5 most surprising NFL passing leaders in history

For most of recent history, we've seen the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning lead the NFL in passing years. However, there are always years like 2019, when Jameis Winston led the league. Who are the strangest passing leaders in NFL history?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) / Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
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1. Steve Beurlein, 1999 Carolina Panthers

Calling Steve Beurlein's career a roller coaster is like calling Michael Jordan a good basketball player. We suppose the statement is true, but it doesn't do it justice. Beurlein started his career in Oakland, where he missed his first season with a preseason injury. He eventually became the starter and tried to hold out for a new contract. He actually got it, but then Al Davis wouldn't let the coaching staff play him. He was shipped to the Cowboys to back up Troy Aikman. He played here and there and even won a playoff game while a healthy Aikman watched from the sideline. After some more time as a backup, he went to the Phoenix Cardinals. Buddy Ryan took over and called him "one of the worst quarterbacks he'd ever seen." Harsh.

A short stint with the Jaguars after he was taken in the expansion draft led him to the Carolina Panthers, the other expansion team of the time. He went there to backup Kerry Collins, another rung on his insane career. Collins, who had an equally insane career, benched himself in 1998, and Beurlein was the starter again. A blindsided franchise had no idea what to do next, so they had a competition in 1999 between Beurlein and Jeff Lewis. Beurlein won, but let's just say the expectations were low.

At 34 years old, this was Beurlein's last chance. He wasn't letting go. Beurlein threw for 4,436 yards and 36 touchdowns. This was still the 90s. These crazy stats weren't normal at this point. He blew everyone away, and he got the Panthers to an 8-8 record. Beurlein played one more season as Panthers starter before he was unceremoniously cut in 2001. His 2000 season wasn't even that bad considering how often he was sacked, but the Panthers wanted a more mobile QB.

Beurlein is by far the craziest name on this list, and it fits. He had one of the craziest quarterback careers. He lasted all the way until he was 39 years old, and Mike Shanahan wanted him to come back for another go with the Broncos. He will forever hang his hat on the 1999 season.

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