Becoming a star in the National Football League is no easy task. That being said, those players who are fortunate enough to make a name for themselves are often seen as the kings of the cities they represent. This is especially true when it comes to quarterbacks – the most high-profile position in the NFL.
Try and find a Denver Broncos fan that has something bad to say about John Elway – it won’t happen. Looking for a Pittsburgh native who doesn’t love former Super Bowl winning QB Terry Bradshaw is an exercise in futility. In many NFL cities, more people can name their team's starting quarterback than those who can name a city representative – that’s the sort of notoriety that many of these players are able to achieve.
However, interestingly enough, a good number of the league’s most beloved quarterbacks haven’t finished their careers in the cities where they first rose to prominence.
As many football card collectors know, it’s a strange feeling when one comes across a card that shows a franchise QB – often near the end of their career – wearing the jersey of a team that most fans forgot they ever played for. With that in mind, we are going to take a look at 20 franchise quarterbacks who finished their careers in a jersey that some likely won’t remember them ever wearing. Many of the entries on our list are guaranteed to have readers saying, “I forgot he ever played there.”
So, now it’s time to find out exactly who these QBs are!
20 Joe Montana (Chiefs)
From 1979 to 1992 “Joe Cool” played for the San Fransico 49ers. He was a two-time NFL MVP (1989, 1990) who helped his team win four Super Bowl Championships. The Hall of Famer is widely considered one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. He is also a beloved figure in San Francisco, where he spent the majority of his career.
While it may be hard to picture Joe Montana playing for anyone besides the Niners, he actually finished his career as a Kansas City Chief. The legendary QB spent two seasons (1993, 1994) in KC and led the Chiefs to the playoffs both years – before calling it quits in April of 1995.
19 Brett Favre (Vikings)
At one point or another, Brett Favre has held just about every NFL record at the quarterback position. The 11-time Pro Bowler spent the majority of his lengthy career in Green Bay. In fact, Favre was Packer from 1992 to 2007. After leading the Pack to victory at Super Bowl XXXI – the Southern Miss alum became a legend in the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
As some folks will recall, Favre’s career didn’t end in Wisconsin. After briefly retiring, he played one season (2008) as a member of the New York Jets – before signing with Vikings the following year. Favre would finish his career playing for the Packer's rival, before retiring for good in 2010.
18 Daunte Culpepper (Lions)
In the 1999 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings selected a quarterback out of the University of Central Florida with the 11th overall pick – Daunte Culpepper. Culpepper would go on to have an excellent run in Minnesota playing alongside star wide receiver Randy Moss. During his time as a Viking, Culpepper became a three-time Pro Bowler. His best season came in 2004 when he threw for a league-leading 4,717 yards and a whopping 39 touchdowns.
Culpepper would sustain a knee injury in 2005 and never quite regained his form. He went on to have forgettable stints with Miami and Oakland respectively, before spending his final two seasons (2008, 2009) struggling as a member of the Detroit Lions.
17 Jake Delhomme (Houston Texans)
After making a name for himself in NFL Europe, Delhomme went on to become the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers. He was the man in Carolina from 2003-2009 and even lead the franchise to their only Super Bowl appearance (XXXVIII) – a game they would end up losing to the New England Patriots. His best season was 2004 when he threw for 3,886 yards and 29 touchdowns.
After a very poor 2009 season that was cut short by a season-ending injury, Delhomme was released by the Panthers. The former Pro Bowler would go on to play in five games for the Cleveland Browns in 2010. 2011 would be his final season in the league; he would play in just one game as a Houston Texan.
16 Jay Cutler (Dolphins)
Jay Cutler was the 11th overall pick by the Denver Broncos in the 2006 NFL Draft. Despite the fact that his best season (2008) was in Denver, Cutler is most commonly associated with Chicago Bears. The one-time Pro Bowler spent a total of eight seasons (2009-2016) in the “Windy City.” The Bears gave two first round picks to acquire Cutler’s services. Unfortunately, for Bears fans at least, Cutler was never able to live up to the lofty expectations that were heaped upon him and was not a beloved figure in the city. The Bears made only one playoff appearance during Cutler’s tenure with the team.
After Dolphins starter Ryan Tannehill went down in 2017, Miami signed a retired Jay Cutler, in a failed attempt to salvage their season.
15 Jay Fiedler (Jets)
One can certainly debate as for whether or not Jay Fiedler was a “franchise quarterback” in the truest sense of the word. After all, he finished his career having thrown almost as many interceptions (66) as he did touchdowns (69). That being said, he was the starter for the Miami Dolphins from 2000 to 2004 and managed to help the team regularly win 10+ games during that time span, along with two AFC East titles (2000, 2001).
After a lackluster 2004 campaign, the Dolphins decided not to re-sign Fiedler. In 2005, he signed with Jets as a backup to Chad Pennington. He played his last regular season game in a Jets uniform – though he was a member of the Buccaneers during the 2006 preseason – before ultimately being released.
14 Aaron Brooks (Oakland)
Retired quarterback Aaron Brooks was a member of the New Orleans Saints. He was the team's starter from 2000 to 2005. In his prime, Brooks was a solid QB who probably didn’t get enough credit outside of New Orleans. His best season was 2003 – a year that saw the University of Virginia alum thrown for 3,546 yards, 24 touchdowns, and just 8 interceptions.
After struggling in 2005, Brooks was benched in favor of Todd Bouman. Bouman would be replaced the following season by a familiar name in Drew Brees. As for Brooks, he would go on play one final season (2006), where he struggled as the Raiders' starting QB for eight games.
13 Warren Moon (Chiefs)
Warren Moon made history twice, by becoming the first African-American quarterback and the first undrafted QB to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame – an honor he received in 2006. The nine-time Pro Bowler spent the majority of his career with the Houston Oilers (1984 to 1993). During his stint in Houston, Moon was in the NFL passing yards leader in both 1990 and 1991 respectively.
Some fans will probably remember that Moon also spent three seasons in Minnesota (1994-1996) and played well in 1995, in particular. However, less memorable were his days as a Seattle Seahawk (1997 & 1998) and his final two seasons as a backup in Kansas City.
12 Trent Green (Rams)
Several years before Patrick Mahomes emerged on the scène, Trent Green came out of nowhere to become the starting quarterback in Kansas City. During his time with the Chiefs, Green managed to make a couple of Pro Bowl appearances in 2003 and 2005. The eighth round pick also led Kansas City to the postseason on multiple occasions during his time there (2001-2006).
After an injury-plagued and disappointing 2006 campaign, the Chiefs traded Green to the Dolphins. Green would also struggle in Miami and was released after just one season. 2008 would end up being his final season – playing in just three games for the Rams that year.
11 Don Majkowski (Lions)
While he isn’t as beloved by Packers fans as guys like Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Quarterback Don Majkowski has a solid career for someone who entered the NFL with so little fanfare. He was with the team from 1987 through 1992. The 10th-round pick had his best season in 1989 when he became the NFL passing yards leader that year ( with 4,318). His impressive '89 campaign also earned him his first (and only) trip to the Pro Bowl.
He would end up sustaining an ankle injury in 1992 and was replaced by future Hall of Famer Brett Favre. Majkowski played for four more seasons as a backup for the Colts and Lions respectively.
10 Donovan McNabb (Vikings)
Quarterback Donovan McNabb spent 11 seasons as a member of a member of the Philadelphia Eagles (1999-2009). During his time in Philly, the Syracuse standout established himself as the greatest QB in Eagles franchise history. The six-time Pro Bowl selection would throw for over 30,000 yards and 200 touchdowns throughout his career – the majority of which he spent as an Eagle. He also led his team to Super Bowl XXXIX, where they would end up being defeated by the New England Patriots.
In 2010, the Eagles traded McNabb to the Redskins for a second-round pick. He would start 12 games for the Skins, before being benched. The QB played one last season (2011) for the Vikings, where he started just six games – eventually losing his job to Christian Ponder.
9 Drew Bledsoe (Cowboys)
Drew Bledsoe was selected by the New England Patriot with the first overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft. He would go on have an excellent career in New England, which lasted from 1993-2001. He was a four-time Pro Bowler who was a member of the team that won Super Bowl XXXVI, though Tom Brady was the starter for most of the season (including the Super Bowl)
In 2001, his final year with Patriots, Bledsoe suffered an injury early on and was replaced by Tom Brady, who ran away with the starting job. He went on to play for three years in Buffalo (2002-2004) and enjoyed modest success. His last two seasons were sent in Dallas, where he once again lost his job to another then-unheralded up-and-comer by the name of Tony Romo.
8 Joe Namath (Rams)
Joe Namath is a Hall of Fame quarterback that spent almost his entire career (1965-1976) with the New York Jets. He is perhaps best known for helping the team win (and becoming the MVP of ) Super Bowl III. Joe Namath is so synonymous with the state of New York that he was even given the nickname “Broadway Joe.”
Though not many folks remember it these days, Joe Namath actually spent his final season (1977) in the NFL as a member of the Los Angeles Rams. He would lose his starting job in Los Angeles after just four games and retire at the end of the season.
7 Chad Pennington (Dolphins)
Quarterback Chad Pennington was a former first-round draft pick out of Marshall. He was drafted by (and spent most of his career with) the New York Jets. He played eight seasons with the Jets and was the team's primary quarterback for the majority of his tenure there. Though his numbers were never particularly impressive, Pennington helped the Jets make three postseason appearances in 2002, 2004, and 2006.
The two-time Comeback Player of the Year was released by the Jets following the 2007 season. He would then be signed by the Miami Dolphins. He helped take Miami to the playoff in 2008, in what was arguably the best season of this career. However, he couldn’t build on his 2008 success and battled a shoulder injury for the next 2 season, which ultimately cost him his career.
6 Michael Vick (Steelers)
Micheal Vick spent his best years with the Atlanta Falcons (2001-2008). He is a four-time Pro Bowler who holds the NFL records for rushing yards by a quarterback – both the single season and career. In his prime, he was considered one of the most exciting players in the game, due in part to his ability to make plays with his feet. However, off-field issues cost him two seasons in the prime of his career.
When he returned from suspension, Vick signed with the Eagles and even won Comeback Player of the Year in 2010. He spent his final two seasons with Jets and Steelers respectively, then retired in 2017.
5 Jim McMahon (Packers)
Though he played for several teams over the course of his career, most people remember Jim McMahon as the offensive leader of the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears. He helped the Bears win Super Bowl XX and was with the organization from 1982 until 1988. Though he ever posted particularly eye-popping numbers, McMahon was named to the Pro Bowl in 1986.
After having a falling out with Chicago’s head coach, Mike Ditka, McMahon was traded to the Chargers in 1989. He would also end up playing for the Eagles, Vikings, and Cardinals, but never did much for any of them. Bears fans would probably like to forget that McMahon finished his career as a Green Bay Packer. He even won another Super Bowl championship (XXI) as Brett Favre’s backup, though he didn’t actually play in the game.
4 Marc Bulger (Ravens)
Marc Bulger is best known for being the St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams starting quarterback. He helped the team make postseason runs in 2003 and 2004, as the team's leader on offense. Bulger also made two Pro Bowl appearances in 2003 and 2006. His entire tenure with the Rams lasted from 2001 through the 2009 season.
In 2009, the Rams decided to part ways with Bulger after a couple of lackluster seasons. The following year (2010), he ended up signing a one-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens. Bulger never played a regular season snap with Ravens and spent his final year in the NFL as Joe Flacco’s backup.
3 Matt Hasselbeck (Colts)
Boston College alum Matt Hasselbeck made a name for himself playing for the Seattle Seahawks from 2001-2010. While playing with the Seahawks, he became a three-time Pro Bowler who helped his team make an impressive six playoff appearances. Hasselback even led the team to Super Bowl XL, where they would end being defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Following the 2010 season – to the surprise of many Seahawks fans – the team decided not to re-sign Hasselbeck. Instead, he would sign a three-year deal with the Titans worth around $21 million. He had modest success his first year with the Titans but was injured in 2012 and released that same year. He spent his last two season with the Colts, both mentoring and serving as the backup to Andrew Luck.
2 Steve McNair (Ravens)
Steve McNair has the distinction of being the Tennesee’s Titans' first franchise quarterback. He was selected by the Houston Oilers (who later became the Titans) with the third overall pick of the 1995 NFL Draft. The three-time Pro Bowler won the National Football League's Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in 2003. He is arguably best known for his appearance in Super Bowl XXXIV – a game his team lost in dramatic fashion to the St. Louis Rams.
In 2006, McNair was traded to the Baltimore Ravens, where he would spend the last 2 seasons of his career. He led the Ravens to the playoffs in his first season with the team. However, he would end up losing his starting job the following year and retired prior to the 2008 season.
1 Johnny Unitas (Chargers)
Johnny Unitas is a name that’s synonymous with the Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts franchise; a team which he played for from 1956-1972. During his career, “Johnny U” was named the league's most valuable player on three sperate occasions – in 1959, 1964, and 1967. The 10-time Pro Bowler helped win three NFL Championships (pre-Super Bowl) and Super Bowl V – when the Colts defeated Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys.
Well past his prime; Unitas was traded to the San Diego Chargers in 1973. He struggled through five games with Chargers and was eventually replaced by another Hall of Fame quarterback by the name of Dan Fouts.