There was a time, believe it or not, when throwing six interceptions in an NFL or AFL game was kind of normal. Between 1948 and 1989, it happened roughly once a season. Only when the NFL began its shift toward a passing league, via rule changes and skill shifts, was breath summarily removed upon a quarterback completing that many passes to the opposing team.
Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s gem last Sunday for the New York Jets was the seventh instance of a six-plus-interception performance since 1990. But it was the 39th in NFL history, according to the Pro-Football-Reference database. Such games have usually come in the midst of tough stretches — teams were 7-26 in games played the following week — but have hardly been career-enders.
Indeed, of this tapestry of fiascos, 10 featured future members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Another was authored by Peyton Manning, a certain first-ballot enshrinee when he is eligible. Four offenders survived long enough to do it a second time, and two — Hall of Famers George Blanda and Joe Namath — committed the gaffe three times. Blanda, for pete’s sake, did it twice in one season to cap the most mistake-prone year in NFL or AFL history. (Fortunately, ol’ George was inducted as much for his kicking skills and longevity as for his quarterbacking.)
So what should Fitzpatrick take from this history as he prepares for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks? Let’s look at how a sampling of this group responded the following week, keeping in mind that in five cases, the six-plus interception outing occurred in the final game of the season:
Houston Oilers QB George Blanda
Rebound: A week after throwing six interceptions to the Dallas Texans, Blanda limited himself to one in a 194-yard, two-touchdown outing to defeat those same Texans 14-6, this time on the road. As you’ll see, 1962 was an eventful season for Blanda, who threw an NFL/AFL-record 42 interceptions in 14 games. (That’s not a typo.)
New York Jets QB Joe Namath
Rebound: Namath completed 13 of 15 passes for 199 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 33-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins. That came a week after he threw six picks in a 28-28 tie with the Oilers.
Oakland Raiders QB Kenny Stabler
Rebound: A week after throwing seven interceptions to the Broncos, Stabler passed for 230 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in a 28-27 victory over the Jets. Stabler was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.
Atlanta Falcons QB Bobby Hebert
Rebound: He followed a six-interception game against the Oilers with a 290-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 27-24 victory over the 49ers. He did not throw an interception and played another three seasons in the NFL.
Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning
Rebound: Yes, Manning once threw six interceptions against the Chargers — including four in the first half in a prime-time game. He wasn’t great the following week, either, completing 50 percent of his passes and throwing one interception against the Chiefs, but the Colts snuck by with a 13-10 victory on a field goal from Adam Vinatieri.
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Tommy Wade
Double down: Wade threw four interceptions to the Redskins one game after throwing seven to the Eagles. Mercifully, that ended the Steelers’ season with a 2-12 record. In his only season of significant action, Wade threw a total of 13 interceptions in 66 attempts for a slick 19.7 percent interception rate.
San Diego Chargers QB John Hadl
Double down: Hadl threw two interceptions in a 34-27 loss to the Raiders a week after throwing six to the Chiefs. He threw a total of 32 interceptions in 14 games that season, tied for fourth-most in a single season in AFL/NFL history.
Denver Broncos QB Don Horn
Double-down: Horn’s four-interception game against the Chiefs, a week after throwing six to the Packers, seems tame compared to Wade’s disaster. Horn threw 10 over two games but hung around for another three seasons.
Oilers QB George Blanda
Years: 1962 and 1965
Double down: In 1962, Blanda followed one of his six-interception games with four interceptions against the Boston Patriots. After his third and final six-interception game, this one in 1965 against the Broncos, he threw three in a 41-14 loss to the Jets.
Alas, 12 quarterbacks didn’t make it to the end of their team’s next game, benched either at midweek or during the game itself.
Chicago Bears QB Zeke Bratkowski (1960)
Detroit Lions QB Ty Detmer (2001)
Oakland Raiders QB Cotton Davidson (1964)
Buffalo Bills QB Joe Ferguson (1974)
San Francisco 49ers QB John Brodie (1973)
Denver Broncos QB George Herring (1961)
Oakland Raiders QB Donald Hollas (1998)
St. Louis Rams QB Chris Chandler (2004)
Seattle Seahawks QB Jim Zorn (1976)
New England Patriots QB Steve Grogan (1980)
Kansas City Chiefs QB Todd Blackledge (1985)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Vinny Testaverde (1988)*
* Testaverde finished that season with 35 interceptions in 15 games, the second-highest single-season total in history.