Tom Brady, Philip Rivers will start 2020 NFL season making history: How other QBs fared in same situation


Tom Brady and Philip Rivers are beginning the next chapter of their excellent careers in 2020, moving on to new teams after spending over 15 years with their previous franchise. Brady won 219 regular season games with the New England Patriots (the most in NFL history) while Rivers won 123 games with the Los Angeles Chargers (ninth-most all time).

Brady and Rivers are set to make NFL history this season, as they will become the fifth and six quarterbacks to win 100+ games with one franchise and start a game for another team (per NFL research). Only 17 quarterbacks have won 100 regular season games in the NFL, and 15 accomplished the feat with one franchise. 

Most quarterbacks that win 100+ games usually don’t venture off to another team, but free agency has allowed teams to move on from their franchise quarterbacks regardless if they are still playing at a high level or if their peak seasons are well past them. This is what makes the Brady and Rivers situations so unique, especially given their success with their previous franchises.

Below, we’ll take a look back at the four other quarterbacks that started a game for another team after winning 100+ games with their previous franchise. Specifically, we’ll dive into their first season with their new team. 

Johnny Unitas (San Diego Chargers)

Record with Baltimore Colts (1956-1972): 117-60-4

Record with San Diego Chargers (1973): 1-3

We tend to forget Unitas’ tenure with the Chargers, and for good reason. After 17 incredible seasons with the Baltimore Colts (winning three NFL titles and a Super Bowl), Baltimore traded the 40-year-old Unitas to the Chargers — moving on from one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

San Diego thought Unitas still had a few good years left in Unitas, but the pairing as a disaster from the start. Unitas was abysmal in his lone year in San Diego, completing 44.6% of his passes with three touchdowns and seven interceptions in five games (four starts). 

Unitas was benched after going 2 of 9 for 19 yards with two interceptions in Week 4 of the 1973 season and he attempted just one more pass the rest of his career. The Chargers eventually turned to Dan Fouts in what was the beginning of a Hall of Fame career. 

Joe Montana (Kansas City Chiefs)

Record with San Francisco 49ers (1979-1992): 100-39

Record with Kansas City Chiefs (1993-1994): 17-8

Montana’s trade to Kansas City is one of the biggest moves in NFL history, given the quarterback’s immense success with San Francisco — a franchise which he won four Super Bowls with and was arguably the greatest quarterback ever at the time of the trade. 

Did a 37-year-old Montana have anything left with the Chiefs after coming off a serious elbow injury? The answer was a definite yes. The Chiefs won their division for the first time in 22 years as Montana threw for 2,144 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions with an 87.4 passer rating, even though Montana started just 11 games (a nagging hamstring injury limited him). 

The injury didn’t stop Montana from making the Pro Bowl and Kansas City reaching the AFC Championship game. Montana played one more year with the Chiefs before retiring after the 1994 season. 

Brett Favre (New York Jets)

Record with Green Bay Packers (1992-2007): 160-93

Record with New York Jets (2008): 9-7

Record with Minnesota Vikings (2009-2010): 17-12 

Favre’s retirement saga with the Packers was so wild it deserves its own article. After making the Pro Bowl at age 38, Favre decided to come out of retirement for another season with Green Bay but bridges were already burned. The Packers moved on from Favre and traded him to the New York Jets in August of 2008, which ended up being Favre’s only season in the AFC.

Favre did make the Pro Bowl with the Jets, but also led the league with 22 interceptions. He completed 65.7% of his passes for 3,472 yards and 22 touchdowns (81.0 rating) as New York collapsed down the stretch after an 8-3 start. The Jets lost four of their last five games as Favre threw two touchdowns to nine interceptions. Later it was discovered Favre had a torn biceps tendon in his throwing arm. 

Favre retired again and the Jets released him from his contract in April of 2009. He signed with the Minnesota Vikings in August of that year and went on to play two more seasons, the first in Minnesota a memorable one.  

Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos)

Record with Indianapolis Colts (1998-2011): 148-67

Record with Denver Broncos (2012-2015): 45-12 

Manning revitalized the Colts franchise in his 13 seasons, winning a Super Bowl and four NFL MVP awards (a league record), while also leading the league in touchdown passes and passer rating three times. Manning would have played his entire career with the Colts if not for severe neck surgery that nearly ended his career. 

The Colts couldn’t take the risk with Manning and released him at 36 years old, moving forward with No. 1 draft pick and new franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. Manning became the first quarterback to win 100+ games with one team that entered free agency and was one of the biggest question marks in the league, given the unknown regarding his injury. 

Those questions were answered immediately. Manning signed with the Denver Broncos as the most coveted free agent in history,  leading the league in completion percentage (68.6) in his first season and earning First Team All-Pro honors. Manning threw for 37 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions and had a 105.8 passer rating, which was his highest rating since the 2004 season. 

Manning was third in the league in pass touchdowns, sixth in passing yards and second in rating, finishing second in the MVP race to Adrian Peterson (who rushed for 2,000 yards that season). He did win Comeback Player of the Year as the Broncos finished 13-3 and earned home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs before being stunned by the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC divisional playoffs.

Manning would be dominant for two more years in Denver and earned his second Super Bowl victory in his final season in the league and with the Broncos. 





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