Sean Pendergast

The Top 10 NFL Free Agent Quarterbacks, Playing "Six Degrees of Bill O'Brien"

The free agent quarterback scrap heap looks like a graveyard named after Bill O'Brien.
The free agent quarterback scrap heap looks like a graveyard named after Bill O'Brien. Eric Sauseda
If you're familiar with Kevin Bacon, then surely you've heard of the game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," but in case you have not, here's how it goes (courtesy of Wikipedia):

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is a parlour game based on the "six degrees of separation" concept, which posits that any two people on Earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart. Movie buffs challenge each other to find the shortest path between an arbitrary actor and prolific character actor Kevin Bacon. It rests on the assumption that anyone involved in the Hollywood film industry can be linked through their film roles to Bacon within six steps. The game requires a group of players to try to connect any such individual to Kevin Bacon as quickly as possible and in as few links as possible.
The game grew such a cult following that it spawned a website called "Oracle of Bacon" that calculates the "Bacon Number" of every human being with an IMDb profile. The ultimate test for a game like this would be a brief, fledgling acting career like, oh...say...MINE! Yes, you heard me right — I have an IMDB profile, folks!

Back in 2009, I had an eight-second part in a short film called Horrible Turn, in which I was a police chief named Tommy O'Chimina. I even wore a bobby hat!  HERE...WATCH! (Fast-forward to 0:50, and don't blink!)

That small, critically acclaimed role was enough to get me a Bacon Number of THREE! Yes, that's right, as a thespian, I am three degrees removed from the great Kevin Bacon! You can go plug my name in for yourself and see! When I plugged it in, the website came up with this sequence — Sean Pendergast was in Horrible Turn with Allison Victoria, who was in Knucklehead with Logan Douglas Smith, who was in JFK with Kevin Bacon.

Yep, I am in a Bacon String that includes the movie JFK! Honestly, how have I not gotten more acting gigs? I need a better agent! (And by "better agent" I mean "an agent.")

You may wonder why I'm spending so many words on "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," which is fair. It's because I recently read a list of pending NFL quarterback free agents on Pro Football Focus. As you can imagine, it's a highly unimpressive list, mostly full of castoffs, never-beens and future franchise murderers. Rare is the franchise quarterback who hits free agency, so any list of top free agent quarterbacks will undoubtedly underwhelm.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that an underwhelming list of veteran quarterbacks includes a slew of them who have played for or have ties in some way to Bill O'Brien, the Mediocre QB Whisperer himself! So in pursuing the list, I couldn't help but think of the Kevin Bacon game and how it might apply to Bill O'Brien.

So how about we run through the list and see what we can come up with for each of these ten fellows, shall we?

1. KIRK COUSINS, Washington
Cousins's first offensive coordinator back in 2012 was Kyle Shanahan (1), whose fellow coordinator in Atlanta this year was defensive coordinator Richard Smith (2), who was the defensive coordinator for the Texans in 2007 and 2008, where Rick Smith not only shared the same name but was (and still is) the general manager (3). Today Rick Smith works in a moderately cohesive fashion, at times, with Bill O'Brien constructing perennial 9-7 juggernauts (4)!

BOOM! CONGRATS, KIRK COUSINS...YOUR O'BRIEN NUMBER IS FOUR! See how easy this is? Let's keep going...

2. MIKE GLENNON, Tampa Bay
O'BRIEN CONNECTION: Let's see here...Okay, Glennon played a couple of seasons for then-Bucs head coach Lovie Smith (1), who was the head coach in Chicago when they drafted Alshon Jeffery (2). Jeffery was teammates with tight end Martellus Bennett for a few years (3), and of course, Bennett was the starting tight end in New England this past season, playing for Bill Belichick (4), who we all know hired Bill O'Brien back in 2007 (5)!

Man, that wasn't easy, but MIKE GLENNON...YOUR O'BRIEN NUMBER IS FIVE! This next one should be easier...

3. BRIAN HOYER, Chicago
O'BRIEN CONNECTION: Bill O'Brien coached Brian Hoyer in New England, brought him to Houston in 2015 and watched up close as he buried the Texans' playoff chances in a deluge of interceptions against Kansas City (1).

HEY, HEY! BRIAN HOYER...YOUR O'BRIEN NUMBER IS ONE! (One, with numerous heart emojis after it, courtesy of O'Brien)

4. MATT BARKLEY, Chicago
O'BRIEN CONNECTION: Let's see, we can do the whole Alshon Jeffery string with Barkley, if we want to, but let's get we go...Barkley backed up Nick Foles in Philadelphia in 2013 (1). Foles was eventually traded to the Rams and benched for Case Keenum (2), who O'Brien reluctantly yanked out of a tree at a deer lease back in 2014 to start the final two games of the season (3).

I am the maestro of this game...MATT BARKLEY...YOUR O'BRIEN NUMBER IS THREE!

Hey, speaking of Keenum...

5. CASE KEENUM, Los Angeles
O'BRIEN CONNECTION: Stop me if you've heard this story... Keenum was yanked out of a tree at a deer lease in 2014 by O'Brien so that he could start the final two games of the 2014 season. Keenum went 2-0, allowing O'Brien to begin a streak of 9-7 seasons to which there is no end in sight (1).


6, SHAUN HILL, Minnesota
O'BRIEN CONNECTION: After Teddy Bridgewater shredded his knee just before the start of the 2016 season, Hill moved up to first on the Vikings depth chart. However, his starting job was short-lived, as the Vikes traded for Sam Bradford (1), who was teammates for a portion of the previous season with the aforementioned Case Keenum (2), who, as you may have heard, was yanked out of a tree at a deer lease at the end of 2014 by O'Brien so that he could start the final two games of the regular season (3).


O'BRIEN CONNECTION: Back in 2014, good ol' Fitzy was O'Brien's hand-picked "cagey, plucky veteran stopgap with an Ivy League degree, but a Sun Belt football IQ." Fitzy managed to get benched for Ryan Mallett, beginning a two-season tradition of hand-picked O'Brien starters who were benched for Ryan Mallett (1). (Sidebar — kill me now.)


8. MATT McGLOIN, Oakland
O'BRIEN CONNECTION: Back in 2012, Bill O'Brien arrived at Penn State in the wake of horrific scandal and player attrition. He needed a leader, and that leader was a spunky, undersized senior named Matt McGloin. McGloin had his best collegiate season under O'Brien, blossoming into the best undrafted free agent he could possibly be (1)!


O'BRIEN CONNECTION: Mark Sanchez, in his first two seasons as an NFL quarterback in New York, was the game manager for a Jets team that appeared in two straight AFC title games, in large part because of a defense led by future Hall of Famer (and alleged innocent-citizen-knocker-outer) Darrelle Revis (1). Revis would eventually wind up winning a Super Bowl as a hired gun in 2014 with New England playing with Tom Brady (2), whose success helped contribute to the mystique that O'Brien is a "QB guru." (3)


10. GENO SMITH, New York Jets
O'BRIEN CONNECTION: Geno Smith got his lights knocked out and his jaw broken by teammate I.K. Enemkpali in the 2015 preseason, paving the way for Ryan Fitzpatrick to take his starting QB job with the Jets (1), and, as noted above, O'Brien had hired Fitzy the season prior, before trading him to the Jets for a bag of balls and a VHS copy of Caddyshack (2).

GENO SMITH, we know you lost your starting job, but hey...YOUR O'BRIEN NUMBER IS TWO!!

It's no Bacon Number of three, but it's something!

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast