Peyton Manning Released: How Other Teams Followed Up Hall of Fame Quarterbacks
Luck will immediately be thrown into the starting role, and the Colts are banking on him developing quickly into a great NFL quarterback. This is a ton of pressure, and in the past, not many players have been able to withstand this type of situation.
The Colts will be drafting a rookie to replace their Hall of Fame quarterback.
How did other teams fare after parting ways with all-time-great quarterbacks? In this article, I will go through the last few Hall of Fame quarterbacks and how their teams transitioned after their retirement.
Green Bay Packers: Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers
Favre came to the Packers in a 1992 trade with the Atlanta Falcons. He then led the team for the next 15 seasons, earning three MVP awards, nine Pro Bowl appearances, three All-Pro selections and two Super Bowl appearances.
In 1996, Favre led the Packers to their first Super Bowl since Super Bowl II and won, 35-21, over the New England Patriots. The following season, they went to the Super Bowl again, but lost this time to John Elway's Denver Broncos (who will be mentioned later).
Aaron Rodgers was drafted in 2005 as the heir apparent to Favre. After the 2006 season, rumors started swirling around a possible Favre retirement—same with the 2007 offseason. In 2008, Favre announced his retirement. When Favre changed his mind a few months later, he and the Packers agreed it was time to part ways, and Favre was released from the team.
All eyes fell on Rodgers, who had been sitting on the bench for the past three seasons. He came in and immediately found success. In his first season as a starter, he compiled a 93.8 QB rating and a TD-to-INT ratio of 28-13. Packer fans quickly forgot about Favre and embraced the new QB with open arms.
Rodgers led the Packers to a Super Bowl victory in 2010 and appears well on his way to a Hall of Fame career himself.
Transition Grade: A
Denver Broncos: John Elway to Brian Griese
John Elway was drafted by the Baltimore Colts and traded before the season started to the Denver Broncos. Elway started for the Broncos from 1983 through 1998.
During this time, he led the team to five Super Bowl appearances, winning the last two in his last two seasons. He retired after the 1999 Super Bowl. Elway was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2004, his first year of eligibility.
In the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft, the Broncos selected Brian Griese as an heir apparent to Elway. He spent most of the 1998 season on the bench and was named the team starter in 1999 over veterans Bubby Brister and Chris Miller.
He struggled a bit in his first season with both performance and health. The team went from winning the Super Bowl to a 6-10 record in 1999. This wasn't all Griese's fault, as running back Terrell Davis was injured early in the season and severely damaged the run game.
In 2000, Griese had his best season as a pro, but only appeared in 10 games due to injuries. He earned a Pro Bowl appearance following the 2000 season. However, his production started to decrease. He lasted two more seasons with less success before being released after the 2002 season.
The Broncos have had successful quarterbacks since Elway, but have yet to find a true franchise quarterback, going through Griese, Jake Plummer (2002-06), Jay Cutler (2007-08), Kyle Orton (2009-11) and the ever-controversial Tim Tebow (2011).
Transition Grade: C+
Griese, if healthy, could have been an adequate replacement for Elway, but his growth was stunted. The Broncos have had some success following Elway, but have not found a permanent franchise quarterback.
San Fransisco 49ers: Montana to Young
Joe Montana was drafted by the 49ers in 1979 and led them to Super Bowl victories in the 1981 and 1984 seasons. In his first six seasons in the league, he established himself as one of the all-time greats, leading the team to multiple comeback victories while putting up incredible numbers.
But in 1986, he was severely injured and missed most of the season. The 49ers traded for the Tampa Bay Buccaneer's starting quarterback, Steve Young.
In 1987, Young appeared in eight games and started three, putting up an impressive 120.8 QB rating and giving the franchise something to think about over the offseason. Montana had been suffering from injuries the past two seasons, and it appeared that Young could be a very good QB.
Montana and Young split time to start in 1988; Montana kept the starting job after Week 12 and then led the team to his third Super Bowl victory. In 1989, Montana had his best season, earning the NFL MVP award while leading the 49ers to a 14-2 record and yet another Super Bowl victory.
In 1990, Montana led the team to another successful season, but in the NFC Championship Game, he suffered a severe elbow injury and went on to miss the entire 1991 and most of the 1992 season.
In 1991, Young was given the starting job, but struggled early. In the ninth game of the season, Young injured his knee and was replaced by Steve Bono, who led the team to five consecutive wins. Bono would likely have kept the job had he not been injured himself.
Young got back the starting job and held onto it for the rest of his career, winning a Super Bowl in 1994 and being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Transition Grade: A
Young was a known commodity when Montana was traded, so this wasn't a very hard decision.
San Fransisco 49ers: Steve Young to Jeff Garcia
In 1999, Steve Young suffered a major concussion in Week 3, which knocked him out for the rest of the season and led to his retirement. Jeff Garcia stepped in for the injured Young, and the team only won two games the rest of the season, ending up 4-12.
Garcia continued as starter in 2000 and had a great season. He had a quarterback rating of 97.6 to go along with a 31-10 TD-to-INT ratio. However, the team struggled overall and only managed a 6-10 record that year.
In 2001, Garcia had another great season. This time, the team did as well as him, going 12-4, but losing to the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card Round. This was the last great season for the 49ers until 2011. Garcia's production started to decline, and he was let go after 2003.
Transition Grade: B
Dallas Cowboys: Troy Aikman to Anthony Wright, Quincy Carter, Etc...
In 2000, Troy Aikman suffered a concussion and was forced to retire. The Dallas Cowboys were not prepared for this, it seemed. In the 2000 season, they had Randall Cunningham as the main backup and undrafted free agent Anthony Wright as the third stringer.
Cunningham played alright, but towards the end of the season, the team wanted to see what Wright could do. He performed poorly, posting a QB rating of 31.7. (Mind you, throwing an incomplete pass gets you a 39.6 rating, so it's tough to get below that.)
In the 2001 NFL Draft, the Cowboys selected Quincy Carter in the second round and penciled him in as the starting quarterback for the 2001 season.
Carter would struggle as a rookie with both injuries and performance. Due to injuries, Carter only started eight games in 2001, with the other starts coming from Wright, historic draft bust Ryan Leaf and undrafted free agent Clint Stoerner.
None would have a QB rating higher than 63.0, and the team went 5-11 for the season.
In 2002, the Cowboys signed baseball player Chad Hutchinson to compete with Carter.
Carter maintained the starting job until he got into a heated argument with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones following a loss. Hutchinson started the rest of the season. Neither quarterback played very well, and the team went 5-11 again.
Carter regained the starting job in 2003 and led the team to a 10-6 record and a playoff appearance, but he was cut following the season due to drug related problems.
Transition Grade: F
The Cowboys didn't have a real plan for a post-Aikman team. Having four quarterbacks on the team without a single one even capable of posting below-average numbers is embarrassing.
Buffalo Bills: Jim Kelly to Todd Collins
Todd Collins was drafted in 1995 as the heir apparent to Jim Kelly. Kelly, who led the team to four Super Bowl appearances was entering the tail end of his career, and the Bills were planning ahead for this.
When Kelly retired after the 1996 season, Collins earned the starting job for the following year. He started 13 games in 1997 and did not impress, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns en route to a 6-10 season. He lost the starting job at the end of the season to Alex Van Pelt.
In the following offseason, the Bills traded their first- and fourth-round picks in the 1998 NFL Draft to obtain Rob Johnson from the Jacksonville Jaguars and also signed veteran Doug Flutie. Collins was cut after the first week of training camp in 1998.
Johnson received a large contract extension prior to the season and was named the starter in training camp. He only managed one win in the first four games of the season while fighting injuries.
Flutie came in during Week 5 and led the team to five wins, earning the starting job for the rest of the season. The Bills earned a wild-card spot with a 10-6 record.
Flutie earned the starting spot again the following season, but was benched in favor of Johnson prior to the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.
This game came to be known as the Music City Miracle, as the Tennessee Titans successfully pulled off a trick special-teams play to score a game-winning touchdown with only a few seconds remaining.
The Bills have not been in the playoffs since.
Transition Grade: C-
Miami Dolphins: Dan Marino to Jay Fiedler
In what is likely the most similar situation to the current Peyton Manning circus, Dan Marino was replaced following his release from the Dolphins in 2000.
The Miami Dolphins didn't exactly end the Dan Marino era in style, losing 62-7 to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second round of the 1999 playoffs.
Marino had been a fixture at the helm of the Dolphins franchise for 17 years since being drafted in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft.
During this time, he established himself as one of the best pure passers that the NFL has ever seen. Following the 1999 season, the Dolphins decided that it was time to cut ties with Marino and start fresh, and they did not pick up his option.
The Dolphins then had two choices: Go with Damon Huard, who had led the team to a few wins and a playoff spot while Marino had been injured in 1999, or pick up another quarterback through trade or free agency.
They ended up signing free agent Jay Fiedler, who incidentally had been a part of the 62-7 trouncing as a member of the Jaguars.
Fiedler and Huard battled for the starting spot in training camp in 2000, with Fiedler winning and starting 15 games that season. He was the starter for the majority of the next four seasons. He led the team to the playoffs in 2000 and 2001, but never had great numbers as a quarterback.
After Fiedler, the Dolphins had 15 other quarterbacks start for them through the 2011 season with little success.
Transition Grade: B-