There are 9 Hall of Fame quarterbacks who were once exactly where Joe Flacco is today. Quarterbacks who had nice runs with one team, only to have a career renaissance with a second or final team.
No one is saying Flacco is a Hall of Famer. But neither were Y.A. Tittle, Fran Tarkenton, Kurt Warner or Sonny Jurgensen until they had impressive rebounds with a second or final team in their careers.
Flacco had a pretty good, 11-season run with the Baltimore Ravens, starting from Day 1 as a first-round rookie out of Delaware in 2008 and posting a 96-67 record with six playoff appearances, 10 postseason wins and a Super Bowl MVP award.
But he has slumped in recent seasons and was traded Wednesday to the Broncos in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick, a deal that won’t become official until the new league season opens on March 13.
Can Flacco rediscover his playoff groove at 34 years old? If he does, it would hardly be unprecedented. We rank the 9 Hall of Fame quarterbacks, in order, who had impressive final chapters in their career:
1. Peyton Manning, Broncos, 2012-15
Final chapter stats: 45-12, 140 TD-53 INT, 101.7 RTG
The Gold Standard of second chapter careers. He would have been a Hall of Famer had he retired after his first 13 seasons with the Colts. But he added the best passing single-season in league history while leading the Broncos to the Super Bowl in 2013. He then did just enough to help Denver win Super Bowl 50 in his final season of 2015.
The Broncos went 13-3, 13-3, 12-4 and 12-4 in Manning’s four seasons. They have gone 9-7, 5-11 and 6-10 in the three seasons since he retired.
2. Y.A. Tittle, Giants, 1961-64
Final chapter stats: 45-31-2, 96 TD-68 INT, 2 NFL Championship Games
He was pretty good in his 10 seasons with the 49ers, posting a 45-31-2 record with 108 touchdown passes against 108 interceptions for a 70.0 passer rating.
But he was spectacular in his first three seasons with the Giants at the ages of 35, 36, 37, posting a combined 31-5-1 record with 86 touchdowns against 46 interceptions.
Tittle’s Giants lost back-to-back NFL title games to Vince Lombardi’s Packers in 1961-62 and he was the league’s MVP in 1963. He hung on one season too long as he went 1-8 in 1964 with 10 touchdowns against 22 interceptions.
3. Fran Tarkenton, Vikings, 1972-78
Final chapter stats: 64-27-2, 64-27-2, 3 Super Bowl appearances
This was actually his third chapter. He was 27-46-4 in his first six-year stint with the Vikings from 1961-66. He then went 66-69 in five seasons with the New York Giants.
Traded back to the Vikings in 1972 at the age of 32 in exchange for Norm Snead and two others, Tarkenton’s average record was 9-4 in his final seven seasons in Minnesota. He also won six playoff games to bring the Vikings to three Super Bowls.
4. Norm Van Brocklin, Eagles, 1958-60
Final chapter stats: 19-16-1, NFL championship.
Before Brett Favre, there was “The Dutchman.” After nine seasons and five playoff appearances (when only two to four teams qualified for the postseason) with the Los Angeles Rams, the 32-year-old Van Brocklin announced his retirement, changed his mind, and five months later was traded to the Eagles.
His Eagles went 2-9-1 in his first season, 7-5 in his second, then 10-2 in 1960 to reach the NFL Championship Game. Playing Lombardi’s upstart Packers, Van Brocklin threw for 204 yards and a touchdown and engineered a fourth-quarter comeback drive to lift the Eagles to a 17-13 win.
Van Brocklin then retired again, this time going out on top.
5. Joe Montana, Chiefs, 1993-94
Final chapter stats:17-8, 29 TD-16 INT, 85.0 RTG
After 13 seasons and 4 Super Bowl wins with the 49ers, Montana was nudged out by Steve Young before he was ready to retire. Montana had two playoff seasons with the Chiefs at the ages of 37 and 38, winning two postseason games in 1993 to advance to the AFC Championship Game.
6. Brett Favre, Vikings, 2009-10
Final chapter stats: 17-12, 44 TD-26 INT, 92.2 RTG
The best statistical season by far in his 20-year career that included stops in Atlanta, Green Bay and the New York Jets was in 2009, his first season with the Vikings. Flirting with retirement for a second time and missing training camp, he led Minnesota to a 12-4 record and the NFC Championship Game after throwing 33 touchdowns against just 7 interceptions for a 107.2 rating in the regular season – the only 100+ rating of his career.
7. Kurt Warner, Cardinals, 2005-09
Final chapter stats: 27-30, 100 TD-59 INT, 91.9 RTG
The definition of an up-and-down career, starting with he was 28 before he broke in as a starter. He went 35-8 with two Super Bowl appearances in his first three seasons with the St. Louis Rams.
Then he had six consecutive losing seasons with the Rams, Giants and Cardinals for a combined record of 13-29.
In his final two seasons with Arizona, though, Warner went 19-12 with 56 touchdown passes against 28 interceptions and was 35 seconds away from winning Super Bowl XLIII.
Perhaps, Flacco – who had a ton of early playoff success, but none in the past four years – can mirror Warner’s career by having a bounce-back run with the Broncos.
8. Warren Moon, Vikings, 1994-96
Second chapter stats: 21-18, 58 TDs-42 INTs, 82.8 RTG
After six years with the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League, Moon became a 28-year-old rookie for the Houston Oilers in 1984. After 10 seasons there, Moon was traded to Minnesota, where he had back-to-back 4,200-yard passing seasons and led the Vikings to the playoffs in his first season of 1994.
9. Sonny Jurgensen, Washington, 1964-74
Final chapter stats: 52-51-5, 179 TDs-116 INTs, 83.9 RTG
After breaking in as a backup to Van Brocklin with the Eagles, Jurgensen spent his first seven seasons in Philadelphia before he was traded for Norm Snead. Yes, Snead was twice traded for Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
Jurgensen’s best season was in 1969, Vince Lombardi's only season as Washington’s head coach. Jurgensen went 7-5-2 that year and led the NFL with 274 completions, 442 attempts and 3,102 yards. He finished his career as Billy Kilmer’s backup.
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