Everyone knows the blueprint for replacing a Hall of Fame quarterback. Just draft an Aaron Rodgers a few years early. Or trade for a Steve Young. Or tank enough to get the No. 1 pick when a can't-miss prospect like Andrew Luck is coming out of college.
Unfortunately, if it were really that easy, we wouldn't have four decades' worth of Jim Druckenmillers, Tommy Maddoxes and Richard Todds, among other first-round follies.
With teams such as the New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals and maybe the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers deciding when the time is right to try to draft an heir apparent to a veteran QB, we broke down the good, the bad and the ugly (plus a few more categories thrown in) from the past 40 years. Here is a detailed breakdown of how teams have replaced the 17 Hall of Fame quarterbacks who have retired during that span (including future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning):
(QB records via Pro Football Reference.)
THE DREAM SCENARIOS
1992-2007 (through age 38)
Notable draft picks during Favre's tenure: Aaron Rodgers, first round (No. 24), 2005; Mark Brunell, fifth round, 1993; Matt Hasselbeck, sixth round, 1998; Aaron Brooks, fourth round, 1999; Ingle Martin, fifth round, 2006; Craig Nall, fifth round, 2002; Jay Barker, fifth round, 1995.
Packers' 2008 QB record: Rodgers, 6-10.
Rodgers has ruined it for every future team (including his own) by creating an impossible standard. He is 90-45 in nine seasons, with eight playoff trips, one Super Bowl win and Super Bowl MVP, two regular-season MVPs and eight Pro Bowl selections. ... Before Rodgers, former Packers general manager Ron Wolf was widely praised for his shrewd drafting of late-round quarterbacks, even when they weren't needed. Brunell, Hasselbeck and Brooks were traded and became successful starters elsewhere. ... Favre finished his career with the New York Jets (2008) and Minnesota Vikings (2009-2010). The Vikings didn't draft a replacement until after Favre retired -- Christian Ponder, with the 12th overall pick in 2011. Ponder went 14-21-1 as a starter in four years, with the team making one playoff appearance in that span.
1979-1992 (through age 36; didn't start a game from 1991-1992 because of an elbow injury)
Notable draft picks during Montana's tenure: None. But San Francisco traded a second-rounder, fourth-rounder and money to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to acquire Steve Young in 1987.
Niners' 1991 QB records: Young, 5-5; Steve Bono, 5-1.
An embarrassment of QB riches that might never be replicated in the free-agent era, since Young was basically stashed as a backup for four years. Young went 91-33 in 13 years with the 49ers, with seven playoff trips, one Super Bowl win and Super Bowl MVP, two regular-season MVPs and seven Pro Bowl selections.
ROGER STAUBACH, Dallas Cowboys
1969-1979 (through age 37)
Notable draft picks during Staubach's tenure: Danny White, third round, 1974; Glenn Carano, second round, 1977; Steve DeBerg, 10th round, 1977.
Cowboys' 1980 QB record: White, 12-4.
Carano started just one game in a disappointing six-year career, but luckily the Cowboys were able to hang on to White for six years (most of which he spent as their punter after a detour through the World Football League). White proved to be worth the wait, going 61-30 as a starter over the next eight seasons, with five playoff appearances and one Pro Bowl selection.
1983-1999 (through age 38)
Notable draft picks during Marino's tenure: Scott Mitchell, fourth round, 1990; John Dutton, sixth round, 1998.
Dolphins' 2000 QB records: Jay Fiedler, 10-5; Damon Huard, 1-0.
Fiedler, a veteran journeyman who signed in free agency after Marino retired, was underrated because he followed an icon. But he was a solid 36-23 in five seasons with Miami, making two playoff appearances.
WARREN MOON, Minnesota Vikings
1994-1996 (through age 40)
Notable draft picks during Moon's tenure: Chad May, fourth round, 1995.
Vikings' 1997 QB records: Brad Johnson, 8-5; Randall Cunningham, 1-2. (Johnson also went 5-3 as an injury replacement in 1996.)
The Vikings drafted Johnson in the ninth round in 1992, but he didn't start a game until 1996. He went on to win 72 games and earn two Pro Bowl invites in a 15-year span with four teams, including a Super Bowl win with the Buccaneers.
THE BAILED OUT
PEYTON MANNING, Indianapolis Colts
1998-2011 (through age 35; didn't play in 2011 because of a neck injury)
Colts' 2012 QB record: Andrew Luck, 11-5.
So how can Luck possibly be so low on this list? Because the Colts weren't actually prepared for life without Manning at first. And the only reason they were able to draft Luck with the No. 1 overall pick in 2012 is because they went 2-14 in 2011. Most teams with Hall of Fame QBs don't tank that badly. Luck is 43-27 in five seasons, with three playoff appearances and three Pro Bowl selections. ... The Denver Broncos weren't so lucky when they replaced Manning after he finished his career there as a Super Bowl winner in 2015 (see below).
KEN STABLER, Oakland Raiders
1970-1979 (through age 34)
Notable draft picks during Stabler's tenure: Jeb Blount, second round, 1976.
Raiders' 1980 QB records: Jim Plunkett, 9-2; Dan Pastorini, 2-3; Oakland won Super Bowl.
The Raiders traded Stabler to the Oilers for Pastorini in a rare swap of starting quarterbacks in 1980, and they also drafted Marc Wilson in the first round (No. 15 overall). But neither of them panned out. Instead, it was Plunkett who went from an underachieving, veteran backup to a two-time Super Bowl winner. He initially replaced Pastorini because of injury, then helped Oakland make five playoff appearances in eight years.
BOB GRIESE, Miami Dolphins
1967-1980 (through age 35; started only three games in 1980 because of a shoulder injury)
Notable draft picks during Griese's tenure: Guy Benjamin, second round, 1978; David Woodley, eighth round, 1980; Joe Theismann, fourth round, 1971; Don Strock, fifth round, 1973.
Dolphins' 1980 QB records: Griese, 1-2; Woodley, 6-5; Strock, 1-1.
Dolphins' 1981 QB records: Woodley, 11-3-1; Strock, 0-1.
Benjamin never started a game in the NFL while spending six years as a backup behind Griese, Archie Manning and Montana, but Woodley was up to the task. He led Miami to the playoffs in 1981, then the Super Bowl a year later, which they lost to the Washington Redskins. In 1983, the Dolphins moved on to another Hall of Famer, Marino.
STEVE YOUNG, San Francisco 49ers
1987-1999 (through age 38; only played three games in 1999 because of concussions)
Niners' 2000 QB records: Jeff Garcia, 6-10 (also went 2-8 as a starter in 1999 after Young was injured).
Druckenmiller is the anti-Aaron Rodgers and would have placed the 49ers dead last on this list if Garcia hadn't bailed them out. Druckenmiller appeared in six career games, making one start as a rookie, and finished with one touchdown and four interceptions before being traded to Miami (where he never played). Garcia, meanwhile, was signed as a backup from the Canadian Football League in 1999 and proved to be more than that. He went 35-36 in five seasons with the 49ers, including two playoff appearances and three Pro Bowl selections.
JOHN ELWAY, Denver Broncos
1983-1998 (through age 38)
Broncos' 1999 QB records: Griese, 4-9; Chris Miller, 2-1.
Maddox played decent for the Pittsburgh Steelers later in his career but was a huge waste of a first-round pick in Denver so early in Elway's career, going 0-4 over two seasons before he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams. The timing and value was much better with Griese, who went 27-24 in four years with Denver, earning one Pro Bowl selection. The team made the playoffs once in 2000, but he was injured.
THE LOST OUT
PEYTON MANNING, Denver Broncos
2012-2015 (through age 39)
Broncos' 2016 QB records: Siemian, 8-6; Paxton Lynch, 1-1.
Osweiler went 5-2 as a starter for the Broncos in 2015 and was a huge part of their Super Bowl run. But the Broncos ultimately drafted him too early, since he left as a free agent in 2016 when Manning retired. Lynch was drafted in the first round (No. 26 overall) after Manning left.
THE PASSING GRADES
FRAN TARKENTON, Minnesota Vikings
1961-1966 and 1972-1978 (through age 38)
Notable draft picks during Tarkenton's tenure: Tommy Kramer, first round (No. 27), 1977; Mike Wells, fourth round, 1973.
Vikings' 1979 QB records: Kramer, 7-9.
Kramer had a solid but unspectacular career, going 54-56 as a starter over the next 11 seasons, including one Pro Bowl selection and four Minnesota playoff berths.
TERRY BRADSHAW, Pittsburgh Steelers
1970-1983 (through age 35; played only one game in 1983 because of an elbow injury)
Notable draft picks during Bradshaw's tenure: Mark Malone, first round (No. 28) in 1980; Mike Kruczek, second round, 1976; Cliff Stoudt, fifth round, 1977.
Steelers' 1983 QB records: Stoudt, 9-6; Bradshaw, 1-0.
Steelers' 1984 QB records: Malone, 6-3; David Woodley, 3-4.
Malone sat for four years behind Bradshaw and Stoudt, but teams could afford to wait in the days before free agency. Malone wound up going just 21-24 as a starter over five seasons in Pittsburgh. The Steelers traded for Woodley after the 1983 season.
TROY AIKMAN, Dallas Cowboys
1989-2000 (through age 34)
Notable draft picks during Aikman's tenure: Bill Musgrave, fourth round, 1991.
Carter, drafted in the second round after Aikman left in 2001, went 16-15 in three seasons, with one playoff appearance.
JOE NAMATH, New York Jets
1965-1976 (through age 33)
Notable draft picks during Namath's tenure: Richard Todd, first round (No. 6) 1976; Al Woodall, second round, 1969.
Jets' 1977 QB records: Todd, 3-8; Marty Domres 0-2, Matt Robinson, 0-1. (Todd also went 2-4 as a part-time rookie starter in 1976).
Todd lasted seven-plus seasons as New York's starter but was a pretty lackluster 42-51-1 in the regular season. He did go 2-2 in the playoffs, though.
WARREN MOON, Houston Oilers
1984-1993 (through age 37)
Notable draft picks during Moon's tenure: Jim Everett, first round (No. 3) 1986; Cody Carlson, third round, 1987.
Oilers' 1994 QB records: Billy Joe Tolliver, 0-7; Carlson, 1-4; Bucky Richardson, 1-3.
Moon was traded to the Vikings in 1994 because of issues with the newly implemented salary cap. ... Drafting Everett at No. 3 didn't make much sense, which is why he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams before ever signing a contract. ... The Oilers drafted Steve McNair with the No. 2 pick in 1995; he went on to win 76 games as a three-time Pro Bowler for the Titans and Oilers.
KURT WARNER, Arizona Cardinals
2005-2009 (through age 38)
Notable draft picks during Warner's tenure with Arizona: Matt Leinart, first round (No. 10), 2006.
An argument for planning ahead, the Cardinals tried a variety of replacements in the years after Warner retired. They signed Anderson as a free agent and drafted Skelton in the fifth round in 2009. Then they traded for Kevin Kolb in 2011 and traded for Carson Palmer in 2013.
DAN FOUTS, San Diego Chargers
1973-1987 (through age 36)
Notable draft picks during Fouts' tenure: Mark Vlasic, fourth round, 1987; Ed Luther, fourth round, 1980.
Chargers' 1988 QB results: Mark Malone, 2-6; Babe Laufenberg, 2-4; Vlasic, 2-0.
The Chargers traded for Malone in 1988. Then they traded for veteran Jim McMahon in 1989. They used a new primary starter every season for five straight years after Fouts left.
1986-1996 (through age 36)
Notable draft picks during Kelly's tenure: Todd Collins, second round, 1995.
Bills' 1997 QB records: Collins, 5-8; Alex Van Pelt, 1-2.
Collins went on to have a decent NFL career, but he lasted only one season as Kelly's replacement. He was released in 1998 when the Bills traded first- and fourth-round picks for Rob Johnson and signed free agent Doug Flutie. Johnson didn't pan out either, going 9-17 in four seasons. The Bills have used a total of 16 starting quarterbacks since Kelly retired.