4. Bert Jones (1973)
Who remembers former Colts top pick Bert Jones?!
Younger fans might not remember his name, but Jones remains one of the greatest “what could have been?” stories in NFL history. Drafted second overall in 1973 out of LSU, the “Ruston Rifle” went 10-4 while throwing 18 touchdowns in his third year as a starter. He followed that up with an MVP season in 1976, throwing 24 touchdowns against nine picks and leading the league in passing. The Colts went 11-3 that year.
Only Jones, Roger Staubach and Ken Stabler, the latter two of whom are in the Hall of Fame, had a passer rating over 100 in a season in the 1970s.
Unfortunately, after winning three straight AFC East titles, Jones separated his shoulder, forcing him to miss most of both the 1978 and 1979 seasons. While a productive starter for a few years after his injuries, Jones became much more turnover-prone. After one year with the Rams in 1982, he retired at age 31 following a neck injury. He threw for 124 touchdowns in his short career.
Ernie Accorsi is quoted as saying that Jones would’ve been the greatest quarterback in the history of the sport if he didn’t get hurt. Bill Belichick claims that Jones was as good a pure passer as he ever saw. If he didn’t get injured, Jones might’ve ended up with a gold jacket.