Shortest NFL Quarterbacks of All Time
In the history of the NFL, undersized and shorter quarterbacks have been few and far between, but those that make it to the top are some of the most memorable of all time.
Shortest NFL Quarterbacks of All Time
Outside of basketball, few positions in sports put more of a premium on height than the quarterback.
When it comes to signal callers, the common thinking is the taller you are, the better you are going to be able to see the entire field. The average NFL quarterback in 2021 was around 6-foot-3, and it's uncommon for quarterbacks to be under 6-foot-2.
However, in the history of the NFL, there have been some shorter quarterbacks who have dominated the game and made indelible legacies in the game. Here's a look at the shortest quarterbacks in NFL history, ranked by height and skills — all of whom were 6 feet or shorter.
20. Trevone Boykin
Career highlights: AP All-American (2015), Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year (2014), Kellen Moore Award (2014), All-Big 12 (2014)
Bottom Line: Trevone Boykin
Trevone Boykin starts off our list, tied with several others at 6-feet tall. He was an All-American at TCU and only played two seasons in the NFL as a backup for the Seattle Seahawks in 2016 and 2017.
Bokyin probably would've played much longer in the NFL had he been able to stay out of trouble. An arrest while playing for TCU just days before the Alamo Bowl his senior season likely cost him his spot in the NFL Draft, and he made the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent. Arrests one month apart in Dallas in 2017 and another arrest in March 2018 after it was revealed he broke his ex-girlfriend's jaw with a punch led to his release from the Seahawks.
19. Johnny Manziel
Career highlights: Heisman Trophy (2012), Davey O'Brien Award (2012), AP Player of the Year (2012), SEC Offensive Player of the Year (2012), AP All-American (2012), two-time All-SEC (2012, 2013)
Bottom Line: Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel was one of the most exciting college quarterbacks in recent memory — the Texas A&M star became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy following the 2012 season.
Manziel wasn't long for college. He spent just two seasons with the Aggies before making the leap to the NFL, and the Cleveland Browns selected him with the No. 22 overall pick of the first round in the 2014 NFL Draft. Manziel was the shortest quarterback selected in the first round to that point, but drug and alcohol issues ended his NFL career after two seasons.
18. Ty Detmer
Career highlights: Heisman Trophy (1990), two-time Davey O'Brien Award winner (1990, 1991), UPI Player of the Year (1990), two-time AP All-American (1990, 1991)
Bottom Line: Ty Detmer
Ty Detmer won the Heisman Trophy in 1990 as well as the Davey O'Brien Trophy in 1990 and 1991 at BYU. While he wasn't quite tall enough or talented enough to be a full-time starter in the NFL, what he did do was last 14 seasons for six different teams, primarily as a backup.
Detmer returned to BYU as the offensive coordinator for two seasons but was fired in 2019.
17. Tua Tagovailoa
Career highlights: CFP National Champion (2017), CPF National Championship Offensive MVP (2017), Maxwell Award (2018), Walter Camp Award (2018), Sporting News College Football Player of the Year (2018), SEC Offensive Player of the Year (2018), AP All-American (2018), two-time All-SEC (2018, 2019)
Bottom Line: Tua Tagovailoa
Tua Tagovailoa might be a really good game manager throughout his NFL career, but he's definitely not the franchise quarterback the Miami Dolphins hoped he would be. He's never going to get past being picked ahead of Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, who was picked one spot behind him in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Tagovailoa has constantly had other quarterbacks held over his head since joining the Dolphins — most notably, Deshaun Watson and Tom Brady were floated as replacements — but seemed to secure the starting role for the long term in 2022 until a series of scary concussions put his career in jeopardy.
16. Chase Daniel
Career highlights: AP All-American (2007), two-time All-Big 12 (2006, 2007), Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year (2007), Super Bowl champion (2010)
Bottom Line: Chase Daniel
Chase Daniel has been one of the most reliable backup quarterbacks in the NFL for over a decade, even winning a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints as the backup to another height-challenged quarterback in Drew Brees during his rookie year of 2009.
Players like Daniel are invaluable to NFL teams who value stability at the quarterback spot more than anything — he's played for six franchises and made approximately $40 million in salary through his first 13 NFL seasons.
15. Baker Mayfield
Career highlights: Heisman Trophy (2017), two-time AP All-American (2015, 2017), AP College Football Player of the Year (2017), two-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year (2015, 2017), Manning Award (2017), Walter Camp Award (2017), Davey O'Brien Award (2017), two-time Kellen Moore Award winner (2015, 2016), Sugar Bowl MVP (2017), Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year (2013), three-time All-Big 12 (2015-17)
Bottom Line: Baker Mayfield
Few quarterbacks in the NFL have seen their games picked apart more than 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, who seemed on the verge of making the Cleveland Browns an elite AFC team for the last few seasons but came up short. The Browns finally cut bait and signed Deshaun Watson, who received a five-year, $230 million contract from the team following the 2021-22 season.
Mayfield was traded to the Carolina Panthers, who cut him midway through the 2022 season, and he finished the year with the Los Angeles Rams. Mayfield has signed with Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the 2023 season.
14. Joe Theismann
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (1983), NFL Most Valuable Player (1983), NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1983), NFL All-Pro (1983), two-time Pro Bowl (1982, 1983), two-time CFL All-Star (1971, 1973), AP All-American (1970)
Bottom Line: Joe Theismann
Joe Theismann will always be remembered for suffering one of the most grotesque on-field injuries of all time when New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor broke his leg on Monday Night Football in 1985. That's too bad because Theismann was an elite quarterback for most of his career.
Theismann spent the first three years of his pro career as a star for the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL, where he was paid considerably more money before joining the NFL with Washington in 1974 and spending the last 11 years of his career there. Theismann was the NFL Most Valuable Player in 1983, the same year he led Washington to a Super Bowl victory.
13. Billy Kilmer
Career highlights: Two-time NFL All-Pro (1972, 1975), Pro Bowl (1972), AP All-American (1960)
Bottom Line: Billy Kilmer
There was very little Billy Kilmer couldn't do athletically — he starred in football and also played basketball for John Wooden at UCLA before playing 18 seasons in the NFL, and Kilmer was talented enough on every level in football that he could be used at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.
Kilmer played for three different franchises but was at his best later in his career, spending his final seven NFL seasons with Washington, where he earned two NFL All-Pro selections and made his only Pro Bowl.
12. Len Dawson
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (1969), Super Bowl MVP (1969), Pro Bowl (1971), three-time AFL champion (1962, 1966, 1969), AFL Championship MVP (1966), AFL MVP (1962), four-time All-AFL (1962, 1964, 1966, 1968), six-time AFL All-Star (1962, 1964, 1966-69), AFL All-Time Team
Bottom Line: Len Dawson
Len Dawson held the title of the greatest quarterback in Kansas City Chiefs history until Patrick Mahomes came along — which is fitting because they each led the Chiefs to Super Bowl victories exactly 50 years apart.
Dawson was a star in the AFL before the AFL-NFL merger, where he was a four-time All-AFL selection and the AFL Most Valuable Player in 1962.
11. Michael Vick
Career highlights: Big East Offensive Player of the Year (1999), Big East Rookie of the Year (1999), Heisman Trophy finalist (1999), NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2010), four-time Pro Bowl (2002, 2004, 2005, 2010)
Bottom Line: Michael Vick
There's little Michael Vick could do on a football field — and he did plenty — that could overshadow the scandal that enveloped his life and dominated headlines when he was indicted on federal dogfighting charges in 2007.
Vick was one of the most marketable and highly paid athletes in the world at the time of his arrest and was eventually sentenced to two years in federal prison. He returned to the NFL and signed a six-year, $100 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011.
10. Drew Brees
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (2010), Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (2010), Five-time NFL All-Pro (2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2018) 13-time Pro Bowl (2004, 2006, 2008-14, 2016-19), Maxwell Award (2000), Chicago Tribune Silver Football (2000), two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year (1998, 2000)
Bottom Line: Drew Brees
Early on, Drew Brees got the picture that coaches thought he couldn't be a top-level quarterback because of his height — most notably when he didn't receive any Division I offers in his home state of Texas as a high school senior.
It was further reinforced when the Chargers decided to cut bait with Brees after a shoulder injury in his fifth season. Brees signed with the Saints, led them to their first and only Super Bowl win in 2010, became the NFL's career-leading passer and retired after 20 seasons in the NFL in 2020.
9. Fran Tarkenton
Career highlights: NFL Most Valuable Player (1975), Two-time NFL All-Pro (1973, 1975), Nine-time Pro Bowl (1964, 1965, 1967-70, 1974-76), Pro Football Hall of Fame (1986), two-time All-SEC (1959, 1960), Orange Bowl champion (1960)
Bottom Line: Fran Tarkenton
Fran Tarkenton had a bizarre career arc. He played his first six seasons for the Minnesota Vikings, was traded to the New York Giants and played five seasons there, then was traded back to the Vikings for his final seven seasons.
Tarkenton was a dual-threat quarterback before we even really knew what that was, won the NFL MVP in 1975 (his best season) and led the Vikings to three NFC championships and three Super Bowl losses in his second stint with the team.
8. Seneca Wallace
Career highlights: Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year (2001), All-Big 12 (2002)
Bottom Line: Seneca Wallace
Seneca Wallace didn't have an easy path to the NFL. He played two years at Sacramento City College before he transferred to then-Big 12 doormat Iowa State, where he played the final two seasons of his college career.
Wallace was a fourth-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft and carved out a decade-long career as a a backup with four different franchises.
7. Pat Haden
Career highlights: Pro Bowl (1977), Rose Bowl MVP (1975), two-time National Champion (1972, 1974), Rose Bowl Hall of Fame (1995)
Bottom Line: Pat Haden
Pat Haden was a winner on and off the field. He led Bishop Amat Memorial High School in La Puente, California, to a CIF state championship before winning two national championships at USC and earning a Rhode Scholarship.
Haden played in the World Football League for the South California Sun for one season before playing six seasons in the NFL for the Los Angeles Rams, where he earned a Pro Bowl spot in 1977. Haden became a practicing attorney and star broadcaster when his career was over and was also the athletic director at USC from 2010 to 2016.
6. Sonny Jurgensen
Career highlights: NFL champion (1960), four-time NFL All-Pro (1961, 1966, 1967, 1969), five-time Pro Bowl (1961, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1969), NFL 1960s All-Decade Team
Bottom Line: Sonny Jurgensen
Sonny Jurgensen was a two-way star at quarterback and defensive back for Duke before spending six years with the Philadelphia Eagles, mostly as a backup to Norm Van Brocklin.
Jurgensen eventually became a star after a trade to Washington, where he spent the last decade of his career and finished his time in the NFL as a six-time NFL All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler.
5. Russell Wilson
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (2014), Seven-time Pro Bowl (2012-15, 2017-19), NFL All-Pro (2019), NFL Rookie of the Year (2012), Big Ten Quarterback of the Year (2011), All-Big Ten (2011), two-time All-ACC (2008, 2010), ACC Rookie of the Year (2008), ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year (2008)
Bottom Line: Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson has been one of the NFL's premiere quarterbacks over the last decade with the Seattle Seahawks, where he led the franchise to its only Super Bowl victory in his second season and was a nine-time Pro Bowler.
Wilson forced a trade to the Denver Broncos following the 2021 season in exchange for two first-round picks, two second-round picks, one fifth-round pick and three players. Wilson's career seemingly bottomed out in 2022, as the Broncos went 5-12 and finished last in the AFC West.
4. Kyler Murray
Career highlights: NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (2019), two-time Pro Bowl (2020, 2021), PFWA All-Rookie Team (2019), Heisman Trophy (2018), Davey O'Brien Award (2018), Manning Award (2018), AP College Football Player of the Year (2018), Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year (2018), AP All-American (2018), All-Big 12 (2018)
Bottom Line: Kyler Murray
The latest and (maybe) greatest height-challenged NFL quarterback is Kyler Murray, the No.1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. At 5-foot-10, he's the shortest quarterback ever selected in the first round and the only person to be selected in the first round of both the NFL Draft and the MLB Draft.
Murray was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2019, then earned Pro Bowl honors the next two seasons, although his career seemed to be headed into Baker Mayfield territory following an all-time implosion during a loss to the Los Angeles Rams in his first career postseason game and ending the 2022 season with a major knee injury.
3. Doug Flutie
Career highlights: Heisman Trophy (1984), Maxwell Award (1984), Davey O'Brien Award (1984), AP All-American (1984), NFL Comeback Player of the Year (1998), Pro Bowl (1998)
Bottom Line: Doug Flutie
Doug Flutie was listed as 5-foot-10 on rosters throughout his college and NFL career. That's fine, and we'll list him at that height here, but we'll never believe he was an inch over 5-foot-8.
It's scary to think what the 1984 Heisman Trophy winner could have done with a few more inches. He ended up playing 21 seasons of professional football in the NFL and CFL, earning Pro Bowl honors and winning NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1998.
2. Davey O'Brien
Career highlights: Two-time NFL All-Pro (1939, 1940), Pro Bowl (1939), National Champion (1938), Heisman Trophy (1938), Maxwell Award (1938), two-time All-Southwest Conference (1937, 1938), AP All-American (1938), Texas Sports Hall of Fame
Bottom Line: Davey O'Brien
The man for which college football's top quarterback award is named stood at just 5-foot-7, but he was a giant on the gridiron. Davey O'Brien starred at TCU before playing briefly, albeit very successfully, in the NFL.
O'Brien was the No. 4 overall pick in the 1939 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles and earned a whopping $12,000 bonus to come play for the team — then unheard of — and played two years for the franchise, earning NFL All-Pro honors each year. O'Brien retired from pro football to become an FBI agent where he worked for a decade before going into private business.
O'Brien died in 1977, at 60 years old.
1. Eddie LeBaron
Career highlights: NFL Rookie of the Year (1952), four-time Pro Bowl (1955, 1957, 1958, 1962), AP All-American (1949), three-time Little All-American (1947-49)
Bottom Line: Eddie LeBaron
Eddie LeBaron — "The Little General" — began playing college football at Pacific at just 16 years old, led the nation in total offense as a senior, then went and fought in the Korean War for two years before starting his NFL career in 1952.
LeBaron was the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1952 for Washington and went on to become a four-time Pro Bowler. LeBaron played 12 seasons in the NFL and eventually became general manager of the Atlanta Falcons from 1977 to 1982.
LeBaron died in 2015 of natural causes. He was 85 years old.