Tony Eason

American football player (born 1959)

American football player
Tony Eason
No. 11
Personal information
Born: (1959-10-08) October 8, 1959 (age 64)
Blythe, California, U.S.
Height:6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Weight:212 lb (96 kg)
Career information
High school:Delta (Clarksburg, California)
NFL draft:1983 / Round: 1 / Pick: 15
Career history
  • New England Patriots (1983–1989)
  • New York Jets (1989–1990)
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Pass attempts:1,564
Pass completions:911
Passing yards:11,142
Passer rating:79.7
Player stats at PFR

Charles Carroll "Tony" Eason IV (born October 8, 1959) is an American former football quarterback who played in the National Football League (NFL) for eight seasons, primarily with the New England Patriots. He played college football for the Illinois Fighting Illini. Taken 15th overall by the Patriots in the 1983 NFL Draft, he was one of the six quarterbacks selected during the first round. Eason served as New England's primary starter from 1984 to 1986, where he helped the team make their Super Bowl debut in Super Bowl XX. Competing as the starter with Steve Grogan throughout his Patriots tenure, Eason was released during the 1989 season. He spent his final two seasons as a backup with the New York Jets.

Early years

Eason grew up in Walnut Grove, California, and attended Delta High School in Clarksburg, California, a school with only 250 students at the time.[1] His brother is former professional NFL player Bo Eason. Despite an impressive high school football career, Eason's only scholarship offer from a Division I school came from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. However, he was denied admission due to poor grades,[1] and he opted to attend American River Junior College in Sacramento, California.[2] Eason spent two years playing football at American River in 1978 and 1979.[1]

College career

Eason transferred to the University of Illinois and sat out the 1980 season.[2] He was 6 feet, 4 inches tall, and weighed 205 pounds when he took over as the starting quarterback for the Fighting Illini in 1981.[2] His first start for Illinois matched Eason against Pitt's quarterback Dan Marino; the Illini lost, 26–6, but Eason made an impressive debut as he completed 23 of 37 passes for 207 yards (slightly better than the 204 yards passing by Marino in the game).[3] In his first season with the Illini, Eason led the Illini to a 7-4 record, but the team was ineligible to play in a bowl game due to sanctions imposed by the Big Ten Conference.[4] Eason completed 248 of 406 passes (61.1%) for 3,360 yards and 20 touchdowns.[4] The Illini ranked third in the nation in passing in 1981, as Eason led the Big Ten in passing efficiency and total offense and set nine conference records, including records for total offense, completions, passing yardage, and passing touchdowns.[4][5] He also edged out Art Schlichter as the quarterback on the Associated Press' All Big-Ten football team.[5]

Eason earned the nickname "Champaign Tony" while playing at Illinois, based upon the city in which the university is located.[6][7]

As a senior in 1982, Eason accumulated a school record 3,671 passing yards and led the Illini to a 7–4 regular season record and its first appearance in a bowl games since the 1964 Rose Bowl. He also broke five NCAA passing records in 1982 and tied four more. The NCAA records set by Eason in 1982 included most total yards per game in a career (299.5), most passing yards per game in a career (300.4), most completions per game in a career (23.9), and most total yards in first two seasons (6,589).[8] Eason finished second in the voting behind Michigan's Anthony Carter for the Chicago Tribune Silver Football trophy as the Most Valuable Player in the Big Ten.[9]

Eason's final game for Illinois was the 1982 Liberty Bowl, which also marked the last head coaching appearance of Bear Bryant for Alabama. Although Illinois lost the game, 21–15, Eason registered a record 433 passing yards in the game. Eason also threw four of the Illini's seven interceptions in the game.[10]

In the 1983 East-West Shrine Game, Eason led the East team to 26–25 win over a West team led by John Elway. Eason completed 21 of 34 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns in the game.[11]

Eason still holds many of the school's all-time passing records, including the following:

  • Passing yardage in a season – 3,671 (1982)
  • Passing yards per game in a season – 333.7 (1982)
  • Passing yards per game in a career – 300.4 (1981–82)
  • Pass attempts in a season – 505 (1982)
  • Pass efficiency in a season – 140.0 (1981)
  • Pass efficiency in a career – 133.8 (1981–82)
  • Most interceptions in a season – 19 (1982)
  • Consecutive pass completions – 14, at Iowa, October 30, 1982[12]

Professional career

New England Patriots

Eason was selected by the New England Patriots in the first round (15th overall pick) of the 1983 NFL Draft.[13] He was one of six quarterbacks picked in the first round of the 1983 Draft along with John Elway (1st pick), Todd Blackledge (7th pick), Jim Kelly (14th pick), Ken O'Brien (24th pick), and Dan Marino (27th pick).[14] The idea was for him to eventually take over for longtime starter Steve Grogan, who had gone 5–8 in his last two injury-ridden seasons.

Eason would appear in 72 games (49 as a starter) for the Patriots between 1983 and 1989.[13] His rookie season saw him start the last four games of the year after Grogan started Week 1 through 12 and got them to a 6-6 record, with Eason doing spot appearances, such as being put in to throw the last eleven passes against Cleveland in a rout that ended with Eason throwing his first interception (and then second) in a 30-0 loss. In his first start against the New York Jets the following week, Eason went 13-of-27 with an interception in a 26-3 loss. Eason went 2-2 as a starter, throwing just one touchdown to five interceptions. In 1984, Grogan was named the starter, but Week 3 saw Eason be tapped in to replace Grogan midway against the Seattle Seahawks. He went 12-of-22 for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the 38-23 victory. From that point, Eason started the rest of the season, going 7-6 along the way while completing 259 out of 431 passes (60.1%) for 3,228 yards and a passer rating of 93.4—third best in the NFL. His best game came against the Indianapolis Colts went he threw for a career high four touchdowns in a 50-17 victory.[13] Eason also set an undesirable record in 1984 by being sacked 59 times for a loss of 409 yards; his 59 sacks were the most in NFL history at the time and currently stands as the ninth highest single season total.[15] Eason also led the NFL in interception percentage in the 1984 season with only 1.9% of his passes being intercepted.[13]

Super Bowl XX season (1985)

In the 1985 season, Eason was the primary starter, doing so for the first six games, which saw New England win three of them but head coach Raymond Berry inserted Grogan during the Week 6 contest against the Buffalo Bills after Eason threw two interceptions that saw the Patriots win. Grogan would be tapped to start the following six games, where New England went on a six-game winning streak until he suffered a broken leg against the Jets in Week 12. Eason became the primary quarterback from that point on, guiding New England to wins in three of their last four games, including a 34–23 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in the season finale highlighted by a 50-yard touchdown pass to Stanley Morgan. In total, Eason threw for 2,156 yards but had 11 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. New England clinched a playoff spot as the final Wild Card team and would be on the road for any playoff game they played. It would be a historic one as they became the first team in NFL history since the 1978 wildcard playoff expansion to win three road postseason games to reach the Super Bowl. In the Wild Card Game against the Jets, he threw 12-of-16 for 179 yards with a touchdown as the Patriots beat the Jets 26-14 to win their first playoff game since 1963. He went just 7-of-14 for 117 yards with a touchdown against the Los Angeles Raiders in the Divisional Round, but the Patriots won 27-20 on the strength of forcing six turnovers (including the winning score being a fumble recovery) and offensive play from Craig James to advance to their first AFC Championship Game appearance against the Miami Dolphins, who had not lost to New England in the Miami Orange Bowl since 1966. Eason threw three touchdowns against the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship Game to prevail 31–14.[16]

The Patriots made their first appearance in a Super Bowl in franchise history that year, meeting the Chicago Bears with Jim McMahon, Richard Dent, and Walter Payton.[17] The Bears' famed 46 defense defeated Eason and the Patriots in Super Bowl XX, the Bears defense sacked Eason three times for 28 yards. He became the first and so far only starting quarterback in Super Bowl history to not have a pass completion, finishing 0-for-6 with no interceptions for a passer rating of 39.6, and was sacked three times. With the Patriots trailing the Bears 20-3 Eason was replaced with veteran Steve Grogan, but the Patriots still lost the game, by the final score of 46–10, which at the time was the largest winning margin of any Super Bowl.[18] Famed lineman John Hannah stated his preference for Grogan over Eason due to where he focused his attention on snaps, stating, “Tony should wear a skirt instead of a uniform. When he was hurt before we played the Bears in the Super Bowl, we were hoping he’d stay hurt so Steve could play.”[19] Eason was later stated to have a fever of 101 with what was stated to be a "viral infection." Berry stated that he took out a uncomfortable Eason for Grogan as what he thought was a good move with the score at 20-3.[20]

In 2008, ESPN ranked Eason's performance as the worst (82nd out of 82) in the history of the Super Bowl, noting, "In addition to his awful passing stats, he lost a fumble and not surprisingly was yanked in the second quarter."[21][22]

After Super Bowl XX

The following season, Eason started in fourteen games, missing two due to injury. He threw for 3,328 yards (on 61.6% passing) with 19 touchdowns to 10 interceptions as the Patriots went 11-5 to clinch their first AFC East title in eight years along with reach the postseason in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history. His passer rating of 89.2 was fourth best in the NFL. He had his best game in passing against the Seahawks that year, throwing a career best 414 yards on 26-of-45 passing in a 38-31 loss.[13][23][24] Due to the playoff structure, they were the third seed travelling to play the AFC West champion Denver Broncos, who hosted as the 2 seed. Eason opened the scoring for New England on a touchdown pass to Stanley Morgan to make it 7-3 in the second quarter, and the teams were tied at 10 at halftime. Eason then threw another touchdown pass to Morgan to give them a 17-13 lead, but the Broncos took the lead back in the same quarter. Eason went 13-of-24 for 194 yards with two touchdowns while Elway threw for more yards on the same amount of completions with two interceptions, but Eason was sacked six times as New England could not capitalize on any of their four drives in the fourth quarter, with Rulon Jones sacking Eason in the endzone (with 1:32 remaining) to cap the scoring off in a 22-17 loss for New England. Denver won the following week to reach the Super Bowl.[25][26] Eason missed the opening game of the 1987 season due to a groin injury, which opened the door for Grogan to play. Eason then started the second week against the New York Jets, a 43-24 loss. The NFLPA strike took place not long after that saw replacement players be used to make up for cancelling Week 3, where the replacements played from Week 4 to Week 6. After that, Eason started the Week 6 game, going 22-of-42 for a touchdown and an interception. He was the starter in the Week 7 game versus the Raiders, throwing just three passes before a tackle by Stacey Toran saw Eason suffer a separated shoulder that ended up knocking him out for the remainder of the season. In a season that saw New England use five quarterbacks, Eason had just two starts.[27][28][29]

In February 1988, Berry designated Grogan as the starter with Eason as the backup. He did not express approval and threatened to sit out the year, which also saw the Patriots consider cutting his base salary ($875,000) by over 25%.[30] Eason did not see the field for the 1988 season until Week 15. He started versus Tampa Bay and went 16-of-27 for 155 yards with two interceptions but managed to win 10-7 in overtime when a pair of his passes hit Irving Fryar to set up a game-winning field goal after Tampa elected to kick after winning the coin toss due to the wind. Eason then visited Denver for the Week 16 matchup as the starter and was 12-of-16 for 94 yards before being taken out late for Grogan in a 21-10 loss that saw New England miss out on a playoff spot.[31][32][33] The 1989 season saw the Patriots keep four quarterbacks in their roster - Eason, Grogan, Doug Flutie, and Marc Wilson, with the latter being insurance for Grogan.[34] Eason won on opening day with a 15-of-23 performance for 273 yards with two touchdowns and interceptions each. This was followed by losses to Miami and Seattle, with the latter seeing him go 17-of-33 for 147 yards with an interception.[32] Eason was benched for Flutie after the game. He was later let go by the team and claimed off waivers by the New York Jets during the 1989 NFL season, after Eason refused to take a cut in pay after he was demoted to fourth-string on New England's roster with team owner Victor Kiam stating that he thought Eason would be the starter with the $2.3-million & two-year contract that he signed. Eason reluctantly joined the team in November after considering not reporting due to not wanting to be in competition with his "good friend" Ken O'Brien. He reported to the team in order to not give up the remainder of his salary.[35][36] He started the last two games of the 1989 season for the Jets, which resulted in him throwing an interception in losses each time.[37] He went 12-of-22 for 125 yards with an interception against the Bills in a 37-0 loss that ended up being his final career start.[38] In the following season, he was relegated to the bench for all but 28 passes, going 4-for-5 for 64 yards against Tampa Bay in his final appearance in week 16. He retired after the season ended at the age of 31.[39]

Later years

In 2002, Eason was coaching basketball in the Sacramento area.[40]


  1. ^ a b c Dan Vierria (January 24, 1986). "Determination and luck moved Tony Eason along". Anchorage Daily News (McClatchy News Service). Archived from the original on May 11, 2020. Retrieved November 15, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Bob Smizik (September 4, 1981). "Marino Pitt's Man With Golden Arm". Pittsburgh Press-Gazette.
  3. ^ "Eason, defense pass their first test, but Illini fall to Pitt: Eason passes test, but Illini lose". Chicago Tribune. September 6, 1981.
  4. ^ a b c George Sauerberg (August 27, 1982). "Bowl Bound? Quarterback Eason has high hopes for the Illini". Milwaukee Sentinel.
  5. ^ a b Joe Mooshil (December 1, 1981). "Eason Edges Schlichter on All Big Ten". The Argus-Press.
  7. ^ "Pitt To Try a Taste of 'Champaign'". Philadelphia Inquirer. September 24, 1982.
  8. ^ Mike Goens (December 28, 1982). "Eason hard act to follow for future Illini hopefuls". Times-Daily.
  9. ^ Roy Damer (December 25, 1982). "Michigan's Carter wins Tribune's Silver Football". Chicago Tribune.
  10. ^ "Tide rolls final time for Bear". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 30, 1982.
  11. ^ "Tony Eason powers East to Shrine win". The Bulletin (Oregon). January 16, 1983.
  12. ^ "Individual Records". Fighting Illini (official site). Archived from the original on June 9, 2011. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  13. ^ a b c d e "Tony Eason profile".
  14. ^ "1983 NFL Draft". Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  15. ^ "NFL Single-Season Sacked Leaders". Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  16. ^ "Eason Lets Instincts Lead Him". The Palm Beach Post. January 20, 1986.
  17. ^ "Tony Eason Leads Patriots With a Cool, Casual Manner: He's Reverse of Bears' QB Jim McMahon". Ocala Star-Banner. January 24, 1986.
  18. ^ "Bears Trounce Patriots, 46-10, in Super Bowl". Los Angeles Times. January 27, 1986. Retrieved November 16, 2023.
  19. ^ "He Just Didn't Want to Rock the Boat". Los Angeles Times. June 28, 1988. Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  20. ^ Eskenazi, Gerald (January 28, 1986). "LITTLE CONSOLATION FOR THE PATRIOTS". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 12, 2024.
  21. ^ Wachs, Allison (January 22, 2008). "Patriots' Eason bottoms out with an O-fer: From Joe Montana to Tony Eason, ranks the Super Bowl starting quarterbacks from 1-82". Retrieved November 17, 2023.
  22. ^ Klancnik, Rudy (January 23, 2008). "Eason isn't eager to relive his day in the spotlight: Tony Eason would rather not discuss his day as the only Super Bowl starting quarterback to fail to complete a single pass". Retrieved November 17, 2023.
  23. ^ "Tony Eason 1986 Game Log". Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  24. ^ "Grogan Gives the Patriots Relief--the Steelers Grief". Los Angeles Times. October 20, 1986. Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  25. ^ "Divisional Round - New England Patriots at Denver Broncos - January 4th, 1987". Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  26. ^ Times, William N. Wallace and Special To the New York. "BRONCOS DEFEAT PATRIOTS". The New York Times.
  27. ^ "PRO FOOTBALL '87 : Patriots Beat Dolphins on Two Costly Mistakes". Los Angeles Times. September 14, 1987. Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  28. ^ "Tony Eason 1987 Game Log". Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  29. ^ "The strike that drained the last bit of innocence from the NFL". September 16, 2017. Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  30. ^ "New England Patriots quarterback Tony Eason, whose..." Los Angeles Times. February 2, 1988. Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  31. ^ "BUCPOWER.COM". Retrieved March 12, 2024.
  32. ^ a b "Tony Eason 1988 Game Log". Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  33. ^ "BRONCOS DIM PATRIOTS' PLAYOFF HOPES, 21-10". Washington Post. December 31, 2023. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved March 12, 2024.
  34. ^ Baker, Chris (December 9, 1989). "MARC WILSON, STARTING AGAIN". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  35. ^ "Tony Eason, the former New England Patriots quarterback who... - UPI Archives". UPI. Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  36. ^ Eskenazi, Gerald (November 2, 1989). "Jets Claim an Unwilling Eason off Waivers". The New York Times. Retrieved November 17, 2023.
  37. ^ "New York Jets at Los Angeles Rams - December 17th, 1989". Retrieved March 12, 2024.
  38. ^ "Buffalo Bills at New York Jets - December 23rd, 1989". Retrieved March 12, 2024.
  39. ^ "Tony Eason 1990 Game Log". Retrieved March 12, 2024.
  40. ^ "Super to Hoopster: Sixteen years after starting the Super Bowl, Tony Eason is back home as a coach - in basketball". The Sacramento Bee. January 31, 2002.
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