It appears that legendary quarterback Peyton Manning, who was cut by the Colts last week after 14 years, is nearing a decision on a new team. Where will the future Hall of Fame quarterback finish his career?
Will the 35 year old Manning head to Denver and, at least temporarily, put an end to Tebowmania? Will he follow in Kurt Warner's footsteps and head to the desert to play pitch-and-catch with Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals? Or will he stay close to his condo in South Florida and give the Dolphins the first glimpse of a legitimate quarterback since the days of Dan Marino?
It's still anyone's guess at this point.
Manning won't be the first quarterback of his stature to end his career with another team. In-fact, several come to mind. Below, I will give a brief review of how each quarterback's careers ended after they left their signature teams.
You might say that Unitas was the Manning of his day. Playing 17 seasons with the Baltimore Colts from 1956-1972, Unitas passed for just under 40,000 yards and threw 287 touchdown passes. He was also NFL MVP three times and led Baltimore to three World Championships, including Super Bowl V in 1970 at age 37. At the age of 40, Unitas was traded to the San Diego Chargers before the '73 season. There, he started only four games, going 1-3 and throwing for 471 yards, three touchdowns and seven interceptions. Unitas eventually gave way to fellow future Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, and retired from football following that season. Unitas became the first quarterback to pass for over 40,000 yards and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.
Namath played for 12 seasons with the New York Jets from 1965-1976 and was known for both his play on the field as well as his partying ways off of it. He is best remembered for his famous quote prior to Super Bowl III, where he guaranteed that his Jets, a member of the then AFL and a huge underdog, would defeat the 15-1 Baltimore Colts of the NFL. Namath backed up his boast, as the Jets upset the heavily favored Colts, 16-7, and helped to legitimize the AFL in what is regarded by many as one of the most important games in pro football history. Namath's final years in New York were sidetracked with injuries, and in 1977, he was waived by New York and signed with the Los Angeles Rams. Namath was unable to overcome his injury problems with the Rams and only played in four games that year before retiring from football for good. Namath was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.
Montana played 13 seasons for the San Francisco 49ers from 1979-1992, passing for over 35,000 yards and 244 touchdowns. Montana was named NFL MVP two times and helped lead the 49ers to four Super Bowl titles in the 80's. Montana was voted Super Bowl MVP three times and is only one of two quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls during his career. Due to injury, Montana missed all of '91 and only played in one game in '92 before being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in '93 at the age of 37. Montana played two seasons in Kansas City, going 17-8 as a starter and leading the Chiefs to two playoff victories in 1993--including a come-from-behind overtime win against the Steelers in the wild card round. Montana retired following the '94 season and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.
After a brief stint with the Falcons in 1991, Favre played for the Packers from 1992-2007 and would go on to have one of the greatest careers in NFL history. While in Green Bay, Favre compiled a record of 160-93 as a starter and passed for over 61,000 yards and 442 touchdowns. Favre was voted NFL MVP for three straight years starting in 1995 and helped to lead the Packers to their first World Championship since the 1967 season with a victory in Super Bowl XXXI in January of '97. After much speculation, Favre announced his retirement following the 2007 season. However, after expressing a desire to come back, the Packers eventually traded Favre to the Jets prior to the 2008 season. Favre would lead the Jets to a 9-7 record that year, as he threw 22 touchdown passes and 22 interceptions. Favre again announced his retirement following the season, but instead, returned to play the 2009 campaign with the Packers NFC North rivals, the Minnesota Vikings. Favre turned 40 during the '09 season, but he still had enough in the tank to throw for 4200 yards and 33 touchdowns, as he led the Vikings to a 12-4 regular season record. The Vikings advanced to the NFC Championship game, and Favre had the team on the doorstep of its first Super Bowl berth since January of 1977 before throwing a critical interception at the end of regulation, and the Vikings eventually lost to the Saints in overtime. Favre came back for one more season in Minnesota, and he went 5-8 as a starter before officially retiring following the 2010 season. All-in-all, Favre passed for over 71,000 yards and 508 touchdowns in his remarkable career, and, much like Manning, his ticket to Canton is already stamped.
So, where will Manning finish his career, and what kind of success will he have? Will age and the neck surgery that he had prior to the 2011 season force him to retire after only a few games much like Unitas and Namath? Will he lead his new team on a playoff run like Montana and Favre did with their new teams?
Or, will Peyton Manning do the unheard of, and not only continue to play at a high-level, but become the first starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different teams?