QBs Who Started Over
Twenty-four quarterbacks since 1998 have played in a new city after throwing for at least 2,500 yards the previous season. Jay Cutler could repeat the drill yet again this year if the Bears part ways with him. Cutler threw for 3,812 yards in an underwhelming 2014 season, his sixth in Chicago. He ended up in the Windy City on the heels of a 2008 season in which he passed for 4,526 yards and 25 touchdowns in Denver. He asked to be traded from the Broncos after discovering that coach Josh McDaniels had tried to acquire Matt Cassel from the Patriots. Here's a look at how the other QBs fared in their transition.
Carson Palmer has started over twice after at least a 2,500-yard season. Trying to escape a team that had only two winning records in the previous 20 seasons, Palmer requested a trade from Cincinnati on the back of a 3,970-yard and 26-touchdown 2010 season. He had to wait, but eventually got his wish in a move to the Raiders, where he threw for 6,771 yards and 35 touchdowns in two playoff-less seasons. The Cardinals traded for him in April 2013 and have been happy with the results.
Drew Brees threw for a then-career high 3,576 yards with the Chargers in 2005 and was selected as an alternate to the Pro Bowl. In the last game of the season, he took a hit that tore both his labrum and rotator cuff, and he eventually underwent microscopic surgery to repair the shoulder. Concerned with Brees' status following the surgery, the Chargers were unwilling to renew his contract at the price he was requesting. Brees signed with the Saints, and over the next nine seasons he threw for over 4,300 each year and totaled 316 TDs, earning eight Pro Bowl selections, and Super Bowl MVP honors in 2010.
Pushed into the starting spot by Tom Brady's injury, Matt Cassel threw for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns and led the Patriots to an 11-5 record in 2008. Traded to Kansas City after the season, Cassel got off to a good start, even having one of his best seasons in 2010. Things soured thereafter, to the point that a few Chiefs fans cheered when he left the field injured in 2012. Kansas City released him in March 2013 after hiring Andy Reid as coach and trading for Alex Smith.
Tarvaris Jackson closed out his time in Seattle with 3,091 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2011, but the dual acquisitions of Matt Flynn as a free agent and Russell Wilson from the draft meant his future there was bleak. It wasn't much better in Buffalo, where he didn't see the field once in 2012 as the Bills' third-string QB. Buffalo released him in June 2013.
Donovan McNabb made the switch twice, in back-to-back seasons no less. After 11 years with the Eagles, and a 2009 season in which he threw for 3,553 yards and 22 touchdowns, McNabb started anew with the Redskins. Then, having played 13 games while tallying 3,377 yards and 14 touchdowns, he was bounced from Washington to Minnesota, where Christian Ponder eventually overtook him for the starting position.
Kyle Orton threw for 2,972 yards and 18 touchdowns for the Bears in 2008, only to be shipped to Denver in the dramatic trade for the disgruntled Jay Cutler. Orton wasted no time settling in with his new team, recording more than 3,500 yards in each of his first two seasons before falling prey to Tebowmania and eventually leaving Denver.
After 10 years the Seahawks were ready to move on from Matt Hasselbeck, even with a 2010 season that saw him throw for 3,001 yards and 12 touchdowns. He got off to a good start with the Titans, where he racked up 3,571 yards and 18 touchdowns before splitting time with Jake Locker in 2012.
After a 2009 season in which he tallied 3,618 yards and 20 touchdowns for the Redskins, Jason Campbell left Washington in search of a guaranteed starting spot in light of Donovan McNabb's arrival in D.C. He found one, at least for a while, in Oakland, where he threw for 2,387 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010 before ceding the starting role to Carson Palmer.
The 2007 season was a milestone campaign for Brett Favre as he posted the best single-season completion percentage of his career (66.5), broke several NFL quarterback records and notched 4,000 yards for the fifth time in his career. After the season, he announced his retirement; but four months later, he decided to attempt a comeback. After a lengthy dispute between Favre and the organization, the Packers finally shipped the future Hall of Famer to the Jets. Plagued by shoulder injuries, Favre threw for 3,472 yards but also 22 interceptions and the Jets failed to make the playoffs. He retired at the end of the season only to return to lead the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game in 2009 before retiring for good after the 2010 season.
Steve McNair ended his nine-year career in Tennessee after a 2005 season in which he threw for 3,161 yards. He was traded to the Baltimore Ravens on June 7, 2006, for a 4th round pick in the 2007 draft. McNair started every game for the Ravens that season, and led the squad to a 13-3 record and an AFC North title, but his squad lost in the first round to the Colts. He announced his retirement in April 2008, after 13 NFL seasons.
Drew Bledsoe had to restart his career twice. The first time with Buffalo, after being displaced in New England by a guy named Tom Brady, and the second time in Dallas. He threw for 4,359 yards and made the Pro Bowl in the first of three seasons with the Bills, but never led them to the playoffs. He started one full season in Dallas (2005) before being replaced by Tony Romo.
Steve Beuerlein started all 16 games for Carolina in 1999 and 2000, throwing 53 touchdown passes and for 8,166 yards. After being released he tried to make a go of it as Brian Griese's backup in Denver, but made only five more starts over the next two seasons.
Kerry Collins has had to restart his career twice on the heels of 3,000-yard passing seasons. In 2003, Collins threw for 3,110 yards with Big Blue but led them to just four wins. After the season, the Giants signed former MVP Kurt Warner and gave Collins his release. He landed with the Raiders and, although he started the '04 season as a backup to Rich Gannon, he took over the starting job when Gannon went down with a neck injury. Collins, however, played only two seasons with the Raiders, posting an unimpressive 7-21 record before being cut. He jump-started his career in Tennessee, replacing Vince Young and leading the Titans to the AFC South title. He retired in July 2011.
Another NFL journeyman, Gus Frerotte found the occasional starting job during his career, including in 2005 with the Dolphins. In that season, Frerotte threw for 2,996 yards and 18 touchdowns, leading the Fish to a 9-7 record. Miami released Frerotte after the season, and the veteran quarterback signed with the Rams as Marc Bulger's backup. In his first season of the new gig, he threw just three passes, completing one for 27 yards.
Another QB to hit the restart button twice, on the heels of 2,500-yard seasons -- with the Niners in 2003 and the Bucs in 2008, Jeff Garcia finished his career by heading to Philadelphia in 2009, where he was the backup for McNabb. That gig saw him make one appearance without a single attempted pass to show for it.
After starting the season as Randall Cunningham's backup in Minnesota, Jeff George stepped into the starting role, posted an 8-2 record, throwing for 2,816 yards and 23 touchdowns as he led the Vikings to the playoffs. Minnesota opted to let George walk after the season, and the veteran joined the Redskins as Brad Johnson's backup. In six games during the 2000 season, George threw for 1,389 yards but couldn't wrestle the starting job away from Johnson.
Elvis Grbac began his career in San Francisco as Steve Young's backup, before moving to Kansas City. He had the best year of his career in 2000, throwing for 4,169 yards and 28 touchdowns en route to the Pro Bowl. Grbac left K.C. after the season and signed with the Super Bowl champion Ravens, replacing fan favorite Trent Dilfer. Injured and ineffective, Grbac threw more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (15) for the Ravens and was released in a salary cap move after the 2001 season after he refused to renegotiate his contract. The 31-year-old retired rather than sign with another team.
Brian Griese capped his stint in Denver with the best passing season of his career, throwing for 3,214 yards in just 13 games in 2002. Another victim of the salary cap, Griese was released following the season when Denver signed Jake Plummer. He followed in his father's footsteps, signing with the Dolphins as a backup, but struggled when given playing time, throwing for just 813 yards and five touchdowns in five games before being released.
In 1994, Trent Green was cut from the British Columbia Lions of the CFL. Just four years later, he threw for 3,441 yards as a full-time starter for the Redskins. With the newfound success, Green turned down an offer from Washington, in favor of a more lucrative contract with the Rams. The next season, Green suffered a season-ending knee injury in a preseason game against the Chargers, leaving Kurt Warner to take over and lead the Rams to Super Bowl XXXIV. Green continued as a backup the following season and was traded to the Chiefs at season's end.
Brad Johnson is one of only a handful of quarterbacks to twice throw for 2,500 yards in a season, only to find himself briefly unemployed after the year. He did it in 2000 with the Redskins, throwing for 2,505 yards, before signing with the Bucs and throwing for 3,406 yards in 2001. He also did it in 2006 with the Vikings. Granted he struggled that season, racking up 2,750 yards and more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (9), but he still managed to land the No. 2 job in Dallas, where he managed just 506 yards throwing as Tony Romo's backup the next two seasons.
After winning the AFC West as a full-time starter with the Seahawks in 1999, Jon Kitna split time with Brock Huard the following season, due to injuries and ineffectiveness. Still, Kitna managed to throw for 2,658 yards and 18 TD. He signed with the Bengals as an unrestricted free agent in 2001 and logged 3,000 yards in each of his first three seasons, earning the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2003 for posting 3,500 yards and 26 TD.
Coming off career numbers in 2001 (3,653 yards, 18 TD, 79.6 QB rating), Jake Plummer's stats dropped the following season (2,972 yards, 65.7 QB rating), which would prove to be his final with the Cardinals. Plummer signed as a free agent with the Broncos in 2003, replacing Brian Griese. That season, he led the Broncos to a wild-card playoff berth, and two seasons later he posted career highs in yards (4,089) and TDs (27).
Vinny Testaverde did the 2,500-yards-to-new-team feat four times in his career. The last was after a 2004 season in which he threw for 3,532 yards and 17 touchdowns for the 6-10 Cowboys. Testaverde played three more seasons in the NFL (Jets, Patriots, Panthers), never throwing for more than 952 yards. In the three earlier instances, his best showing was when he passed for 4,177 yards in Baltimore, a year after having thrown for 2,883 in Cleveland.