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Ken O'Brien
No. 7, 15
Position: Quarterback
Personal information
Born: (1960-11-27) November 27, 1960 (age 57)
Brooklyn, New York
Height: 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Weight: 200 lb (91 kg)
Career information
High school: Carmichael (CA) Jesuit
College: UC Davis
NFL Draft: 1983 / Round: 1 / Pick: 24
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
TDINT: 126–99
Yards: 25,094
Passer rating: 80.4
Player stats at

Kenneth John O'Brien, Jr. (born November 27, 1960) is a former American football quarterback who played in the National Football League for the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles. When he retired he was the only Jets quarterback to have ever been the top ranked passer in a season. He held the team record for most consecutive pass completions (17) in a game. O'Brien was one of the six quarterbacks in the famed Quarterback class of 1983 and in 1997 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

High school and college career[edit]

He played for Jesuit High School in Carmichael, California.

O'Brien started his collegiate football career in 1978 at Sacramento State as a reserve.

He played at the University of California, Davis under coach Jim Sochor. In his senior year, 1982, he was a NCAA Division II All-American. He led UCD to a 10-0 regular season mark and to the Division II championship game. He was ranked #2 in total offense and #3 in passing efficiency in Division II. He also won the Babe Slater Award for being the most outstanding male athlete at UC Davis.

He was selected as All-Far Western Conference QB three times and was selected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.

Professional career[edit]

The New York Jets selected O'Brien as the 24th pick in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft, amazing observers who expected the team to choose fellow quarterback Dan Marino, a future member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who was selected three picks later. The many Jets fans who attended the draft, held in New York City, were surprised and outraged by the choice; O'Brien was so obscure that New York television reporter Sal Marchiano twice mangled his name while reporting on fan reaction to the draft. (O'Brien said after his retirement, "Who blames [the fans], right? Who, in New York, has heard of Cal, University of California, Davis? Nobody ... I'm not sure I would have reacted any differently. Heck, some of my cousins grew up as Jets fans. They were probably doing the same thing.")[1]

O'Brien played quarterback for over a decade in the National Football League. He amassed over 25,000 yards in his 11-year career. In 1985, he was the highest rated quarterback in the NFL, finishing the season with a rating of 96.2.[2] He also led the NFL with the lowest rate of interceptions in 1985, 1987, and 1988. He retired after spending the 1993 season with the Philadelphia Eagles where he only started 4 games and mostly served as a backup for Randall Cunningham and Bubby Brister.[3]

O'Brien was the first quarterback to pass for 400 or more yards (431) in a game and earn a perfect NFL 158.3 rating, a feat he accomplished against the Seattle Seahawks in 1986 and would not be matched until 27 years later, by Nick Foles in 2013.[4][5] O'Brien was also the holder of another NFL record that lasted for 25 years when he combined for 927 (884 net) yards and 10 touchdowns passing with Dan Marino. The new record (achieved January 1, 2012) is 1,000 yards passing with 11 touchdowns (the same amount of touchdowns with 63 more yards) in a game that featured the Detroit Lions vs the Green Bay Packers. O'Brien went to the Pro Bowl twice, in 1985 and 1991.

Quarterback Challenge[edit]

In 1990 the first Quarterback Challenge was introduced. Several top-rated quarterbacks competed in several events with O'Brien emerging as the champion. The following year Dan Marino would win. However, in the accuracy challenge O'Brien would more than double the points of the next best quarterback by hitting all of the targets including a near perfect 50-yard pass that was close to the bull's eye.

Notable games[edit]

Quarterback Date Team Opponent Result CMP ATT YDS TDS INT RATING Notes
Ken O'Brien[6] 11/02/1986 New York Jets Seattle Seahawks W 38-7 26 32 431 4 0 158.3 NFL Record: Most yards passed with a perfect rating
Ken O'Brien[7] 12/23/1990 New York Jets New England Patriots W 42-7 11 12 210 2 0 158.3 2nd career perfect rating
Ken O'Brien[8] 11/17/1985 New York Jets Tampa Bay Buccaneers W 62-28 23 30 367 5 1 142.6 Most points since 1973
Ken O'Brien[6] 09/07/1986 New York Jets Buffalo Bills W 28-24 18 25 318 2 0 140.8
Ken O'Brien[9] 11/05/1989 New York Jets New England Patriots W 27-26 22 29 386 2 0 140.4
Ken O'Brien[8] 11/09/1986 New York Jets Atlanta Falcons W 28-14 26 33 322 3 0 137.6 Completed 23 of his first 25 passes (92%)
Ken O'Brien[10] 09/08/1988 New York Jets Houston Oilers W 45-3 17 26 260 3 0 136.7 Didn't play 4th Quarter. 3TD first half.
Ken O'Brien[6] 09/21/1986 New York Jets Miami Dolphins W 51-45 29 43 479 4 1 126.0 Record for 25 years: 927 Combined yards passing. Marino had 448.

Top 5 games by category (Minimum 10 pass attempts)[edit]

Number Rating Points Yards TDs % Com
1 158.3










2 158.3










3 142.6










4 140.8










5 140.4










Quotes about O'Brien[edit]

  • April 26, 1983 "Who's he?" - Don Shula when the Jets took Ken O'Brien with the 24th pick in the 1983 draft, leaving Dan Marino for the Dolphins.[11]
  • September 23, 1991 Jets at Bears: "When (Ken O'Brien) gets the time to throw the football, no one throws it any better than he does." - Frank Gifford on ABC's Monday Night Football.
  • October 20, 1986 Broncos at Jets: "You wanna throw the ball deep? Ken O'Brien, he'll never under throw it." - Frank Gifford on ABC's Monday Night Football.
  • October 26, 1986 Jets at Saints: "Blessed is the man who has not followed the counsel of the impious" - Al Toon, quoting Psalm 1 in a sly reference to a NY Post article questioning O'Brien's tendency to favor Toon over other receivers. (Toon caught 3 touchdown passes in a come-from-behind victory)
  • November 9, 1986 Jets at Falcons: "This kid is absolutely as hot a quarterback as I've ever seen in the NFL. He's so cool. He's got everything so much in control." - Bob Trumpy on NBC.
  • November 9, 1986: "I've been around a lot of tough, smart guys who won even though they couldn't throw the football that well. Billy Kilmer with the Redskins, Fran Tarkenton with the Giants, they didn't have a lot of physical ability, they did it by being tough and smart. But in addition to being tough and smart, Kenny O'Brien can throw the football." -Joe Walton, New York Jets Head Coach.

Coaching career[edit]

After retiring, O'Brien had a stint as an assistant coach for the University of Southern California, where he coached Heisman Trophy winner and current Arizona Cardinal Carson Palmer.[12]

O'Brien in popular culture[edit]

O'Brien made a guest appearance on the television show Home Improvement in the episode "The Eve Of Construction", as part of Tim Taylor's "all-star" team of home builders, building for charity. As the episode aired March 9, 1994 it was just after O'Brien had played his final game. He stated that he played for 'whoever will take me', although Tim cites him as playing for the Eagles.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Elway to Marino". 30 for 30. Season 2. 2013-04-23. ESPN. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ ["'brien/2502323/gamelogs?season=1986 "Ken O'Brien QB Statistics"] Check |url= value (help). 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c "Ken O'Brien: Game Logs",
  7. ^ "Ken O'Brien: Game Logs",
  8. ^ a b "Ken O'Brien: Game Logs",
  9. ^ "Ken O'Brien: Game Logs",
  10. ^ "Ken O'Brien: Game Logs",
  11. ^ Dave, Hyde (2009-06-04). "Say what? Top 50 Miami Dolphins quotes of all time". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved 2009-09-13. 
  12. ^ "Chat Reel: Carson Palmer". Sports Illustrated. 2001-08-15. Retrieved 2010-04-08. 

External links[edit]


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