|Born:||October 8, 1959|
Blythe, California, U.S.
|Height:||6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)|
|Weight:||212 lb (96 kg)|
|High school:||Delta (Clarksburg, California)|
|NFL Draft:||1983 / Round: 1 / Pick: 15|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at NFL.com · 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. 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.
Eason grew up in Walnut Grove, California, and attended Delta High School in Clarksburg, California, a school with only 250 students at the time. 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, and he opted to attend American River Junior College in Sacramento, California. Eason spent two years playing football at American River in 1978 and 1979.
Eason transferred to the University of Illinois and sat out the 1980 season. 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. 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). 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. Eason completed 248 of 406 passes (61.1%) for 3,360 yards and 20 touchdowns. 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. He also edged out Art Schlichter as the quarterback on the Associated Press' All Big-Ten football team.
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). 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.
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.
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
New England Patriots
Eason was selected by the New England Patriots in the first round (15th overall pick) of the 1983 NFL Draft. 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).
Eason appeared in 72 games (49 as a starter) for the Patriots between 1983 and 1989. His best years were from 1984 to 1986 when he was the Patriots' starting quarterback. In 1984, he completed 259 out of 431 passes (60.1%) for 3,228 yards and a passer rating of 93.4—third best in the NFL. In 1986, he completed 276 of 448 passes (61.6%) for 3,328 yards and a passer rating of 89.2—fourth best in the NFL. 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. Eason also led the NFL in interception percentage in the 1984 season with only 1.9% of his passes being intercepted.
Super Bowl XX
In the 1985 season, Eason helped the Patriots clinch a playoff berth with a 34–23 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in the season finale highlighted by a 50-yard touchdown pass to Stanley Morgan. Eason led the Patriots offense 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. He threw three touchdowns against the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship Game, the first time Patriots had beaten the Dolphins at the Orange Bowl since 1966.
The Patriots made their first appearance in a Super Bowl in franchise history that year, meeting the Chicago Bears with Jim McMahon and Walter Payton. 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.
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."
New York Jets
Eason was 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. He appeared in 18 games for the Jets in the 1989 and 1990 seasons, but only two as a starter.
In 2002, Eason was coaching basketball in the Sacramento area.
- Dan Vierria (January 24, 1986). "Determination and luck moved Tony Eason along". Anchorage Daily News (McClatchy News Service).
- Bob Smizik (September 4, 1981). "Marino Pitt's Man With Golden Arm". Pittsburgh Press-Gazette.
- "Eason, defense pass their first test, but Illini fall to Pitt: Eason passes test, but Illini lose". Chicago Tribune. September 6, 1981.
- George Sauerberg (August 27, 1982). "Bowl Bound? Quarterback Eason has high hopes for the Illini". Milwaukee Sentinel.
- Joe Mooshil (December 1, 1981). "Eason Edges Schlichter on All Big Ten". The Argus-Press.
- Ian Thomsen (May 8, 1983). "'CHAMPAIGN' TONY EASON; A NORMAL GUY FINDS HIMSELF IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME". Boston Globe.
- "Pitt To Try a Taste of 'Champaign'". Philadelphia Inquirer. September 24, 1982.
- Mike Goens (December 28, 1982). "Eason hard act to follow for future Illini hopefuls". Times-Daily.
- Roy Damer (December 25, 1982). "Michigan's Carter wins Tribune's Silver Football". Chicago Tribune.
- "Tide rolls final time for Bear". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 30, 1982.
- "Tony Eason powers East to Shrine win". The Bulletin (Oregon). January 16, 1983.
- "Individual Records". Fighting Illini (official site). Archived from the original on June 9, 2011. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- "Tony Eason profile". pro-football-reference.com.
- "1983 NFL Draft". pro-football-reference.com. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- "NFL Single-Season Sacked Leaders". pro-football-reference.com. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- "Eason Lets Instincts Lead Him". The Palm Beach Post. January 20, 1986.
- "Tony Eason Leads Patriots With a Cool, Casual Manner: He's Reverse of Bears' QB Jim McMahon". Ocala Star-Banner. January 24, 1986.
- "Bears Trounce Patriots, 46-10, in Super Bowl". Los Angeles Times. January 27, 1986. Retrieved November 16, 2023.
- Wachs, Allison (January 22, 2008). "Patriots' Eason bottoms out with an O-fer: From Joe Montana to Tony Eason, ESPN.com ranks the Super Bowl starting quarterbacks from 1-82". ESPN.com. Retrieved November 17, 2023.
- 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". ESPN.com. Retrieved November 17, 2023.
- Eskenazi, Gerald (November 2, 1989). "Jets Claim an Unwilling Eason off Waivers". The New York Times. Retrieved November 17, 2023.
- "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.