1. Scott Mitchell
As outlined by our own Robert Jones, the Lions signing Mitchell in 1994 free agency has roots in a missed opportunity to have acquired someone far better when pieces around the quarterback were in peak form. The big left-hander had a solid seven-game run in 1993 as the Miami Dolphins starter, when Dan Marino had the only major injury of his prolific Hall of Fame career. It was just in time for Mitchell to convince quarterback-needy teams he had what it took to be a franchise signal caller. The Lions took the bait.
Adjusting for today’s NFL economics, a three-year, $11.25 million deal for a non-rookie starting quarterback would have to be somewhere akin to the three-year fully guaranteed deal Kirk Cousins got from the Vikings in 2018. The Vikings happened to be the other finalist for Mitchell in 1994, with he and his wife apparently even originally preferring Minnesota, but the Lions beat the Vikings’ offer.
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It’s not that Mitchell was entirely a dud. He was top-five in the league in passing yards (4,338; second in the league and a then-team record) and touchdowns (32; third), as well as tied for fifth in passer rating (92.3) as he led the Lions to the playoffs in 1995. But after two lackluster seasons in 1996 and 1997 he was benched early in 1998, and eventually became third-string as a rookie named Charlie Batch took over. After three more seasons elsewhere, Mitchell did not play in the NFL again.
Mitchell had a 27-30 regular season record as the Lions’ starting quarterback, with one epicly bad performance (four interceptions) in a playoff loss to the Eagles. Unrealistic expectations that he could not possibly have met gives him the top spot on this list.