The Game before the Money Podcast’s weekly series, “Five Minutes of Football History” is posted on Tuesdays. Subscribe to the podcast on your favorite podcast listening app. This week looks at some of the greatest NFL QBs who switched teams.
Many Hall of Fame NFL players have switched teams late in their careers. Future Hall of Famer Tom Brady is no exception. We look at a few Hall of Fame quarterbacks who switched teams late in their careers including Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, and Joe Montana.
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FOOTBALL HISTORY PODCAST:
Hi, everybody. Welcome to "The Game Before the Money Podcast".
Five minutes of Football History edition. A look at some great quarterbacks who changed teams late in their career. Hi, everybody. Welcome to the game before the Money podcast. My name is Jackson Michael, author of the book The Game Before the Money.
Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book The Game Before the Money:
So is it Tampa Brady or is it TOM-pa Bay? Either way, we all know Tom Brady has gone to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And he's not the only iconic quarterback to change teams near the end of his career. We all remember Peyton Manning going to the Denver Broncos, and I thought it would be fun to pick out a few of the great quarterbacks who switched from the teams that they're always associated with to another team late in their career, and take a look at what happened.
One guy who immediately comes to mind is Johnny Unitas, the legendary Baltimore Colts quarterback. He spent his final year, 1973, with the San Diego Chargers. He was 40 years old. And in his first game, you sacked five times and threw three interceptions.
Two of those interceptions went to Future Hall of Fame, defensive back Ken Houston, who coincidentally was playing in his first game for the Washington Redskins after being traded by the Houston Oilers. Unitas played in only five games in 1973. But it didn't hurt his legacy. Unitas, of course, is still often called the greatest quarterback of all time.
Another example is Joe Namath. Broadway Joe. He became Hollywood Joe when he joined the Los Angeles Rams in his final season of 1977. Now, personally, one of my earliest memories of the NFL was seeing Joe Namath in a Monday Night Football game with the Los Angeles Rams against the Bears that year. And it turned out to be Namath's last game in the NFL. That was week five of 1977 and have a very dim memory of watching that game. and my dad pointing Joe Namath out to me and just seeing him go down under a barrage of tacklers. You know, even me as a seven year old child could tell he was at the end of his career,
Pat Haden became the Rams starter, went on to lead the Rams to the NFC West title. Now, like Johnny Unitas, of course, Joe Namath still made the Hall of Fame. And people don't really associate him with the Rams at all. Namath has since been quoted as saying he didn't realize the difficulty of the transition of moving from New York to L.A., leaving a place where he lived for so long. So there are off the field considerations as well when a player leaves the team, he's played for his entire career to go somewhere else.
Now, another great quarterback, also from Pennsylvania, also named Joe, is Joe Montana. Joe Montana, a different situation than Tom Brady. Montana missed a year due to an elbow injury and the 49ers had Steve Young step in. Joe Montana ended his career in Kansas City. He still had gas in the tank. He took the Chiefs to the AFC championship and then the next year, he also led them to the playoffs.
And again, a couple of things were different in Montana's case. George Siefert had taken over the head coaching job for Bill Walsh, and the 49ers had a surefire star in Steve Young.
The Patriots are still under the same leadership and they don't have a verified future superstar quarterback to replace Tom Brady. Now, one unique Tom Brady tie in with the Joe Montana situation is that Tom Brady grew up in northern California. He actually saw Joe Montana play in person.
More recently, Brett Favre, like Joe Montana, also performed well late in his career. After a messy transition from the Packers, Favre went to the New York Jets and the Jets finished nine and seven. After going four and twelve the year before and Favre made the Pro Bowl roster,
He then went to Minnesota and played well there. He led them to the NFC championship game at age 40. But then he fractured his ankle against the Packers. The next year and generally declined, along with the Vikings who started Tavaris Jackson at quarterback and later a guy named Joe Webb. But overall, people associate Brett Favre with his Packer days.
GREAT NFL PLAYERS WHO CHANGED TEAMS
Now, none of these guys tarnished their career accomplishments by switching teams. I'm not old enough to remember Johnny Unitas, so I never saw Johnny Unitas play. But it was tough watching Joe Namath and later, Brett Favre struggle in their final appearances.
But as John Elway once said late in his career, you only get to play for so long. So you need to enjoy it. And I understand why guys who love the game, they want to be on a roster. They want to be out there playing for as long as possible. But as a fan, you also don't want to see the interception that Brady threw at the end of the playoff against the Titans to become the norm of his playing.
Now, it's not just great quarterbacks who've switched teams late in their career. Jerry Rice, of course, went to the Raiders and then the Seahawks, Carl Eller also finished his career with the Seahawks. Alan Page finished with the Bears. Two great Dallas Cowboys running backs, Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith both went to different teams, Dorsett played a year for the Broncos. Emmitt Smith went to the Cardinals. Marcus Allen played with Joe Montana in Kansas City. And so those are just a few guys off the top of my head. Great players who finished their outstanding careers with teams that people don't normally associate them with.
And so a lot of those moments sit on the bench in terms of history. And Brady will always be synonymous with the New England Patriots. And he'll also be remembered as one of the all time great quarterbacks, especially of his generation.
Thank you for listening to five minutes of football history on "The Game before the Money Podcast". Please visit the Web site, The Game Before the Money .com. And subscribe to our podcast. If you haven't already. "The Game Before the Money Podcast" is powered by our transcription partner, Sonix.
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