Quitting a Hall of Famer cold turkey: how teams have handled losing their franchise QB

Listen, there’s no other way to put it – losing a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback SUCKS. Whether Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill take the first snap for the New Orleans Saints next year, it will be the first without Drew Brees since 2006. I wanted to see what the transition has been like for other teams that were put into a similar predicament: losing their Hall of Fame quality longtime starting quarterbacks.

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Head Coach: Bill Belichick

Last year with Tom Brady: 2019

Did they make the playoffs in Brady’s last year: Yes

First playoff appearance without Brady: N/A

Replacement for the year after: Cam Newton

How they acquired his replacement: Signed in free agency the year after

Record the year after Brady: 7-9

This one is fresh in our minds, for good reason. Tom Brady is most people’s GOAT, so him leaving his team was a recent BIG deal. The last year with Brady ended in the playoffs, with a loss to Tennessee.

The first year without Tom Brady did not go as Patriots fans would have wanted. People were unhappy with how Cam Newton performed, but there were other question marks surrounding the team. The defense was middle of the road, and there were not very many options on offense for Newton to work with. The rushing offense actually very much improved, finishing top 5 in the NFL and improving yards per attempt by .9 yards. Those things, and of course the whole COVID throwing off the off-season, pre-season, and obviously the regular season. Now, the Patriots have drafted Mac Jones and we await to see if he is the answer and can bring them back to the playoffs.

Philadelphia Eages v New York Giants

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Head Coach: switched from Pat Shurmur to Joe Judge after Eli left

Last year with Eli Manning: 2019

Did they make the playoffs in Manning’s last year: No

First playoff appearance without Manning: N/A

Replacement for the year after: Daniel Jones

How they acquired his replacement: Drafted Daniel Jones the year before Manning left

Record the year after Manning: 6-10

In Daniel Jones’ first full year without Manning on the roster, he improved the record by 2 wins. It may not look like the most promising on the outside, but the Giants have promise. Jones had the ability to learn a little bit from Manning, much like Winston has in the last year with Brees. The Giants could make the playoffs soon if the new additions this year live up to potential. A one year turnaround from Eli to playoffs would ideal. Most likely though, they will have to wait a little longer. This is a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2016 to be fair, have to manage their expectations.

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts

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Head Coach: switched from Jim Caldwell to Chuck Pagano after Peyton left

Last year with Peyton Manning: 2011

Did they make the playoffs in Manning’s last year: No

First playoff appearance without Manning: Wildcard in 2012, Made it fully in 2013

Replacement for the year after: Andrew Luck

How they acquired his replacement: Drafted the off-season Manning left

Record the year after Manning: 11-5

This was a weird situation, but ended up working out great for the Colts. Manning’s last year was 2011, but he had surgery and didn’t play the entire season. The Colts ended up having the worst record in the NFL and was able to draft Andrew Luck. Who, of course, was an all-time prospect. They immediately made the the wild card in his first year and the rebuild was pretty much non-existent. There was a lot of roster and management turnover in this situation, to an extent that we will probably not see should the Saints season not go well. Good for the Colts, but I don’t see many parallels to draw to the Saints situation here.

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Head Coach: Mike McCarthy

Last year with Brett Favre: 2007

Did they make the playoffs in Favre’s last year: Yes

First playoff appearance without Favre: Wildcard in 2009, Won Super Bowl in 2010

Replacement for the year after: Aaron Rodgers

How they acquired his replacement: Drafted in 2005

Record the year after Manning: 6-10

The obvious comparison to draw is between Aaron Rodgers and Taysom Hill. None of us expect Taysom to turn into an Aaron Rodgers quality quarterback, but they both had YEARS to sit behind a Hall of Fame quarterback before being handed the keys. Unfortunately for Taysom, I doubt that he would be given the opportunity to miss the playoffs and still stay the QB. Again, a year one turnaround from Favre to playoffs is not bad at all.

Consistency between coaching staff and front office was present for the Packers from the end of Favres tenure to the turnaround back to playoffs, similar to what we would expect in New Orleans.

FBN-COWBOYS-REDSKINS-AIKMAN

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Head Coach: Dave Campo

Last year with Troy Aikman: 2000

Did they make the playoffs in Aikman’s last year: No

First playoff appearance without Aikman: Wildcard in 2003, Made fully in 2007

Replacement for the year after: Quarterback Carousel

How they acquired his replacement: Various

Record the year after Aikman: 5-11

The main thing we can draw from this is the situation of quarterback carousel. They couldn’t find a definitive starter before the season started and ending up having Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, Anthony Wright, and Clint Stoerner all competing throughout the season. They couldn’t find a starter. Quincy Carter was a recent draft pick so he got another chance, but ended up losing his job to UDFA Chad Hutchinson in 2002. They signed Tony Romo as a UDFA in 2003, but didn’t end up having him as their fulltime starter until 2006. This is not a recipe for success. It would be ideal for the Saints to find confidence in a starter before the season, to avoid a mid-season carousel. This is a bad scenario for the Saints, and the groundwork for the start is currently there in New Orleans.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young (C) dr

Photo credit should read JOHN G. MABANGLO/AFP via Getty Images

Head Coach: Steve Mariucci

Last year with Steve Young: 1998

Did they make the playoffs in Young’s last year: Yes

First playoff appearance without Young: Wildcard in 2001, Made fully in 2002

Replacement for the year after: Jeff Garcia

How they acquired his replacement: Signed out of Canadian Football League in 1999

Record the year after Manning: 4-12

The main thing to point at here would be Jeff Garcia and Jameis Winston. Free agents who were brought in and had 4 years of starting QB experience. 4 successful years in the CFL and 4 up and down years in the NFL are not the same thing, but the comparison is there. Garcia was initially brought in to be the backup to Young, but due to injury he had to step in and start. He was their starter until he was released after the 2003 season. Again, we see a short turnaround and they made the playoffs 3 years after losing Young. However, the 49ers didn’t start getting regular playoff appearances until the early 2010s. This is, like ,a middle of the road hope scenario for the New Orleans Saints.

Buffalo Bills v Pittsburgh Steelers

Head Coach: Marv Levy

Last year with Jim Kelly: 1996

Did they make the playoffs in Kelly’s last year: Yes

First playoff appearance without Kelly: Wildcard in 1999, Made it fully in 2020

Replacement for the year after: Todd Collins

How they acquired his replacement: Drafted in 1995

Record the year after Kelly: 6-10

If the 3 year San Francisco playoff wait was bad for you, this is the nightmare scenario. Sorry we aren’t ending on a high note, but if we’re trying to find positives, it will be HARD to do worse than the Bills did in getting back into contention. I love where they are at currently, but it took them 14 years to get back into looking like they had a shot. There was a revolving door of QBs, coaches, and GMs during this tenure. That is not a recipe for success. While the Saints don’t have a clear QB, it doesn’t look like Sean Payton (sorry Dallas) or Mickey Loomis are going anywhere any time soon.

Conclusions

Now, every situation is different of course, however the New Orleans Saints can certainly take a look at the failures and successes of these teams for guidance.

Saints fans have been spoiled since 2006. We want to be back at the top right now, the roster is good enough to be back there immediately. Realistically, based on history, the Saints should be happy if the rebuild from Drew Brees takes a year of not contending. Ideally it leans closer to that than to the last 14 years of Buffalo Bills football.


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