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Wide Open Spaces: How Have Legendary QBs Performed With New Teams?

Rodgers Risks it for the Biscuit

In their chart-topping hit “Wide Open Spaces,” the Dixie Chicks wrote a song about one’s need to find their own path, “Who’s never left home? Who’s never struck out? To find a dream and a life of their own. A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone.” Most of us have experienced this at some point; the need to carve out our own path. The same concept applies to sports, as players look to build lasting legacies.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the most recent example. He is already a future Hall of Famer with one Super Bowl ring and four MVP Awards. His time was coming to an end with the Green Bay Packers, but he was not done playing. Rodgers agreed to the trade that would send him to the New York Jets. While it could harm his legacy, Rodgers is willing to take the risk, as visions of another Lombardi Trophy are not far from his grasp.

Wide Open Spaces: How Have Legendary QBs Performed With New Teams?
Aaron Rodgers #8 of the New York Jets - Mike Stobe/Getty Images/AFP

The sportsbook likes Rodgers’ chances to win another ring, as the Jets are listed as the seventh choice to win Super Bowl 58 (+1600). NFL odds also have New York as the second choice to win the AFC East (+230) – perhaps the best division in football. The expectations are high. Will Rodgers meet them?

He is not the first future Hall of Fame quarterback to take a risk by leaving home and joining a new franchise. History could tell us what to expect. Let’s look at how other legendary quarterbacks have fared on new teams.

First, The Bad

Most Hall of Fame quarterbacks that relocated did not work out. These players were in their mid-30s to early-40s. Eventually, Father Time catches up to everyone.

Johnny Unitas is hailed as one of the best quarterbacks of all time. He spent 17 seasons with the Baltimore Colts, winning three NFL championships. In 1973, he was shipped to the San Diego Chargers. At 40, Unitas started in four games for the Chargers in 1973. He retired following the season.

Joe Namath is a Jets legend. Seeing him in anything other than New York’s green looks strange. He led the Jets to the legendary Super Bowl 3 win. Namath is why Rodgers will be wearing No. 8 and not No. 12 in the 2023 season. The New York legend signed with the Los Angeles Rams in 1977 at 34 years old. He started four games and retired following the 1977 season.

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Ken Stabler won Super Bowl 11 with the Oakland Raiders. He spent 10 years with the Silver and Black. Following a holdout, Stabler was traded to the Houston Oilers in 1980. He was 34 when he joined the Oilers. Stabler played two seasons in Houston and was with the New Orleans Saints from 1982-84. He would not win a playoff game over the five-year span.

In 1994, the Minnesota Vikings made a big move, trading for Warren Moon. He was 38 but was still performing at a high level. Like his entire career, Moon could not succeed in the postseason. He made the Pro Bowl in 1994 and 1995 with the Vikings. Moon also made the Pro Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks in 1997. However, he would never win the Lombardi Trophy.

When you think of the San Francisco 49ers’ history, who comes to mind? Probably Joe Montana and Steve Young, maybe Jerry Rice. After winning four Super Bowls with the 49ers, Montana missed the 1991 season and most of 1992 with an elbow injury. This allowed San Francisco to transition to Young, who led the 49ers to a win in Super Bowl 29.

At 37, Montana signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993. He had some success in 1993 with a Pro Bowl appearance and led the Chiefs to an AFC Championship appearance. However, he did not have the same success in 1994, which was Montana’s final season.

History repeats itself is a phrase that will always ring true. Rodgers’ move to New York is quite similar to Brett Favre’s relocation in 2008. Rumors of retirement surrounded Favre for years, similar to Rodgers. Rumors claimed there was pressure on Favre to retire, as Rodgers was waiting in the wings. Favre announced his retirement in 2008, only to change his mind about three months later.

At this point it was too late, Green Bay was committed to Rodgers. Favre asked to be released. Instead, he was traded to the Jets. Favre spent one season in the Big Apple. New York went 9-7 and missed the playoffs. Favre spent his final two seasons with the Vikings. He enjoyed a Pro Bowl season in 2009, leading Minnesota to the NFC Championship Game. Favre struggled in his final season in 2010.

Hall of Famers Who Succeeded

Kurt Warner is one of the few success stories. However, his situation is different than most on this list. His success seemed to be over before joining the Arizona Cardinals in 2005. Warner engineered the Greatest Show On Turf, starting with the St. Louis Rams from 1999-2002. The Rams appeared in Super Bowls, winning a ring in 2000.

Warner was released in 2004 and signed with the New York Giants. Following an underwhelming year, he signed with the Cardinals in 2005. Warner played in The Desert until he retired. At 37, Warner led the Cards to Super Bowl 43 in 2009. While Arizona lost 27-23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, few expected to see Warner on the highest stage once again.

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are the models Rodgers hopes to follow. Manning, who was 36, signed with the Denver Broncos in 2012. He made three Pro Bowls in Denver and won MVP in 2013. Manning rode off into the sunset after winning Super Bowl 50 in the 2015 season.

Most of us know Brady’s story, right? The GOAT joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020. Age was just a number for Brady, as he won Super Bowl 55 at 43.

Rodgers is 39 and will turn 40 in Dec. His time is running out. If he is to win another Super Bowl, Rodgers must do it quickly. Will it be in the 2023 season? The Jets should at least make the playoffs. NFL lines have New York at -145 to earn a postseason berth with a projected win total of 9½.

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