals (1993-1994)

Beuerlein in the huddle
George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Steve left Dallas as a UFA after 1992, and ended up being a pretty hot commodity in the ’93 free agent QB market. Despite playing for a pretty bad Cards’ team, he enjoyed one of three career 3000+ yard seasons of his career, racking up 3164 yards, 18 touchdowns with a rather mediocre 17 interceptions. He would finish with a record of 6-8 that year as the Cardinals finished 7-9. Head coach Joe Bugel was fired at the end of the year, after making an ultimatum with higher ups. The ultimatum was that Bugel had to win nine games to keep his job. He failed, and the Cards hired…Buddy Ryan.

’94 downright sucked for Beuerlein. His 3-4 record could say otherwise, but a 51% completion rate, 1,545 yards with a 5/9 TD to INT ratio solidifies the fact that ’94 was not his year. To go along with it, Buddy Ryan blamed Beuerlein for the team’s lack of success, despite a quarterback carousel. The Cardinals finished 8-8.

Jacksonville Jaguars (1995)

Beuerlein drops back to pass
 Ezra O. Shaw/Allsport

Buddy would expose Beuerlein to the 1995 expansion draft, as the Jaguars and Carolina Panthers were born into existence. Steve was taken with the first pick, going to our Jacksonville Jaguars, and would say in a later interview “I was actually hoping that I would go to Carolina,” said Beuerlein, recalling that moment 25 years ago. “I felt better in Carolina. …liked the overall setup better… had a better feel for the Panthers organization.” In another quote, he told ESPN “There were a lot of people who were literally afraid to approach [Coughlin] because of what they were going to have to deal with. It was a very, very uncomfortable environment.”

In his brief time as a Jaguar, he would start six games in total, most in relief of an injured Mark Brunell. The Jaguars would go 4-12, with Beuerlein going 1-5 as a starter. With 952 yards and a 4/7 TD to INT ratio, one could expect numbers like that to lead to that kind of record. Of course, it was an expansion Jaguars team, so cut him some slack. With him finishing the final year of his original deal with Arizona, he was let go as a free agent following the ’95 season.

Carolina Panthers (1996 – 2000)

Beuerlein after a win
(Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

I love Steve’s time in Carolina. It started with him signing a three year deal in the ’96 offseason, oddly enough to backup Kerry Collins. Like any starting pitcher, they have a reliever. Steve was that reliever in 1996 and ’97. 1996 saw him start four games to replace Collins, where he would go 3-1. He was just short of 900 yards with an 8/2 TD to INT ratio, as the Panthers finished 12-4 with a trip to the NFC title game in just their second season of existence. ’97 would not bear the same fruit, however. Beuerlein played okay in his relief appearances for Collins, sprinkling a 1-2 record into a 1,032 yard, six touchdown and three interception season. Carolina would finish 7-9 that year, and Steve had pretty much accepted the role of mentor to a young Collins.

1998 would see Kerry Collins bench himself after an 0-4 start to the year. With on and off-field issues mounting, he would be released, cementing Beuerlein as the starter moving forward. Already dug into a pretty crappy situation, Steve did his best to turn the Panthers around, but alas, it was not to be. That 0-4 hole turned into a 4-12 grave, with Beuerlein going 4-8 over the final 12 games. However, he would have a decent season for himself, with just over 2600 yards, 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

The peak of Steve Beuerlein

1999 was magical. Maybe not in team success, as an 8-8 record would render any great quarterback season a footnote in history. But Beuerlein, in his age 34 season, put together a special individual season. I’m not even going to type his stats, just appreciate this chart from PFR.

His only Pro Bowl appearance came in that ’99 season. And the best part is, this is THE greatest single season passing line in the history of the Carolina Panthers, and one of two 4000+ yard seasons in franchise history. Have a season, Steve!

His 2000 season would not be nearly as stellar, but was still rather solid. It would be not only his third and final 3000+ yard season, but his final season as a full time starter. His stats here are still pretty good, and again, you get the PFR chart.

Steve Beuerlein’s Twilight: Denver Broncos (2002-2003)

Beuerlein dropping to throw
Credit: Denver Broncos

Beuerlein would spend 2001 as a free agent before his career would really come full circle. In ’02, Shanahan came back to a familiar face in Steve, offering him the Backup gig to Jake Plummer. Beuerline would accept the offer, donning a number that was not #7 for the first time in his career. He played sparingly in his final two years, combining for a 2-3 record, 1314 yards, 8 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. While Denver, and more, Mike Shanahan wanted Steve back for his 18th season, Beuerlein declined, and retired.

Beuerlein in conclusion

Well, to wrap it up, Steve Beuerlein had an up and down career. His highs were quite high, and the lows were pretty low. But, I think it is safe to say that he had a career worth remembering. And while he may not have enjoyed a whole lot of success, he will, at least for another good while, hold that top spot on the Panthers’ Single season passing chart.

If you would like to read more, consider heading home and checking out some other great articles!

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