Makinen: A study of veteran quarterbacks moving to new teams

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Unless you’ve been under a rock this week, surely you’ve heard the news that Aaron Rodgers has officially been traded to the Jets, just in time to drive up interest and conversation on NFL draft weekend. If the story hasn’t been oversaturated by now, it will be by the end of the weekend. We’ve been getting all kinds of opinions on the prospects for Rodgers and the Jets, and will continue to do so, but rather than opinion, I like to base my conclusions on past stats, trends, and similarities. After all, Rodgers, and Derek Carr for that matter, are not the first veteran quarterbacks to leave teams after a long run and make a home somewhere else, including some of the biggest names that have ever played the position. If you missed it, Carr is off to New Orleans for 2023. How have these other guys done for their new franchises? How did the teams they left behind fare? I figured I’d study the subject to see if we could come up with anything that might help our NFL handicapping for the upcoming season.

For those of you that know me, or have seen me on any of the VSiN shows I’ve done throughout the years, you might remember that I am a lifelong Packers fan, a shareholder as well, as designated by a piece of paper. The Rodgers news was not unexpected, nor was it as emotional of a subject as it might have been a few years ago when the first thought of him leaving came up. After several seasons of coming up short with gut-wrenching endings, it came time to move on. Now that doesn’t mean the Jets won’t be blessed to have the four-time MVP, as you’ll see from my study that several recent iconic quarterbacks have moved on to great successes with other teams, particularly of late. Let’s take a look at the varying level of success these traveling quarterbacks have achieved after leaving the franchises that made them famous, and then predict what the future might hold for Rodgers and Carr for 2023 and beyond.

In conducting this study, I looked back 20 years, and in that span, there have been 13 different quarterbacks that have started in at least eight straight seasons with a franchise only to move on to another. Here are some of the interesting tidbits I was able to come up with regarding past performance and future results:

– Of the 13 quarterbacks studied, the average win percentage improvement for the players next team was 8.5% that first season or just about 1.5 wins per season. Eight of the 13 players helped their teams improve. The average ATS improvement was just 3.7%, and the average points per game increase was 0.8 PPG.

– The average decline of the 13 teams these quarterbacks left behind was about 2.6% outright, with only five of the teams getting worse, six getting better, and two others staying flat. However, from a point spread standpoint, the average improvement was 7.1%.

–  There have been varying levels of success for QBs moving on after a long stay at one franchise. Three of the 13 won Super Bowls eventually, including two in the first season. Two others reached the playoffs with their new teams in that first year, and one other, Favre, came a game away from a Super Bowl in a stint with a third team.

–  Of the eight quarterbacks in this study that won 54.9% of their regular season games or more for their primary franchise, six improved their teams, and dramatically, by 27% outright, or over 4 wins per season. Rodgers fits this criteria for the Jets. Another seven of the eight led their team to a better ATS mark, by an average of 14.3% that season. On the flip side of that argument, three of the five quarterbacks that didn’t win games at this 54.9% rate for their main franchise saw their teams decline by at least 16.5%.

–  TD/INT ratio has also proven to be an important barometer for predicting success. Of the seven players that had TD/INT ratios of 1.96 or better with their primary teams, five improved their teams by an average of 21.5%, or equivalently, 3.6 wins per season. Both Rodgers and Carr meet these criteria.

–  Similar numbers are in play for those that had a QBR of 85.5 or more, as six of the eight improved their teams by an average of 23.1%. Again, both Carr and Rodgers will be part of this group for ’23.

–  Finally, some of the most successful veteran QBs to move on from primary franchises demonstrated success in the most recent years of their careers. In fact, all four players that won over 54% of their regular season games in the prior three seasons improved their new teams, by an average of 23.1%. Rodgers will look to extend this trend. Meanwhile, the four that had the worst records in the last three years all saw their new teams drop in terms of point spread success, by an average of 10.4%.

By these numbers, it looks favorable for Rodgers and the Jets to improve significantly in 2023, following in the footsteps of former elite QB predecessors like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. The picture isn’t quite as clear with Carr and the Saints, but if his career stats are similar to anyone else on the list, it would be Stafford. Both won around 45% of their games with their prior franchises, both had TD/INT ratios of 1.96-2.19, both had QBRs around 90, and both averaged in the low 7s for yards per attempt. New Orleans fans can boast some optimism in this regard.

Here are a few interesting trends that have developed when analyzing the game logs of these veteran quarterbacks that have moved on to different franchises in their first seasons with their new teams. Note that all three of the trends show a tendency of how veteran leadership might positively influence a franchise:

– These 13 veteran quarterbacks have produced a record of 37-48 SU but 47-32-6 ATS (59.5) when playing in the underdog or pick ’em point spread role in the first season with their new teams, including a current run of 17-4 ATS dating back to January ‘21.

– As road underdogs, these 13 veteran quarterbacks have been solid wagers in their first seasons with new teams, going 24-30 SU but 31-22-1 ATS (58.5%).

– In the September, October, and November months of their first seasons with their new teams, these 13 veterans have combined to go 64-66 ATS (49.2%), but in the later months of the season have picked that up to a 34-29 ATS (54.0%) record.

Consider these angles when the ’23 NFL schedule is released for Rodgers’ Jets and Carr’s Saints. Both figure to have multiple chances in the underdog role and both could be viable options late in the season, particularly Rodgers, who has accumulated a tremendous record in the month of December throughout his career.

Now, here is a detailed look at each of the 13 veteran quarterbacks that have spent at least eight seasons as a starter with one team only to move on to a different franchise at the later stages of their careers. These are all 13 QBs that qualify for the criteria over the last 20 years. They are listed in order of the season in which they moved on. You’ll see that I’ve included my own thoughts on each of them, including the prospects for Rodgers and Carr at the conclusion.

 

Steve McNair

Primary Franchise: Tennessee ’95-’05

Regular Season Record (Playoffs): 76-55 (5-4)

Key Stats: 156 TD, 103 INT, 83.3 QBR, 7 YPA

Last 3 Regular Season Records (Playoffs):10-4. 3-5, 4-10 (1-1)

Moved on to: Baltimore ’06

First Season w/ New Team: 13-4 SU and 10-7 ATS, 21.1 PPG

Improvement/Decline for new team: +39% SU, +15.1% ATS, +4.5 PPG

First year w/o McNair for Tennessee: +21.5% SU, +31.3% ATS, +0.6 PPG

Steve’s Analysis: McNair’s first season after leaving Tennessee was somewhat successful, as the Ravens went 13-3. However, it could be argued that Baltimore’s success came in spite of McNair, as he threw for less than 200 yards per game and had a modest 16:12 TD/Int. ratio as the team rode the legs of RB Jamal Lewis and its top-ranked defense. He didn’t last much longer, starting just five games the next season. Meanwhile, the Titans were able to maintain success under Vince Young post-McNair.

 

Brett Favre

Primary Franchise: Green Bay ’92-’07

Regular Season Record (Playoffs): 160-93 (12-10)

Key Stats: 442 TD, 286 INT, 85.8 QBR, 7 YPA

Last 3 Regular Season Records (Playoffs): 4-12, 8-8, 13-3 (1-1)

Moved on to: NY Jets ’08

First Season w/ New Team: 9-7 SU and 7-9 ATS, 25.3 PPG

Improvement/Decline for new team: +31.3% SU, +3.8% ATS, +8.5 PPG

First year w/o Favre for Green Bay: -40.3% SU, -29.8% ATS, -1.4 PPG

Steve’s Analysis: Favre’s final season in Green Bay was one of his finest, as the team went 13-3 and advanced to the NFC title game. Unfortunately, his final pass was an interception that cost his team a shot at the Super Bowl. While the magic wasn’t there for him in his single season with the Jets, he did go on to big things at Minnesota afterward. Of course, we all know that the Packers wound up fine in committing to Aaron Rodgers after a slow start in ’08.

 

Donovan McNabb

Primary Franchise: Philadelphia ’99-’09

Regular Season Record (Playoffs): 92-49 (9-7)

Key Stats: 216 TD, 100 INT, 86.5 QBR, 6.9 YPA

Last 3 Regular Season Records (Playoffs): 8-6, 9-6-1, 10-4 (2-2)

Moved on to: Washington ’10

First Season w/ New Team: 5-8 SU and 5-5-3 ATS, 18.3 PPG

Improvement/Decline for new team: +13.5% SU, +10% ATS, +1.7 PPG

First year w/o McNabb for Philadelphia: -7.9% SU, -6.2% ATS, +1.0 PPG

Steve’s Analysis: McNabb’s Eagles came just a game short of a second Super Bowl berth in his final season in Philadelphia. Furthermore, his record as a starter improved in each of his last four seasons with the franchise. The Eagles had a decent 2010 season, going 10-7 and making the playoffs, but plummeted thereafter, eventually bottoming out at 4-12 in the 2012 season. McNabb meanwhile, proceeded to win just six of 19 starts with Washington and Minnesota the next two seasons and was out of football.

 

Matt Hasselbeck

Primary Franchise: Seattle ’01-’10

Regular Season Record (Playoffs): 69-62 (5-6)

Key Stats: 174 TD, 128 INT, 82.2 QBR, 6.9 YPA

Last 3 Regular Season Records (Playoffs): 6-8 (1-1), 5-9, 1-6

Moved on to: Tennessee ’11

First Season w/ New Team: 9-7 SU, 6-9-1 ATS, 20.3 PPG

Improvement/Decline for new team: +18.8% SU, -10% ATS, -2.0 PPG

First year w/o Hasselbeck for Seattle: +0% SU, +22.9% ATS, -1.9 PPG

Steve’s Analysis: Hasselbeck wound up being somewhat of a journeyman quarterback, playing for four different franchises. Easily his biggest successes came with the Seahawks, where he took the franchise to a Super Bowl. His last three seasons in Seattle were not good though and it’s clear why the franchise moved on from him. The rest of his career, with both Tennessee and eventually Indianapolis, was uneventful, and he never appeared in another playoff game after his final season with Seattle.

 

Peyton Manning

Primary Franchise: Indianapolis ’98-’10

Regular Season Record (Playoffs): 141-67 (9-10)

Key Stats: 399 TD, 198 INT, 94.9 QBR, 7.6 YPA

Last 3 Regular Season Records (Playoffs): 12-4, 14-2, 10-6 (2-3, LSB)

Moved on to: Denver ’12

First Season w/ New Team: 13-4 SU, 12-4-1 ATS, 30.4 PPG

Improvement/Decline for new team: +26.5% SU, +27.9% ATS, +11.1 PPG

First year w/o Manning for Indianapolis: -44.6% SU, -12.5% ATS, -11.3 PPG

Steve’s Analysis: Manning was a huge success at both Indianapolis and Denver, winning Super Bowl titles and MVP awards with each. Losing him put Indianapolis back immediately, and Denver ahead significantly.

 

Jay Cutler

Primary Franchise: Chicago ’09-’16

Regular Season Record (Playoffs): 51-51 (1-1)

Key Stats: 154 TD, 109 INT, 85.2 QBR, 7.2 YPA

Last 3 Regular Season Records (Playoffs): 1-4, 6-9, 5-10

Moved on to: Miami ’17

First Season w/ New Team: 6-9 SU, 5-8-2 ATS, 17.6 PPG

Improvement/Decline for new team: -18.8% SU, -14.8% ATS, -4.5 PPG

First year w/o Cutler for Chicago: +14.6% SU, +0% ATS, +0.7 PPG

Steve’s Analysis: It seems hard to believe that Cutler actually was the opening-day starter for the Bears for eight seasons before ending his career in unspectacular fashion in Miami. Cutler wasn’t nearly as successful overall as the rest of the players on this list and hence it wasn’t a surprise that he didn’t wind up as the answer for the Dolphins. After his one season in South Beach, he was out of the league for good.

 

Joe Flacco

Primary Franchise: Baltimore ’08-’18

Regular Season Record (Playoffs): 96-67 (10-5)

Key Stats: 212 TD, 136 INT, 84.1 QBR, 6.7 YPA

Last 3 Regular Season Records (Playoffs): 8-8, 9-7, 4-5 (0-0)

Moved on to: Denver ’19

First Season w/ New Team: 2-6 SU, 4-4 ATS, 15.6 PPG

Improvement/Decline for new team: -12.5% SU, +10% ATS, -5.0 PPG

First year w/o Flacco for Baltimore: +38% SU, +18.1% ATS, +8.2 PPG

Steve’s Analysis: Flacco has an underrated career with Baltimore, as I don’t think you can argue with his record as a starting quarterback, which includes a Super Bowl win and MVP. That said, it is inarguable that the Ravens made the right decision for themselves in moving on past him following the 2018 season. His replacement, Lamar Jackson, was only the league MVP in his first year, leading them to a 14-3 mark. Flacco went on to a somewhat ugly injury-plagued 2019 season in Denver as the fit just wasn’t there and he may have finished his career as a back-up/spot starter for the Jets in ’22.

 

Tom Brady

Primary Franchise: New England ’00-’19

Regular Season Record (Playoffs): 219-64 (29-10)

Key Stats: 541 TD, 179 INT, 97 QBR, 7.5 YPA

Last 3 Regular Season Records (Playoffs):13-3 (0-1), 11-5 (2-1), 12-4 (3-0)

Moved on to: Tampa Bay ’20

First Season w/ New Team: 15-5 SU, 11-7-2 ATS, 30.8 PPG

Improvement/Decline for new team: +31.3% SU, +21.1% ATS, +2.2 PPG

First year w/o Brady for New England: -26.8% SU, -3.3% ATS, -5.1 PPG

Steve’s Analysis: In addition to his massive regular season success and six Super Bowl wins as a starter, Brady had a remarkable 189-128-7 ATS record with the Patriots. His situation trumps any of the quarterbacks I have discussed up until this point, and his changing of teams may have been the biggest story ever in the league. Going on to win a Super Bowl in his first season with the Bucs made it even bigger. He has since retired but he made clearly made Tampa Bay better and left New England to search for answers.

 

Cam Newton

Primary Franchise: Carolina ’11-’19

Regular Season Record (Playoffs): 68-60-1 (3-4)

Key Stats: 186 TD, 113 INT, 85.4 QBR, 7.2 YPA

Last 3 Regular Season Records (Playoffs): 0-2, 6-8, 11-5 (0-1)

Moved on to: New England ’20

First Season w/ New Team: 7-8 SU, 7-8 ATS, 21.1 PPG

Improvement/Decline for new team: -24.1% SU, -0.4% ATS, -4.4 PPG

First year w/o Newton for Carolina: +0% SU, +16.3% ATS, +0.6 PPG

Steve’s Analysis: Newton had an injury-plagued final season with Carolina and only started two games for the franchise. He then had the unenviable task of taking over from Tom Brady in New England. It would have been nearly impossible for anyone to keep that success level going. Newton lasted just one season for the Patriots and led the team to a 7-8 SU and ATS record in his 15 starts. He then returned to Carolina for his final season in ’21 but went 0-5 in his only five starts. After his final playoff game following the ’17 season, Newton went just 13-23 as a start.

 

Philip Rivers

Primary Franchise: San Diego/LA Chargers ’04-’19

Regular Season Record (Playoffs): 123-101 (5-6)

Key Stats: 397 TD, 128 INT, 95.1 QBR, 7.8 YPA

Last 3 Regular Season Records (Playoffs): 9-7, 12-4, 5-11 (1-1)

Moved on to: Indianapolis ’20

First Season w/ New Team: 11-6 SU, 10-7 ATS, 27.9 PPG

Improvement/Decline for new team: +21% SU, +12.1% ATS, +5.3 PPG

First year w/o Rivers for LA Chargers: +12.5% SU, +22.1% ATS, +2.9 PPG

Steve’s Analysis: Rivers has probably made more out of his long career with the Chargers than any expert could have ever predicted. Unfortunately, postseason success eluded him, as his teams have only reached a conference championship game once and they never scored more than 28 points in any single playoff game. Both Rivers and the Chargers moved on to better seasons in ’20 after he left, although the Colts only wound up getting a single year of service from him, and have struggled in finding stability at the key QB position since.

 

Matthew Stafford

Primary Franchise: Detroit ’09-’20

Regular Season Record (Playoffs): 74-90-1 (0-3)

Key Stats: 282 TD, 144 INT, 89.9 QBR, 7.2 YPA

Last 3 Regular Season Records (Playoffs): 5-11, 3-4-1, 6-10

Moved on to: LA Rams ’21

First Season w/ New Team: 16-5 SU, 10-11 ATS, 27 PPG

Improvement/Decline for new team: +15.1% SU, -8.0% ATS, +3.7 PPG

First year w/o Stafford for Detroit: -12.5% SU, +27.2% ATS, -4.5 PPG

Steve’s Analysis: It was always believed that Stafford was a better quarterback than what the Lions were able to help him achieve. His individual stats were evidence of it, and he proved that by becoming the second veteran QB in as many years to change teams and win a Super Bowl title. His addition proved to be the missing link in taking the Rams to the top, while the guy that he replaced, and who would then replace him in Detroit, struggled his first season away from L.A. The second seasons were much different stories for both players, but it can be said that Stafford made up for all of the low points of his career in Detroit with a single season away from there.

 

Matt Ryan

Primary Franchise: Atlanta ’08-’21

Regular Season Record (Playoffs): 120-102 (4-6)

Key Stats: 367 TD, 170 INT, 94.2 QBR, 7.5 YPA

Last 3 Regular Season Records (Playoffs): 7-10, 4-12, 7-8

Moved on to: Indianapolis ’22

First Season w/ New Team: 4-7-1 SU, 6-6 ATS, 18.8 PPG

Improvement/Decline for new team: -16.5% SU, -8.8% ATS, -7.7 PPG

First year w/o Ryan for Atlanta: +4.8% SU, +11.7% ATS, +3.1 PPG

Steve’s Analysis: None of Ryan’s last four seasons with the Falcons produced positive results so it was somewhat surprising to see the Colts put such an investment into him last year. Obviously, the experiment failed and the Colts figure to move on to a first-round draft pick at the QB position this fall. Atlanta actually moved forward after losing Ryan last year as well, so it was an overall positive transaction for the Falcons.

 

Russell Wilson

Primary Franchise: Seattle ’12-’21

Regular Season Record (Playoffs): 104-53-1 (9-7)

Key Stats: 292 TDS, 87 INT, 101.8 QBR, 7.8 YPA

Last 3 Regular Season Records (Playoffs): 4-11, 6-8 (0-1), 12-4 (1-1)

Moved on to: Denver ’22

First Season w/ New Team: 4-11 SU, 6-9 ATS, 17.1 PPG

Improvement/Decline for new team: -14.5% SU, -10% ATS, -2.6 PPG

First year w/o Wilson for Seattle: +6.8% SU, -5% ATS, -1.8 PPG

Steve’s Analysis: I’m not sure anyone in their wildest dreams figured Wilson would struggle as much as he did with Denver after such an impressive run in Seattle. However, he was just 4-11 in his 15 starts and the team scored just 17.1 PPG in those games. He was supposed to be the missing link for a team that lacked offense to bolster its superb defense. That said, the Broncos did average 24.2 PPG in his final five outings so perhaps a better second season is in store. Seattle, meanwhile, didn’t miss a beat without its former star, nearly making the playoffs behind QB Geno Smith.

 

Aaron Rodgers

Primary Franchise: Green Bay ’05-’22

Regular Season Record (Playoffs): 147-75-1 (11-10)

Key Stats: 475 TD, 105 INT, 103.6 QBR, 7.7 YPA

Last 3 Regular Season Records (Playoffs): 8-9, 13-3 (0-1), 13-3 (1-1)

Moved on to: NY Jets ‘23

Steve’s Analysis: In reality, Rodgers’ career stats trump any other quarterback on this list, and quite possibly any other quarterback in the history of the game sans the multiple championships. He is just one year removed from having gone back-to-back in league MVP awards. While it can be argued that his 2022 season was a big step back by his standards, he was also dealing with a younger wide receiver crew and an injury-riddle offensive line for the season. The Packers have apparently seen enough in replacement Jordan Love to move on from their 4-time MVP, and the Jets should be getting an immediate (and huge) upgrade at the sport’s key position, assuming of course, Rodgers is invested in the process. I would honestly be surprised if New York isn’t noticeably better in ’23, considering that they were 7-10 and scored just 17.4 PPG and that the Packers never averaged fewer than 20 PPG in any season of Rodgers’ career.

 

Derek Carr

Primary Franchise: Raiders ’14-’22

Regular Season Record (Playoffs): 63-79 (0-1)

Key Stats: 217 TD, 99 INT, 91.8 QBR, 7.1 YPA

Last 3 Regular Season Records (Playoffs): 6-9, 10-7 (0-1), 8-8

Moved on to: New Orleans ‘23

Steve’s Analysis: If you simply compare success levels with their former teams and individual statistics, it could be argued that the resumes of Carr and Matthew Stafford are comparable. Does that mean Carr could be headed to a successful first season with the Saints, complete with a first career playoff win and possible Super Bowl title? Now that may be a stretch considering that New Orleans was just 7-10 last year and the Rams were coming off a 10-6 regular season when Stafford took over, but there is plenty of reason for optimism. The Saints have a plethora of offensive weapons at this point, and they play in what is probably the worst division in the league heading into ’23. Don’t be surprised if this ends up being a better situation for Carr and the Saints than what most experts are projecting.

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Steve Makinen
As one of the original founders of StatFox, Steve Makinen has been in the business of sports betting and data analysis for almost 25 years now. In his time in the industry, Steve has worked in a variety of capacities on both sides of the betting counter, from his early days of developing the StatFox business, to almost a decade of oddsmaking consulting for one of the world's leading sportsbooks, to his last seven years as Point Spread Weekly and Analytics Director with VSiN. Steve has always believed that number crunching and handicapping through foundational trends and systems is the secret to success and he shares this data with VSiN readers on a daily basis for all of the major sports.