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January 19, 1954 |
|Height:||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Weight:||210 lb (95 kg)|
|High school:||Anaheim (CA) Savanna|
|College:||San Jose State
|NFL Draft:||1977 / Round: 10 / Pick: 275|
|* Offseason and/or practice squad member only|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at PFR|
Steven Leroy "Steve" DeBerg (born January 19, 1954) is a retired American football player, having been a quarterback in the National Football League for 21 years. Although large portions of his career were spent as a backup, DeBerg ultimately accumulated some impressive NFL statistics, particularly during the early 1990s, when he was the starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Deberg played for the San Francisco 49ers (1978–1980), Denver Broncos (1981–1983), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1984–1987, 1992, 1993), Kansas City Chiefs (1988–1991), Miami Dolphins (1993), and Atlanta Falcons (1998).
He played college football at Fullerton College in Fullerton. He was the starting quarterback during the 1972 and 1973 seasons. As a sophomore in 1973, he led his team to a South Coast Conference title with a 5-0 record. In the postseason, he defeated San Diego City College 24-0 but lost in the State Semifinals 29-20 against Los Angeles City College. He would end the season with an overall record of 10-1-0 and receive Junior College All-American honors.
In 1974, he transferred to San José State University. In 1976, he became the starter at quarterback. DeBerg lead his team to a Pacific Coast Athletic Association (Big West Conference) title and was named the PCAA offensive player of the year. He set nine school records while completing 141 of 262 attempts for 2,084 yards, 19 touchdowns and six interceptions.
In 1993, he was inducted into the California Community College's Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. In 2001, he was inducted into the San Jose State University Ring of Honor and Sports Hall of Fame.
DeBerg was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the tenth round (275th overall) of the 1977 NFL draft, but was waived before the start of the season after not being able to displace fellow rookie quarterback Glenn Carano.
On September 14, 1977, he was signed to the San Francisco 49ers' taxi squad. DeBerg became the starter in 1978 and became the first quarterback to implement Bill Walsh's "West Coast Offense" in 1979. However, when Walsh drafted Joe Montana from Notre Dame in the third round of the 1979 NFL draft, DeBerg was relegated to a backup role midway through the 1980 season.
In 1979, his only full season as a starter in San Francisco, DeBerg led the NFL in completions (347), pass attempts (578) and ranked fifth in the league in passing yards (3,652), throwing 17 touchdowns against 21 interceptions. He had his first 300-yard passing game in his sixth start against Seattle, completing a season-high 31 of 40 passes for 306 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Later that year, he posted his first 100.0 passer rating as a starter, one of two 49ers' wins all year, against his future team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He finished the contest with an efficient 22 completions in 30 pass attempts (season-high 73.3% completion rate) with one touchdown and zero interceptions.
The following season in 1980, the 49ers improved. They won six with four of them in games started by DeBerg. He completed 186 of 321 passes for 1,998 yards with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
DeBerg started the campaign strong, winning his first three starts and twice completing over 70% of his pass attempts. Turnovers became an issue, however, as the team started struggling. The low-light was a five-interception game in a lopsided loss vs Dallas on 10/12/80. ( Full season statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.com, individual game statistics courtesy of NFL.com).
He was traded to the Denver Broncos on August 31, 1981, in exchange for a 1983 fourth-round draft pick (#87 Chuck Nelson), reuniting with Dan Reeves who coached him during his short time with the Cowboys.
Similar events unfolded again and again over the next decade. After being with the 49ers when they drafted Joe Montana in the third round in 1979, DeBerg was with the Broncos when John Elway came after a trade. Elway was drafted first overall in 1983, but refused to sign with the Baltimore Colts.
During his three seasons in Denver, DeBerg ultimately backed up both Craig Morton and Elway, appearing in 33 games with 11 starts. DeBerg was 4-1 as a starter for the 1983 Broncos subbing for a rookie Elway, helping in leading the team to the postseason.
On April 24, 1984, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a fourth-round pick (#89 Randy Robbins), and a 1985 conditional pick that ended up being a second-round selection (#36-Richard Byrd). He arrived at the club at a time when both Steve Young and Vinny Testaverde (1987) were drafted.
DeBerg was the central starter for the 1984 Tampa Bay Bucs, who posted one of the league's more productive offensive attacks with him as the starting quarterback. The 1984 Bucs ranked 10th in the league in total offensive yards and eighth in passing yards. DeBerg appeared in all 16 games, starting 13 and won five of the team's six wins on the year. He passed for 3,554 yards (2nd best of career) with 308 completions in 509 attempts (both second best of his career) along with 19 touchdowns against 18 interceptions.
DeBerg finished high on the NFL leaderboards for the season in attempts (4th), completions (4th), passing yards (7th), touchdown passes (9th) and passing yards per game (8th). The Bucs earned their first win of the season with DeBerg coming off the bench, a 21-17 win over Detroit on September 16, 1984 that saw him complete 18 of 27 passes (66.7%) for 195 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. It was one of four games on the season in which DeBerg's Quarterback Rating topped 100 (10/07 vs Minnesota, 10/14 vs Detroit, 12/16 vs NY Jets).
DeBerg never passed for fewer than 191 yards in any start that year and topped the 200-yard mark ten times. His season-high 322 passing yards performance came on November 25, 1984 in 34-33 shootout loss vs the Los Angeles Rams.
Narrow losses would be the norm as six of the team's eight losses with DeBerg were by seven points or less. Tampa's won-lost record regressed the following year but DeBerg still started 11 games (playing in all 16) and ranking 10th in the league in touchdown passes, finishing the campaign completing 197 of 370 passes for 2,488 yards with 19 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
After starting only two games in 1986, DeBerg was again Tampa's leading passer in his final season there in 1987. Appearing in 12 games with eight starts, DeBerg completed 159 of 275 passes for 1,891 yards with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions, his lowest mark up to this point in a season in which he started at least six games. He finished eighth in the league in QB Rating (85.8), his first season ranked in the year-end Top 10 for that category.
He also finished in the league Top 10 for completion rate (57.8%), one of six times he ranked in the year-end Top 10 in that category (1979, 1982, 1984, 1987, 1989, 1990). DeBerg established a career-high with five-touchdown passes in an opening day win vs Atlanta on September 13, 1987, a game in which he completed 24 of 34 pass attempts (season-high 70.4% completion rate) for 333 yards.
Although he is remembered as a journeyman quarterback, DeBerg passed for over 34,000 career yards and ranks in the top 20 all-time for attempts, completions, and yards passing. His best years were with the Chiefs, during which he led the team to two playoff berths and had his best year in 1990 with a 96.3 quarterback rating, passing for 3,444 yards, 23 touchdowns, and only 4 interceptions, with 3 of those interceptions coming in one game.
In DeBerg's first campaign in KC, he appeared in 13 games with 11 starts and passed for 2,935 yards with 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, completing 224 of 414 passes. He managed to beat his old team Denver on September 18, 1988 with one of his better games of the year, throwing 259 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions. His best game came vs New York Jets on December 4, 1988 when he completed 16 of 25 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns against one interception in a 38-34 win.
Turnover issues again caused him to temporarily lose his starting job in 1989 as he tossed eight interceptions in the team's first three games, including five in one game versus the San Diego Chargers on September 24, 1989. After sitting for two weeks, DeBerg briefly returned to the playing field, then sat two more weeks before finishing the season starting the team's final six games. Among his highlights was a 338-yard, one touchdown, two-interception performance versus the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 23-17 loss on October 29. DeBerg finished the 1989 season with 2,529 yards passing, completing 196 of 324 passes (60.5% completion rate), with 11 touchdowns vs 16 interceptions. (Season Statistics Courtesy of Pro Football Reference.com & Individual Games Statistics Courtesy of NFL.com)
The 1990 season would be DeBerg's finest. His 3,444 yards were his third best single season total of his career (7th in the league). His 96.3 passer rating a career-high (3rd in the league), while also managing Top 10 finishes for yards-per-attempt at 7.8 (4th in league, his second straight season in the Top 5 in this category.) He was eighth in the league in passing yards-per-game, fifth in the league in yards-per-completion (previous best rank was 9th in 1988.) DeBerg's 23 touchdown passes ranked sixth (one of four seasons he ranked in the year end Top 10 in this category), and lead the league with a 0.9 interception percentage that included a career-high and team record 223 passes without an interception, one of three seasons in which he ranked in the year-end top 10 in this category (1979, 1987).
DeBerg posted a career-high 395 yards passing against his former team Denver on September 17, 1990. He suffered a serious injury to his non-throwing hand in a late-season loss versus the Houston Oilers on December 16, 1990 which required the insertion of a pin into his broken finger to keep it straight. For the final two games and playoffs, the Chiefs ran their entire offense out of the shotgun formation to protect DeBerg from having the football jammed in his injured hand during the center to quarterback exchange. Kansas City won those games to clinch their second playoff appearance in over a decade with DeBerg completing 44 of 59 passes for 527 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
In a 17–16 loss vs the Miami Dolphins in the 1990 AFC Wild Card Game, DeBerg overcame his injury to complete 17 of 30 pass attempts for 269 yards with one touchdown and one interception. (Season statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.com and individual game statistics courtesy of NFL.com).
During his career, DeBerg also acquired a reputation for playing through particularly gruesome or unique injuries. He played with laryngitis and wore a portable amplifier during regular-season games with San Francisco. He also played with a broken non-throwing hand and an exposed metal pin sticking out of his finger in a Chiefs playoff game in 1990. In 1993, he left a Dolphins game versus the New York Giants battered and bloodied after taking a helmet to the chin, only to return to the game following halftime. Earlier in the season, he started in place of Dan Marino in the Thanksgiving game where Leon Lett's blunder resulted in a Dolphins win. DeBerg retired after the 1993 season.
Five years later, DeBerg returned to the NFL in 1998, at age 44, reuniting with head coach Dan Reeves as a backup with the Atlanta Falcons. On October 25, with Chris Chandler unable to play, Deberg became the oldest quarterback to ever start an NFL game when he led the Falcons against the New York Jets. In a 28-3 loss, he threw 9-of-20 for 117 yards and an interception before being taken out for Tony Graziani.  He also became the oldest player ever included on a Super Bowl roster, at the age of 45 years, 12 days, when the Falcons appeared in Super Bowl XXXIII, though he did not play.
On August 17th, 1974, DeBerg married his girlfriend Marcia North. The couple had two children together. They divorced in 1996.
DeBerg was inducted to the Rebel Hall of Fame at Savanna High School for his achievements as a starting quarterback in college and in the NFL on February 5, 2010, during halftime at a varsity boys basketball game at Savanna High School.
DeBerg served as the head coach of the Arena Football League's Indiana Firebirds in 2004 for five games. The team's record during his tenure was 0–5. He later served as an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Storm.
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