Dynamic to disastrous: How other NFL teams replaced a legendary QB

Dolphins: Marino to Fiedler

Ryan Tannehill is the only Dolphins quarterback since Dan Marino to start for more than five seasons, but the team’s best post-Marino period came with Jay Fiedler. Transitioning from Jimmy Johnson to Dave Wannstedt in 2000, the Dolphins made the interesting decision to sign Fielder before Marino announced his retirement. The 38-year-old legend had voided his contract to become a free agent, and Wannstedt began his Dolphins tenure by signing an ex-Jaguars backup who had made one career start in six NFL seasons.

Fiedler reminded no one of Marino, but on a three-year, $3.8 million deal the Dartmouth alum helped the Dolphins to playoff berths in 2000 and ’01. Fiedler threw seven INTs in his three Dolphins postseason starts, but the team gave him a five-year, $25M extension in 2002. Fiedler went 14-7 as Miami’s starter from 2002-03 but was benched in 2004. The Dolphins have not made consecutive playoff berths since Fiedler’s first two seasons at the controls.

Steelers: Bradshaw to Woodley/Malone

Miami turned to an eighth-round pick to replace Bob Griese in 1981, giving David Woodley the keys to a talented team. Woodley started in Super Bowl XVII the following season. The Dolphins, however, sought an upgrade and benefited from several quarterback-needy teams’ mistakes in the 1983 draft. They landed Marino at No. 27 overall. The Steelers passed on the Pittsburgh native and ex-Pitt Panthers standout at No. 21 and saw their long-term QB need become immediate when Terry Bradshaw’s elbow injury in 1983 ended his career. After longtime Bradshaw backup Cliff Stoudt defected to the USFL in 1984, the Steelers traded for the player Marino supplanted.

Woodley won the Steelers’ ’84 starting job, beating out 1980 first-round pick Mark Malone. The Steelers ventured to the AFC Championship Game to face Marino that season, but Malone had become the starter by then. Malone and Woodley split time in 1985 as well. While the Dolphins employed Marino until the end of the century, it took the Steelers until Neil O’Donnell in 1991 to re-establish quarterback stability.

Cowboys: Aikman to Carter

Down their 2001 first-round pick because of an ill-fated trade for wide receiver Joey Galloway, the Cowboys used their first draft pick that year on Troy Aikman’s immediate successor. At No. 53 overall, Quincy Carter was the third quarterback chosen in 2001 –- behind Michael Vick (No. 1) and Drew Brees (No. 32) -– and the Cowboys tabbed him to succeed Aikman.

Not a statistically dominant passer at Georgia, Carter topped out at 17 touchdown passes in a season. He threw for six touchdowns and 10 interceptions his junior season in 2000. Leaving before his senior year, Carter made 15 Cowboys starts between 2001-02 — a mostly uneven stretch following Aikman’s exit. Despite being benched for Chad Hutchinson during Dave Campo’s second and final season as head coach, Carter started 16 games for Bill Parcells’ 2003 Cowboy team. The Cowboys made the playoffs that season, but they cut Carter the following summer, turning to 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde. A drug problem ended Carter’s Cowboys career after three seasons and his NFL career after four.

Broncos: Manning to Siemian

Only two quarterbacks have retired after winning the Super Bowl; they played for the same franchise. Seventeen years after John Elway’s walk-off win, Peyton Manning followed suit to create a familiar bind for the Broncos. They responded by trading for Mark Sanchez and using a 2016 first-round pick on Paxton Lynch. However, Denver decided to go with 2015 seventh-rounder Trevor Siemian -– the third-stringer on the Broncos’ Super Bowl champion team -– as its Manning successor.

An unremarkable starter at Northwestern who was considering a real estate career, Siemian played well given his strange backstory. The Broncos started 4-0 in 2016, finished 9-7, and Siemian ended the season  with 18 TD passes and 10 interceptions. However, their plan unraveled a year later. Lynch did not come especially close to unseating Siemian in 2017, and the latter performed worse that season. This triggered multiple Broncos swings at veteran QB competency — Case Keenum in 2018 and Joe Flacco last year.

Packers: Starr to Hunter

Bart Starr started 157 games over the course of 16 seasons with the Packers, residing at the center of the football universe during Vince Lombardi’s nine-season stay. The five-time NFL champion quarterback retired in 1972, and the Packers selected Green Bay native and Nebraska standout Jerry Tagge 11th overall that year. Holdover Scott Hunter, a sixth-round 1971 pick, won the subsequent QB competition and guided a run-oriented Packer team to a 10-4 record — the franchise’s last non-strike-season playoff berth until Brett Favre’s arrival.

Hunter, however, was gone by 1974, and Tagge could not justify the investment. He finished his Packer career with three TD passes and 17 INTs. Coach-GM Dan Devine orchestrated a midseason trade for John Hadl in 1974, sending the Rams a stunning haul (two first-rounders, two seconds and a third) for the 34-year-old All-Pro. Hadl played only 22 games with the Packers.

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