Regardless of who takes the majority of the snaps at QB next season, it will be someone other than Peyton Manning, who took the majority this season. In most cases teams have had to switch to a new QB because of injury. There is only one precedent for a team switching after the greatest QB of all time retired after winning his second Super Bowl. Let's look at the nine previous instances of a Super Bowl Champ having to switch quarterbacks in the season following their Super Bowl victory.
|Year||Franchise||SB Winning QB||GS in following year||Post-SB result|
|1984||OAK||Plunkett||6||lost in wildcard|
|1986||CHI||McMahon||6||lost in divisional|
|2001||BAL||Dilfer||0**||lost in divisional|
*Elway retired in case you have been living in a cave for the past 20 years.
**Dilfer started 4 games from the Seahawks in 2001
Note that it has been fifteen years since the defending Super Bowl champ did not have the same starting QB at the beginning of the season that they won the Super bowl with. In the history of the NFL it is extremely rare for that QB to not be on the team the following year; it has only happened twice before.
1972 Dallas Cowboys
The 1971 Dallas Cowboys finished the regular season at 11-3 then proceeded to squeak by the Purple people eaters in the divisional round (20-12 with 183 yards of total offense) and then trounce the 49ers (14-3) and the Dolphins (24-3) to win the Super Bowl. This was the "Doomsday Defense" and it played extremely well in 1971. Roger Staubach was the QB for 71 Cowboys, but he missed four games during the regular season with injury and Craig Morton led the team to a 1-3 record in his four starts. Staubach was efficient in the playoffs, but the Cowboys defense is what won them the Super Bowl. Staubach threw for 99, 103 and 119 yards in their three playoff victories.
In 1972 Staubach missed most of the season with an injury (throwing 20 total passes all season) and Craig Morton was handed the starting job. Taking over for a Hall of Fame QB the year after he has led the team to a Super Bowl victory is difficult task (see Griese, Brian). Morton was an average QB for the Cowboys in 1972 (and an average QB for the era). He finished the season with a 54.6% completion%, 15 TDs and 21 INTs. For perspective the average NFL QB at this time completed 51.7% of his passes and threw 15.5 TDs and 18.5 INTs if they started 16 games. Morton led the Cowboys to a 10-4 record in the regular season, but they finished second in the NFC East to Washington. In the Playoffs they were able to sneak by the 49ers in the divisional round 30-28, but they were pounded by Washington 26-3 in the NFCCG.
1976 Pittsburgh Steelers
The 1975 Steelers had Terry Bradshaw start every game on the way to a 12-2 finish in the regular season and a fairly strong run to Lombardi trophy. One of the key elements of their Super Bowl victories in the 70s was their "Steel Curtain" defense. They still had the Steel Curtain defense in 1976, but Terry Bradshaw got hurt in the eighth game and they were forced to start rookie backup qb, Mike Kruczek. Kruczek actually led the team to a 6-0 record after Bradshaw had faltered leading the team to a 4-4 record in his starts. Kruczek was a "game manager" for them throwing a total of 85 passes in his six starts (with 0 TDs and 3 INTs). They leaned heavily on the running game. Kruczek only started one more game in the NFL after the 1976 season. He is part of a dubious club of NFL qbs who have thrown multiple interceptions in their career without throwing a single touchdown. He finished his NFL career with zero TDs and eight INTs.
Bradshaw was healthy enough by the time the playoffs rolled around and he was able to lead them past the Colts in an impressive 40-14 victory in the divisional round, but the Raiders knocked Bradshaw around and caused him to have one of the worst games of his career in the AFCCG. Bradshaw completed only 14 of 35 passes for 176 yards and an INT in the 24-7 loss.
The 1976 Steelers are included in this analysis even though Terry Bradshaw took the majority of the snaps at QB for them in 1976 so they don't technically fit my criteria.
1981 and 1984 Somewhere in California Raiders
The 1980 Raiders won the Super Bowl led by Jim Plunkett, but Plunkett only started 11 of their 16 regular season games in 1980. Dan Pastorini started the other five. They were 9-2 with Plunkett starting and 2-3 with Pastorini starting. They finished the regular season at 11-5 but were second in the division to the 11-5 Chargers because of tie-breakers. Their run to the Super Bowl victory included a 27-7 win over the Oilers in the wildcard round, a 14-12 squeaker over the Browns in the divisional round, a shootout 34-27 victory over the Chargers in the AFCCG and a 27-10 pounding of the Eagles in the Super Bowl. Plunkett played extremely well for them in the AFCG and the SB in 1981 completing 27 of his 39 passing attempts for 532 yards, 5 TDs and 0 INTs.
In 1981 Jim Plunkett got hurt in the 6th game and was only able to start one more game all season. He was done for the year in the ninth game of the season. He played in nine games starting seven, but the Raiders stood at 2-7 after the ninth game of the year. Marc Wilson took over and led the Raider to a 5-2 record in his 7 starts, but they missed the playoffs entirely in 1981.
Again led by Jim Plunkett the 1983 Raiders would win the Super Bowl after finishing 12-4 in the regular season (first in the AFC West). The Raiders trounced their three opponents in the playoffs in 1983 winning 38-10, 30-14 and 38-9. Similar to 1981, Jim Plunkett would get hurt in the sixth game of the 1984 season and Marc Wilson would be forced to take over at QB. The Raiders were 5-1 with Plunkett starting and 6-4 with Wilson starting to finish the regular season at 11-5 which was only good enough for 3rd in the AFC West that season (Denver was 13-3, Seattle was 12-4). The Raiders season would end with a 13-7 loss in the wildcard game at the hands of the Seachickens. Plunkett was deemed healthy enough to start in that game, but he wasn't able to do much completing only 14 of his 27 passing attempts for 186 yards 1 TD and 2 INTs. Oddly enough Dave Kreig would lead Seattle to victory in that game with even worse passing stats: 4 of 10 for 70 yards, but one of his completions was a TD. Seattle ran the ball 51 times for 205 yards in that game. Plunkett was harried all game getting sacked six times.
1986 Chicago Bears
The 1985 Bears were remembered for their stifling 46 defense that had one of the best playoff runs in the history of the NFL playoffs (allowing ten total points in three games), but few remember that they were the #2 scoring offense in the league in 1985 behind the effective passing of Jim McMahon and the running of Walter Payton. McMahon only started eleven regular season games for the Bears in 1985 while Steve Fuller started the other five. Fuller actually was the starter in their lone loss that season (38-24 to Marino's Dolphins). McMahon started all three of their playoff games in 1985.
In 1986 McMahon was playing hurt most of the year. He started six games and the Bears were 6-0 with him as the starter. When McMahon initially got hurt in the first game of the season (might have happened in preseason), things got really interesting in Chicago. The Bears would use three other different starting QBs during the regular season and still manage to finish the year at 14-2. Mike Tomczak would start seven games for them leading to a 7-0 record in his starts. Steve Fuller would start two games - both losses. The Bears would pick up Doug Flutie, who had been in the USFL and give him the start in game 16 (which was meaningless to the Bears). Head coach Mike Ditka would make the decision to start Doug Flutie in the divisional round against Washington despite having Tomczak available and healthy. Flutie would have a horrible game against Washington completing only 11 of his 31 attempts for 134 yards, one TD and two INTs. The Bears would lose to Washington 27-13 to end their season and Chicago fans would be forever left to wonder: "what would have happened if Tomczak had started?"
1988 Washington Potatoes
The 1987 team that won the Super had Jay Schroeder as their starter for most of the year - eleven starts, team was 8-3 in those games. Head coach Joe Gibbs chose to start Doug Williams in the playoffs. Williams had started two games during the regular season and the team was 0-2 in those games. They also had Ed Rubbert start three games for them. The team was 3-0 in Rubbert's starts. Williams completed fewer than 50% of this passes during their run to the Super Bowl victory, but he would throw for seven TDs and only two INTs. Four of those TDs would occur in the second quarter of the Super Bowl that was so painful I wanted to gouge my eyes out after watching it.
The 1988 team would not have Jay Schroeder on it (he played for the Faiders in 1988). Doug Williams began the season as the starter, but rookie Mark Rypien ended up making six starts. The team was 4-6 in Williams' ten starts and 3-3 in Rypien's six starts. They finished the regular season 7-9 and missed the playoffs.
1991 New York Giants
The 1990 Giants finished the regular season 13-3 led mostly by Phil Simms at QB - he started 14 games. However, Jeff Hostetler was forced to start the final two regular season games when Simms broke his thumb in the 13th game of the season. Hostetler would play well enough for the Giants to win the Super Bowl completing about 60% of his passes for three TDs and zero interceptions. Hostetler was very much a game manager qb. That 1990 Giants team was led by a very strong defense (#1 in scoring defense that season with the original LT terrorizing QBs all over the league). Parcells also liked to control the clock with his running game, something the Giants did very well in 1990.
In 1991 Hostetler won the starting job in training camp (I'm not sure if Phil, "I will always hate the Broncos", Simms was hurt or not). Hostetler was not tremendously effective in his twelve starts leading the team to a 7-5 record before he was replaced by Simms. Hostetler accounted for only 5 TDs and 4 INTs during his 12 starts in 1991. At that point in his career he was Alex Smith, having a tremendous aversion to throwing the ball more than 10 yards down the field. He was also ineffective throwing in the red zone on the rare occasions when Parcels would let him. The Giants would finish the 1991 regular season at 8-8 and miss the playoffs.
1999 Denver Broncos
If you are too young to remember what happened to the Broncos in the 1999 season, you should go look it up. Having to remember the second quarter of Super Bowl XXII caused me (and probably you) more than enough pain for one article. If you are a masochist, then by all means read up on what happened to the Broncos in 1999. Sadly there are plenty of parallels to the 2016 Broncos, but there are also some key differences. Everyone wants to compare the two teams because they are the only two times in NFL history when a QB "won" the Super Bowl and then retired. The 1999 season was not kind to the Broncos at all (Terrell Davis in particular), but that 1998 team was a very different beast from our 2015 team. The 98 team had an opportunistic defense, but it was not stifling. That defense finished the regular season eighth in points allowed, but only held one team to less than 10 points during the regular season. That team was powered by the offense which was second in the league in scoring and was known for jumping out to double digit leads early in the game based upon Shanahan (and Kubiak's) scripted series of plays to open the game.
2001 Baltimore Ravens
The 2000 Ravens are another team who will be remembered forever because of their defense. Unlike the 1985 Bears they didn't have a very potent offense, but they did have a strong running game. Jamal Lewis was a bell-cow back who was one of the best in the league during his prime. The Ravens had two guys both start eight games for them at QB in 2000, Tony Banks and Trent Dilfer. Dilfer started the second half of the regular season and was the game manager QB for their playoff run. The 2000 Ravens finished second int he AFC Central (TEN was 13-3, BAL was 12-4) so they had to win four games on their way to the Super Bowl. Dilfer threw the ball 73 times in their four playoffs games, completing only 48% of his passes and accounting for three TDs and one INT. Dilfer was not back with the Ravens in 2001. Neither was Tony Banks.
The 2001 Ravens had Elvis Grbac as their starting QB. Backed by that amazing defense, Grbac was able to guide the team to a 8-6 record in his 14 starts. During the two games where Elvis was not in the building, veteran Randall Cunningham got the starts and led to the team victory in both games. The 2001 Ravens would be undone by their QB play as they lost in the divisional round 27-10 to the Steelers in a game where Grbac completed only 18 of 37 throws for 153 yards with three interceptions.
2016 Denver Broncos
So much of what happens to the Broncos next season is going to be determined by how our offense plays. Without knowing who is going to be the starting QB, it's virtually impossible to predict what will happen to the Broncos next season, but I am going to ask you to do so in the poll anyway.
The best that any team has done with a "new" QB was to make it to the conference championship game. How far do you think the Broncos will make it next season?