NFL Stars Who Had Shocking Career Revivals

Darren - October 18, 2023

NFL Stars Who Had Shocking Career Revivals

Darren - October 18, 2023

On average, NFL careers typically last for about four years. Keeping that in mind, it’s extremely difficult for a player to make a comeback if they have a couple of bad seasons or get hurt badly. NFL execs show no mercy when it comes to making roster cuts. But some NFL stars underwent shocking career revivals that continue to inspire.

Today we’ll look at these dramatic stories and see how they overcame the odds to return to NFL glory. From Jared Goff to Steve Young, these are fascinating tales. Check them out here.

Fox News

Jared Goff

Former Los Angeles Ram Goff is currently enjoying one of the best career revivals ever. The 2016 first-overall pick led the Rams to a Super Bowl appearance. But he never convinced coach Sean McVay that he was their long-term answer. Finally, the Rams traded him and several draft picks to the Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford.

San Diego Union-Tribune

Detroit offensive coordinator Ben Johnson deserves immense credit because he transformed Goff’s fortunes. In 2023, he led the Lions to their best start in many years because he was playing so well. Many people thought Goff would simply be a placeholder but he appears to be their franchise QB (via USA Today).

Sporting News

Tim Tebow

Not all of the career revivals on this list lasted long. Tebow was one of the NFL’s most polarizing quarterbacks during his time with the Broncos. In the end, he crashed out of the football world and joined the New York Mets. That was the last we expected to see of him.


But Urban Meyer had other ideas and lured him back to practice camp in 2021. He offered his former Florida star the chance to compete for a tight end position. Meyer received criticism for turning the camp into a circus. Finally, the Jaguars cut Tebow (via Bleacher Report).

Fox Sports

Randy Moss

Moss had one of the most exciting career revivals when he joined the Patriots in 2007. The disillusioned wide receiver fell into a malaise in his final season in Oakland. Injuries affected his playing form and he admitted that he wasn’t in the best place mentally (via The Week).


However, he turned everything around when Bill Belichick brought him to Foxborough. Moss won the Comeback Player of the Year Award after leading the NFL in touchdowns again. He probably should have had a Super Bowl win too but the Giants beat the undefeated Patriots.

CBS Sports

Tom Brady

Brady’s inclusion on this list may raise some eyebrows. But he underwent one of the most iconic career revivals when he joined Tampa Bay. This came after the Titans sent the Patriots packing in the Wild Card round. Brady left New England with a whimper as he threw a pick-six on his final pass attempt as a NEw England Patriot.


Many people immediately wrote him off and said he was too old. They didn’t think he’d adapt to a new scheme in Tampa Bay and believed he was looking for a final payday. In the end, Brady guided the Buccaneers to Super Bowl glory in their home stadium (via Sportskeeda).

New York Times

Adrian Peterson

Peterson is one of the greatest running backs ever and overcame adversity along the way. One of the most incredible parts of his impressive career was when he bounced back from injury in 2012. An ACL and MCL tear brought the previous season to an early end for him.

Sky Sports

Most running backs take over a year to recover from ligament injuries and are never the same again. However, Peterson made a mockery of this when he started the new season and almost broke the rushing yards record. He won the MVP award for his efforts in a magnificent year (via Deadspin).

Sky Sports

Rob Gronkowski

‘Gronk’ is another player who underwent one of the most dramatic career revivals ever. The Patriots icon was one of the best tight ends of his generation. He formed a brilliant relationship with Tom Brady and was one of Bill Belichick’s favorite players. But he finally retired at 29 because of the toll football took on his body.


Nonetheless, this wasn’t the last that fans saw of him. Gronkowski couldn’t resist the temptation to rejoin Brady in Florida. He joined his old comrade and helped the franchise to a glorious Super Bowl victory. This sealed the fourth ring of his storied career and an amazing return (via Fox News).

Inside Hook

Reggie Bush

Many rookies struggle to replicate their college success in the NFL. That’s what happened to Bush when he joined the Saints. The former USC running back achieved infamy when he forfeited the Heisman Trophy. But this was very good for business.


However, he struggled to break 600 yards a season during his time in New Orleans. Frustrated fans labeled him as a bust and didn’t shed any tears when he joined Miami. But then his career finally took off and he broke 1,000 yards for the first time (via Palm Beach Post).

Bleacher Report

Tommy Maddox

Maddox has one of the NFL’s most unique stories. The league left him behind before he received a second opportunity. Usually, the NFL isn’t a forgiving place and it’s almost impossible to return. After four poor seasons with different NFL teams, Maddox played in the AFL and XFL.

NBC Sports

Nobody ever expected to see him again but he had one of the most shocking career revivals ever. He joined the Steelers and became their starter until Ben Roethlisberger entered the picture. Maddox won a Super Bowl with the franchise as well as the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award (via Steel City Underground).

NBC Sports

Michael Vick

Vick was one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks before he went to jail in 2007 and spent almost two years in jail. The dogfighting scandal shocked America and most football fans didn’t expect to see him again. But the Eagles handed him an opportunity when he became a free man again.

Sky Sports

Time isn’t kind to elite athletes but somehow Vick returned to a high level again. He vindicated Philadelphia’s decision to take a chance on him and earned a Pro Bowl selection. Maybe it’s not inspiring because of why he went to jail but it’s one of the most dramatic career revivals (via MSN).

Pro Football History

Jake Plummer

Many experts wrote Plummer off after he joined the Cardinals. They couldn’t understand why Arizona stuck with him for so long because he was extremely average across six seasons. The Cardinals only produced a winning record in his sophomore year as he failed to elevate the franchise (via Denver Broncos).


Finally, he joined the Broncos in 2003 where he exploded into life. They made three consecutive postseason appearances and Plummer earned a Pro Bowl selection. He enjoyed winning seasons every year and became a reliable quarterback. It was one of the most unexpected career revivals in modern NFL history.

Detroit Free Press

Alex Smith

Most NFL quarterbacks don’t receive the chance to overcome bust status. Smith had a nightmarish experience in San Francisco before he achieved one of the greatest career revivals ever. Things changed in 2011 when Jim Harbaugh entered the picture and coached him properly (via ESPN).


Suddenly, the Niners reentered the playoffs and Smith appeared to be a functional quarterback. But he left San Francisco for Kansas City where he helped Andy Reid through his early years with the franchise. Then he had one of the great comeback stories when he recovered from a horrible broken leg in Washington.

Sporting News

Trevor Lawrence

Few players carry as much hype into their rookie year as Lawrence. The media built the former Clemson star up to be the best NFL prospect since Andrew Luck. However, his first season was a nightmare because head coach Urban Meyer didn’t know what he was doing.

Bleacher Report

Meyer destroyed Lawrence’s confidence and ran the Jags into the ground. But there was an almighty turnaround in 2022 after Doug Pedersen took over. He instantly guided Jacksonville into a playoff birth and helped Lawrence deliver on his early promise (via NBC Sports).


Marshawn Lynch

Lynch had some great seasons with the Bills but then his form began to drop. Most experts thought it was a typical example of a great running back falling off a cliff. But then he joined the Seahawk and the move West revived his career. He was one of the most exciting players in the league.

Sky Sports

Fans loved when he entered ‘Beast Mode’ and rampaged across the field. Lynch won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks and forged a great relationship with Russell Wilson. He also had another unexpected career revival after he quit unretired to join the Raiders (via


Chad Pennington

Few NFL stars have shown as much resolve and indomitable spirit as Pennington in his career. The quarterback is the only player in NFL history to win two Comeback Player of the Year awards. He overcame adversity when he suffered serious rotator cuff damage. But he came back in style and achieved recognition.

Sports Illustrated

Then he earned the respect of his peers when he transformed Miami’s fortunes in 2008. After the worst losing season in their history, they bounced back and went 11-5. Pennington played a crucial role with his consistency. Some people believe he should have even won the MVP award (via Bleacher Report).


Steve Young

Situations mean everything in football. A player can have all of the talent in the world but it doesn’t help if they’re on a dysfunctional team. Young discovered this when he played for the Buccaneers. He threw 11 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in two seasons before he became a full-time backup.

San Francisco Chronicle

Finally, they traded him to the 49ers and Young underwent one of the greatest career revivals ever. He replaced an injured Joe Montana in 1991 after four seasons as a backup. Then he never looked back as he became a three-time MVP, a Super Bowl winner, and a Hall of Famer (via Sportskeeda).


Andy Reid

Reid is the only coach on this list but he deserves a mention. He underwent one of the greatest career revivals ever when he joined the Kansas City Chiefs. This came after Philadelphia opted against renewing his contract. He did a brilliant job for the franchise but they fell short of Super Bowl glory.


Some people thought that Reid was burnt out and wasn’t a winner. But he proved his doubters wrong when he guided the Chiefs into contention. Then he transformed Patrick Mahomes into the NFL’s best player and became a two-time champion. It’s an inspiring story and it helps that he’s so likable (via The Athletic).

Atlanta Falcons

Chris Chandler

The Colts made Chandler a third-round pick in 1998 but he never convinced his coaches. This is a common problem for backup quarterbacks across the NFL. They’re constantly grinding for their job and trying to earn a roster spot. He also had a miserable time with Tampa Bay and the Oilers.


But everything changed when he joined Atlanta. Suddenly, he appeared to be a genuine starter and earned back-to-back Pro Bowl selections. He also led the Falcons to a franchise-first Super Bowl appearance. They didn’t win but it was a dramatic turnaround and one of the greatest NFL career revivals (via SBNation).


Cris Carter

Carter was one of the greatest receivers ever but, in another life, he wouldn’t have achieved half of what he did. Buddy Ryan lost faith in his star because of Carter’s alcohol and drug problems. He partied too hard and almost threw away a glorious career. Luckily, he turned everything around and bounced back.


He left Philadelphia and joined the Minnesota Vikings where he rebuilt his reputation. In 1993, he finally showed his full potential and had an outstanding year. Carter continued to flourish across the next few seasons and became one of the most feared wideouts in the sport (via BVM Sports).


Brett Favre

It’s easy to forget that Favre didn’t start his NFL career in Green Bay because he has such a close association with the franchise. The Falcons drafted him in 1991 but his rookie season didn’t go well. They traded him to the Packers the following year before his career revival.

CBS Sports

Incredibly, some of the team’s doctors advised rejecting the trade because of Favre’s medical results. In the end, they took a chance and it was one of the best decisions ever. Favre became one of Green Bay’s most iconic players and helped the franchise to a Super Bowl victory in 1997 (via Fansided).

Sporting News

Drew Brees

It may seem strange to call this a career revival because Brees only spent four seasons in San Diego. His time there divides NFL fans because he showed potential but he also suffered injuries and poor form. But he transcended to another level when he joined Sean Payton in New Orleans.

NBC Sports

Brees helped the Saints to the first Super Bowl win in their history as he sealed icon status. Meanwhile, he broke more passing records than we can keep track of. He went from being a very good prospect to an elite superstar. Many people wonder what would have happened if he stayed in San Diego (via SBNation).

CBS Sports

Derrick Henry

It’s crazy to think it now but there was a time when people wrote off Henry. It didn’t help that he played second fiddle to DeMarco Murray for two seasons. This seriously limited his opportunities and that’s why some people thought that there was no place for him in Nashville.

Sky Sports

But Henry had one of the great career revivals and became the Titans’ most important player. Arguably, they depended on him more than anybody else from 2018 onwards. He won the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award in 2020 as he set historic numbers (via The Draft Network).

Kurt Warner

Warner’s story is one of the greatest career revivals ever. He was working in a grocery store before he made it to the NFL because he was desperate to pay his bills. The Northern Iowa star went undrafted but he didn’t give up on his dream. Warner played Arena Football and in NFL Europe before he earned a backup berth in St. Louis.


Trent Green’s injury was Warner’s golden opportunity and he never looked back. This was the beginning of ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’ as the Rams won the Super Bowl. It’s one of the most inspiring stories in sports history and Netflix even made a movie about it (via People).

NBC Sports

Baker Mayfield

Mayfield’s career revival came out of nowhere because nobody expected him to become an NFL starter again. His time in Cleveland promised much but his exit was acrimonious. Then he joined the Panthers but his time there was a disaster. The former Heisman Trophy winner joined the Rams as a short-term stopgap.

Fox News

Finally, after Tom Brady retired, the Bucs signed Mayfield. He produced an unexpectedly productive start to his time in Florida. Many analysts expected Tampa Bay to fall into despair after Brady’s departure. However, Mayfield kept them treading water (via NBC Sports).

Sports Illustrated

Thomas Davis

When we talk about shocking career revivals, it’s impossible to overlook Davis. He’s the only NFL player ever to bounce back from three ACL tears to the same knee. This is a ridiculous achievement and shows his incredible strength of character. Most people struggle to return from one of these injuries.


The craziest part of this is that the injuries happened successively. He played two games after he recovered from the second tear before damaging it again. This almost broke him but he decided to keep playing and he became an NFL starter again. Furthermore, he played at an even higher level for the Panthers than before (via WFAE).

Sporting News

Geno Smith

Smith had one of the most astonishing career revivals we’ve ever seen. The Jets made him their starter after he joined in 2013 but he lost his job. There was that shambolic incident with IK Enemkpali that left Smith with a fractured jaw. Smith floated around as a backup for most of the next decade.

The Seattle Times

When Seattle traded Russell Wilson to the Broncos, it left them with Smith and Drew Lock. Most people thought this was one of the weakest quarterback rooms ever. But then Pete Carroll showed his faith and transformed Smith into the Comeback Player of the Year in an incredible story (via Sporting News).