There’s a strong argument to be made that Unitas was the first great modern quarterback. The 10-time Pro Bowler won NFL Championships and a Super Bowl during his glittering career with the Colts. It’s almost unfair to mention that final season in San Diego (via Retro Seasons).
He spent 17 years in Baltimore before he decided to try something new instead of retiring. There’s still something wrong with Unitas wearing a Chargers uniform. Furthermore, his form immediately plummeted and he only lasted for a season in California before he retired.
These days. most people think of the butt fumble when they hear Sanchez’s name. It’s a bit harsh because the quarterback wasn’t as bad as some fans think. He helped the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship games before everything went wrong for him and the franchise.
After he quit the jets he joined the Eagles and had the chance to be the starter. He didn’t play badly but failed to secure the jersey and this set him on a nomadic road around the NFL. It was unfortunate that he held on for so long but teams valued him as a backup option (via The Spun).
Fans paid tribute to Testaverde’s longevity after he finally retired in 2007 with the Panthers. He played for 21 seasons and accumulated the most losses by any quarterback in NFL history. Testaverde received a lot of opportunities because of his consistency (via Sportsnet).
But he suffered a natural drop-off toward the end of his career. The problem was that his age made him less effective and he endured injuries like torn Achilles tendons and strains. These prevented him from being the same player that he was in his prime as he held on for too long.
Grogan was the Patriots’ best quarterback before Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady. Fans loved him because of his toughness in the pocket and also because of his consistency. Unfortunately, the Patriots suffered a downturn toward the end of his career including a horrible 1-15 season in 1990.
It’s fair to say that Grogan also held on for too long because he became a rotation option. He was unable to irrefutably seal his place as the team’s starter for his final seven seasons. Grogan also threw more interceptions than touchdowns in each of these campaigns (via CBS Sports).
The writing was on the wall for Romo after the Cowboys drafted Dak Prescott in 2016. He knew that his NFL career was on borrowed time but he held on for as long as he could. 2015 was a terrible year for the quarterback because he only made four appearances.
But he still opted to return the following year despite being unable to supplant Prescott. Meanwhile, injuries meant that he missed most of the season anyway. Dallas handed him the opportunity to say goodbye to the fans but he should have retired earlier (via Sports Illustrated).
Rivers spent 16 seasons with the Chargers before he signed a one-year deal with the Colts. He frustrated Chargers fans in his final couple of years as his output declined. That’s why the team released him at the end of his contract. Many people will point at his $25 million contract in Indianapolis and say it was a good idea to sign up.
However, Rivers allegedly earned over $200 million throughout his career. He also lives a simple life and drives a plain 2008 F-450. It’s clear that the money isn’t his biggest motivation but he continued playing. He endured mixed fortunes with the Colts before he finally hung up his cleats (via Sportscasting).
Esiason remains a Cincinnati legend and was undoubtedly good during his time with the franchise. The quarterback starred for the team for nine seasons before he returned in the twilight of his NFL career. They traded him to the Jets during a typically turbulent period for Gang Green (via Cincinnati.com).
He received a brutal hit that resulted in a massive concussion in 1995. This put him out of the game and many people thought that he would quit after this. Arguably, he held on for too long because he went to Arizona before his return to Cincinnati and risked his health.
Derek’s older brother arrived in the NFL with a big reputation after a great college career at Fresno. But the Texans offered him zero protection and he received a lot of sacks. He left Houston after racking up a total of 249 and his body began to break down (via Pro Football History).
Nobody can blame him for trying to revive his career with the Panthers. But a back injury meant that he couldn’t make an impact on the team. Then he held on for too long as he played for the Giants and the Niners. Sadly, Carr never fulfilled his talent, but it wasn’t entirely his fault.
Vick returned to the NFL in 2009 after he spent two years in jail. The quarterback deserves praise because he played well for Philadelphia after his comeback. But he hung on for too long because he lost a couple of years of his career. Perhaps he wanted to maximize his earnings or he didn’t know what else to do.
The less said about his time with the Jets or the Steelers the better. That’s because he didn’t capture the imagination with either franchise. Injuries stalled his progress in Pittsburgh and it became clear that he wasn’t at the peak of his powers anymore (via Sportskeeda).
Manning’s inclusion on this list may seem controversial or even ridiculous because he won a Super Bowl in his final reason. However, this ring came despite his presence on the Broncos’ roster because he suffered a stark decline. Their defense did all of the hard work throughout the season because he was garbage.
Furthermore, Manning had a miserable passer rating of 56.5 as he struggled throughout the game. It was lucky for Manning that Denver had an unstoppable defense and won because the postmortem wouldn’t have been kind to him. Luckily he managed to retire in style but he should have retired earlier (via USA Today Sports).
Dalton is an experienced NFL quarterback and a former starter with the Bengals. However, arguably he held on for too long as he entered the backup carousel. Many long-term starters refuse to consider sitting behind another player but Dalton didn’t have a problem.
Unfortunately, his performances as a backup in Dallas and New Orleans didn’t inspire the masses. He threw multiple pick-sixes and didn’t have the dynamism to bring the teams to the next level. In the end, the big contracts tempted him too much and cost his franchises (via Fox News).
Tittle was the subject of one of the most legendary and iconic football photographs ever. However, arguably this famous shot of the great quarterback should never have happened. The Giants suffered a stark decline in 1964 and age began to catch up with the signal-caller.
Then he suffered a brutal hit that left him with a concussion and broken ribs. It’s dangerous to play for too long in the NFL because things can go wrong in an instant. Players test their luck every time they step onto the playing field and risk their health (via USA Today Sports).
Many front offices struggle with quarterback succession because they don’t want to move on too quickly. Most rookies aren’t capable of replacing an elite starter like Roethlisberger. But when the veteran suffers a physical decline it can be too late (via CBS Sports).
Roethlisberger was terrible in his final two seasons for the Steelers after his return from injury. He aged quickly and his arm began to fail him regularly. One horrible performance in the playoffs against the Browns summed it up. Unfortunately, the two-time Super Bowl winner began to cost his team games.
Nobody wanted to see Namath play for the Rams after he left New York. He built up his reputation as one of the NFL’s most polarizing and popular quarterbacks. The Super Bowl winner was an icon in the Big Apple but he held on for too long and should have retired earlier.
He signed a contract in L.A. but this was a mistake because his body wasn’t the same. Injuries restricted him to a handful of appearances and he quit the sport after the season. It’s a pity that he didn’t retire after his final year with the Jets because they loved him (via N.Y. Daily News).
Favre is one of Green Bay’s three greatest quarterbacks ever but his career came to a miserable end. Arguably he should have retired in style after he left the Packers. But he tried to return when they didn’t need him and this infuriated the Super Bowl winner.
Then he moved to the New York Jets before a short spell with the Vikings. His numbers plummeted and he failed to make a significant impact for either team outside of a near-Super Bowl appearance with the Vikings. Fans thought more about his sexual harassment case than his on-field displays. It’s a shame he didn’t hang up his cleats after he left Lambeau Field (via ABC).
Brees set all kinds of passing records during his time with the Saints but that’s not why he’s on this list. He held on for too long in New Orleans to the starting jersey when he should have retired. His final season saw him suffer a stream of injuries and throw interceptions like they were going out of fashion.
Things go wrong very quickly for even the best quarterbacks because age catches up with them. It’s cruel and there’s nothing that they can do about it. Arguably, an earlier parting of ways would have been kinder for both Brees and the Saints (via USA Today Sports).
Newton had one of the great NFL seasons in 2015 when he won the MVP award. However, his decline was stark and he became a free agent after leaving the Panthers. Unfortunately, he hung on for too long and failed to retire. He signed contracts with the Patriots and returned to Carolina but it didn’t work out.
That’s because his body failed him and he couldn’t stay fit. Newton went 13-24 in his final starts for the two teams as his form deteriorated. It’s a shame to see such a gifted athlete suffer such a downturn in performance. But sometimes it’s impossible to recapture the old magic (via Sports Illustrated).
It didn’t have to be like this for Brady because he had nothing left to prove. The quarterback gave up his wife because he held on for too long to his football career. His supermodel spouse Gisele Bundchen lost patience with the 45-year-old star after he came out of retirement to play another season (via FOX News).
However, it was pointless because the Buccaneers haven’t played well at all under new head coach Todd Bowles. Brady successfully created a fairytale when he won his seventh Super Bowl ring in his debut season with the team two years ago. But he risked devastating injuries and long-term trauma by continuing past his prime.