Top 10 career change QBs (cont.)
6. Craig Morton
Highlights after the trade: There weren't any, at least in New York. Morton played what amounts to 2½ seasons on some awful, cellar-dwelling Giants teams, getting pounded by the pass rush and throwing 49 interceptions to go with just 29 touchdowns passes. But his career had a remarkable third act, with him leading the 1977 Broncos to the Super Bowl as the pinnacle of his six-year tenure in Denver.
Summary: Morton was drafted by the Cowboys out of Cal in 1965's first round, and after four years of playing behind Don Meredith, got his shot to start with Dallas in 1969. Though he and Roger Staubach essentially shared the job for a three- or four-year span, Morton started Super Bowl V against Baltimore, and his 89.8 passer rating in that 1970 season put him among the league leaders. After being beaten out by Staubach, Morton, 31, was traded to the Giants early in the 1974 season, what would have been his 10th year in Dallas. He didn't get his revenge until his renaissance in Denver in 1977, leading the Broncos to a Super Bowl (and a loss to Dallas) at 34. Morton and the recently-retired Kurt Warner are the only quarterbacks who have started a Super Bowl for two different teams.
Bottom line: You don't think of Morton as one of the NFL's all-time greats, and he'll never reach the hallowed hall in Canton. But he played 18 years in the league, started those two Super Bowls, and was a member of 11 playoff teams. His career wound up lasting seven years longer than Staubach's.
7. Kenny Stabler
Highlights after the trade: After the Oilers lost to the Steelers in the AFC title game in both 1978 and '79, they acquired Stabler from the Raiders and labeled him as the missing piece that would help them get past Pittsburgh. But while Houston made the playoffs again in 1980, going 11-5, the Oilers lost in the wild-card round -- to Stabler's old team, the Raiders. After a second season in Houston, he joined ex-Oilers head coach Bum Phillips for three final years in New Orleans.
Summary: Some believe Stabler is among the finest NFL quarterbacks who are not enshrined in the Hall of Fame, but one of the likely reasons is that he never matched the success he had in Oakland in either of his final two career stops. He was 34 when he was dealt to the Oilers in exchange for Dan Pastorini, but his passer rating never topped 71.8 during his final five seasons, and his interceptions far outnumbered his touchdowns.
Bottom line: Other than the Super Bowl ring Stabler earned with Oakland in early 1977, his finest accomplishment might have been becoming the fastest quarterback to 100 career wins (in 150 games), a mark since topped by Joe Montana and Tom Brady.
8. Drew Bledsoe
Summary: The first overall pick in 1993 by New England, Bledsoe led the franchise back to glory by 1996, when the Patriots won the AFC and battled Green Bay for a half before losing Super Bowl XXXI. After he signed a 10-year, $103 million contract with New England in March 2001, fate intervened in the form of a life-threatening hit that Bledsoe took from Jets linebacker Mo Lewis in Week 2 of 2001, and then the wildly improbable ascension of Tom Brady. Only 30 when he was sent packing to Buffalo, Bledsoe seemed to have a bright future. But he would never start for another playoff team, and his career basically ended when he was replaced by Tony Romo in Dallas, six games into the 2006 season.
Bottom line: With more than 44,000 passing yards and 251 touchdowns to his credit, Bledsoe had a 14-year NFL career that featured plenty to be proud of. But his being eclipsed by Brady just as New England's glory era was about to dawn will always be a big part of the Bledsoe story.
9. Archie Manning
Summary: After the losing and the beatings Manning absorbed as the Saints' quarterback from 1971 through early 1982, things got even worse after he was dealt to Houston during the strike-shortened '82 season. The Oilers were a 1-8 team that year, and Manning did the best he could with the sorry cast of characters around him. The next year, he was dealt in midseason once again, going from Houston to Minnesota, where he joined a Vikings team that was in the process of bottoming-out. Combined, his Oilers and Vikings teams had a dismal 6-35 mark from 1982 to '84, quite possibly making Manning the most often-defeated quarterback in NFL history.
The bottom line: Manning was only 33 when the Saints traded him to Houston, but he was a very old 33. Toiling for those losing New Orleans teams tended to put what amounted to dog years on an NFL player's life.
10. Dan Pastorini
Summary: Pastorini was only 31 when the Raiders acquired him in 1980, and because he was three years younger than Stabler, it looked like a decent move at the time. After all, Pastorini had led the Oilers to consecutive AFC title game appearances in 1978 and 1979, throwing for a career-best 2,473 yards and 16 touchdowns in '78. But his broken leg in Oakland opened the door for backup Jim Plunkett in 1980, and his fellow member of the celebrated 1971 draft class of quarterbacks went on to lead the Raiders to a Super Bowl title that season.
Bottom line: Despite playing on some dreadful Oilers teams early in his career, Pastorini was a tough and productive quarterback for nine seasons in Houston, missing just five regular-season games in that span. He was named to the AFC Pro Bowl team in 1975, and his Oilers won four playoff games in 1978-79.
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