How Does Losing a Historic QB Change Your Franchise?

Throughout the history of the NFL, we’ve seen many great players change teams. As heartbreaking as it is, that’s the nature of the business. This offseason the greatest quarterback of all time decided it was time to move on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This decision made us wonder how other franchises in the past dealt with the loss of a star quarterback. In this article, we collected data from Pro Football Reference to show five examples of historic quarterbacks who changed teams late in their careers. How did the franchise recover? How did the quarterback end his career? We researched it all. Historical data could offer an idea of what’s next for Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Peyton Manning

  • Age he switched teams: 36

  • The year he switched: 2012

  • Old Team: Colts

  • New Team: Broncos

  • Colts record: (2011) 2-14 *Manning missed the season with an injury* / ( 2012) 11-5
  • Broncos Record: (2011) 8-8 / (2012) 13-3

How did everything work out?

Manning left the Colts after missing his final season with a neck injury. The Colts earned the number one pick with Manning out with an injury. With the pick, the Colts selected Andrew Luck. The selection helped the Colts move on from Manning. Luck led the Colts to the playoffs the next three seasons. After the initial success, the Colts missed the playoffs until the 2018 season, when they reached the divisional round. The future looked bright for the Colts until Luck started to have injury problems. In 2019, the NFL community was shocked by the surprise retirement of Luck. Looking back, the retirement of Luck shows that even with a franchise quarterback, there are no givens in the NFL. Overall, the Colts initially bounced back nicely after the loss of Manning, but in the end, we’ll never see the full potential of the Colts with Luck at the helm.

In Denver, Manning went to two Super Bowls, winning one in the 2015 season. He spent four seasons with the Broncos and retired after the Super Bowl win. Manning was 39 years old. Up until his last season in Denver, Manning was still playing at a high level. The switch definitely worked out for Manning as he got another Super Bowl to add to his legacy.

Brett Farve

  • Age he switched teams: 39

  • The year he switched: 2008

  • Old Team: Packers

  • New Team: Jets

  • Packers record: (2007) 13-3 / (2008) 6-10
  • Jets record: (2007) 4-12 / (2008) 9-7

How did everything work out?

When Aaron Rodgers was drafted in 2005, there was immediate displeasure from Farve. The Packers believed they had their franchise guy in Rodgers and it was only a matter of time before he took the starting role. The Packers decided it was time to move on in 2008 when they traded Farve to the Jets. The Packers then turned their attention to Rodgers to lead the Packers.

Rodgers turned out to be the franchise quarterback everyone in Green Bay hoped he would be. Since the 2008 season, Green Bay has only missed the playoffs three times. Rodgers also led the Packers to a Super Bowl win in the 2010 season. The decision to move on from Farve was a tough one, but Rodgers’s greatness makes the decision seem easy when looking back. One could say Green Bay underachieved with Rodgers leading the Packers, but making him the starter was no mistake.

Farve had an interesting end to his career. After getting traded to the Jets in 2008, Farve led them to a 9-7 season. The Jets fell just short of the playoffs. Farve didn’t last long in New York. Following the 2008 season, Farve signed a two-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings. Farve ended his first year in Minnesota going 12-4, with a loss in the conference championship to the New Orleans Saints. Farve put up huge numbers in his first year with the Vikings. He threw for 33 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. The following year Farve ran out of gas and the Vikings finished 6-10, missing the playoffs entirely. Farve retired in 2010 at the age of 41.

Joe Montana

  • Age he switched teams: 37

  • The year he switched: 1993

  • Old Team: 49ers

  • New Team: Chiefs

  • 49ers record: (1992) 14-2 * Montana wasn’t the starter* / (1993) 10-6
  • Chiefs record: (1992) 10-6 / (1993) 11-5

How did everything work out?

Unlike Manning and Farve, Montana’s replacement was found through a trade. In 1987, Steve Young was traded from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the 49ers. Montana went on to win back-to-back Super Bowls in 1988 and 1989, but an elbow injury in 1991 led to the start of the Steve Young era. Young performed at a high level while Montana was injured. The signs were clear that Montana was on his way out. Montana served as the back up until 1993 when he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs.

The 49ers had a lot of success with Young. Young led the 49ers to a Super Win in the 1994-1995 season. The 49ers only missed the postseason twice with Young on the roster. Without Young, moving on from Montana would have been much harder. But with Young, the 49ers kept winning and were a contender all the way until his retirement.

Montana spent the final two years of his career with the Chiefs. The two seasons resulted in trips to the playoffs. In the 1993 season, the Chiefs made it all the way to the conference championship where they lost to the Buffalo Bills. The final season of Montana’s career ended in the wild card round of the playoffs. Even though Montana didn’t win a Super Bowl with the Chiefs, he proved he could still play. The last two seasons of his career weren’t prime Montana, but he still led them to victories. Overall, both the Chiefs and 49ers made good decisions for their organization.

Joe Namath

  • Age he switched teams: 34

  • The year he switched: 1977

  • Old Team: Jets

  • New Team: Rams

  • Jets record : (1976) 3-11 *Namath only started in 8 games* / (1977) 3-11
  • Rams record: (1976) 10-3-1 / (1977) 10-4 *Namath only started in 4 games*

How did everything work out?

When Namath left the Jets in 1977, the Jets hadn’t been to the playoffs since 1969. In 1976, the Jets decided to start the process of moving on from Namath when they selected quarterback Richard Todd with their first-round selection. Towards the end of his career, Namath’s body began breaking down. During the 1976 season, Namath missed several games and Todd got some starts at quarterback. At the end of the year, Namath wanted to move on. Namath saw a rebuild on the way and didn’t want to be apart of it.

Namath went on to play for the Los Angeles Rams. The Jets gave Todd the keys to the quarterback position in 1977. However, Todd never really panned out for the Jets. There were a few good seasons, but Todd never reached his first-round potential. The Jets made the playoffs with Todd at the helm in the 1981 and 1982 seasons. Todd left the Jets after the 1983 season.

Manning, Farve, and Montana all had some productive years after switching teams late in their careers, but that wasn’t the case for Namath. Namath ended up starting four games for the Rams. He threw for 606 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. The Rams went to the playoffs in 1977 but Namath didn’t have much of a role. After the 1977 season, Namath decided it was time for him to retire. It would have been nice if Namath decided to finish his career off with the Jets. In our opinion, it would have been better if Namath played his final season for the Jets. At the time, Namath thought he could still play and a rebuild wasn’t in his best interest. But the reality is Namath just wasn’t the player he once was. Namath ended his career as a backup in Los Angeles.

Johnny Unitas

  • Age he switched teams: 40

  • The year he switched teams: 1973

  • Old team: Colts

  • New team: Chargers

  • Colts record : (1972) 5-9 *Unitas only started in 5 games* / (1973) 4-10
  • Chargers record: (1972) 4-9-1 / (1973) 2-11-1 *Unitas only started in 4 games*

How did everything work out?

The Baltimore Colts moved on from Unitas after a string of injuries kept him out of numerous games in the early ’70s. After winning the Super Bowl in the 1970 season, Unitas started in only 10 games during the next two seasons for the Colts. The 1972 season ended in a disappointing 5-9 for the Colts. The Colts decided to ship Unitas off to the San Diego Chargers in 1973. The 1975 season signaled the Colt’s first playoff birth since the exit of Unitas. Bert Jones, the new quarterback for the Colts, led the team to three straight playoff berths in the 1975, 1976, and 1977 seasons. Unfortunately, each season ended in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The Colts didn’t make the playoffs again until the 1987 season. While the Colts ultimately didn’t have much success after Unitas, keeping him probably wouldn’t have helped them win games either. Nonetheless, it would have been nice to see Unitas retire with the Colts.

Unitas had a very short-lived stint with the Chargers. He served as a backup quarterback for a bad Chargers team. Unitas started in just 4 games in the final season of his career. After the 1973 season, Unitas decided it was best to retire.

What does the future hold for the Patriots?

We had two main takeaways after doing all the research: 1.) In the case of Manning, Farve, and Montana, the teams already had the future franchise quarterback on the roster before letting them go. Manning, Farve, and Montana all had varying degrees of success after leaving but so did their old teams. OR 2.) Namath and Unitas were both done when they changed teams. The Jets and Colts wouldn’t have been in a better winning position with Namath and Unitas. With that being said, the Jets and Colts didn’t thrive without their historic quarterbacks either. There was no franchise quarterback waiting in the wings for the Jets and Colts and they struggled for years.

If you apply our takeaways to the Patriots situation you could either say: 1.) The Patriots believe Jarrett Stidham is their quarterback of the future. At the same time, Brady has a few more years of success with the Buccaneers. OR 2.) Brady follows in the footsteps of Namath and Unitas and struggles upon joining a new team. Meanwhile, Stidham struggles and doesn’t work out, leaving the Patriots to rebuild for a few years following the loss of Brady.

Who knows, the Patriots situation could be an outlier. The outcomes could be completely different, but if we had to guess, neither Brady or the Patriots will struggle for long. We don’t think Brady is the next Namath or Unitas. Brady will be fine as he always is. Meanwhile, the Patriots will get the opportunity to see if Stidham is their guy. If he is, the Patriots will have loads of cap space in the next few years to improve around him. If he’s not the guy, the Patriots could receive a top draft pick.

Let us know in the comments below how you see the future playing out for the Patriots.

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3 thoughts on “How Does Losing a Historic QB Change Your Franchise?

  • May 28, 2020 at 5:32 pm

    I think Brady is going to be a good QB.I know the Patriots will win 10-6 for the first year.but the second year they will be the champions.Brady will not go to the super bowl this year.

  • June 1, 2020 at 2:02 am

    Brady’s performance with the Buccaneers is irrelevant. Brady was not going to lead the Pats to the promised land with his attitude and with his skills possibly declining with age. He may be a success in Tampa having felt rejuvenated but that wasn’t going to happen here.

    • June 1, 2020 at 3:20 pm

      We’ll never know the answer. Wil be an interesting season for sure.


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