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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.

Ken O'Brien
No. 7, 15
Personal information
Born: (1960-11-27) November 27, 1960 (age 58)
Rockville Centre, 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
Passer rating:80.4
Player stats at

High school and college careerEdit

O'Brien 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.

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

Professional careerEdit

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, Jared Goff in 2018 & Deshaun Watson in 2019.[4][5] O'Brien is also one of only 4 quarterbacks in NFL history to have a perfect passer rating of 158.3 in a game while attempting 30 or more passes.[6][circular reference] 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 number 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 ChallengeEdit

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 gamesEdit

Quarterback Date Team Opponent Result CMP ATT YDS TDS INT RATING Notes
Ken O'Brien[7] November 2, 1986 New York Jets Seattle Seahawks W 38-7 26 32 431 4 0 158.3 Record for 31 years: Most yards passed with a perfect rating (since surpassed by Jared Goff [465] in 2018).
Record for 32 years: Most completions with a perfect rating (since surpassed by Deshaun Watson [28] in 2019).
Ken O'Brien[8] December 23, 1990 New England Patriots W 42-7 11 12 210 2 0 158.3 2nd career perfect rating
Ken O'Brien[9] November 17, 1985 Tampa Bay Buccaneers W 62-28 23 30 367 5 1 142.6 Most points since 1973
Ken O'Brien[7] September 7, 1986 Buffalo Bills W 28-24 18 25 318 2 0 140.8
Ken O'Brien[10] November 5, 1989 New England Patriots W 27-26 22 29 386 2 0 140.4
Ken O'Brien[9] September 11, 1986 Atlanta Falcons W 28-14 26 33 322 3 0 137.6 Completed 23 of his first 25 passes (92%)
Ken O'Brien[11] September 8, 1988 Houston Oilers W 45-3 17 26 260 3 0 136.7 Didn't play 4th quarter. 3 touchdowns in the first half.
Ken O'Brien[7] September 21, 1986 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



November 17, 1985


September 21, 1986


November 17, 1985


December 23, 1990

2 158.3

December 23, 1990


September 21, 1986




September 21, 1986



3 142.6

November 17, 1985


September 18, 1988







4 140.8



October 23, 1988







5 140.4



September 21, 1987






September 29, 1991

Quotes about O'BrienEdit

  • 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.[12]
  • 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 careerEdit

After retiring, O'Brien had a stint as an assistant coach for the University of Southern California, where he coached Heisman Trophy winner and former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer.[13]

O'Brien in popular cultureEdit

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. O'Brien's daughter Paige[citation needed] is married to former sitcom star Josh Peck.

See alsoEdit


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

External linksEdit