When the news about Sunday night’s blockbuster trade of QB Donovan McNabb broke, my immediate thoughts were focused on how the deal might directly affect the Kansas City Chiefs. Washington’s rumored interest in selecting Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen as the fourth overall choice in this year’s draft came to mind.
Two quarterbacks selected in the top four slots could have potentially provided the Chiefs with a dream scenario of taking the first player at any position off the board outside defensive tackle and quarterback.
Scratch that idea.
Whether or not the McNabb trade hurts or helps Kansas City’s draft status depends on which way you decide to look at the trade. Strong arguments can be made for both positive and negative predictions for the aftermath, which is bound to follow McNabb’s switch of cities. A good discussion on that very topic took place on kcchiefs.com yesterday.
Once the initial free-flow of “what-if” scenarios filtered out of the mind (and let’s be honest, everything that goes into predicting draft day actions is a complex “what-if” puzzle constructed by dominoes), my next thought was that this trade truly had to be a unique occurrence.
How many times do we see a Pro Bowl quarterback traded at such a late stage in his career, much less to a division rival?
Well, in Kansas City, two such occasions come to mind. Kansas City’s acquisition of Joe Montana in 1993 and departure of Trent Green in 2007 hit the radar. So, the Chiefs have been involved in such trades for veteran Pro Bowl quarterbacks as well, but how common is such an event across the league?
I had to know. Is there a long history of similar trades and, if so, how did those trades pan out once all of the dust settled?
To the NFL Record and Fact Book we go…
First, we’ve got to set guidelines. They’re not perfect, but they’ll work. McNabb is a Pro Bowl quarterback and he was traded as a veteran with a status of 11 accrued seasons. Those sound like strict enough guidelines.
How many Pro Bowl quarterbacks have been traded once they’ve reached at least 10 seasons in the league and how did those trades work out in the end?
Since the AFL merged with the NFL in 1970, 96 quarterbacks have been able to call themselves “Pro Bowlers.” Of those 96, only 16 (16.7%) were involved in trades after achieving 10 or more accrued seasons in the league.
The fact that there have only been 16 Pro Bowl quarterbacks traded after 10 seasons in the league is pretty interesting, but having three those members represent former Chiefs makes the list even more interesting to me.
In chronological order, here is the company that McNabb joined on Sunday night. Included with each player is an overall review of the production that followed each trade.
Norm Snead – First on the list happens to be the Philadelphia Eagles, as they sent Snead in a trade to Minnesota that brought T Steve Smith to Philly before the 1971 season. Like McNabb, Snead was a prominent Eagles quarterback representing the club’s all-time leader in essentially every statistical category.
Result: Snead was part of a Vikings playoff team in 1971, but it was under the direction of Bob Lee, a younger player who wound up beating out Snead for the starting job. Snead was traded to the Giants a year later, started 13 games, and played in parts of five more seasons for both the Giants and 49ers.
Trade Analysis: Minnesota got next to nothing out of Snead.
Fran Tarkenton – “The Mad Scrambler” double-dipped when he was traded back to the Vikings prior to kickoff in 1972. The middle of Tarkenton’s career was spent with the N.Y. Giants after the Vikings traded him away after the 1966 season, but his career had now become full circle. Tarkenton resumed his duties with the Vikings for his 12th professional season.
Result: Tarkenton earned three Pro Bowl selections as well as 1975 NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors in his return to Minnesota. He would go on to start seven more seasons with the Vikings.
Trade Analysis: The Vikings salvaged some solid play the second time around, after having to watch Tarkenton shine for the Giants in between his two stints in Minnesota. Some Vikings fans wish he had never been traded the first time around.
John Hadl – A former University of Kansas and American Football League star, the legendary John Hadl was traded from San Diego to the Los Angeles Rams prior to the 1973 season for DE Coy Bacon and RB Bob Thomas.
Result: Hadl was an excellent acquisition for the Rams as he led Los Angeles to the playoffs and earned NFC MVP honors in the process. His tenure in L.A., however, was short-lived as the Rams traded Hadl to the Packers after just one season. He would play three more seasons (two of them with the Oilers), but never see the success he had earlier in his career.
Trade Analysis: The Rams struck gold with Hadl for one season and then evidently timed the remaining portion of Hadl’s career perfectly. Hadl’s time as an effective quarterback began to unwind after the Rams dealt him a year later. For a one-year run, the acquisition of Hadl was excellent.
Roman Gabriel – The after-effects of the above trade involving Hadl wound up seeing Gabriel traded from the Rams to the Eagles prior to the start of the 1973 season.
Result: After stringing together a handful of seasons with pedestrian numbers, Gabriel was born again in Philadelphia. Not only did he turn a 2-11-1 team from the season before into a respectable opponent, but he was also voted the NFL’s comeback player of the year for the 1973 seasib and set league highs in completions, attempts, passing yards and touchdowns. Gabriel would quarterback Philadelphia for five seasons before retiring.
Trade Analysis: This period of time for the Eagles was reminiscent to the Chiefs teams of the mid-to-late 1970’s. There wasn’t much success on the field, but Gabriel’s acquisition was one of the bright spots.
Greg Landry – Traded in 1979 from Detroit to Baltimore after losing his starting position to Gary Danielson. The Lions received undisclosed draft picks in return for Landry’s services, which were slated to begin a 12th professional season.
Result: Played three seasons in Baltimore, but only started a total of 13 games. As a backup quarterback at this stage of his career, Landry would attempt less than 50 passes in two of his three seasons with the Colts. He would wind up in the USFL for a few years at the twilight of his career.
Trade Analysis: Landry proved as a valuable back-up in his first season, starting 12 of 16 games after starter Bert Jones suffered injury. Overall, however, his time with the Colts was anything but eye-popping.
Ken Stabler – Forever a symbol of Raiders football, Stabler was dealt to Houston in 1980 for Dan Pastorini (another former Pro Bowl quarterback, only not at our 10-year minimum tenure when traded). Stabler was entering his 11th NFL season in 1980.
Result: Stabler had his best season with Houston in 1980, throwing for 3,202 yards, but he threw just 13 TDs compared to 28 INTs. He would only play one more season with Houston before finishing his career by spending three seasons in New Orleans. In fact, Stabler would never throw for more TDs than INTs in a single season after leaving Oakland.
Trade Analysis: The Oilers won a division title in Stabler’s first season, but you’d have to wonder if their season would have been better without Stabler’s 28 INTs. Houston would lose in the Wild Card round and then post a 7-9 record in 1981.
Archie Manning – Most don’t remember Manning’s time in Houston, but the 10-year pro was traded by the Saints to the Oilers in 1982.
Result: Following the original trade to Houston in 1982, Manning’s remaining teams posted a combined record of 6-35. He’d never start more than five games in a season and ultimately retired in 1985 as a member of the Vikings (which he was traded to from Houston).
Trade Analysis: The Oilers didn’t benefit much of anything from Manning’s on-field performance.
Joe Montana – The Chiefs acquired Montana, S David Whitmore and San Francisco’s third-round pick in 1994 in exchange for the 18th overall pick in the 1993 Draft. Montana was entering his 14th season in the NFL when he arrived in Kansas City.
Result: Montana wouldn’t ever start a full season at quarterback for the Chiefs, but he played in 11 or more games during each of his two seasons in Kansas City. In the process, he created unforgettable franchise memories like the Monday Night Miracle in Denver and a come from behind victory in the 1993 NFL Playoffs vs. Pittsburgh. He earned his final NFL Pro Bowl invite as a member of the Chiefs in 1993 and led the Kansas City to the AFC Championship Game.
Trade Analysis: Try to find a Chiefs fan that will argue with bringing Montana into town. The experience certainly wasn’t long, but it was truely memorable.
Warren Moon – After his 10th NFL season, Moon was traded from the Oilers to the Vikings in 1994.
Results: Moon threw for over 4,200 yards during each of his first two seasons (1994-95) in Minnesota. Those individual seasons ranked as Moon’s the third and fourth best single-season performances of his career. Moon went to the Pro Bowl during each of those years as a result. His best record with the Vikings was a 10-6 season in 1994.
Trade Analysis: Moon looked like he was still in his prime for the Vikings and the trade proved beneficial up until he broke his collarbone and Brad Johnson took over under center.
Jim Harbaugh – Now the head coach at Stanford, Harbaugh was traded from Indianapolis to Baltimore as an 11-year veteran in 1998 to make room for a little-known man named Peyton Manning (wonder what ever happened to that guy?).
Result: Harbaugh was only with Baltimore for one season and was widely mediocre, splitting time with Eric Zeier. Harbaugh would throw for 1,839 yards in 12 starts.
Trade Analysis: Something tells me that the Colts could have cared less if Harbaugh led the Ravens offense for years to come. The decision to hand over the offensive reins to Manning can never be argued.
Mark Brunell – Brunell is still around, believe it or not, and even earned a Super Bowl ring as a reserve with New Orleans in 2009. For membership on his list, he was traded as an 11-year vet from Jacksonville to Washington in 2004.
Results: Washington was underwhelmed by Brunell’s debut in the nation’s capitol after playing in just nine games and completing less than 50% of his passes in 2004. Things picked up in 2005 when Brunell posted an 85.9 QB rating and helped the redskins to a 10-6 record. He spent three total seasons in Washington.
Trade Analysis: When you’re a starting quarterback who has been acquired via trade and Patrick Ramsey beats you out, the fan base isn’t going to be thrilled.
Trent Dilfer – Dilfer makes the list after being traded as an 11-year pro from Seattle to Cleveland in 2005.
Results: By the time Dilfer was traded to Cleveland, he hadn’t been a regular starter for years. A season later, he was swapped out with Ken Dorsey in a trade with the 49ers.
Trade Analysis: Is anyone really analyzing this trade? Considering that Dilfer started 11 games, when he hadn’t started more than eight contests since 1999 makes Cleveland a winner…I guess.
Steve McNair – McNair had spent all 11 seasons of his career with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise before being dealt to the Ravens in 2006. He was traded for a fourth-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.
Results: The Ravens turned in their best-ever regular season finish with a 13-3 record in McNair’s only full season at the helm. He threw for over 3,000 yards and churned out an 82.5 QB rating.
Trade Analysis: Could the Ravens have expected much better from McNair at the end of his career? He might not have let it fly as much as he used to, but he was effective under center.
Brian Griese – Remember when Griese was a Pro Bowl quarterback? The year was 2000 and he was a member of the Broncos (I know, selective memory). In 2008, Griese was traded after his 10th NFL season from Chicago to Tampa Bay for an undisclosed pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Results: Griese started five games for the Bucs and actually threw for over 400 yards as he beat his former Bears teammates. There was a run that season where Griese pieced together some nice games off the bench.
Trade Analysis: The Bucs probably got more than they expected out of Griese, who was supposed to serve a reserve role but ended up doing more.
Trent Green – After becoming the most prolific passer in franchise history, the Chiefs made the decision to get younger at the quarterback position with
Results: Most fans were horrified when Green was taken off the field on a stretcher due to head injury for the second-consecutive season. Green made a full recovery and even started a game for the Rams in 2008, but he only logged five starts for the Dolphins and threw just five TD passes compared to seven INTs in 2007.
Trade Analysis: Most Chiefs fans have a soft spot in their heart for Green and truly wanted what was best at the time for the fan favorite. It was apparent that Green’s run in Kansas City had come to an end. He was professional every step of the way, which represents his overall career in the league.
If you want to pick a winner, the Chiefs have gotten more mileage out of Croyle than any other team got out of Green over the same period of time. Both players suffered significant injuries following the trade.
Brett Favre – When Favre decided that he was up for beginning his 18th season, Green Bay responded by parting ways with its legendary quarterback. The Pack received a fourth-round pick from the N.Y. Jets in the 2008 trade.
Results: Favre and the Jets started off hot, but finished cold and wound up with a 9-7 overall recorded and no playoff appearance. Favre’s season was average and the late-season collapse ultimately cost head coach Eric Mangini his job (and Farve too).
Trade Analysis: The general feel is that Favre’s trade to the Jets didn’t pan out, but a full season later it seems that all parties are happy. Favre is winning in Minnesota, the Jets went to the playoffs under an up-and-coming young quarterback in Mark Sanchez and the Packers have one of the better passers in the league in Aaron Rodgers. Would the Jets have Sanchez if Favre wasn’t the quarterback in 2008?
Note: A couple of Pro Bowl quarterbacks nearly met the criteria, but just missed, having been traded after only nine accrued NFL seasons. Those players were Drew Bledsoe (New England to Buffalo in 2002 *Scott Pioli) and Chris Chandler (Houston to Atlanta in 1996).
McNabb was obviously the latest member to join this list and brings the total up to 17 overall. As you can see, not all of these former Pro Bowlers were at the same stages of their career when traded.
The two unknowns are how much McNabb has left in the tank and who the Chiefs will eventually add to the list in the future (I don’t expect it to happen anytime soon, but who knows?).