Next man up
As I was finishing last week’s column, thinking about Jarrett Stidham taking Tom Brady’s place, I started trying to remember who replaced other legendary quarterbacks and how they fared and it occurred to me, that would make a great column! After all, every legend has to retire (or leave town) at some point — no one can play forever. Since we’re still waiting for even one of sports leagues to announce when they plan to start playing again, I guess we’ll go ahead and dive into the subject right now.
I think the best place to start is with the quarterback Brady was most compared to in his career, Peyton Manning. This could actually be a two-fold entry as Manning left the Indianapolis Colts after neck surgery forced him to miss the entire 2011 season. For that one year he was replaced by the trio of Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter, and Dan Orlovsky. Not exactly an upgrade, right?
I don’t know that we should count this though, as Manning was still on the team. Ultimately the Colts took Andrew Luck in the 2012 draft and he is the man who took Manning’s place in Indianapolis. Manning, of course, went on to the Denver Broncos where he won a Super Bowl and retired. Denver tried to replace him with Trevor Siemian, and it did not work. He lasted two seasons before being replaced by Case Keenum who then lost his job to Joe Flacco. As you can see, it’s no easy thing taking the place of a legend.
Of course, this is not always a disastrous proposition. Brett Favre left Green Bay in 2008, mostly because the team had drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005 and he was waiting in the wings to take Favre’s place. Another successful transition came in San Francisco in 1991 when Steve Young supplanted Joe Montana as the 49ers quarterback.
Montana went off and had a couple successful years in Kansas City while Young was San Francisco’s chief signal caller for eight seasons and was the MVP of Super Bowl 29. As you may have noticed, three of these guys are already in the Hall of Fame and I think we can all agree Rodgers will join them as soon as his career comes to an end.
I was a big Dan Fouts fan way back in the day when he was the leader of the San Diego Chargers. Fouts briefly played with Johnny Unitas who finished his career in San Diego after being supplanted as the Baltimore Colts quarterback by a fellow by the name of Marty Domres, who is only known for the fact he took Unitas’ place in Baltimore. I mention Fouts because I was all in on the Chargers, right up until my man retired in 1987. The three-headed monster of Mark Malone, Babe Laufenberg, and Mark Vlassic tried to take Fouts’ place and it just was not the same, thus I went looking for a new team.
As I seem to have run out of room here (honestly, I could keep talking about this all day), I think we are left to wonder just where Stidham will fit into this picture. It is not often a player the magnitude of Brady comes along, thus it’s not very often that someone has to replace them. As you can see from our list, while it is difficult, you can replace a legend with a legend. I have a hard time believing Stidham will ever be anything close to Brady, but will he be a good NFL quarterback, or is he the next Trevor Siemian? Only time will tell.