Peyton Manning and 7 Other Great Quarterbacks Who Changed Teams Late in Their Careers
After weeks of speculation as to where he’d land, Peyton Manning finally chose Denver as the next city he’ll call home. The former Colt and future Hall of Fame quarterback immediately turns the Broncos into a Super Bowl contender. But some wonder how much gas Manning has left in the tank at age 36 and coming off neck surgery that sidelined him for all of last season. Here’s a look back at 7 other quarterbacks who similarly tried to find the old magic with a new team late into their careers:
Many believed that Favre should have let it go with nothing left to prove following the 2007 season. That way, he could have retired a Green Pay Packer. And he retired, ever so briefly. Favre essentially forced the Packers to trade him, and he was shipped to the Jets. After a decent season in which the Jets finished 9-7, he hung up his cleats again. But not for long. He returned in 2009, at age 40, with the Vikings and took them to an NFC North title. After two seasons in Minnesota, Favre had had enough and left the game for good in 2010. Still, because of his indecision, his name pops up each year as a free agent someone might pursue.
Moon’s fans will cite his decade in Houston as the rise of his fame and the real reason why the former quarterback made it into the Hall of Fame in 2006. But you have to give him credit for the latter half of his career, too, when he had equally great success playing for the Vikings and the Seahawks. In his first year in Minnesota, Moon showed he still had it, throwing for 4,264 yards and leading the Vikings to the playoffs. After two years there, Moon left for Seattle where he again proved he could still play, earning his ninth Pro Bowl selection. But that’s when injuries caught up with him and forced him to retire after the 1999 season after two seasons on the sideline with the Chiefs.
He set new standards for quarterbacks with his out-of-this-world years as a 49er, but with the Niners grooming Steve Young to take over, Montana was the odd man out. In 1993, he joined the Chiefs at age 37. “It wasn’t like I had lost my job because I had played bad,” Montana said then. They got to the AFC title game that year, and back to the playoffs the year afterward. But after the ’94 season, Montana retired. For Chiefs fans, Montana’s signing meant more — he invigorated a struggling franchise.
He arrived in Houston in 1980 after being the face of the Raiders throughout the ’70s. Houston made the playoffs, going 11-5, Stabler’s first year, but lost to, you guessed it, the Raiders. After his second season in Houston, Stabler left for New Orleans, where he played for three more years. During those five seasons, his passer rating was a measly 71.8 and he threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Some argue that Stabler’s inability to replicate his early success later in his career has kept him out of the Hall of Fame. A league MVP and a Super Bowl victory aren’t enough, it seems.
Football wouldn’t be where it is today without Namath leading the Jets to a victory in Super Bowl III. He’s still one of the most famous football players ever to suit up. “Broadway Joe,” wanting to keep the show going, took over for the Rams in 1977 — without much success, however. “Namath looked lost and forlorn, especially so after Week 4, when he was reduced to a backup who never played,” said one writer. He went 2-2 in his season as the Rams’ starter. After a particularly brutal matchup with the Chicago Bears in a Monday Night showdown, Namath had the good sense to walk away.
It’s the year you wish he could get back. When Unitas retired, he held the career records for most completions, passing yards, and touchdowns than anyone who came before him. He’s best remembered as a Baltimore Colt, but he left the game as a member of the Chargers after spending the 1973 season with them, as a backup. His accolades are endless, the first quarterback ever to throw for 40,000 passing yards in his career, for one. He was named Player of the Decade for the 1960s. We can forgive one year for the whole.
He played for the 49ers throughout the ’50s, but only as a part-time starter, so he left to take over for the New York Giants in 1961. Did he have anything left when he arrived? Well, Tittle only led the Giants to three consecutive Eastern Conference championships, winning league MVP in 1963. He came into his own while playing in New York. “Without the four seasons in New York at the end of his 17-year career, Tittle probably wouldn’t have been considered Hall of Fame material,” said Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971.