In high school, Todd led Davidson High School in Mobile, Alabama, to the state championship in football. Individually, Todd owned the state shot-put record at the time. He then went on to play for Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama, where he was a three-year starter at quarterback. During his time at Alabama, the Crimson Tide ran the wishbone offense. In his sophomore year, Todd shared the quarterback position with Gary Rutledge. In a game against Virginia Tech, which the Tide won 77-6, Todd was one of four backs who ran for over 100 yards. The 1973 season concluded in the Sugar Bowl, with a 24-23 loss to Notre Dame. In that game, Todd caught a 25-yard touchdown pass.
In 1974, injuries plagued Todd. The Tide went on to have a rematch with Notre Dame, this time in the Orange Bowl. Todd threw for Alabama's only touchdown in the fourth quarter and helped convert two points, but the Tide lost 13-11. In the Sugar Bowl at the end of the 1975 season, his college career ended in New Orleans against Penn State. Todd threw for over 200 yards, and led Alabama to its first bowl victory in eight years. Alabama never lost an SEC game while Richard Todd was the starting quarterback.
1973: 18/33 for 325 yards with 4 TD vs 2 INT. 560 yards and 2 TD rushing.
1974: 36/67 for 656 yards with 5 TD vs 2 INT. 265 yards and 5 TD rushing.
1975: 47/89 for 661 yards with 7 TD vs 3 INT. 429 yards and 9 TD rushing.
He would end his college career as a very efficient QB, throwing 16 TD against just 7 INT in 189 PA while running for 1,254 yards and 16 TD.
The New York Jets drafted Todd in the first round of the 1976 Draft. As of 2015 Todd is the last Alabama quarterback taken in the first round. The intention was for Todd to replace another Alabama legend, Joe Namath. Todd stated that playing on the same team with Namath was "a dream come true." After the 1976 season, Namath was released and Todd, who was 23 years old, was named the starter.
In his first five seasons, he threw more interceptions than touchdowns and was booed by fans and criticized by the press. He is also known for an incident in which he shoved reporter Steve Serby into a locker after Serby supported backup quarterback Matt Robinson as starter, instead of him. In a 1980 game against the San Francisco 49ers, in which the Jets had fallen far behind early, Todd, throwing under a prevent zone defense, set a then-NFL record with 42 completions. (The record would stand until Drew Bledsoe completed 45 passes in a single game during the 1994 season.) The Niners won the game, 37-27. Todd threw 30 interceptions in 1980, and the Jets finished 4-12. Late in the 1980 season, Todd's Jets hosted the winless New Orleans Saints; Todd completed only 10 of 27 passes and was intercepted twice, as the Saints grabbed a 21-20 win for their only win of the 1980 season. Also that year, Todd set an NFL record for throwing an interception in 15 games in one season.
In 1981, Todd led the Walt Michaels-coached Jets to their first winning record (10-5-1) since 1969, thanks in part to a defense nicknamed the "New York Sack Exchange." In the AFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Buffalo Bills, he led a comeback after the team had fallen behind, 24-0, but fell short, as a late pass was intercepted near the Bills' goal line. The following year, he led the Jets back to the playoffs. New York defeated the defending AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals, 44-17, then beat the Los Angeles Raiders, 17-14, before facing the Dolphins in Miami in the AFC Championship Game. The game was played in the mud after the Dolphins failed to cover the field during a pre-game rainstorm. Todd threw five interceptions in the game and the Jets lost, 14-0. His final year with New York saw a change at head coach, as Walt Michaels was replaced with Jets offensive coordinator Joe Walton. The Jets finished the season at 7-9 and Todd was traded to the New Orleans Saints after the season.
Todd played only two seasons in New Orleans, as he replaced another aging, interception-prone (and former Super Bowl winning) Alabama legend at quarterback, Kenny Stabler. His first year with the Saints was the worst year of his career, as he threw 19 interceptions and just 11 touchdown passes. In 1985, the Saints went 5-11, a troubling season that included changes in coaching and ownership, and saw Todd losing playing time to Louisiana native Bobby Hebert, who had come to the Saints from the USFL, where he had won a championship with the Michigan Panthers.
Todd finished his career with 1,610 completions in 2,967 attempts for 20,610 yards and 124 touchdowns, with 161 interceptions. He also rushed for 932 yards and 14 touchdowns.