Replacing a quarterback takes time

by Gary Shelton on March 3, 2022

in general

How much time will it take to replace Brady?/TIM WIRT

Thursday, 4 a.m.

It sounds easy enough. A great quarterback leaves. A team brings in another great quarterback. Right?

Hey, that's how it worked with San Francisco back in 1991. Future Hall of Famer Joe Montana was traded to Kansas City to make room for future Hall of Famer Steve Young. What could be finer?

Green Bay had it right, too, back in 2008. The Packers traded away Brett Favre (who wouldn't go quietly) to make room for Aaron Rodgers. Sadly, Favre won only one Super Bowl. Sadly, Rodgers has won only one Super Bowl. Go figure.

Oh, and way back in 1950, Rams' Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Waterfield moved aside for Hall of Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin.

Most of the time, however, replacing a great quarterback can take years, even decades. Most of the time, teams go from pedestrian to pretty good quarterbacks, and they don't win, and after a while, they move to the next candidate. Even the good teams, even the smart teams, search in vain for the next guy to be that guy.

Think about this. There are fewer modern-era quarterbacks (26) in the Hall of Fame than there are teams.

So keep that in mind as you listen to the fans argue whether this great quarterback can be had a fairer price than that great quarterback. Hey, the Bucs got lucky in landing Tom Brady. History tells us that the odds are against it happening again.

Consider this: From the time Jim Kelly left the Buffalo Bills, it was 23 years before Buffalo found Josh Allen.

From the time Boomer Esiason left Cincinnati, it was 27 years before Joe Burrow came to town.

After Roger Staubach retired, it took Dallas 10 years to find Troy Aikman.

And that's the thing. Finding the right quarterback is a set of tumblers. The scouts don't always get it right, and the film lies, and another prospect fizzles. Ryan Leafs show up, and they bring along JaMarcus Russell and Heath Shuler and Todd Marinovich and Akili Smith and Matt Leinart and Vince Young and Art Schlichster.

You can argue that the Bucs never really had a great quarterback before Brady. The closest was problably Doug Williams. It took us 38 years, and a lot of heartbreak (Vinny Testaverde, Trent Dilfer, Josh Freeman, Jameis Williams and a cast of dozens) to go from Williams to Brady.

But you can argue that the Jets never have replaced Joe Namath, and the Lions are still chasing the legacy of Bobby Layne, and the Bears still will tell you how good Sid Luckman used to be.

After Bob Griese retired, it took the Dolphins four years to get Dan Marino, who changed the team's offense overnight. But it's been 32 years since Marino left, and the Dolphins still haven't found a quarterback.

It took 21 years for Pittsburgh to go from Terry Bradshaw to Ben Rothlisberger.

It also took 21 years for the Browns to go from Otto Graham to Bernie Kosar, who is not a Hall of Famer. You could argue, in fact, that the Browns have never found another Graham.

It took 13 years for Denver to go from John Elway to Peyton Manning. The last six years have been been a search.

So lend a magnifying glass to the Bucs, who have gone from riches to rags in their quarterback room. Who knows? Maybe they get lucky. Maybe they pick someone's pocket.

Otherwise, it might be a while.

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