DAVID KLINGLER HOLDING DYNAMITE WITH THE CAPTION, “BOMBS AWAY!”
WHO KNEW SI WOULD GET IT SO RIGHT?
Synopsis: In the late 1980s and early 1990s, two quarterbacks from the University of Houston shattered numerous passing records. The first, Andre Ware, won the 1989 Heisman trophy after throwing for 4,700 yards and 46 touchdowns. The second, David Klingler, threw for 5,100 yards and 54 touchdowns the following season. Based on those numbers, Klingler made the cover of Sports Illustrated’s 1991 College Football issue. I’ve heard of the SI Jinx, but that cover proved to be ironically prophetic given the headline of “Bombs Away!” As a senior, Klingler’s passing yardage declined by over one-third and his touchdowns declined by almost one-half. Still considered a top QB prospect, Klingler went sixth overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. With an abysmal 4-20 record as a starter and career totals of only 4,000 yards and 16 touchdowns, he appropriately became my #9 NFL Draft Bust.
#9 NFL DRAFT BUST: DAVID KLINGLER
During the 1990 season, University of Houston QB David Klinger had two separate performances worthy of a video game. In particular, he threw for 716 yards in one game and 11 touchdowns in another. For the entire season, he threw for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in just 11 games.
One year earlier, Houston quarterback Andre Ware won the Heisman Trophy with less production and one more loss. As such, Klinger must have been thinking about a different kind of back-to-back Heisman-winning performance. Instead, he only finished 5th in the voting. Huh? Well, BYU’s Ty Detmer won the award by putting up similar numbers despite playing a tougher schedule.
Given Klingler’s video game stats, he had a hard time replicating them. However, his numbers fell off more than expected. He led the NCAA in passing completions and attempts for the second consecutive season. Then again, he threw for 30% fewer yards and almost 50% fewer touchdowns. More surprisingly, Houston’s record fell from 10-1 to 4-7. The following table details the extent of the decline.
DAVID KLINGLER COLLEGE HIGHLIGHTS – HOUSTON COUGARS
Awards / Recognition
|374||643||5,140||54||20||146.8||Won Sammy Baugh Trophy|
Note: Bold numbers reflect NCAA-leading statistics
Apparently, the drop-off in Klinger’s performance didn’t affect his draft stock. In particular, the Cincinnati Bengals used their 6th overall pick to select him as the first quarterback in the 1992 Draft. Only three years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, the team needed a replacement for Boomer Esiason. Of note, Esiason resembled a bust more so than a former MVP.
During Klingler’s rookies season, Esiason’s numbers bottomed out with an efficiency rating of 57.0 and averages of approximately 120 yards passing and one touchdown per game. Cincinnati had a 4-7 record with Esiason under center so they replaced him with The Rook.
Unfortunately, Klingler didn’t perform much better. The former Houston Cougar had an efficiency rating of 66.3, but similar averages of approximately 120 yards passing and one touchdown per game. The Bengals went 1-3 with Klingler as the starter, but somehow had enough confidence in him to trade Esiason.
With Esiason gone, Klinger returned to his Lucky 7 uniform number. Did it help? Well, what do you think?
DAVID KLINGLER AS #15 – MOSTLY AN INEFFECTIVE BACK-UP
DAVID KLINGLER AS #7 – DIFFERENT NUMBER, SAME RESULTS
Starting thirteen games in the 1993 season, Klingler threw for 1,935 yards with six touchdowns and nine interceptions. Basically, it took him over 50 quarters in the NFL to throw as many TDs as in two quarters in college. Lest anyone believe the best college team could beat the worst NFL team, stop before you embarrass yourself. Given those pathetic stats, the Bengals understandably went 3-10 with Klingler under center.
Klingler’s losing ways continued into 1994 as the Bengals began the season 0-6 with him as the starter. In a loss to the Cleveland Browns during the 7th game of the season, both Klingler and backup Don Hollas got injured. Fortunately, the Bengals had Jeff Blake as a 3rd string quarterback on the roster.
Selected by the New York Jets in the 6th round of the 1992 Draft, Blake had a decorated career at East Carolina. Of note, he finished ahead of Klingler in the 1991 Heisman balloting. Furthermore, Blake showed tremendous improvement between his junior and senior years.
JEFF BLAKE COLLEGE PERFORMANCE
Recognition / Awards
7th in Heisman voting
Arguably, Blake had a better season in 1991 than Klingler. Well, the Heisman voters thought so. If you just looked at their 1991 seasons, you probably would assume that Blake went in the 1st round and Klingler went in the 6th.
With Klingler and Hollas injured, Blake got his first professional start against the two-time defending champion Cowboys in the 8th game of the 1994 season. The Bengals lost 23-20, but Blake’s line of 14-32 for 247 yards and two touchdowns deserved recognition.
In his second start, Blake earned AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors by going 31-43 for 387 yards with one interception in a 20-17 overtime win against the Seattle Seahawks. Blake’s third game was even more impressive as he went 23-33 for 354 yards and four touchdowns in a 34-31 victory against the Houston Oilers. Despite close losses in the next two games (17-13 to Indianapolis and 15-13 to Denver), Blake still performed well enough to earn AFC Offensive Player of the Month honors.
JEFF BLAKE: NOT DAVID KLINGLER
Given the years of losing in Cincinnati, the city quickly and enthusiastically embraced the Bengals’ new sensation. As a comparison, New York embraced Jeremy Lin similarly during “Linsanity” in 2011. Just like Lin, Blake was a competent player who ultimately wasn’t worthy of all of the short-term hype.
With Blake as the starting QB, the Bengals went 3-6 for the remainder of the 1994 season and 7-9 for the 1995 season. Based on years of futility, they accepted their new leader and released Klingler. Whether deserved or not, Klingler never started a game in the NFL again.
The following table compares the career stats of Klinger, Blake and Brad Johnson as three notable quarterbacks from the 1992 Draft. Of note, Johnson had a productive NFL career spanning 15 years and won Super Bowl XXXVI for the Buccaneers. Johnson may be on the lowest rung of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, but he deserves recognition for succeeding despite being a late round draft pick.
NFL CAREER STATS – DAVID KLINGLER AND OTHER NOTABLE QUARTERBACKS FROM 1992 DRAFT
|Draft Pick||Weighted Avg Value (WAV)||Record||Yards||TD||INT||Passer Rating|
Rushing stats: Klingler (456 yards, 0 touchdowns); Blake (2,027 yards, 14 touchdowns); and Johnson (657 yards, 8 touchdowns). Based on these numbers, Blake contributed with his legs as well as his arm.
Despite having his 1994 season cut short by an injury, David Klingler had 24 starts by then to show what he could (and couldn’t) do. Given his prolific collegiate numbers and horrendous numbers as a professional, he earned the title of #9 NFL Draft Bust.