The most effective NFL QB comeback seasons


Some longtime starters will try to return to prime kind in 2020. The Lions and Steelers are relying on Matthew Stafford and Ben Roethlisberger, respectively, to bounce again, and Cam Newton awaits a comeback likelihood. The NFL (and AFL) contains a wealthy custom of re-emerging quarterbacks, whether or not they returned from harm, a demotion or a hiatus. Listed here are the most effective quarterback rebound tales.

 

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25. Alex Smith, 2013

Alex Smith, 2013

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This marked Smith’s second comeback. His first got here two years prior, with Jim Harbaugh relaunching the previous No. 1 total decide to start out a 49ers resurgence. However after a concussion derailed a robust Smith begin to 2012, Colin Kaepernick usurped the passer in a season that prolonged to Tremendous Bowl XLVII. A month later, the 49ers traded Smith to the Chiefs. Beneath Andy Reid, the inconsistent passer stabilized his profession. Smith completed 2013 with a 23-7 TD-INT ratio and helped remodel the Chiefs from a 2-14 outfit to an 11-5 squad. This partnership produced 4 playoff berths in 5 seasons.

 

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24. Sonny Jurgensen, 1964

Sonny Jurgensen, 1964

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In his remaining Eagles season (1963), Jurgensen missed a handful of video games because of harm, and he had engaged in a contract dispute with the Eagles a couple of months prior. They shipped him to the Redskins in a uncommon intradivision change of beginning QBs, with Norm Snead going to Philadelphia. After a down ’63 season, Jurgensen responded by making 4 extra Professional Bowls and securing a Corridor of Fame invite. Paired with future Corridor of Fame wideouts Bobby Mitchell and Charley Taylor in Washington, Jurgensen threw 24 TD passes in 1964. 5 of these got here in a win over the Eagles.

 

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23. Y.A. Tittle, 1961

Y.A. Tittle, 1961

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The 49ers starter for practically 9 seasons, Tittle noticed his Bay Space run finish after a 1960 season that featured a groin harm and John Brodie taking his job. After the 49ers dealt Tittle to the Giants for a modest return, the longer term Corridor of Famer revived his profession in New York. Tittle’s greatest Giants seasons got here in 1962 and ’63, however he piloted Massive Blue to the NFL championship recreation and returned to the Professional Bowl in ’61 — regardless of being traded weeks earlier than his age-35 season.

 

Drew Bledsoe, 2002

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The Patriots’ determination to not give Bledsoe his job again after he healed from a scary harm in 2001 was proved proper. However in 2002, the previous starter outshined his alternative. Bledsoe returned to the Professional Bowl for the primary time since 1997 — in a season Tom Brady didn’t obtain a Hawaii invite — and completed second within the league with 4,359 passing yards. His 24 TD tosses additionally outdid Brady. This didn’t result in a chronic revenge measure, because it was the longtime Patriot’s remaining Professional Bowl slate, or a Payments resurgence. They went 8-8. However 2002 did present Bledsoe was removed from completed.

 

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21. Tom Brady, 2009

Tom Brady, 2009

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Brady’s second act started after Chiefs security Bernard Pollard barreled into the Patriot icon’s leg in Week 1 of the 2008 season, resulting in a torn ACL. Months after the Pats shipped their ’08 starter, Matt Cassel, to Kansas Metropolis, Brady reemerged. He has not missed a recreation because of harm since. Whereas 2009 was not the longer term Corridor of Famer’s greatest 12 months — a 28-TD, 13-INT slate that ended with a blowout loss to the Ravens in Spherical 1 — he did throw a file 5 landing passes in 1 / 4 in a 59-Zero snow-game romp and confirmed he had a lot left within the tank. 

 

Michael Vick, 2010

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Vick in 2010 reminded the soccer world of his all-time abilities. Not all comebacks are equally celebrated; this one got here after the previous Falcon’s two years in jail. The Eagles signed Vick to again up Donovan McNabb in 2009, and he took the reins after 2010’s McNabb commerce. Vick began 12 video games, threw 21 TD passes and simply six INTs — whereas dashing for 676 yards and 9 extra scores — and led the Eagles to the playoffs. Though this was Vick’s remaining Professional Bowl season, he accounted for six TDs in opposition to Washington and piloted a memorable comeback win in New York. 

 

Chad Pennington, 2008

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Pennington is the lone two-time NFL Comeback Participant of the 12 months, profitable the award in 2006 as nicely. He confronted larger odds two years later. After a 2007 ankle harm, Pennington went 1-7 as in his remaining Jets season. Gang Inexperienced benched him and waited till August 2008 to chop him, after buying Brett Favre. A day later, the Dolphins signed their longtime rival. Regardless of the late arrival, Pennington led the Dolphins to an 11-5 season and their solely AFC East title since Tom Brady’s debut. The 32-year-old passer paced the NFL with a 67 % completion charge and received 11 video games for the one time in his profession.

 

Jimmy Garoppolo, 2019

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Garoppolo did play a supporting function behind the 49ers protection throughout the common season and behind Raheem Mostert en path to Tremendous Bowl LIV, however 2019 was his first 12 months as a full-time starter. And it got here after one other delay — a 2018 ACL tear. The previous Patriot began all 19 49ers video games, ending with a 27-13 TD-INT ratio, and performed nicely in pivotal highway wins over the playoff-bound Saints — outdueling Drew Brees in a late-season basic — and Seahawks to safe home-field benefit for Santa Clara. 

 

Trent Dilfer, 2000

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Dilfer’s lone Ravens season is remembered for the previous top-10 decide driving the coattails of a defining NFL protection, however that protection was on the verge of being squandered as starter Tony Banks struggled on the midseason mark. A damaged collarbone ended Dilfer’s six-year Buccaneers profession in November 1999; his backup — Shaun King — led the crew to the NFC title recreation. Dilfer changing Banks 11 months later catalyzed the Ravens. Dilfer went 11-1 as a starter and delivered an upper-class game-management seminar, staying out of the way in which whereas Baltimore’s protection secured a Tremendous Bowl championship.

 

Jim Plunkett, 1980

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The opposite non-Professional Bowl Tremendous Bowl champion on this listing, Plunkett toiled in obscurity longer than Dilfer. A former Patriots No. 1 total decide, Plunkett washed out in New England and San Francisco. Backing up Ken Stabler in Oakland, he was off the radar from 1978-79. However an harm to new Raiders starter Dan Pastorini introduced in Plunkett. The 1970 Heisman winner was not often spectacular, however he threw seven playoff TD passes and received highway video games in Cleveland and in opposition to a loaded San Diego crew earlier than tossing three TDs within the Raiders’ Tremendous Bowl XV victory. 

 

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15. Bobby Layne, 1958

Bobby Layne, 1958

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Quarterback for the Lions’ back-to-back championship groups in 1952 and ’53, Layne fell out of favor with the franchise by 1958. The hard-partying QB, although, overcame a extreme harm at a time when that was fairly tough. Layne broke his leg in three locations throughout the ’57 season and watched Tobin Rote safe one other Lions title. Detroit traded Layne to Pittsburgh in September 1958. An irked Layne could or could not have positioned a curse on the Lions, however he did some forgotten work with the Steelers. En path to the Professional Bowl, Layne guided the Steelers to a 7-2-1 mark. The Lions have received one playoff recreation because the commerce.

 

Roger Staubach, 1973

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Staubach guided the Cowboys to their first Tremendous Bowl title in 1971 however misplaced his job a 12 months later when he separated a shoulder throughout the preseason. Tom Landry caught with Craig Morton in 1972. However after a Staubach off-the-bench comeback in that 12 months’s playoffs, Landry ended Morton’s QB1 days in ’73. Starting a seven-year run as Dallas’ starter, Staubach led the NFL in TD passes (23), yards per try (8.5) and passer score (94.6). The Cowboys went 10-Four and superior to the NFC title recreation.  

 

Deshaun Watson, 2018

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Whereas not a particular Texans season, the 2018 slate confirmed they’ve a franchise quarterback. Not solely did Watson begin 16 video games following an ACL tear — his second such harm — however the second-year quarterback additionally took 62 sacks. No QB had absorbed that many since Jon Kitna in 2006. Nonetheless, the dual-threat Texan pilot accounted for 31 touchdowns (26 passing) and 4,716 yards (551 dashing) whereas lifting the Texans from 4-12 in 2017 to the AFC South crown a 12 months later. 

 

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12. Tobin Rote, 1963

Tobin Rote, 1963

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A 1950 Packers draftee and fill-in starter for the champion 1957 Lions, Rote returned to the NFL after three CFL seasons. He rebounded after a dreadful five-TD cross, 19-INT season with the ’59 Lions. The Chargers acquired the 35-year-old QB in 1963, and he served as a bridge to the youthful John Hadl. Stated bridge season ended with the one championship in Chargers historical past. The Rote-Sid Gillman Bolts steamrolled the Patriots, 51-10, in a masterfully crafted AFL title recreation, doing so after the previous submitted an All-Professional season. Rote stayed yet another season in San Diego earlier than retiring.

 

Dan Marino, 1994

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A torn Achilles halfway by means of the 1993 season halted Marino’s near-decade-long run because the NFL’s most prolific quarterback. However Miami’s flagship athlete was again by Week 1 in 1994. He instantly confirmed the Dolphins didn’t have to fret about their golden ticket being misplaced, throwing for 473 yards and tossing 5 landing passes in a Week 1 shootout win over the Patriots. Marino reinstalled the Dolphins as a playoff crew and returned to the Professional Bowl after a 30-TD cross season. The Dolphins have been a missed area aim away from the AFC championship recreation, marring a high quality Marino postseason.

 

Drew Brees, 2006

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Brees didn’t miss any video games in 2005, however the torn labrum he suffered in Week 17 that 12 months modified his profession path. The Chargers moved on with Philip Rivers, sending Brees to free company. The Dolphins’ medical workers was iffy on Brees’ shoulder, and the Saints landed possibly essentially the most impactful free agent in NFL historical past. In 2006, Brees and Sean Payton turned a 3-13 crew coping with the Hurricane Katrina aftermath right into a 10-6 outfit that soared to the NFC title recreation. This was Brees’ solely first-team All-Professional season. It’s higher remembered for uplifting a metropolis and altering the trajectory of a moribund franchise.

 

Andrew Luck, 2018

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Luck’s shoulder harm gutted the Colts in 2017. The previous No. 1 total decide spent nearly 18 months rehabbing a career-threatening setback. He didn’t resume throwing till June 2018. However Luck returned to start out the ’18 season. The Colts instantly recovered, making the playoffs after a 4-12 2017 slate. Luck threw a non-Patrick Mahomes-high 39 TD passes, making his first Professional Bowl since 2014 and guiding Indianapolis to its first playoff win since that 12 months as nicely. Whereas this comeback didn’t stick, with Luck retiring in 2019, he battled a lot to return for this remaining season.

 

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8. Jim McMahon, 1985

Jim McMahon, 1985

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McMahon’s accidents did nicely to derail a would-be dynasty, however the brash passer’s 1985 season will dwell on so long as soccer does. Earlier than a run of dangerous breaks befell the Bears quarterback post-’85, “The Punky QB” recovered from a lacerated kidney that sidelined him halfway by means of the ’84 season. All he did in ’85 was go 14-Zero as Chicago’s starter — lacking time due to harm — lead the NFL’s No. 2-ranked offense to make his solely Professional Bowl, common 12.Eight yards per try in these storied Bears’ Tremendous Bowl XX coronation and sing lead within the iconic “Tremendous Bowl Shuffle” video. 

 

Joe Montana, 1993

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Leonard Marshall’s punishing hit on the then-MVP quarterback within the 1990 NFC championship recreation, shelved him for the 1991 season. By the point Montana returned, Steve Younger — the 1992 MVP — had seized the 49ers’ QB job. However the supplanted celebrity bounced again after two years off, main the Chiefs to their first AFC title recreation. Montana, 37 that season, missed 5 video games however made the Professional Bowl and steered Kansas Metropolis to 2 comeback playoff wins. Though he couldn’t end mentioned AFC title recreation due to one other harm, Montana’s two-year Okay.C. keep enhanced his declare as the best ever.

 

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6. Earl Morrall, 1968

Earl Morrall, 1968

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The No. 2 total decide within the 1956 draft, Morrall loved sporadic success in a journeyman profession. He made the Professional Bowl with the 1958 Steelers and performed nicely as a full-time starter with the ’65 Giants. However he rode the bench for a lot of the following two seasons. A Johnny Unitas preseason harm, nonetheless, arrange an all-time comeback. After being traded for a fourth time, Morrall surprised the NFL world by profitable the 1968 MVP Award and guiding the Colts to Tremendous Bowl III. Morrall threw an NFL-most 26 TD passes. Whereas the 34-year-old QB’s run stalled in opposition to the Jets, his work with Don Shula opened the door to eight extra NFL seasons.

 

George Blanda, 1960

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Amid a several-act profession — the longest in NFL historical past — Blanda didn’t begin a recreation at quarterback between 1955-59. The Bears starter within the early 1950s, Blanda served as Chicago’s kicker within the years that adopted. He retired after the ’58 season however returned to play quarterback within the AFL in 1960. He shook off the rust nicely, commanding a high-octane offense. Though superior Blanda statistical seasons occurred in 1962 and ’63, his re-emergence at age 33 propelled Houston to the AFL’s first title. The Oilers received once more the following 12 months.

 

Carson Palmer, 2015

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The oldest NFL franchise has received greater than 11 video games in a season as soon as. Palmer acquired the 2015 Cardinals to 13 wins, getting back from his second ACL tear to take action. Palmer’s 2014 harm doomed a gifted Playing cards crew, however he resurfaced to throw 35 TD passes and lead the NFL in QBR a 12 months later. The ex-Bengal made his first Professional Bowl in 9 years and completed because the 2015 MVP runner-up. And whereas Aaron Rodgers’ highlights from a divisional-round basic endure, Palmer’s 349-yard, three-touchdown night time lifted Arizona to victory. 

 

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3. Ken Anderson, 1981

Ken Anderson, 1981

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Not solely was the 13-year Bengals starter restricted by accidents in 1980, however he additionally was benched throughout a comeback win in Week 1 of the ’81 season. Anderson responded with a masterful stretch, profitable MVP honors and taking the Bengals to their first Tremendous Bowl. Main the NFL in yards per try (8.1), the previous Invoice Walsh disciple secured a gathering together with his former mentor in Tremendous Bowl XVI by outplaying Dan Fouts within the “Freezer Bowl” AFC championship recreation. Though Walsh’s new disciple (Joe Montana) prevailed within the larger recreation, Anderson threw for 300 yards and accomplished 74 % of his throws that day.

 

Randall Cunningham, 1998

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Cunningham’s run because the NFL’s most electrical participant cooled after season-ending accidents in 1991 and ’93 and ended when the Eagles benched him in ’95. He sat out 1996 however got here out of retirement in ’97. Although Cunningham led the Vikings to a playoff win that 12 months, he was again on the bench to start out ’98. After one other Brad Johnson harm, the 35-year-old QB grew to become an All-Professional. Working as a pure passer — with Randy Moss and Cris Carter at his disposal — the ex-scrambling demon threw 34 TD passes and helped the 15-1 Vikings set the NFL scoring file. A playoff upset denied Cunningham a Tremendous Bowl shot, however he redefined his profession that season.

 

Peyton Manning, 2012

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Manning’s Denver chapter featured a bodily diminished quarterback. However after his 2011 absence, 4 neck surgical procedures and a tough half on a Week 2 Monday night time in at Atlanta, the ex-Colt was again on prime. This was Manning’s transforming 12 months, with the weaker-armed passer determining his new limitations on the fly. After the Broncos’ 24-point comeback throughout their subsequent Monday night time recreation, Manning helped them craft an 11-game win streak. The 36-year-old passer earned his QB-record sixth All-Professional honor, throwing 37 TD passes and main the NFL in completion proportion. This laid the groundwork for a record-setting 2013.

Sam Robinson is a Kansas Metropolis, Mo.-based author who largely writes concerning the NFL. He has lined sports activities for practically 10 years. Boxing, the Royals and Pandora stations that includes feminine rock protagonists are a few of his go-tos. Often attention-grabbing tweets @SRobinson25.





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