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Will Tom Brady’s final act resemble Joe Montana’s or Joe Namath’s?

A look at other prominent quarterbacks who flourished (or flopped) after moving on from their original teams.
With the Bucs, will Tom Brady put an exclamation point on his stellar career or go out with a whimper?
With the Bucs, will Tom Brady put an exclamation point on his stellar career or go out with a whimper? [ MATT SLOCUM | AP ]
Published Mar. 18, 2020

When Tom Brady pulls a No. 12 Bucs jersey over his 42-year-old torso for the first time, many are sure to characterize the image as surreal. We’ll call it standard.

Fact is, the NFL has seen this picture — or variations of it — for decades. Brady is hardly the first quarterback to carve a legendary career in one city, only to finish it in another. Here are some other prominent quarterbacks who have delivered encore performances — or embarrassing ones — for new teams in the twilight of their respective careers.

Related: Why Tom Brady is headed to Tampa Bay and the Bucs

Johnny Unitas, Chargers (1973)

[ AP ]

After being acquired by the Chargers via trade, “Johnny U” arrived in San Diego with nearly 40,000 passing yards, three NFL titles, a Super Bowl crown and two shot knees. In the regular season opener, a 38-0 loss to the Redskins, he threw three interceptions and was sacked eight times. After throwing two more picks in the fourth game, he was benched and didn’t play again.

Related: Signing Brady would be gutsy. Thrilling. Adventurous. And maybe crazy.

Joe Namath, Rams (1977)

[ BILL KOSTROUN | AP ]

Much like Unitas, “Broadway Joe” thought he could make one more playoff run on a pair of ravaged knees. After being waived by the Jets to set up his cross-country move, Namath went 2-2 in four starts for the Rams, completing less than 50 percent of his passes (50-for-107) for three touchdowns and five picks. His career ended in his fourth start on a cold night in Chicago, when he threw four picks (and had another negated by a penalty) in a 24-23 loss to the Bears.

Related: Timeline: the highs and lows of Tom Brady’s NFL career

Joe Montana, Chiefs (1993-94)

Despite missing nearly two full years due to elbow surgery, Montana felt he had another title run or two in him. The 49ers, riding steadily with Steve Young, weren’t so sure, trading him to the Chiefs for a first-round pick. Montana’s arrival inspired Marcus Allen to join the Chiefs, and the pair led Kansas City to its first division title in 22 years. In ’94, they guided the Chiefs to a 9-7 mark (including a win against the 49ers) and another playoff berth.

Related: If Tom Brady signs with Bucs, here’s why he should call Derek Jeter

Brett Favre, Jets/Vikings (2008-10)

[ MATT LUDTKE | AP ]
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After a drawn-out divorce from the Packers (complicated by his retirement and un-retirement), Favre led the Jets to an 8-3 mark before fading down the stretch (due in part to arm problems) in his lone season in New York. He had a resurrection of sorts in Minnesota, leading the Vikings to a 12-4 mark and the NFC title game in 2009, earning a Pro Bowl berth. After failing to duplicate that success in 2010, he retired, this time for good.

Related: Forgive fans if they’re cautious when it comes to Tom Brady. The Bucs have been burned before

Donovan McNabb, Redskins/Vikings (2010-11)

[ CLIFF MCBRIDE ]

Despite a complicated relationship with Eagles fans, McNabb still became the franchise’s career passing yardage leader and led it to eight playoff appearances before being traded to a division rival (Redskins) for a second-round pick in 2010. After one enigmatic season in Washington (13 starts, 14 TDs, 15 INTs), McNabb was traded to the Vikings for a sixth-round pick, and benched after a 1-5 start.

Peyton Manning, Broncos (2012-15)

Like Montana, Manning’s physical setbacks (in this case, spinal-fusion surgery) prompted the team for which he achieved Hall of Fame credentials (Colts) to move in another direction. He found a second life ― and another world title ― in Denver, throwing for 17,000 more yards, 140 more TDs and reaching two more Super Bowls. In 2013, he set an NFL record with 55 TD passes. In the final game of his career, Super Bowl 50, he was sacked five times but still led the Broncos to a 24-10 win against the Panthers.