Beuerlein at a golf tournament
No. 7, 11
|Date of birth:March 7, 1965|
|Place of birth: Hollywood, California|
|High school: Anaheim (CA) Servite|
|College: Notre Dame|
|NFL Draft: 1987 / Round: 4 / Pick: 110|
|Debuted in 1988 for the Oakland Raiders|Los Angeles Raiders|
|Last played in 2003 for the Denver Broncos|
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Stephen Taylor "Steve" Beuerlein (born March 7, 1965) is a former American football quarterback, and is currently an NFL and college football analyst for CBS. Although often referred to as a "journeyman" during his NFL career due to his playing for six different NFL teams, frequent status as a backup, and lack of running ability, he made up for any deficiencies in his game with his quick release, exceptional ability to read defenses, confident leadership, and poised pocket presence. In 1999, he had an historic statistical season, which ranked up with some of the greatest seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. During his college and pro careers, Beuerlein managed to overcome numerous injuries, coaching changes, quarterback controversies, team changes, and disputes with several NFL coaches and owners, to carve out a successful 17-year NFL career.
- 1 High school career
- 2 Collegiate career
- 3 Professional career
- 4 Career statistics
- 5 Football analyst
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
High school career
In his senior year, Beuerlein led Anaheim's Servite High School to the California Interscholastic Federation 1982 Big Five state championship, where he was named player of the year, and displayed all the skills and leadership of a major-college quarterback recruit. In the first game of the year he played against Ohio's famed Moeller High School. Although Servite led Moeller early in the 4th quarter, Moeller won 29-15, but Beuerlein's performance caught the eye of Notre Dame head coach Gerry Faust, who had coached for 18 years at Moeller prior to taking the Notre Dame job. After Servite went on to win its final eleven games en route to a 31-7 victory over Long Beach Poly in the state championship game (and a #4 national ranking), Faust offered Beuerlein a full scholarship, and he attended Notre Dame the following year.
As a true freshman in the 1983 Notre Dame season, the 18-year-old Beuerlein got his first start in the fourth game, relieving struggling senior quarterback and four-year starter Blair Kiel, who had begun the season with a 1-2 record. Kiel won the opener in a 52-6 blowout at Purdue, but then lost two straight, including a shutout loss to the eventual national champion Miami Hurricanes, who at the time were unranked and not thought of as a top team. The Irish subsequently dropped from #4 in the Coaches' Poll after the Purdue win to unranked in only two weeks. Beuerlein started the remaining eight games of the regular season, splitting playing time with Kiel, and winning his first five starts (including 30-6 win at #7 South Carolina, a 42-0 blowout win at Army, and a 27-6 victory over arch-rival USC - the first since 1977 - which propelled the Irish back into the rankings). He lost his final three starts of the regular season in close games decided by five points or less, but the Irish's 6-5 record was good enough for a Liberty Bowl bid, where Kiel got the start for the first time since the Miami game and led the Irish to a 19-18 victory over Doug Flutie's 13th-ranked Boston College team.
Beuerlein entered his sophomore 1984 season as the undisputed starter at quarterback. In the fifth game of the season against #14 Miami, he was knocked out of the game with an injury to his throwing shoulder, which at the time was misdiagnosed as a muscle tear. He missed only one game, and started the rest of the season's games, taking repeated cortisone injections. He led the Irish to a 4-1 finish to the regular season and a 7-4 record, losing only to #11 South Carolina, and with impressive road victories at #6 LSU and #14 USC, before losing in the Aloha Bowl to #10 SMU. In that game, Beuerlein noticed a marked deterioration in the condition of his throwing shoulder, which had been worsening since the injury. "I had no velocity and no spiral," he said. "I could hardly lift my shoulder over my head. I could hear a constant clicking and popping in it." He also believed the injury contributed to his school-record 18 interceptions that season. After an unsuccessful offseason rehab, Notre Dame sent Beuerlein to a California orthopedist in April, where the doctor discovered a bone chip in his collarbone, which had ground away much of his acromioclavicular joint. He had surgery immediately, which removed an inch of his collarbone and the entire remaining parts of his AC joint.
Miraculously, less than five months after major surgery on his severely-damaged throwing shoulder, Beuerlein was starting the 1985 season opener at Michigan. The Irish did not fare as well as the previous season, stumbling to a 1-4 start, and neither did Beuerlein, still feeling the effects of his healing shoulder. He only threw three touchdown passes all season, and was benched for the Ole Miss game in favor of sophomore backup Terry Andrysiak. Still, Beuerlein came off the bench that game and led the Irish on two touchdown drives in the first half, including a 14-yard TD pass to Tim Brown. Notre Dame won easily, 37-14, winning their fourth-straight game and improving their record to 5-3, and Beuerlein won his starting job back. The following week proved to be a tougher challenge, as the Irish traveled to #1 ranked Penn State, who was undefeated at 9-0, and lost 36-6. After a close 10-7 loss to #17 LSU, the Notre Dame's season ended with a humiliating 58-7 loss to the 4th-ranked Hurricanes at the Orange Bowl, and Notre Dame's 0-5 road record doomed them to a 5-6 finish and no bowl bid.
Before Beuerlein's senior year, Faust resigned after five seasons of mediocrity, including a 30-26-1 record, only one bowl win in two appearances, and never finishing a season ranked. The university then hired Minnesota head coach Lou Holtz. Beuerlein enjoyed his best statistical season in 1986 under Holtz, throwing for 2211 yards, 13 TDs and 7 INTs, the first season he managed to throw more touchdowns than interceptions, a feat never accomplished by his predecessor Kiel. Still, the Irish did not fare any better in Holtz's first season, with a 4-6 record heading into the final game of the season at rival USC. Beuerlein's last collegiate game would be a memorable one. Notre Dame trailed 30-12 in the 3rd quarter, when Beuerlein caught fire and threw three second-half touchdowns, and the Irish made a field goal with two seconds remaining, stunning the 17th-ranked Trojans and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum crowd with a 38-37 victory and claiming their fourth-straight Jeweled Shillelagh. The win gave Beuerlein a perfect 4-0 record against the Trojans, the only Notre Dame quarterback ever to do so besides Ralph Guglielmi from 1951-1954. Still, another 5-6 season did not qualify the Irish for a bowl.
Earlier that season at 2nd-ranked Alabama, Beuerlein started 39 out of 46 games for the Irish during his four-year career, with a 21-18 record. He graduated in 1987 with a degree in American Studies, having broken nearly every passing and total offense record in Notre Dame history.
Los Angeles Raiders
Beuerlein was drafted by the Los Angeles Raiders in the fourth round of the 1987 NFL Draft, but suffered a season-ending injury in preseason play. He made his NFL debut in 1988 under new head coach Mike Shanahan, starting and winning the season opener against the San Diego Chargers 24-13, his first game in Memorial Stadium since upsetting USC in college two years prior. The Raiders would lose Beuerlein's next two starts in close games, including a loss to the crosstown Los Angeles Rams, where Beuerlein threw for 375 yards, then the third-highest total in Raiders history. Despite solid play from Beuerlein in the first three games behind an injury-ravaged offensive line (42-91, 675 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs), Shanahan decided to start Jay Schroeder, who had been acquired from the Washington Redskins only one day before the season opener. While praising Beuerlein's play, Shanahan wanted a quarterback with more experience and felt Schroeder fit his system better. In the Week 4 Monday Night Football game at the Denver Broncos, Schroeder started and the Raiders won in overtime, evening their record at 2-2. Schroeder struggled in his next two starts, throwing four interceptions in each game and losing both. The following week at Kansas City, Beuerlein came off the bench and rallied the Raiders for a 27-17 victory. He came off the bench for Schroeder once again the following week before regaining the starting job, winning his first three and losing two, before Shanahan went back to Schroeder to end the season. The Raiders finished third in the AFC West division, with a record of 7-9.
In 1989, Shanahan started the season with Schroeder at quarterback, and was fired after the fourth game and a 1-3 start. Under new coach Art Shell, Beuerlein started the final six games after a three-interception outing by Schroeder in a Week 10 loss to San Diego, finally winning the Raiders' starting job. The Raiders finished 8-8 with another third-place finish in the AFC West.
Going into the 1990 season, Beuerlein was to be the lowest-paid starting QB in the league, at a salary of $140,000. This led to a contract dispute and holdout, and although he eventually signed before the start of the season, he drew the ire of Raiders owner Al Davis, who refused to allow the Raiders' coaches to play Beuerlein. Schroeder was handed the starting job with Vince Evans as the backup, and Beuerlein was held inactive for every game.
At the beginning of his career, Troy Aikman had problems with injuries that prevented him from completing a full 16 game season. In 1990 needing only one more win, the Cowboys failed to qualify for the playoffs, after having to play backup Babe Laufenberg in the last two games against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons, both were losses.
Less than a week before the start of the 1991 season, the Raiders traded Beuerlein to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for a fourth round draft choice, in order to back up Aikman. According to head coach Jimmy Johnson, the Cowboys had "been actively pursuing Beuerlein for quite some time", including a trade agreement worked out in January that Davis reportedly backed out of. When Aikman's knee was injured in the Week 13 game at the Redskins, Beuerlein came off the bench and threw a 4th-quarter touchdown strike to Michael Irvin, as the Cowboys held on for a 24-21 victory, stunning the 11-0 Redskins in their home stadium and ruining their hopes of a perfect season. He then started the remaining four games of the season, winning all four and leading the Cowboys to an 11-5 record, their best since the 1983 season under Tom Landry. They also made the playoffs for the first time since the 1985 season, capturing the fifth seed as a wild-card team. While Cowboys players like Irvin would praise his leadership and confidence, Beuerlein repeatedly denied there was a quarterback controversy. "I plan on driving this car as hard as I can, until they take the keys out of my hand," he said, "And I know that's gonna happen as soon as Troy gets well, so I understand that."
Even though Aikman's knee had healed sufficiently to start the first playoff game at the Chicago Bears, Johnson decided to continue playing Beuerlein. Johnson claimed his star quarterback's knee was not yet fully healed, but also wanted to stick with the "hot hand" in Beuerlein who had won five straight games, a move that upset Aikman at the time. Beuerlein was efficient and effective against the Bears, throwing for 180 yards, with 1 TD and no INTs in leading the Cowboys to a 17-13 win at Soldier Field. It was Cowboys' first road playoff win over a decade. The following week, he started at Detroit, but was relieved by Aikman after the Lions jumped to an early lead. Aikman was equally ineffective at moving the offense, and the Cowboys lost 38-6, ending their season.
In 1992, a healthy Aikman had a breakout season, and Beuerlein played sparingly but still managed to appear in all 16 games. The Cowboys finished with a 13-3 record and reached Super Bowl XXVII. Beuerlein relieved Aikman with 7:06 left in the game and Dallas up by 35 points. On his last play as a Cowboy, Beuerlein fumbled the ball on a botched handoff to Derrick Gainer. This was followed several plays later by Leon Lett's infamous fumble. Neither play had any impact on the outcome, as neither team would score again and the Cowboys routed the Buffalo Bills 52-17 and Beuerlein received his first and only Super Bowl championship.
After the clutch play and flashes of potential he showed in Dallas, as an unrestricted free agent entering the 1993 season Beuerlein was a highly sought-after quarterback on the free agent market. He would eventually sign a three-year, $7.5 million contract with the Phoenix Cardinals and became their new starting quarterback. After three-straight seasons of five wins or less, head coach Joe Bugel was on the hot seat before the season even began after owner Bill Bidwill gave him what was known in Phoenix as "the ultimatum", demanding that Bugel win at least nine games in order to keep his job. After the Cardinals started the season 2-6 - and requiring Bugel to win seven of the last eight games to keep his job - Beuerlein was briefly benched in favor of Chris Chandler, but regained the job after two games. Beuerlein led the Cardinals to victories in four of their last five games, including passing for three touchdowns and a career-high 431 yards in a dramatic 30-27 overtime win at Seattle, a game where the Cardinals had trailed 20-7 at halftime. Beuerlein passed for the first of his three career 3000-yard seasons in 1993, finishing in the top-10 in almost every statistical passing category, despite throwing passes in only 14 games. But the Cardinals' 7-9 record and late-season surge was not good enough to save head coach Bugel's job, as Bidwill held firm to his nine-win requirement and Bugel was fired. In 2007 Beuerlein would recall, "We had built a pretty good thing under Bugel, but then the owner gave Bugel that nine-win ultimatum and even though we didn't reach it that year, our offense was in the top five in every category, our defense was coming around and at the end of the year, I don't think anybody wanted to play us."
The newly renamed Arizona Cardinals hired Buddy Ryan as both head coach and general manager in 1994. Ryan made major changes immediately, gutting the coaching staff and much of the roster, signing many of his former players from Chicago and Philadelphia to large contracts, and hiring his sons Rex and Rob as assistant coaches. Always the defensive-minded coach, Ryan focused chiefly on the defense, usually to the detriment of the offense, particularly the offensive line, which after only the second game one reporter called "the most inept, cowardly offensive line to appear in the National Football League in 30 years." This left Beuerlein, well known for standing tall in the pocket under even the most ferocious of pass rushes, increasingly skittish in the face of heavy pressure on almost every passing play. The cantankerous Ryan blamed Beuerlein for the team's 0-2 start, benching him after Week 2, calling him one of the worst quarterbacks he had ever seen, and even implied to the press that Beuerlein was a "a cancer that needed to be cut out." During the Week 4 bye week, Ryan brought in free-agent QB Rich Gannon for a tryout, and pursued the 38-year-old former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms, who was coming off torn labrum surgery and working for ESPN, ultimately deciding to stay retired when a deal could not be reached. Ryan even praised the quarterback play of Jeff Feagles, the Cardinals' punter.
Ryan played a classic "quarterback carousel" that season with Beuerlein, his ex-Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, and Beuerlein's old Raiders teammate Jay Schroeder, switching starters four different times and benching his quarterbacks frequently in the middle of games. Beuerlein went 3-4 as a starter and the team finished with an 8-8 record, with Ryan making him a scapegoat for the team's mediocrity. For years, Beuerlein refused to discuss his experience with Ryan, stating that, "He just doesn't deserve to be talked about." In 2000, former Cardinals receiver Ricky Proehl said, "That was the worst situation I have ever been around. Of course Buddy didn't take any responsibility; to him it was all Steve's fault. Steve is the best leader I have ever played with. It just killed him to be thought of like that." In 2007, Beuerlein would finally recount his year with Ryan, stating, "(It) still doesn't sit well with me today. The bottom line, Buddy didn't really care. He didn't even know what he was doing. He came in there and it was all about the defense. And we didn't have any experience on the coaching staff at all...The roster changed, too, and all of a sudden, we had a bunch of people who couldn't play football anymore."
At the end of the 1994 season, Ryan and Beuerlein's contentious relationship would come to an end when Ryan exposed him to the 1995 NFL Expansion Draft. He was widely expected to be the first pick of the draft, which occurred when the Jacksonville Jaguars took him with the number one selection. He was the starting quarterback for the first game in team history, starting the first two games before spraining his right MCL in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. When he was healthy two weeks later, backup Mark Brunell would keep the starting job, and Beuerlein would not see action again until Week 12 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He came off the bench for an injured Brunell in the fourth quarter and led a team-record 96-yard touchdown drive, throwing what was potentially the game-tying touchdown, until head coach Tom Coughlin decided to go for a two-point conversion and the win, which failed and the Jaguars lost 17-16. Beuerlein started the next four games in relief of Brunell - all losses - until Brunell returned and the Jags finished their inaugural season with a 4-12 record. Beuerlein reportedly had a confrontational relationship with Coughlin, and finished the season as the third quarterback behind rookie Rob Johnson. As he was in the last year of his original three-year deal with the Cardinals, after the season he became a free agent.
Before the 1996 season, the Carolina Panthers signed Beuerlein to a three-year contract, as a backup to second-year QB Kerry Collins. His five seasons in Carolina would prove to be the most productive years of his career. Much like the situation in Dallas five years prior, Beuerlein knew his role was to back up the team's young star QB, but also was again instrumental in helping the second-year expansion team to a playoff run. He made four starts in relief of an injured Collins, going 3-1, and leading the Panthers to several key victories including dominant performances at the Houston Oilers (where he threw for 3 TDs and no INTs), and a 23-7 win over the perennial NFC West powerhouse San Francisco 49ers, which at the time was called "perhaps the best game of his career." Beuerlein finished the year with eight touchdowns and only two interceptions, and a passer rating of 93.5. Boosted by meticulous head coach Dom Capers' innovative 3-4 zone blitz defensive scheme, the Panthers finished the regular season with a 12-4 record, including a perfect 8-0 at home, and winning the NFC West. They reached the NFC Championship Game against the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, where the temperature at kickoff was 3 degrees, with a wind chill of -16. The Panthers jumped out to an early 10-7 lead before the Packers' offensive juggernaut took over, and the Panthers lost 30-13.
Expectations could not have been higher for the Panthers entering the 1997 season, but two events in the preseason involving quarterback Collins put a damper on the season before it began. In a highly publicized incident at a bar on the last night of training camp, a drunken Collins jokingly used a racial slur to refer to a teammate, which was poorly received and hurt Collins' status as a team leader. Two days later, in a preseason game against the Broncos, Denver linebacker Bill Romanowski laid a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit on Collins, displacing Collins' helmet and breaking his jaw in several places. Beuerlein started the first two regular season games in relief of the injured Collins, going 1-1. Collins returned in Week 3 and although he was able to pull out a win at San Diego with a strong running game and solid defensive play, he often looked timid and indecisive, still not fully healed from his traumatic jaw injury. He threw seven interceptions in the next two games - both losses - including a home loss to the 49ers on Monday Night Football, where Beuerlein replaced Collins after his third interception and the 49ers up 27-7. Beuerlein rallied the Panthers with two 4th-quarter TD passes, but it was not enough as the 49ers won 34-21. Beuerlein replaced Collins as the starter for one game after the bye week, giving Collins two more weeks to heal, as well as to try and gain some of his confidence back. Beuerlein also served as a mentor to Collins, relating his stories of watching other young quarterbacks struggle in their early years before becoming stars.
In Week 8, Collins returned as the starter, playing better and winning three-straight against weaker opponents, before losing the next two where he threw 6 interceptions and only one touchdown, including an embarrassing 34-0 shutout loss to Denver at Mile High Stadium. After a win at the 2-9 Rams, which evened the Panthers' record at 6-6 and kept them in playoff contention, they suffered a devastating three-point home loss to the 4-8 New Orleans Saints. Despite out-gaining the Saints' offense by more than 100 yards, they were doomed by four turnovers, as Beuerlein again came off the bench in the first half in relief of a concussed Collins, who had thrown two early interceptions. The Panthers entered the final week with a slim chance at the last NFC playoff seed, but lost at home to the 11-loss Rams. Once again, Collins threw three interceptions and was benched late in favor of Beuerlein, who threw for a 4th-quarter touchdown, but the Rams' 30-8 lead proved insurmountable and the Panthers lost 30-18. Despite appearing in only 13 games and playing only six full games, Collins led the NFL in interceptions that year with 21. Beuerlein played much better in his three starts and seven appearances, with a passer rating almost 30 points higher than Collins. Capers saw his 7th-ranked scoring offense of 1996 fall to 27th out of 30 teams, as the Panthers were unable to repeat the success of 1996, and finished with a disappointing 7-9 record.
In 1998, Beuerlein gained the starting job permanently in Week 5 after Collins' on-field and off-field problems continued, and he benched himself after an 0-4 start and was ultimately waived one week later. The durable Beuerlein would start the next 44 consecutive games, every game during the rest of his tenure with the Panthers. This season, however, would turn out to be disastrous, as the hapless Panthers fell to 0-7 after a prime-time Sunday Night Football home loss of 30-14 to Doug Flutie and the Buffalo Bills. Poor play due to a rash of injuries, new players that never meshed, aging veterans, the fallout from Collins situation, and a string of embarrassing on-field incidences (including linebacker Kevin Greene attacking his linebackers coach Kevin Steele on the sidelines during the Redskins game, after which the Panthers fell to 2-12), all contributed to the team falling apart. Beuerlein played remarkably well considering the circumstances (2613 yards, 17 TDs, 12 INTs, and a 63% completion percentage in 12 games), and led the Panthers to victories in their last two games, throwing for three touchdowns and only one interception. Despite the late rally, however, the Panthers finished the season with an abysmal 4-12 record, and Capers, who less than two years prior was called "the perfect football coach", and had what owner Jerry Richardson called a "lifetime contract" to coach the Panthers, was fired.
In 1999, Beuerlein put up what was then one of the greatest statistical seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. Though new head coach George Seifert had traded for quarterback Jeff Lewis during the offseason - John Elway's former "heir apparent" in Denver - Beuerlein went into camp as the number-one quarterback and never looked back. He made the Pro Bowl for the first and only time in his career, tying offensive guard Bob Young for the most seasons in the league (13) before making his first Pro Bowl. While his accomplishments were somewhat upstaged by the emergence of NFL MVP Kurt Warner and St. Louis' record-breaking and Super Bowl-winning "The Greatest Show on Turf" offense, his 4,436 passing yards still led the league, and at the time was the 11th-highest passing yardage total ever. He also led the NFL with 343 completions, and his 94.6 passer rating and 36 touchdown passes were second only to the 1999 MVP Warner. Prior to that season, only Dan Marino and Brett Favre had ever thrown for more touchdowns in a season than Beuerlein.
In Week 14 at Green Bay, Beuerlein was the key player in one of the most memorable games - and plays - in franchise history. The Packers had not lost at Lambeau Field in December since the 1993 season, and the 5-7 Panthers desperately needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Despite the below-freezing temperatures, Beuerlein was red-hot, out-dueling Brett Favre and connecting on 29 of 42 attempts, with 3 TDs and no INTs, and passing for a then franchise-record 373 yards. In a seesaw battle that had seen eight lead changes, the Panthers found themselves at the Packers' 5-yard line on a 4th-and-goal play, trailing 31-26 with five seconds remaining in the game. Before what was certainly to be the game's final play, Beuerlein went to the sidelines during the timeout to get the call from head coach Seifert. Seifert suggested a quarterback draw, which Beuerlein initially didn't believe and literally had backup QB Steve Bono laughing. The famously-immobile Beuerlein had all of two rushing TDs in his entire 13-year career - both coming from the one-yard line - but Seifert was serious, stating that no one would expect a Beuerlein rush with the game on the line. When Beuerlein called the play in the huddle, it elicited more laughter from his offense, followed by criticism of the call, when he told them, "Hey guys, I'm serious...do your job."
Beuerlein lined the offense up in a single set back formation, sending his fullback in motion, resulting in an empty backfield and a clear passing formation. When he saw the Packers in an obvious pass defense, he took a three-step drop as he would in a pass play, and took off running through a gaping hole in the middle. Safety Rodney Artmore was the only player with a chance to stop Beuerlein, but the quarterback dove over his low tackle attempt, with Artmore's helmet smashing into Beuerlein's left knee in the process. Beuerlein landed just across the end zone line at time expired, scoring by mere inches and giving the Panthers a 33-31 victory that completely silenced the stunned Lambeau Field crowd. As Beuerlein winced in "excruciating pain" from his knee, he threw his out arms in victory and let out triumphant scream as his teammates piled on him. After the season, the two-time Super-Bowl winner Seifert would say, "I have had some incredible highs in my coaching career, but I haven't experienced anything as exciting as that moment." Beuerlein counts the play as his favorite NFL memory, and in a 2008 interview about what became known in Carolina as "The Draw", he said that "people still ask me about that play almost every single day."
The Panthers entered the final week with a 7-8 record, needing a home win against the Saints and some help to clinch the last NFC playoff spot. The 7-8 Cowboys controlled their destiny, only needing to beat the Giants to get in the playoffs. If they were to lose, the spot would go to either Carolina or Green Bay. Although the Panthers had defeated the 7-8 Packers two weeks prior, due to the NFL's convoluted tiebreaker rules they needed to beat the Saints by 18 points more than the Packers were to beat the Cardinals in their game at Lambeau (assuming the Packers were to win).
In what was almost certainly the strangest game in franchise history, as the Panthers played the Saints, the Panthers' coaches, players, and fans constantly monitored the stadium's NFL scoreboard and the Packers-Cardinals score. Although the Panthers held a commanding 31-0 lead early in the 4th quarter after four touchdown passes by Beuerlein - tying his team record set only two weeks prior - they saw that the Packers (who also knew they needed to score as many points as possible to stay ahead of the Panthers) had pulled out to a 35-10 lead of their own. Needing a lead of at least 12 more points, they found themselves in the awkward position of having to "run up the score" on the Saints, a move that would upset Saints head coach Mike Ditka and many Saints players. All-Pro kick returner Michael Bates scored on a 95-yard return, and Beuerlein threw for a new team-record fifth touchdown, but Saints (and future Panthers) QB Jake Delhomme - in only his second career game - never gave up despite throwing four interceptions, and threw and ran for two 4th-quarter touchdowns. The final score of 45-13 and 32-point margin of victory was seven points shy of overcoming the Packers' 49-24 drubbing of the Cardinals, and the Panthers were assured of missing the playoffs. After the game, Panthers linebacker Micheal Barrow said, "Even though we won the game, we came in the locker room and felt like we lost." Said receiver Patrick Jeffers, "It really was like we were playing the Packers more than we were the Saints." The whole ordeal was rendered irrelevant when the Cowboys beat the Giants later in the day, and neither the Panthers nor the Packers made the playoffs.
Although Beuerlein's offense was 4th in the league in scoring in the 1999 season, the defense was 26th in points allowed, and this deficiency contributed to the Panthers' mediocre 8-8 record. In a season where two 8-8 NFC teams made the playoffs, the Panthers' season was over. They finished second in the NFC West behind the 13-3 and eventual Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams.
For perhaps the first time in his career, Beuerlein entered the 2000 season with a firm grip on his team's starting quarterback position. After a less successful but still solid year, Beuerlein threw for another 3,730 yards. Unfortunately for the Panthers, their prolific offense from 1999 began to deteriorate, especially the offensive line, as Beuerlein was a sacked league-leading 62 times, which was then tied for the second-most sacks ever on a quarterback in a season. The rushing attack was even worse, only managing to muster an anemic 1186 yards, which would have easily been worst in the league in an average year, but was relegated to only third-worst in 2000 by two historically bad rushing efforts by the 3-13 Cleveland Browns (1085 yards) and 1-15 San Diego Chargers (1062 yards). As of 2012, the 2000 Chargers and Browns still hold the two lowest rushing totals ever in a 16-game season, with the 2000 Panthers still 10th-worst. Running back Tim Biakabutuka played the most games in a season (12) of his injury-riddled career, but still only ran for a lackluster 627 yards and two TDs, with a 3.6 yard average behind the shaky offensive line. Unbelievably, Beuerlein was the team's third-leading rusher (behind rookie fullback Brad Hoover), with his second-straight 100-yard rushing season. This lack of a running game forced the Panthers to rely heavily on Beuerlein's still-lively 35-year-old right arm, where often under a heavy pass rush he had to force throws, and threw a career-high 18 interceptions. Still, he managed to throw for more TDs than INTs for the fifth-straight season, but the team dropped to 20th in total offense and 21st in scoring, and the team finished with their third 7-9 record in six seasons, ending the season with a dismal 52-9 loss at Oakland.
In a stunning move that proved not only to be wildly unpopular with fans, but also with many inside the Panthers organization (including owner Jerry Richardson), Beuerlein was unexpectedly released two months into the offseason by Seifert. Despite Beuerlein's stellar play during his tenure, he had always longed for a more mobile quarterback, as well as younger one; Beuerlein was 36 and had undergone eight operations in the past 14 months. "Believe me, I know this is not a very popular decision, not in the community and not in this building." said Seifert. "Steve can certainly still play, but for what period of time? We have three young quarterbacks and we would like to evaluate where we are with them. It's just time to put our feet to the fire." Backup Jeff Lewis was the starter heading into camp, but was cut in the preseason, leaving rookie Chris Weinke as the starter. Beuerlein's release led to a catastrophic 1-15 season for the Panthers in 2001, which saw them lose their last 15 consecutive games, an NFL record (until the 0-16 Detroit Lions lost 16 straight in 2008), and Seifert was summarily fired after the season.
During his five seasons in Carolina, Beuerlein set almost every Panthers passing record, including most career attempts (1,723), completions (1,041), passing yards (12,690), passing touchdowns (86), highest completion percentage (60.4%), and highest passer rating (87.7), some of which have since been broken by former Panthers starter Delhomme. Beuerlein still holds virtually every single-season passing record, including passing yards (4,436), touchdowns (36), attempts (571), completions (343), completion percentage (63.0%) and passer rating (94.6). As of 2012, he holds three of the top eight single-game passing yard totals in Carolina team history (373, 368, and 364), and his five touchdown passes in the last game of the 1999 season are still a single-game team record.
Before the 2001 season, Beuerlein signed with the Denver Broncos to back up Brian Griese, reuniting him with Mike Shanahan, his Raiders coach from the 1980s. He had worn the number 7 on his jersey since high school, but was forced to choose #11 due to John Elway's #7 jersey having been retired by the Broncos. In 2001, Beuerlein missed his first full season due to injury since his rookie year, but returned in 2002, starting three games and appearing in eight, including a remarkable finish in Seattle in Week 11. The Broncos held a tenuous 10-6 lead over the Seahawks - in a game that was 3-0 at halftime - when Griese was knocked out of the game with a knee injury. Beuerlein came off the bench and threw two 4th-quarter touchdowns on his only two pass attempts of the game. The Broncos ended up blowing out the Seahawks 31-9, and improving their record to 7-3. They dropped four of their final six games to finish the season with a 9-7 record, missing the 2002 playoffs on a tiebreaker to the 9-7 Browns.
Before the 2003 season, after the Broncos signed former Cardinals QB Jake Plummer to be their new starter, Beuerlein considered retiring at age 38, but decided to play one more year after Shanahan personally visited his home and asked him to stay. He appeared in four games and started two in relief of an injured Plummer, and helped the Broncos to a 5-1 start before his season ended in a Week 7 game at the undefeated Minnesota Vikings. Beuerlein played poorly, throwing 3 INTs as the Vikings blitzed him relentlessly, sacking him five times and knocking him down numerous others. He was knocked out of the game late in the third quarter with a gruesome finger injury on his throwing hand. Rookie defensive tackle and future All-Pro Kevin Williams hit Beuerlein hard, knocking him down on the Metrodome's hard AstroTurf surface just as he released the pass, and causing Beuerlein to land on his hand, crushing his little finger. It appeared to be dislocated on the field as it stuck out at an odd angle, but was later found to be fractured. Although the injury was expected to keep him out for only a maximum of six weeks, the Broncos needed the roster spot and he was placed on injured reserve, ending his season. The play would prove to be the final one of Beuerlein's NFL career.
Although the Broncos wanted him to return for his 18th NFL season, at age 39 Beuerlein decided to retire. Only one week after his finger injury, Beuerlein reflected on the many struggles he had to endure in his NFL career to Sports Illustrated's Peter King. Beuerlein said, "Hey, I've been in the wrong place at the wrong time a lot. But I was a fourth-round pick. To last 15, 16, 17 years in the league, what can I complain about? I've lived the dream a long time. The only thing I'd change is how it ended."
In July 2004, he signed with the Panthers - where he still held virtually every passing record - and retired immediately in an emotional sendoff ceremony. "This in my mind was the way it was meant to be," he said. "I couldn't think of a better way to bring this 17-year run to an end. My heart has always been here with this organization and when I sat back and decided I wanted to step down, there was no doubt I wanted to do it as a Carolina Panther."
In 2004, Beuerlein joined CBS Sports as a game analyst for The NFL on CBS, where he travels each week during the season to NFL venues in order to provide color commentary for games. He made a notable gaffe during a November 25, 2007 telecast of a game between the Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals. After the Titans' LenDale White and Bengals' Marvin White had an altercation that resulted in offsetting personal fouls, the Bengals called a brief timeout resulting in a commercial break. Beuerlein did not realize the break was a short one, and once the game resumed was overheard saying "USC thugs, man," over the air. This was explained as a joke which was not intended for airing, as LenDale White was a former player for Beuerlein's old college rival, the University of Southern California. Beuerlein also occasionally calls college football games for CBS.
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- Career statistics and player information from NFL.com • ESPN • CBS Sports • Yahoo! Sports • SI.com • Pro-Football-Reference