Top 5 QB Transitions: Why Andrew Luck Should Follow Aaron Rodgers' Blueprint
April 23, 2005
It was a miserable day of waiting for Aaron Rodgers, who would eventually be selected 24th after being projected to go early in the first round.
The result: He ended up on a playoff team and studied for three seasons behind the legendary Brett Favre. While we have become spoiled by the Matt Ryans, Joe Flaccos and Andy Daltons of the world, rookie quarterbacks never used to be an option, much less successful. Heck, even Peyton Manning had 28 picks in his rookie campaign.
Enter Andrew Luck and a peculiar Indianapolis Colts situation. The Stanford star is too talented of a player to pass up, and Manning is almost 36 years old.
So instead of the one or the other debate, let's add a third and more reasonable option to the picture.
The Colts draft Andrew Luck, he learns from one of the greatest players ever, avoids taking a beating as many young quarterbacks do and the Colts move seamlessly from star to star.
A lock for the 2011 NFL MVP, a Super Bowl ring and MVP later, it is clear that Rodgers biding his time was worth it. Luck and the Colts should do the same.
Take a look at the top five quarterback transitions in NFL history, with Manning to Luck soon to join the list.
5. Ron Jaworski to Randall Cunningham
Amidst musical chairs at the head coaching position in the 1980s, the franchise saw two completely different styles under center.
After the Philadelphia Eagles and the solid Jaworski failed to win the Super Bowl, they turned to Cunningham in 1986 amidst the veteran’s fading production and injuries. Jaworski enjoyed the majority of his success in the late 1970s, winning the NFC Championship in the 1980 season.
While the Eagles missed the playoffs the 1986 season, the search for a subsequent signal-caller was not necessary.
Randall Cunningham became well-known for his ability to gain yards and make plays with his legs. At the beginning of his career, he was often brought in on third-down situations.
He was one of the earliest dual threat quarterbacks in league history that experienced any amount of success.
Cunningham would go on to helm Philadelphia for almost 10 years and then decided to call it quits. Then coaxed out of retirement, he nearly led the high-powered 15-1 Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl in 1998.
4. Ken Anderson to Boomer Esiason
Refusing to be defined by coming up short on the game's biggest stage, these two made sure the Cincinnati Bengals were regulars among the league's front runners.
Hailing from the tiny DIII powerhouse Augustana, Anderson spent much of his career as an elite passer, and all of it with the Bengals.
He won the NFL MVP in 1981 and reached the Super Bowl in 1982. He blossomed under Bill Walsh's tutelage as well as in his unique style of offense.
Esiason took over in 1985, also reaching the Super Bowl and winning the NFL MVP. Anderson played two more seasons as Esiason's backup, completing the transition.
The famously left-handed and larger Esiason led the league's most formidable offense and consistently finished in the top of numerous passing statistics.
In an age when most players no longer care about finishing a career with the team that drafted them, Boomer came back to Cincinnati in 1997 and filled a utility role.
3. Drew Bledsoe to Tom Brady
The story of the unheralded and unknown Brady is well documented.
He did not come off the board until the 194th pick in the 2000 draft and now is widely considered one of the greatest players of all time. Sitting behind the already-proven Bledsoe for one season, he finally got his chance the following year.
Early in an improbable run to a Super Bowl victory, Brady stepped in to replace the injured veteran and never looked back.
Ironically, in that magical postseason, Bledsoe had to fill in for a banged-up Brady and played a critical role.
After a highly successful collegiate career, New England made Bledsoe the first pick of the 1993 draft. Bledsoe’s steady contribution to the rebuilding Patriots was highlighted by a Super Bowl appearance in 1997.
If Bledsoe had never gotten hurt, who knows how long it would have taken before Brady got a shot.
One thing is for sure: He made the most of time learning behind Bledsoe, and subsequently, his opportunity.
2. Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers
The relationship between these two probably experienced the most drama, as well as animosity.
While it was unfortunate for Aaron Rodgers to fall so low in the first round of the draft, the Packers lucked out that he was still available. However, he had to wait three seasons before he got his chance. The drive and competitiveness that made Favre so great caused Green Bay and Rodgers much uncertainty in 2008.
After a lengthy ironman career, two Super Bowl appearances and one win, Favre left nothing to prove after owning nearly every major passing record. Yet he could not put down the game he loved so much.
The Packers stood firm with Rodgers during Favre’s retirement waffling. Rodgers has steadily developed into the best player in the NFL, already winning a Super Bowl MVP.
There is no doubt that Aaron Rodgers significantly benefited from sitting behind the three-time NFL MVP.
1. Joe Montana to Steve Young
Montana defined his career and legacy as the most successful quarterback of all-time, accentuated by four Super Bowl victories and three NFL MVPs.
After a decade of dominance by Montana and the San Francisco 49ers, it was difficult to ever imagine that another quarterback might be a better player.
But as Montana's career started to dwindle and the injuries started to add up, Young made the most of his opportunities as a backup to prove what he could do.
The 49ers had the unique problem of having too many Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks on their roster. Some teams go decades without an elite quarterback, and the 49ers had two at the same time.
Then, in 1991, a more-than-ready Steve Young officially stepped in for the banged-up veteran and kept the San Francisco 49ers at a high level. He threw a record six touchdown passes in the 49ers’ record fifth Super Bowl victory in 1995. He won the MVP award twice and is one of the most accurate passers in league history.
One can be certain that Young learned from Montana, but also that the friendly competition between to two made them both better quarterbacks.