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Where the 15 Minutes of Fame Never End
I was watching ESPN Classic this morning and they had a sweet rerun of an old show you may remember, starring Kenny Mayne, called Two -Minute Drill. It was the worldwide leader’s trivia precursor to Stump the Schwab, and one of Mayne’s questions to a well-dressed Claude Julien-lookalike was “What journeyman quarterback led the 1995 Kansas City Chiefs to a 13-3 regular season record?” I was completely stumped, and surprised to find out it was one-year wonder Steve Bono. So let’s talk about this fellow.
Bono was a two-sport star at UCLA, earning letters as both the catcher of the school’s baseball team and as the Bruins’ starting quarterback. Bono ultimately chose football, and was picked in the sixth round in 1985 by the Vikings. In four seasons spent between Minnesota and then Pittsburgh, he played in just seven games, starting three of them. It wouldn’t be until the 49ers started him in six games in 1991 that Bono would get his first significant playing action. In that ’91 season Bono went 5-1 as a starter, throwing 11 touchdowns and four interceptions, filling in for Joe Montana, before being moved back to the bench in favor of the rapidly ascending Steve Young.
After being moved to Kansas City following the 1993 season, Bono was once again relegated to backing up Montana. He waited out Montana’s retirement and was given the starting job in 1995. His only season as a sixteen-game starter went swimmingly in KC. The team went 13-3 and Bono would go on to Honolulu for his first and only Pro Bowl. He threw for 3121 yards despite completing only 56.3 percent of his passes.
When the Colts visited Arrowhead in a divisional round matchup following KC’s first-round bye week, Steve Bono was
thrust into the spotlight in the most important game of his career. Against Jim Harbaugh and the Colts, Bono went 11-for-25 for 122 yards, including one touchdown and three interceptions. Bono was benched late in the fourth quarter for Rich Gannon, and the team went on to lose 10-7, while the Colts went on to face the Steelers in one of the greatest AFC Championship games ever played.
Bono never did recapture the magic of his ’95 season, and after 1996 was released in favor of future Kansas City great Elvis Grbac. He spent his final three seasons in Green Bay, St Louis, and then Carolina, starting only two more games in his career, both in St. Louis. He went 0-2 as a starter.
Talk to a Florida State football fan and he or she will no doubt recount the greatness of the late 90s, an era led by St. Paul native Chris Weinke. Weinke was first an obscure baseball player, spending six seasons in the Blue Jays’ system, and it’s why he was already 28 when he led the ‘Noles to their second national championship as a junior in 1999. He followed up his ’99 campaign with a Heisman-winning season in 2000, and was drafted in April, 2001, by the Carolina Panthers.
Conversely, talk to a Carolina Panthers fan, and he or she will no doubt recount the stunning wretchedness of the Chris Weinke days of Panther football. Weinke started fifteen games as a 29-year old rookie during the ’01 season, going 1-14, with all fourteen losses coming in a row.
Weinke stuck around in Carolina until the end of the ’06 season, making spot starts in relief of Jake Delhomme, and would get his last hurrah on December 10, 2006, breaking the Panthers’ record for passing yards in a game with 423 in a losing effort against the Giants.
Weinke was let go by the Panthers that offseason, and would only start one more game in his career, in 2007 as part of a brief stint for the 49ers. Chris Weinke’s final numbers as an NFL quarterback include 15 touchdowns, 26 interceptions, and a dismal 62.2 passer rating to go with a 2-18 career record as a starter. The .100 winning percentage is among the worst ever among QB’s with at least 20 career starts.. Given how his NFL career panned out, it’s a good thing he stuck around at Florida State for a good while. Needless to say he’s yet to get the call from the fine folks at Hair Club for Men looking for his endorsement. Not yet, that is.