All 32 Week One NFL Starting QBs…as Michael Jackson Songs

When Super Bowl XLVI arrives in Indianapolis come February 2012, it will be 19 years since one of the most iconic moments in the history of America’s most popular sporting event: Michael Jackson’s epic 1993 halftime show.

Unfortunately, the eternal King of Pop is no longer with us (he would have turned 53 just a few days ago on August 29th), and he thus he will never be able to follow in the footsteps of Bruce Springsteen, The Who, John Mellencamp, and others who have taken to the Super Bowl stage as older musicians, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t weave the musical brilliance of Michael Jackson into a post about the National Football League.

So enjoy this homage to my favorite musician of all time, Michael Jackson, as we kick off our coverage of the 2011 NFL season. Here are all 32 Week One starting QBs in the NFL…as Michael Jackson songs.


AFC East

Tom Brady (NE) – “Blame It On The Boogie”

There are high hopes for the reigning NFL MVP heading into 2011. Coming off of the second best statistical season of his career, but yet another playoff loss, it feels like there is more urgency to capture Super Bowl #4 for he and Brilliant Bill. (How else do you explain bringing in a certified turd like Albert Haynesworth?)

However, if you are a Patriots fan, how much confidence can you have after seeing your quarterback dance like this during the offseason?

Is there any kind of historical precedent for a superstar NFL quarterback being videotaped dancing in such a sacless manner and then winning a Super Bowl? I can’t think of one.

So if things do not go as planned in New England this year – and let’s be honest, the plan is Super Bowl or Bust, as it always should be when you have Brady and Belichick – then Patriots fans can simply blame it on the (Brady) boogie.


Mark Sanchez (NYJ) – “Mama’s Pearl”

Ever since Jets mama bear Rex Ryan named Mark Sanchez his Week 1 starter before Sanchez’s rookie season, the coach has joined Jets supporters across the nation in making excuse after excuse for Sanchez’s overall poor play. For his career, Sanchez has completed just 54.4% of his passes and has thrown four more INTs than he has thrown touchdowns.

Of course, the immediate counter-argument is that Sanchez has also played in his conference’s championship games the last two season, something no other QB in the NFL can say. And as long as the Jets keep on winning, even if Sanchez’s stats and overall play remain underwhelming, in the eyes of mother bear Rex his young QB will undoubtedly remain mama’s pearl.


Chad Henne (MIA) – “Bad”

To say that Chad Henne has been a disappointment to Dolphins fans would be a gross understatement. His 27:33 career TD:INT ratio has been, in a word, bad. His inability to make good decisions in the red zone has been even worse.

But in Michael Jackson’s song “Bad” he is not singing about someone who sucks. MJ is singing about being a badass. And hey, despite being scrawny, certifiably kooky, and even at times somewhat effeminate, Michael Jackson was a badass.

But can Chad Henne come anything close to badass?

Chad Henne has two choices in 2011: he can either continue being bad in the literal sense of the word, or he can carry his impressive preseason play into the regular season and be bad. Like, say, Drew Brees bad (which actually means good, in this case). And there’s precedent, so says no less an authority than the great Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders and Grantland fame.

No pressure Chad; it’s only the entire Dolphins’ season riding on which “bad” you choose.


Ryan Fitzpatrick (BUF) – “They Don’t Care About Us”

Ryan Fitzpatrick is still the quarterback in Buffalo, and he is actually more productive than most people give him credit for. However, I’ll reiterate: he plays in Buffalo, which is why many people don’t give him or any other Bills player much credit.

The Bills and their fans would not be wrong to say they don’t care about us in relation to the attention they receive from the national football media at large. But, of course, it’s hard to garner much attention when you don’t win games.

Sure, people cared about the Buffalo Bills at one time, back when they were running roughshod over the AFC on their way to four straight Super Bowls, when the “K-Gun” offense was the cat’s pajamas. But now? Like I said, other than residents of Buffalo and Toronto, no one really cares.


AFC North

Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) – “Ben” and “Dirty Diana”

Obviously young MJ’s classic song “Ben” is a perfect fit for the player NFL analysts refer to simply by his first name, Ben. So let’s just get that out of the way right now.

But stopping at “Ben” for Ben Roethlisberger would be a copout. And we’re not coupouters here at MSF, so we’ll provide a second song for Mr. Roethlisberger aka Bathroom Ben.

And really, what song other than “Dirty Diana” would be appropriate for someone whose idea of a good time is getting drunk with random dirty Dianas and engaging in relations in the bathroom of a bar?


Joe Flacco (BAL) – “Beat It”

Do you realize that this Bert doppelganger has completed 62% of his passes and has a solid 60:34 TD:INT ratio for his three-year career? It’s quite possible, perhaps even probable, that Joe Flacco is the most underrated QB in the NFL.

But the stats are just a small part of it.

As we know, QBs are judged by wins and losses. Well, all Joe Flacco has done is beat it — the opposing team that it is — in two-thirds of the regular season games he has started. He has also won a playoff game in each of his three seasons in the NFL. Even the highly acclaimed Matt Ryan can’t beat that.


Colt McCoy (CLE) – “Little Bitty Pretty One”

The second-year player for the Browns stands just 6’1, which is just an inch taller than noted shorty Drew Brees. The cherubic McCoy also holds the Super Bowl (heck, Wild Card) aspirations of a starving Browns fan base on his little bitty pretty shoulders, as a town desperate for a solid QB and a winning team hopes that McCoy is the answer to its collective prayers.

And yes, I know that the Jackson 5 version of “Little Bitty Pretty One” is a cover of a Frankie Lymon song, but seeing as how Browns fans would be ecstatic if McCoy simply ends up being a cover of their beloved Bernie Kosar, it seems appropriate.


Andy Dalton (CIN) – “She’s Out of My Life”

In this case, it’s actually a he, not a she, that is out of Dalton and Bengals’ fans lives. And the he in question is Carson Palmer, who has chosen to retire rather than subject himself to anymore Bengals nonsense (assuming he doesn’t make a surprise 11th hour visit to camp).

Of course, while Bengals owner Mike Brown seems to be happily chirping He’s out of my life in reference to Palmer, other observers are criticizing Brown’s “damned indecision and cursed pride” seeing as how he could have traded Palmer and gotten something for him rather than wasting one of the team’s few valuable assets.

Now it’s up to the rookie Dalton to lead the Palmer-less and Ochocinco-less Bengals into 2011. For Bengals fans, it will probably just be another wicked season that “cuts like a knife”, and by Week 8 Bengals fans may be wishing the franchise, or at least the much-maligned Brown, was out of their life.


AFC South

Peyton Manning (IND) – “Smooth Criminal”

Is anyone smoother at running an offense than Peyton Manning? It’s almost criminal the way he picks apart opposing defenses as if he’s stolen their signals or planted a bug in their huddle.

Regardless, the reason why “Smooth Criminal” is the MJ song perfect for Peyton in 2011 is because all you have to do is substitute one word in the song to make it an almost perfect reenactment of every time the Colts QB has met with the press this offseason.

Peyton Are You OK?
So, Peyton Are You OK
Are You OK, Peyton
Peyton Are You OK?
So, Peyton Are You OK
Are You OK, Peyton
Peyton Are You OK?
So, Peyton Are You OK?
Are You OK, Peyton?
Peyton Are You OK?
So, Peyton Are You Ok, Are You Ok, Peyton?

Well Peyton? Are you? ARE YOU? We’ll find out Week 1.

And if Peyton is okay, and doesn’t miss a start, then the true “smooth criminal” will be Kerry Collins for getting paid $4 million to do…what, exactly?

Matt Schaub (HOU) – “Can You Feel It”

It seems like every year is the Texans’ year.

“No really, this will be the season that Kubiak, Schaub, Johnson, Williams, et al, finally put it together and make the franchise’s first playoff appearance.”

“No, no, this will be the year. Seriously!”

With questions surrounding Peyton Manning’s health, and vultures sure to circle Lucas Oil Stadium should Peyton have to miss any time, this year really could be the year in Houston.

Seriously. For real. I can almost feel it; can you feel it? This year actually will be THE year for the Texans. I even predicted it!


Matt Hasselbeck (TEN) – “One More Chance”

Matt Hasselbeck took the Seahawks to their only Super Bowl appearance and gave Seattle, for the most part, above average play at the QB position on a consistent basis for the better part of a decade. Yet despite leading the Seahawks to an unexpected playoff berth and an even more unexpected playoff win last year, he was jettisoned so that Seattle could move on to the…Tarvarlie Jackhurst Era. Win forever!

Hasselbeck landed on his feet though, taking over for the departed Vincerry Youngins in Tennessee. Sure, he’s just keeping the seat warm for Jake Locker, and may not even last the whole season as the starter, but at least Hasselback gets one more chance to lead a team.

Good for him. He’s earned it.


David Garrard (JAC) – “Somebody’s Watching Me”

Poor David Garrard. No matter what this guy does, he just can never seem to earn himself any job security.

Last year, Garrard completed 64.5% of his passes, threw 23 touchdowns, and had a QB rating of 90.8, keeping the Jags in the playoff hunt until their pathetic defense collapsed during a three-game skid to end the season. And how was Garrard repaid for his solid season? Jacksonville went out and drafted Blaine Gabbert in the first round, meaning Garrard gets to spend yet another season looking over his shoulder with somebody watching him.


Ironically, Jacksonville is one of the worst NFL franchises when it comes to attendance and avoiding blackouts, so perhaps a song called “Nobody’s Watching Me” would have been more appropriate; but “Somebody’s Watching Me” works because it’s one of Michael Jackson’s more recognizable yet underappreciated vocal performances, and Garrard similarly falls into that underappreciated category.

This song won’t make any MJ Greatest Hits CDs (hell, it’s not even his song, it’s Berry Gordy’s son Rockwell’s) just like Garrard won’t ever make an All Pro team, but both have their moments of greatness and are better than most people given them credit for.


AFC West

Philip Rivers (SD) – “You Wanna Be Starting Something”

Few players start more somethings on the field than Philip Rivers. It seems like he’s always barking at someone on the opposing team, talking trash, and just generally trying to stir things up.

Yes, Philip Rivers always wanna be starting something.

Relatedly, how great of a beat does this song have? It’s slick, quick, and sweet (just like Philip Rivers’ release, coincidentally). Damn the Thriller album was awesome.


Jason Campbell (OAK) – “Man In the Mirror”

“Man In the Mirror” is a triumphant song about change, and no quarterback I can remember has gone through more change than Jason Campbell.

I’m pretty sure that either Campbell’s head coach or coordinator has been different for each of his seasons in the NFL. Contrast that with the stability that guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees have had, and it’s no wonder why the strong-armed Campbell has toiled in relative obscurity and frustrated his fan bases for the last half decade.

But when Campbell looks at the man in the mirror he’ll see a guy who has never had a season in which he’s thrown more picks than touchdowns and a guy who had improved his accuracy every season before dropping off last year. If the Raiders can develop a few receivers, maybe Campbell can make some change instead of just enduring it.


Kyle Orton (DEN) – “Human Nature”

It is to be expected that fans will want young first round picks who are upstanding citizens and who were Heisman Trophy-winning college football heroes to play over fully-formed veterans. Kyle Orton, a fully-formed veteran who has proven himself to be solid but unspectacular, needs to remind himself of that this year when, no matter what he does on the field, fans clamor for Tim Tebow to be given a shot as the starting QB.

Why? Why? Tell Kyle that it’s human nature…for fans anyway. Orton just needs to hope it’s not the nature of John Fox. (It’s not.)


Matt Cassel (KC) – “The Lost Children”

Matt Cassel was never the starting quarterback at USC. For the first several years of his NFL career, he was never the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. When it came to game experience, Cassel was among the few lost children who had none, but who had enough potential to continue advancing through the ranks.

Then Tom Brady got hurt, Cassel excelled, and he moved on to the Chiefs. After a rough first season he played well last year, taking advantage of a weak schedule and an absurd season by Dwayne Bowe, leading the Chiefs to the playoffs.

Hopes are high this year, but will Cassel be up to the task? If he’s not, he may go back to being a lost NFL child if the demanding Todd Haley and the Chiefs lose faith in his ability to be the franchise’s QB of the future.


Okay, we’re through the AFC. Deep breath. Only 16 more QBs (actually 17; you’ll see…) and songs to go.

One song that did not make the cut, despite being one of my favorite Michael Jackson songs of all-time, is “Rock With You.” It just didn’t seem to fit with anyone.

But since you, dear reader, have continued rocking with me through this long but hopefully entertaining post, I dedicate this classic MJ diddy to you.


NFC East

Tony Romo (DAL) – “The Girl Is Mine”

This is a pretty simple one: Jessica Simpson; this cute but non-famous blonde; Carrie Underwood; former MSF writer (and Chiefs fan!) and current Mrs. Romo Candice Crawford.

It seems like in Tony Romo’s world, he can always say the girl is mine.


Plus, Michael Jackson never wrote a song about fumbling a snap to lose a playoff game. So really, this was the only choice.

(Also, Paul McCartney has played at the new, immaculate Cowboys Stadium, so there is that too.)


Eli Manning (NYG) – “Scream”

Last year, no quarterback made his team’s fans scream, in both joy and agony, more than Eli Manning. He threw 31 TDs and surpassed 4,000 yards, but he also tossed 25 interceptions. ‘Nuff said.

Except that simply listing off some scream-worthy stats is not enough, because this song is appropriate in yet another way.

Has there ever been a more successful sibling QB tandem in NFL history than Peyton and Eli Manning? They both have Super Bowl rings, so no.

Likewise, has there ever been a more successful sibling pop music tandem in music history than Michael and Janet Jackson? No.

Add it all up and this one just may be the most appropriate song choice of all 32.


Michael Vick (PHI) – “Thriller”

Did I say that last song was the most appropriate song choice? It’s only one song later and I’m already re-thinking that bold and possibly foolish statement!

Michael Vick’s name is almost synonymous with the word thriller at this point. What more can I say on this one?


Jex Beckman (WAS) – “Who Is It?”

See, I told you the NFC would have 17 QBs rather than 16, and it’s all thanks to Mike Shanahan and the Jon Beck/Rex Grossman duo in Washington (shortened above to “Jex Beckman” because that’s so much more fun). Leave it to Daniel Snyder’s franchise to F it all up.

Despite everyone wondering who is it going to be, Mike Shanahan has not officially named a starting QB for Week 1 as of me writing this. And even when he does name a starter, does anyone think that guy will start all 16 games? Hell no.

As the old saying goes, if you have two quarterbacks you really have none. In the case of the Redskins, that most certainly is the case.


NFC North

Aaron Rodgers (GB) – “Billie Jean”

In my opinion, “Billie Jean” is Michael Jackson’s greatest song and Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL (right now), so this really was a perfect song-player match; but the match goes deeper than just that simple association.

Remember when Michael Jackson moonwalked to Billie Jean in 1983 at the Motown 25th Anniversary celebration? It was his coming out party as a solo artist, removed the shadow cast by his brothers, and established him as the King of Pop.

Similarly, when Aaron Rodgers guided the wild card Packers to the Super Bowl last year while playing near-flawless football, it was his coming out party as a superstar QB, removed the shadow of Brett Favre, and established him as the best quarterback going right now.

It was his Billie Jean moment.


This song is so good, as is Rodgers (did you know he has the highest QB rating of all-time?), that it deserves two videos. So here is the official video for “Billie Jean.”

Let me know when you’re done singing, snapping your fingers, and moonwalking around your house or office so we can continue.

Okay, onward we proceed.

Matthew Stafford (DET) – Will You Be There?

For the first time since Barry Sanders, there is legitimate, unmockable playoff hope in Detroit. And apparently I’m drinking the silver and blue Kool-Aid, because I predicted that it will happen*.

* – So, for the record, I officially picked the Lions and Texans to make the playoffs in the same season. Had I thought about in those absurd terms when I was making my picks, I doubt I would have gone through with it.

The biggest question mark on the Lions’ roster is their quarterback. Unfortunately, the Lions and their fans have legitimate reason to ask Matthew Stafford every week will you be there on Sunday? Despite his remarkable talent and big contract, he’s only played 13 out of a possible 32 games during his two-year career thus far.

On the plus side, Stafford did have a QB rating of 91.3 and six TDs against only one interception before getting hurt last year. Plus he’s been dynamite this preseason. Simply put, Stafford has to stay healthy and be there on the field for Detroit to have a shot; if he does, he and the young Lions are talented enough to finally be a force to be reckoned with.


Jay Cutler (CHI) – “Leave Me Alone”

Jay Cutler is renowned for his rocket arm, but he is not so renowned for his disposition. Of course, as Tom Fornelli points out, who cares if Cutler can be a jerk? If he treats people with a leave me alone attitude and doesn’t always act all Tebow rah-rah on the sidelines, what does it matter if he’s playing in the NFC Championship Game, right?

Hmm…about that whole playing part…

Let’s just say that I bet Jay Cutler wishes people like Maurice Jones-Drew would have kept their mouths shut and left he and his injured knee alone.


Donovan McNabb (MIN) – “Remember The Time”

Hey, do you remember the time when Donovan McNabb was one of the best QBs in the NFL? When he was leading the Eagles to NFC Championship Games (and even a Super Bowl) on a regular basis? When he was a perennial Pro Bowler?

Yeah, those were good times. Times the Minnesota Vikings are hoping they can relive this season.

Remembering McNabb’s ill-fated and short-lived tenure in Washington does not inspire much confidence, but hey, Eddie Murphy and Magic Johnson probably thought the same thing when they were pitched the idea for this video, yet it turned out pretty well. Maybe the Vikings 2011 season will as well. (Count Drew among those who thinks it could!)


NFC South

Drew Brees (NO) – “Heal The World”

Is any face more synonymous with the rebuilding of New Orleans in the post-Katrina era than that of Drew Brees? I say no.


A quarterback can’t heal the world, but he certainly can help heal a city, especially when he gives his time and resources to help out in the community and raises civic pride by leading the long-suffering home team to a Super Bowl championship.

The best way I can sum up the greatness of Drew Brees is to do so in the spirit of those ubiquitous Dos Equis commercials: I don’t always root for Purdue grads, but when I do, I prefer that they be truly awesome guys on and off the field…like Drew Brees.

Josh Freeman (TB) – “Dangerous”

Pretty easy, obvious one here right? Not only is this guy young, he’s got a strong arm, wheels, and similarly young and talented weapons to grow up with.

If I’m a defensive coordinator in the NFC South, knowing I have to face this guy twice a year for the next decade, there isn’t much I consider more dangerous than Josh Freeman.


Matt Ryan (ATL) – “Butterflies”

Though Matt Ryan always gets mentioned before Joe Flacco when people list out the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Ryan has won fewer games, completed a lower percentage of his passes, and amassed a lower QB rating then his 2008 draft classmate.

Most importantly, Ryan is 0-2 in the playoffs while Flacco is 4-3. And even though Flacco’s playoff stats are actually more putrid than Ryan’s own putrid playoff stats, we all know that quarterbacks are judged by wins in December, January, and February. So far, Flacco has gotten them. Ryan hasn’t.

So even though people are anointing Matt Ryan as the Next Great NFL QB, he still has to prove he can shake the playoff butterflies, like Aaron Rodgers did last year, before he can truly enter such a discussion.


Cam Newton (CAR) – “PYT (Pretty Young Thing)”

Some of these were so easy.

“PYT” is a kinetic, upbeat, exciting song…much like Cam Newton is a kinetic, upbeat, exciting QB (who just happens to also have a kinetic, upbeat, exciting smile that will make him a marketing darling should he be able to produce at all on the field).

And is the term “pretty young thing” more appropriate for anything in the NFL than a young QB filled with potential? Nope.

Winning franchises are built around winning QBs, and Cam Newton is the latest #1 draft pick to be his franchise’s pretty young thing upon which it constructs its hopes and expectations of future success.


NFC West

Alex Smith (SF) – “Never Can Say Goodbye”

The San Francisco 49ers drafted Alex Smith first overall in the 2005 draft. Since then, he has compiled a paltry QB rating of 72.1, has thrown more picks than TDs, and has been yanked in and out of the lineup like a yo-yo. Most importantly, the team has barely sniffed the playoffs during Smith’s time with the franchise.

Yet the 49ers simply never can say goodbye to one of the most disastrous draft choices in franchise history.

With Smith a free agent after last season, the 49ers had a chance to cut the cord for good. They even drafted a potential QB of the future in Colin Kaepernick. But when push came to shove, Smith couldn’t do better than the 49ers and the 49ers couldn’t do better than Smith. So he’s back. Fans of San Fran are just hoping that the final verse of this classic Jackson 5 tune does not prove apropos for 2011:

Keep thinkin’ that our problems,
Soon are all gonna work out,
But there’s that same unhappy feeling,
And there’s that anguish, there’s that doubt…

49ers fans can’t take much more anguish and doubt, but can anything else be expected until, one day, they finally do say goodbye?

Smith has one final shot this year to turn it around. Otherwise it most certainly will mean goodbye, for good, before next year.


Sam Bradford (STL) – “Hold My Hand”

In college, Sam Bradford completed 67.6% of his passes. This remarkable skill for throwing a football accurately was the main reason he was chosen #1 overall in the 2010 draft. As a rookie, he completed an impressive 60% of his passes, even with top target Mark Clayton getting injured early in the season. He also threw for over 3,500 yards and tossed more TDs than INTs. As a rookie. This is why so many people are predicting a breakout season from Bradford in 2011.

Another reason people are predicting a Bradford breakout is that Josh McDaniels is now coordinating the Rams’ offense. Yes, the same Josh McDaniels who coordinated the Patriots’ record-setting offense during their 18-1 season, and the same Josh McDaniels who made Kyle Orton a fantasy stud during the first half of last season. The man may be an idiot when it comes to personnel decisions, but he can coordinate a passing game.


Despite their lack of familiarity together, if the offensively brilliant McDaniels just says hold my hand to the prodigiously talented Bradford, and if Bradford acquiesces, these two could make sweet music together…kinda like MJ and Akon did.


Kevin Kolb (ARI) – “You Are Not Alone”

Last year, Larry Fitzgerald must have felt like an NFL wide receiving orphan. He went from having a potential Hall of Famer (Kurt Warner) throwing him on-the-money lasers and playing in the Super Bowl to having a trio of quarterbacking dipshits (Derek Anderson, Max Hall, and John Skelton) tossing him inaccurate ducks while playing musical chairs behind center. Has an elite wide receiver ever felt more alone? That Fitzgerald still caught 90 balls and over 1,000 yards is a testament to his remarkable skills and further emboldened my belief that he’s the best wide receiver in football today.

Enter the unproven but seemingly solid Kevin Kolb, and Fitzgerald has reason to smile again.


The long-rumored acquisition of Kolb by the Cardinals finally happened once the lockout ended, and I’m sure that Kolb’s first words to his new #1 wide receiver were something along the lines of “You are not alone anymore, Larry.” Now all Kolb has to do is live up to the pressure of playing with the league’s best receiver while being paid like a franchise quarterback. Otherwise he’ll be the one feeling alone after the honeymoon period inevitably ends.

But can he?

In limited action, Kolb’s numbers are decidedly Alex Smith-like (73.2 rating, 60.8 completion percentage, 11:14 TD:INT ratio); and those numbers were all accumulated while playing in the passer-friendly system of Andy Reid. So Kolb is far from a slam dunk, but he can’t possibly be worse than Anderson, Hall, or Skelton, whose collective play last year, in comparison to the rest of the QBs in the league, was akin to the difference between the following awful video in comparison to the rest of Michael Jackson’s immaculate video catalog.


Tarvaris Jackson (SEA) – “Black or White”

No need for me to ramble on and on for this one like I did for Kevin Kolb.

It’s pretty simple: it don’t matter whether Seattle’s QB is black (TJack) or white (Charlie Whitehurst)…the Seahawks are going to suck.


Well, that’s it. I hope you enjoyed this post. I certainly enjoyed writing it. In fact, I’d rank creating this post among the five most entertaining posts I’ve ever had the privilege to create here at MSF. What could be better than listening to an artist I love while doing what I love? Nothing. Nothing at all.

But that doesn’t mean that I got ’em all right.

  • Are there any QB-song matches you disagree with?
  • Any you’d switch up?
  • Any Michael Jackson classics that you’re pissed didn’t make it and just want to embed the video for all to enjoy?

The comment section awaits.

So get up off the wall and comment!

About the Author

Jerod Morris

I love words. I write for Copyblogger and founded MSF, The Assembly Call, & Primility. I practice yoga, eat well, & strive for balance. I love life. Namaste. Say hi on Twitter, Facebook, & G+.