Hot Hands

DAUNTE CULPEPPER isn't the only NFL quarterback on the brink of a career season. Here are three other passers who, although at very different stages in their development, are having notable starts in 2004.
November 01, 2004

THE COMER

Byron Leftwich, JAGUARS

In Jacksonville's surprising 5--2 start the second-year pro has been solid, completing 65% of his passes for 1,664 yards and nine touchdowns. But when a game has been up for grabs, Leftwich has been Montanaesque: He has led last-minute, game-winning drives in four of the Jaguars' five wins.

THE SURVIVOR

Drew Brees, CHARGERS

At the start of the season he had no future in San Diego, merely keeping the starting job warm for rookie first-round pick Philip Rivers before becoming a free agent in early 2005. But Rivers's protracted holdout gave Brees a second chance. He has thrown for 1,316 yards and nine touchdowns while leading San Diego to a 4--3 record--as many wins as the team had all last season.

THE AFTERTHOUGHT

Brian Griese, BUCS

He was essentially run out of Denver after five mostly rocky seasons as John Elway's successor. He started over in Miami last year, but things soured fast. This year he showed up in Tampa, just hoping to get a roster spot. But after Brad Johnson was benched and backup Chris Simms went down with a sprained throwing shoulder on Oct. 10, Griese stepped in to lead the previously winless Bucs to two victories in his first three games. He has completed 70.7% of his passes for 643 yards.

--Josh Elliott

COLOR PHOTOBILL FRAKES (LEFTWICH) COLOR PHOTOTIM TADDER/NEWSPORT (BREES) COLOR PHOTOELSA/GETTY IMAGES

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)