Former NFL quarterback Dave Krieg gave hope to every average Joe who wanted to play pro football.
These were great unis👍
— Goat Jerseys (@GoatJerseys) July 6, 2019
After an unspectacular prep career, he was buried on the depth chart at a small school that no longer exists.
Krieg worked his way into a solid college starter then tried his luck in the NFL.
He caught on with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent and stayed in the league for 19 years.
Although Krieg spent his last seven years as a journeyman quarterback, he retired with better career numbers than some Hall of Famers.
This is the story of Dave Krieg.
David Michael Krieg was born on October 20, 1958, in Iola, Wisconsin.
3-time Pro Bowl quarterback.
Seahawks Ring of Honor member.
Happy Birthday to one of the greats, Dave Krieg! 🎂 pic.twitter.com/VaUQHZLUpK
— Seahawks Legends (@SeahawksLegends) October 20, 2021
He grew up with a love of football and went out for the team at D.C. Everest High School in Schofield, Wisconsin.
Krieg made his way up the depth chart and eventually became the starting quarterback for the Evergreens.
The offensive system at Everest was run-based and, therefore, didn’t give Krieg very many opportunities to showcase his arm.
As his high school graduation approached, no college showed any interest in Krieg.
Thankfully, his coach, Dick Ambrosino, put in a good word to his own former high school coach, Rudy Gaddini, at NAIA Milton College in Milton, Wisconsin.
Gaddini had built Milton into a good team despite not having a lot of bodies to fill the roster.
Coach Ambrosino’s pledge that Krieg was worth a look led Gaddini to give the signal-caller a spot on the team.
Krieg Stars at Milton
When Krieg arrived at Milton in 1976, he was one of seven quarterbacks on the roster.
“How bad can it get if there are only 50 guys on the team and you’re the seventh-best quarterback?” Krieg commented in 2005.
Despite being a long shot, Krieg pushed the guys ahead of him daily.
He quickly ascended to the second string and got an opportunity to play in the fourth game of his freshman year.
During that game, Milton was struggling until Gaddini inserted Krieg, who completed four passes.
It just so happened that three of those passes were for touchdowns.
His play that afternoon sparked Milton College, and Krieg was the starting quarterback for the next three years.
Happy 63rd bday Dave Krieg! Out of little Milton College, made 3 Pro Bowls! Krieg threw 32 TD & went 12-4 in 1984. 1983-88 he was 48-27 with 16 game average of 29 TD. After Seattle played for 5 teams in 7 years. Went 5-2 in 1994 with Lions, 14/3 TD/INT & dominated Thanksgiving. pic.twitter.com/jgjFAcgum8
— Scott F (@TheFrizz87) October 20, 2021
(In 1982, Milton would cease to exist, closing its doors for good after operating since 1844).
Krieg Gets an Opportunity with Seattle
Although he was a star at the NAIA level, there was no interest in Krieg from the NFL.
In a similar repeat of four years earlier, Krieg got a boost when Gaddini used a connection he had with the Seattle Seahawks to spark interest in Krieg.
“I always had aspirations to at least get the chance to be a professional football player,” Krieg said in 1985. “I never thought it was a big deal coming from Milton.”
Gaddini sent film to the Seahawks headquarters, and the team flew Krieg out to Seattle for a try-out.
Jerry Rhome, offensive coordinator for the ‘Hawks, and head coach Jack Patera both attended the try-out and liked what they saw from Krieg.
He was added to the training camp roster as one of seven quarterbacks (just like in college).
By the end of training camp, Krieg had moved up to the third string behind starter Jim Zorn and backup Sam Adkins.
That’s where he stayed during the 1980 season, playing in only one game and attempting two passes.
Krieg Beats the Jets
Krieg began the 1981 season behind Zorn and Adkins until Zorn broke his ankle late in the year.
Expecting that Adkins would start against a good New York Jets team in Week 14, Krieg didn’t stress.
He didn’t have to worry about playing against Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau and his fellow “Sack Exchange” linemates.
That notion changed shortly before the game.
“We played against the New York Jets and they had the Sack Exchange defense,” Krieg told Beckys-Place.com. “We went out for pre-game warm-ups and I didn’t know if it would be Sam Adkins or myself. Come to find out Jack Patera didn’t tell me all week because he thought I’d get too dang nervous. We went out for pre-game warm-ups, then came back in and Jerry Rhome said, ‘Hey, you know you’re starting, don’t you?’, and I said, ‘I guess I do now.'”
Playing through nerves and the constant threat of the Jets’ rabid defense, Krieg ran for a touchdown and passed for 264 yards and two scores, including a 57-yard bomb to receiver Steve Largent for the game-winner.
Krieg started two other games that year and passed for totals of 843 yards, seven touchdowns, and five picks.
Ups and Downs
In 1982, Krieg began the season as the starter after an enthusiastic quote from Rhome made headlines.
“Dave Krieg is making a big move at Jim Zorn. And Krieg is better than Zorn has ever been in the past,” said Rhome.
A thumb injury sustained in the early part of the schedule put Krieg on the sidelines and elevated Zorn as the starter.
Weeks later in the strike-shortened season, Zorn was ineffective, and Krieg took over, ending the year with two starts, 501 yards, two touchdowns, and two picks.
— ⚓️ Geoff ⚓️ (@GeoffNotJeff_12) August 19, 2014
The conclusion of the ‘82 season saw the departure of Patera and Rhome, and Seattle hired former Buffalo Bills head coach Chuck Knox.
Knox was known for his affinity for the running game, which led to the nickname “Ground Chuck.”
To bolster the Seahawks’ rushing attack, Seattle selected Penn State running back Curt Warner in the first round of the ‘83 NFL Draft.
Before the 1983 season began, Knox made Zorn the starter.
“Jim Zorn’s the No. 1 quarterback,” Knox insisted in early September, adding that “Zorn has a better grasp of what we’re trying to do offensively.”
That lasted until Zorn faltered and was replaced by Krieg during a Week 8 game against Pittsburgh.
Krieg nearly dug the Seahawks out of the deficit Zorn had gotten them into, helping the team score three touchdowns in just 11 minutes.
The comeback came up short though, and the Steelers beat Seattle 27-21.
In the week that followed, Knox made Krieg the starter.
“[Krieg] got 21 points on the board for us,” Knox said. “He had some big plays and rallied us. In light of that, as well as everything else, we made the change.”
The Seahawks would win five of their remaining eight games to end the regular season 9-7.
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) October 30, 2014
That was good enough to get the franchise their first-ever playoff berth.
In the Wild Card round, Krieg passed for 200 yards and three touchdowns as Seattle spanked John Elway and the Denver Broncos 31-7.
“Dave has a lot of vision on the field,” Largent said during the 1983 playoffs. “He picks out secondary and tertiary receivers. He’s pretty unflappable. He always seems to have a big play ready. And if he’s down, he bounces right back.”
One week later, the Seahawks’ miracle season continued when Krieg threw a touchdown pass, and Warner ran wild to defeat Dan Marino and the heavily favored Miami Dolphins in the Divisional round 27-20.
The wheels fell off in the AFC Championship game against the LA Raiders when Krieg’s erratic play led to his benching.
Zorn came in to try to salvage the day but couldn’t do much better as LA ended the Seahawks’ season 30-14.
Sensing they were close to a Super Bowl appearance, the Seahawks attempted to lure former University of Washington and CFL star quarterback Warren Moon to Seattle before the 1984 season.
Moon strongly considered returning to the city he knew from his college days but ultimately signed with the Houston Oilers.
Then, in the first game of the season, Warner went down with a season-ending injury.
There wasn’t much depth behind him except for a washed-up Franco Harris, who had signed with Seattle in the offseason after 12 years in Pittsburgh.
Warner’s injury led Knox to abandon his ground game and ride with Krieg’s right arm.
The change in offensive philosophy led fans to call Knox’s new offense “Air Knox.”
Now with the opportunity to use his arm extensively, Krieg turned in his best season yet.
— Chad Davis (@ChadDavisEDH) October 20, 2013
Finally starting every game, Krieg passed for a career-high 3,671 yards, 32 touchdowns, and a league-high 24 interceptions.
“People talk about the arm strength of quarterbacks,” said Seahawks quarterback coach Ken Meyer. “John Elway is a fellow who can really drill the ball … Dave’s arm probably isn’t as strong but he gets the ball there and he’s right on target, and that’s the most important thing, isn’t it?”
Seattle returned to the postseason after a franchise-best 12-4 record and tripped up the Raiders in the Wild Card round 13-7.
Krieg completed only four passes in the game, but one of them was for a touchdown.
In the Divisional round, Krieg was better, completing 20 passes for 234 yards and a score.
However, Miami and Dan Marino were better and defeated Seattle 31-10.
Krieg was awarded a trip to the Pro Bowl for the first time after the season.
“He’s like an old bone that you find in the mud,” said guard Bryan Millard. “That’s Dave, he’s our mudbone.”
“Mudbone” became Krieg’s permanent nickname with his Seattle teammates.
In the offseason before 1985, Zorn left Seattle to become a backup in Green Bay.
That meant Krieg had the starter’s job over undrafted rookie Gale Gilbert.
Despite some inconsistency and a shoulder injury, Krieg still managed to pass for 3,602 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 20 picks as Seattle went 8-8.
September 23, 1985: On Monday Night Football, Seahawks quarterback Dave Krieg with a great throw to Danny Greene for the touchdown against the Rams on a crazy play. pic.twitter.com/9R7ioAZSoK
— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) September 23, 2022
In 1986, the Seahawks jumped out to a 5-2 start.
Then, Krieg had a bad game against the Broncos in Week 8 and was benched in favor of Gilbert.
Gilbert was named the starter until he too proved ineffective and was replaced by Krieg.
“You really don’t like to play musical chairs with your quarterbacks at this point in the season but it’s something we feel we have to do,” Knox said.
Another loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11 put the ‘Hawks at 5-6 with five games remaining.
With his job possibly on the line, Krieg rebounded to lead Seattle to a 5-0 finish and just missed the postseason with a 10-6 record.
“When I got another chance that made me realize how fortunate I was to play in the National Football League,” Krieg said during that December hot streak. “I figured I had gone too far now, so I just kept going.”
In 1987, the season was affected by another player’s strike.
Krieg started 12 games, passed for 2,131 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions and led the NFL in touchdown percentage with 7.8%.
After the season, Krieg nearly helped the Seahawks beat the Oilers in the Wild Card round with two touchdown throws.
The team would come up short, however, as Houston won in overtime 23-20.
Return to the Pro Bowl
In 1988, the Seahawks added former Colorado State quarterback Kelly Stouffer.
Stouffer had been the sixth overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.
After being unable to agree on his rookie contract, Stouffer sat out the ‘87 season and became a Seahawk when St. Louis traded his rights to the team.
Krieg started the first two games of the season until a shoulder injury in Week 3 sent him to the sidelines.
Stouffer took his place and remained the starter until Krieg returned from injury.
Despite only starting nine games, Krieg still passed for 1,741 yards, 18 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.
I heard Dave Krieg is warming up for seattle😃😄😆😅 pic.twitter.com/islshhKmec
— John R (@medfordcaniac) January 18, 2015
He also led the NFL again in touchdown percentage with 7.9%.
Seattle ended the ‘88 season 9-7 and in first place in the AFC West.
In the Divisional round against the Bengals, Krieg passed for a score and ran for another, but Cincinnati prevailed 21-13.
Remarkably, even with his truncated year, Krieg was selected to his second Pro Bowl.
The 1989 season was marked by poor play on the offensive line and the retirement of Largent near the end of the year.
With the Seahawks having to rely more on Krieg’s arm, he responded by passing for 3,309 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 20 picks.
Although Seattle finished 1989 with a 7-9 record, Krieg went to his third Pro Bowl.
Krieg’s Time in Seattle Ends
In 1990, Krieg was without Largent but still had a decent receiving core that included Brian Blades.
On the way to a 9-7 record, Krieg passed for 3,194 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions.
During a Week 10 game against the Chiefs in Kansas City, the sieve-like offensive line allowed nine sacks on Krieg.
That number included seven sacks by linebacker Derrick Thomas, which set an NFL record.
Despite the bad day, the Seahawks were only down by six with time running out.
On the final play of the game, Krieg barely eluded Thomas’ eighth sack of the game and connected with receiver Paul Skansi for 25 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
Groundhog day for Dave Krieg but he ended up with the last laugh. pic.twitter.com/pUpDBHjYKK
— FB_Helmet_Guy (@FB_Helmet_Guy) November 13, 2021
In 1991, Krieg started nine games and passed for 2,080 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
His completion percentage of 65.6% led the NFL.
As the season ended with Seattle at 7-9, the franchise elected not to bring Krieg back, and he was allowed to test the waters through Plan B free agency.
Kansas City, Here I Come
In 1991, the Kansas City Chiefs went 10-6 with quarterback Steve DeBerg at the helm.
After the season, DeBerg went to Tampa Bay, and Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer looked for a veteran quarterback.
The team signed Krieg and installed him as the starter in 1992.
That year Krieg started every game and led the Chiefs to a 10-6 record that included two wins over the Seahawks, Krieg’s former team.
Giving some love to #NFL great Dave Krieg for throwing me my second touchdown pass versus the Philadelphia Eagles. Never take success for granted. Someone helped you along the way. Give them some love! #chiefskingdom https://t.co/1YNldWJQLA #chiefs pic.twitter.com/q6rs0jmT77
— JJ Birden (@jjbirden) July 20, 2018
Kansas City was then bounced from the postseason when they were blanked, 17-0, by the San Diego Chargers in the Wild Card round.
The following year, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana signed with the Chiefs, immediately displacing Krieg as the starter.
While Montana guided KC to an 11-5 record and an appearance in the AFC Championship game, Krieg started five games (due to a Montana injury) and passed for 1,238 yards, seven touchdowns, and three picks.
When the season concluded, Krieg was released, and he signed with the Detroit Lions.
Krieg Gets Detroit to the Playoffs
Former Dolphins quarterback Scott Mitchell was signed by the Lions before the 1994 season and had the look of a franchise savior.
He had led the Miami Dolphins in 1993 after Marino sustained an injury that ended his season.
Mitchell proceeded to pass for 1,773 yards, 12 touchdowns, and eight interceptions for the year.
With Marino returning in 1994, Mitchell needed a new home and found one in Detroit.
However, Mitchell had a bad game against the Green Bay Packers, and Krieg replaced him.
When he entered the contest, the Lions were down 24-0.
By the end of the game, Green Bay had narrowly won 38-30.
“I said earlier in the week that we don’t want to get this guy (Krieg) into the game and let him get into a rhythm,” Packers defensive end Sean Jones said. “He’s a streak passer, and when he’s on a hot streak, it’s hard to get him out of that rhythm.”
With a roster that included Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, Anthony Carter, Brett Perriman, and a potent defense, Krieg led the Lions to a 5-2 finish on the strength of 14 touchdowns and just three picks (a team record).
— Daily Backup QB (@dailybackupqb) December 12, 2021
Detroit’s 9-7 record helped them face Green Bay again in the playoffs.
The Packers prevailed, sending home Krieg and the Lions 16-12.
On the Move Again
Unfortunately, Krieg’s great run with the Lions earned him a release from the organization.
He signed with his fourth team, the Arizona Cardinals, and head coach Buddy Ryan for the 1995 season.
The Cards had one of the worst offensive lines in football, and Krieg was sacked a career-high 53 times.
10/15/95 – Dave Krieg (22-33-207, 1TD; moved past Phil Simms and John Hadl into 10th all-time on the NFL's passing list with 33,562yds) led Phoenix on a game-winning drive with a 1yd TD pass to Garrison Hearst with 1:16 left as the Cardinals topped the Redskins 24-20. #RedSea pic.twitter.com/J7aWUwgsCN
— Arizona Sports History (@AZSportsHistory) October 15, 2021
Still, he remained upright long enough to pass for 3,554 yards, 16 touchdowns, and a league-high 21 interceptions.
After Arizona ended the year 4-12, Ryan was fired, and Krieg was shown the door.
A Bear and An Oiler
By 1996, Krieg should have been washed up.
Instead, he was still in demand, and Chicago Bears coach Dave Wannstedt brought Krieg in to back up Erik Kramer.
When Kramer went down with a back injury, Krieg stepped in and started 12 games.
Dave Krieg (1996)
6-6 Record 59.9 CMP% 2278 YDs 14 TD 12 INT 76.3 RTG
* Longtime veteran and signed to be Kramer's backup
* Lead injury-riddled Bears to a 6-6 record
* Inconsistent but he was 38 years old at this point pic.twitter.com/GBpqqCMGzL
— Typo King (@GusSolano44) February 21, 2021
He used those starts to pass for 2,278 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
Krieg was released after the ‘96 season and signed with the Tennessee Oilers.
In two years backing up Steve McNair, Krieg barely saw the field.
However, during the first game of the 1998 season, McNair was injured, and Krieg entered.
He passed for 129 yards and helped the Oilers erase a deficit to Cincinnati and win 23-14.
McNair could have re-entered the contest but chose not to when he saw how Krieg was leading Tennessee.
“Dave was in the zone”, McNair later explained. “He was doing a great job moving the team up and down the field. It’s a matter of doing what’s right (for the team). At that time, what was right was letting Dave stay in.”
After the 1998 season, Tennessee was renamed the “Titans” and added former Steeler Neil O’Donnell.
Krieg was released, and he waited for another team to call so he could play a 20th NFL season in 1999.
In the end, no team contacted him, and Krieg signed a one-day contract with Seattle in 2000 to officially retire as a Seahawk.
During his 19-year career, Krieg passed for 38,147 yards, 261 touchdowns, and 199 interceptions.
Additionally, Krieg also rushed for 1,261 yards and 13 scores.
He was a three-time Pro Bowler and led the NFL in completion percentage in 1991.
Krieg was added to the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor in 2004.
Although Krieg was never a star quarterback in the NFL, he certainly left an impression.
It’s true that he once led the NFL in fumbles due to his small hands.
Dave Krieg of the Seattle Seahawks, seen here in between fumbles. pic.twitter.com/wmVSmWf5oO
— SportsPaper (@SportsPaperInfo) August 1, 2015
However, he also led three different teams to the postseason.
Including Montana and Marino, Krieg had 20,000 yards, 169 touchdowns, and 57 wins in the 1980s.
The trio are the only quarterbacks to have such numbers during that decade.
Although he hasn’t received much interest in Hall of Fame voting, a lot has been made of Krieg’s career numbers versus other QBs already in the Hall.
For example, Krieg has more career yards and touchdowns than Troy Aikman, Jim Kelly, Terry Bradshaw, Bob Griese, Roger Staubach, and Eli Manning.
He also has a better completion percentage than Bradshaw, Griese, and Staubach.
Of course, detractors also note that Krieg played more years and never took his teams to a Super Bowl, something that every quarterback mentioned above did during their careers.
After retiring, Krieg became a motivational speaker and real estate developer in the Phoenix area.
He was briefly a co-owner of Arena Football 2’s Green Bay Blizzard.