Synopsis: Following a string of Heisman winners who succeeded in the NFL (i.e. Bo Jackson, Vinny Testaverde, Tim Brown, and Barry Sanders), Andre Ware was the first of a string of disappointments (i.e. Ty Detmer, Desmond Howard, Gino Torretta, Charlie Ward, and Rashaan Salaam). With 4,700 passing yards and 46 touchdowns for the University of Houston Cougars during the 1989 season, Ware was a deserving winner of the Heisman Trophy. In contrast, he categorically failed as an NFL player with only 1,100 passing yards and five touchdowns in his entire career. The following post shows that Ware’s falloff from college to the pros was certainly bust worthy. However, he only started six NFL games so he never really got a fair shot. As such, he earned an Honorable Mention as a Top 10 Bust instead of making the actual countdown.
ANDRE WARE: HONORABLE MENTION
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, two different quarterbacks at the University of Houston shattered all sorts of passing records under Jack Pardee / John Jenkins’ highly potent Run-and-Shoot offense. The first, Andre Ware, won the 1989 Heisman trophy after throwing for 4,699 yards and 46 touchdowns for the 9-2 and 14th ranked Cougars. The second, David Klingler, somehow exceeded those totals by throwing for 5,140 yards and 54 touchdowns in 1990 for a 10-1 team that finished the season ranked #10 in the AP poll. The accomplishments of Ware’s successor may give more credence to the system instead of the players, but there’s no doubt that Ware’s personal achievements were impressive.
In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy, Ware led the NCAA in passing yards and touchdowns during his junior year. With those results, he decided to forgo his senior year of eligibility and declare for the 1990 NFL Draft. As a bona fide superstar in college, Ware was drafted 7th overall by the Detroit Lions.
ANDRE WARE ROOKIE CARD
Despite his college success, Ware had a hard time getting on the field in the NFL. During his four-year career with the Lions, he battled for the starting job against Rodney Peete, a 6th round draft pick in 1989, and Erik Kramer, an undrafted player in 1987 who signed with the team after a stint in the Canadian Football League. When compared to the quarterbacks on his team or other quarterbacks from his draft class, Ware fell far short of expectations.
NFL CAREER TOTALS – ANDRE WARE AND OTHER NOTABLE QUARTERBACKS ON THE LIONS OR FROM THE 1990 DRAFT
|Draft (Pick)||Weighted Avg Value (WAV)||Record||Yards||TD||INT||
|Scott Mitchell||1990 (#93)||49||32-39||15,692||95||81||
|Erik Kramer||1987 (undrafted)||41||31-36||15,337||92||79||
Rushing stats: Ware (217 yards, 0 touchdowns); O’Donnell (446 yards, 4 touchdowns); Mitchell (485 yards, 11 touchdowns); Peete (1,139 yards, 16 touchdowns); and Kramer (217 yards, 5 touchdowns). Even though Ware didn’t play much, he had a high proportion of rushing to passing yards.
For me, the most glaring number regarding Ware is that he only started six games during his entire career with the Lions. In contrast, Peete started 39 games while Kramer started 15 games for Detroit over the same time span. As the chart shows, Peete and Kramer were mediocre quarterbacks. For instance, Peete averaged less than 160 passing yards and one touchdown per start, and threw 30% more interceptions than touchdowns. Still, he somehow started almost 100 games and survived 17 years in the league.
Staying with the Hollywood theme, Kramer could be best described as the real-life version of a football player portrayed by Keanu Reeves. In case you’re stuck, think Shane Falco from The Replacements and not Johnny Utah from Point Break. In particular, Kramer’s only experience in the NFL prior to playing for Detriot was as a replacement player during the 1987 strike. Kramer’s per game averages and TD/INT ratio were better than Peete’s, but the former scab had one incredible season which skews the results. While playing for Chicago during the 1995 season, Kramer threw for 3,800 yards with 29 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. Excluding that season, he never threw more than 14 touchdowns in any season and his career TD/INT ratio would fall below one.
SHANE FALCO (A.K.A. ERIK KRAMER)
In retrospect, the Lions’ rotating quarterback philosophy probably did more harm than good (just ask any fan of the Cleveland Browns from the last decade). For a Detroit Free Press article in November 1992, Mitch Albom (the author of great books that get turned into bad movies), wrote about the Lions’ unstable quarterback situation. At the time, the Lions were 2-8 with Peete as the starter so Albom asked Lions Coach Wayne Fontes if Ware would get a shot.
ALBOM: Do you want to try Andre [Ware]?
FONTES: I could. I might.
ALBOM: So you will?
FONTES: If I do, then we’ll go that way. And it’ll be positive. But I might not.
Wow, how’s that for commitment! Fontes initially didn’t “go that way” and started Kramer for the next three games instead. After Kramer went 1-2 as a starter and the Lions fell to 3-10 for the season, Fontes finally changed directions and started Ware. Over the final three games of the year, Ware went 2-1 as the starter and put up the following numbers.
- At home for the first game, he went 10-14 for 138 yards and two TDs in a 24-14 win against the 7-6 Browns.
- Also at home for the second game, he threw two picks but also passed for 290 yards in a 16-3 win against the 5-9 Bears.
- In San Francisco for the third game, he went 15-29 for 116 yards and one INT in a 24-6 loss to the 13-2 49ers.
While Ware’s stats weren’t outstanding, they weren’t too bad either. More importantly, he won two out of three games. For a team that finished 5-11, Ware had 40% of the wins with less than 20% of the starts.
Despite the Lions’ strong finish to the 1992 season with Ware as the starter, Fontes went back to Peete in Week One of the 1993 season. True to form, Fontes remained indecisive and continued to use all three quarterbacks at different points throughout the year. After an injury to Peete, Ware started in weeks four and five. However, he got pulled before even finishing the second game.
- At home for the first game, Ware went 11-24 for 194 yards and one TD in a 26-20 win against the Cardinals.
- In Tampa Bay for the the second, he was yanked after going 5-14 for 56 yards and one INT. Interestingly, his stat line wasn’t much worse than Eric Kramer’s stat line of 11-24 for 120 yards and one INT during the remainder of the game.
Peete returned as the starter after a bye week and led the team on a four-game winning streak followed by a three-game losing streak. In the final loss of the streak, Peete threw four picks before getting injured and replaced by Ware, who threw a pick of his own. By the start of the next game, Ware was back on the bench. This time, he stayed there for good. With Kramer under center, the Lions ended the regular season by going 3-1 before losing to the Packers in the playoffs. Realizing that the experiment was a failure, the Lions didn’t keep any of their quarterbacks after the season.
Without any other NFL teams interested in him, Ware went on to play in the Canadian Football League and NFL Europe. As the following table shows, he wasn’t any more successful in those situations either.
ANDRE WARE – CAREER STATISTICS FROM THE CFL AND NFL (EUROPE)
Canadian Football League
|NFL – Europe||10||54||121||715||4||4||
Regardless of his lackluster performance as a professional, Ware had the credentials coming into the league to get more than six starts, especially when competing against two other mediocre quarterbacks. Perhaps Ware never would have become an effective NFL quarterback, but he didn’t get a legitimate chance to prove it one way or the other. As a result, he has been given the Rick Campbell Exemption and only gets an Honorable Mention as a Top 10 NFL Draft Bust.