The late George Blanda joined the Bears as a 22-year-old quarterback and kicker in 1949 and retired from the Raiders in 1975 at 48, still the oldest player in NFL history. The 1970s campaign was the one that made him a legend among the gridiron geriatric set. In an amazing five-week stretch in the middle of the season, Blanda twice came off the bench in place of Daryle Lamonica to throw game-winning touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and three times kicked game-winning or game-tying field goals in the final seconds, including two kicks longer than he was old: a 48-yarder to tie the Chiefs and a 53-yard boomer the following week to beat the Browns. Blanda nailed a 41-yard field goal in his final game, a 16-10 loss to the Steelers in the 1975 AFC title contest. Here are some of the NFL's other golden oldies.
2 of 16Simon Bruty/SI
Last fall, at 40, Brett Favre had one of the best seasons of his career, throwing for 4,202 yards with 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.
3 of 16Bill Frakes/SI
The 22-year NFL veteran went out with a bang. He earned Pro Bowl honors with the Giants in 2008, at 44. And in 2009 he earned the distinction as the oldest player to win a Super Bowl ring. John Carney was a free agent last summer when Saints kicker Garrett Hartley was suspended before the start of the season. The 45-year-old booted 13 of 17 field goals before Hartley (who was 1 when Carney's NFL career began) returned to the field in December. Carney ended the season as the team's kicking consultant.
4 of 16Todd Kirkland/Icon SMI
Andersen is a member of the NFL's All-Decade teams for both the 1980s and 1990s and a prime candidate to become the second kicking specialist in the Hall of Fame (Jan Stenerud is the lone member). Believe it or not, he produced the most accurate season of his career in 2007, converting 25 of 28 field goals (89.3%) in his 25th NFL campaign. Despite Andersen's career-best accuracy, nobody was willing to take a chance on him in 2008 and he missed his chance to join George Blanda as the only 48-year-old players in NFL history.
5 of 16Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
Doug Flutie knew how to leave an audience begging for more: he departed Boston College with the Heisman Trophy and as the most prolific offensive player in Division 1 history. He was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Player in each of his last two seasons with the Argonauts. He led the Bills to their last playoff appearance in 1999 and, in his last game in Buffalo in 2000, produced the only perfect passer rating in franchise history. And then, during his final play in professional football, Flutie executed the first drop-kicked extra point the NFL had seen in 64 years. Not bad for a 43-year-old who was too short to play quarterback.
6 of 16David E. Klutho/SI
Jerry Rice was the top batterymate for four Pro Bowl quarterbacks (Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jeff Garcia, Rich Gannon), three MVPs (Montana, Young, Gannon) and two Hall of Famers (Montana, Young). And he was still productive with the Raiders at 40, catching 92 passes for 1,211 yards and seven TDs, while the Raiders won the AFC title and MVP Gannon produced what was, by far, his greatest season -- no small feat considering the QB was 37 himself in 2002. It was Rice's last Pro Bowl performance, the first and only by a 40-year-old wide receiver. Rice lingered on two more years with the Raiders and Seahawks before retiring at 42 as the record holder in almost every major receiving category.
7 of 16Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews is one of the great ironmen in NFL history, missing just eight games in 19 seasons with the Oilers/Titans, and not one from 1988 until his retirement in 2001. The 1999 campaign is probably his greatest: Matthews was still in All-Pro form, the Titans went 13-3, Eddie George pounded out 1,304 yards and a Pro Bowl season of his own, and Matthews and his mates allowed pass rushers to take down Tennessee passers just 25 times all year. Most importantly, Matthews and the organization made their one and only Super Bowl appearance, falling just inches shy of a game-tying touchdown in a dramatic loss to the Rams.
8 of 16Walter Iooss Jr., Al Tielemans/SI
The legendary Denver quarterback might always be the standard by which "going out on top" is measured. John Elway and the Broncos earned their first Super Bowl title in 1997, with a victory over the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII. For an encore, Elway produced a career year in 1998, passing for 22 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a career-high 93.0 passer rating for the dominant 14-2 Broncos. Denver rolled the Dolphins and Jets by a combined score 61-13 in two playoff games, setting up a Super Bowl showdown against the 14-2 Falcons. Denver again dominated, 34-19, while Elway earned Super Bowl MVP honors in his last pro football appearance. As the confetti fell, a joyous Elway yelled into the camera, "I'm going to The Villages!"
9 of 16John Biever, Bill Frakes/SI
Between John Elway and Reggie White, the 1998 season should go down as the Year of the Old Man. White, in his 16th year as a pro, produced a season for the aged with an incredible 16.0 sacks and All Pro honors. His effort helped lift the Packers to an 11-5 record and a franchise-record sixth straight postseason appearance. Two years earlier, at 35, White was the No. 1 defender on Green Bay's No. 1-ranked defense, and should have won Super Bowl MVP honors: He recorded three sacks in a 35-21 victory over the Patriots.
10 of 16David Walberg/SI
Warren Moon played until age 44, the end of an incredible 23-year pro career that included six seasons dominating the CFL and 17 putting up gaudy numbers in the NFL. His last effective season came with the Seahawks in 1997. Moon passed for 3,678 yards and 25 touchdowns in 14 games, earning his ninth and final Pro Bowl nod at the age of 41. He's the oldest non-kicking specialist in history to reach the Pro Bowl.
11 of 16AP
The two-time Pro Bowler wasn't his old self by the end of the 1979 season, nor were his four-time conference champ Vikings, who stumbled through their first losing season since 1967. But Jim Marshall was older than any defensive lineman in history, and that itself is quite an accomplishment. Probably the greatest ironman ever to ply his trade in NFL trenches, Marshall started every game for two entire decades, from his rookie year with Cleveland in 1960 through the entire 1979 campaign, a stretch of 282 consecutive contests that's been surpassed only by Brett Favre. Marshall was two weeks shy of his 42nd birthday (Dec. 30) when his final season ended -- 18 months older than the next oldest defensive lineman in league history, Bruce Smith (40 1/2 at the end of his final season).
12 of 16Clifton Boutelle/Getty Images
The undefeated Dolphins won 11 of their 17 games, including playoff games against Cleveland and Pittsburgh, with wrinkly 38-year-old journeyman Earl Morrall at the helm of the offense in place of injured starter Bob Griese. Morrall was incredibly efficient in his role as game manager. He attempted just 17 passes per game, but threw 11 TDs with seven picks, averaged an incredible 9.1 YPA and posted a great-for-the-era 91.0 passer rating. But Don Shula benched him in favor of the 27-year-old Griese before Super Bowl VII, a game in which Miami scored just 14 points, its lowest output of the year. Morrall lasted four more seasons as a Miami back up before retiring at 42.
13 of 16Diamond Images/Getty Images
Lou "The Toe" Groza
Lou Groza and the Browns grew up together. He joined Cleveland as a 22-year-old tackle and kicker in its debut season of 1946, helped it dominate the AAFC with four championships in four years, and then played in six straight NFL title games from 1950-55, winning three of them. Groza kicked the last-second clincher in a 30-28 win over the Rams in the 1950 NFL title game. He and the Browns enjoyed their last hurrah in 1964. Groza, at 40, was a kicking specialist and booted 22 of 33 field goals in 1964, adding two more in Cleveland's 27-0- whitewashing of the Colts in the championship game. It was Cleveland's last championship. Groza held on for three more years, retiring at 43. The Browns appeared in 13 pro football title games with Groza and zero without him.
14 of 16Robert Riger/Getty Images
Papa Bear Halas's amazing career included 40 years as Chicago's head coach -- in four separate 10-year stints. The 1963 season, midway through his final run, was one of his finest hours: the Bears dominated the NFL with an 11-1-2 record while their spectacular defense surrendered a measly 144 points -- 62 points fewer than the league's second-best unit. The Monsters of the Midway proved they were the real deal when they beat senseless Giants record-setting quarterback Y.A. Tittle in the title game and dominated the league's top-ranked offense. Chicago won 14-10. Halas remains the oldest coach in NFL history to win a championship.
15 of 16Neil Leifer/SI
Y.A. Tittle was the ultimate late bloomer, producing his two greatest seasons in 1962 and 1963, well into a pro career that began in 1948. The 1963 campaign remains one of the legendary old-man efforts in history, as the balding-even-beyond-his-years Tittle passed for a then-record 36 touchdowns and an amazing 104.8 passer rating to lead the Giants to an 11-3 record and a showdown with the Bears in the NFL championship game. But the fairy tale season ended in the title tilt: Tittle was beat up badly by the Bears and threw five picks in a 14-10 loss.
16 of 16AP
More than a half century before John Elway, Bronko Nagurski marched off into the sunset an aging two-time champion. Nagurski left football in 1937 but was lured back by the Bears during the talent-starved World War II season of 1943. He delivered in the championship game against the Redskins with a three -yard touchdown run in the second quarter that gave Chicago a 14-7 lead it would never relinquish. The Bears dominated, 41-21, giving Nagurski a pair of bookend titles in his career: He had thrown two touchdowns, including the game-winner, in the very first NFL title tilt in 1933, a 23-21 win over the Giants. (Send comments to email@example.com)
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