Tom Brady lost in his Tampa Bay Buccaneers debut last week, but he can take solace in the fact that some other veteran signal-callers also took an L in their first start with a new team.
The question is: How did the rest of the season work out?
Here’s a look at how some notable plus-30 quarterbacks did in their opening starts with new teams, and how the rest of their season ended up.
First up: QBs who are playing for new teams this year.
Tom Brady, 43 years old
Sept. 13, 2020
Tampa Bay at New Orleans: 23-for-36, 239 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 34-23 loss to the Saints.
It wasn’t the start Brady was hoping for, and things were compounded by the fact that head coach Bruce Arians publicly pinned the blame on him for one of the turnovers. On Monday, Brady said he and the Bucs are hoping to improve moving forward. “It’s one loss,” he told his buddy Jim Gray. “We’ve got to learn from it and we’ve got to move on and try to play better football next week.”
Cam Newton, 31 years old
Sept. 13, 2020
New England vs. Miami: 15-for-19, 155 yards; 15 carries for 75 rushing yards, 2 two rushing touchdowns in a 21-11 win over the Dolphins.
A good start for Newton, who used a nice mix of passing and running to lift the Patriots past their division foes. Newton’s 75 yards rushing were the most from a New England quarterback in one game since Steve Grogan rushed for 81 yards on 12 carries in a Nov. 20, 1977 in a win over the Bills. However, he might not be running as much down the road; both he and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels hinted earlier this week that sort of game plan might not be sustainable for 16 games.
Philip Rivers, 38 years old
Sept. 13, 2020
Indianapolis at Jacksonville: 36-for-46, 363 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in a 27-20 loss to the Jaguars.
Even though he was with a new team, in many ways, it was the same old Rivers, throwing for big yardage but ultimately helping give the game away with some questionable decisions at the end of the contest.
And here’s a look at quarterbacks from previous seasons:
Brett Favre, 38 years old
Sept. 7, 2008
New York Jets at Miami: 15-for-22, 194 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 20-14 win over the Dolphins.
Another QB who made multiple stops after the age of 35, Favre began his comeback tour took in New Jersey with the Jets. Things actually went pretty well for him at the start, where he had a stretch that included a dramatic win over the Patriots in Foxborough and an 8-3 mark at Thanksgiving. But four losses in the last five games left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, and he moved on to Minnesota at the end of the year. Still, he ended his single season with the Jets with a 66 percent completion rate — one of the best single-season totals of his career — plus 3,472 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and 22 picks in 15 starts.
Peyton Manning, 36 years old
Sept. 9. 2012
Denver vs. Pittsburgh: 19-for-26, 253 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 31-19 win over the Steelers.
Things went about as well as they could have been for Manning in his first turn with his new team. He and the Broncos went 13-3 in his first season in Denver, and he set a career-best 69 percent completion rate along the way while throwing for 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. They lost in the divisional round that year, but ended up winning a Super Bowl three years later in Manning’s final season.
Joe Montana, 37 years old
Sept. 5, 1993
Kansas City at Tampa Bay: 14-for-21, 246 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 27-3 win over the Buccaneers.
Montana’s debut with the Chiefs was pretty much the gold standard for any plus-30 quarterback starting over with a new team. He certainly didn’t post overwhelming numbers, but his performance was efficient in leading Kansas City to an easy win. The Chiefs would go on to finish 11-5, win the AFC West and advance all the way to the AFC title game before losing to the Bills.
Warren Moon, 37 years old
Sept. 4, 1994
Minnesota at Green Bay: 20-for-37, 166 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions in a 16-10 loss to the Packers.
Moon actually started over after the age of 35 a few times in his career, but this was his first. He ended up starting 39 games with the Vikings, including 15 that season when Minnesota won the NFC Central title. That season, throwing to Cris Carter and Jake Reed, he had 18 touchdowns, 19 interceptions, and 4,264 passing yards.
Joe Namath, 34 years old
Sept. 18, 1977
Los Angeles Rams at Atlanta: 15-for-30, 141 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions in a 17-6 loss to the Falcons.
The Los Angeles portion of Namath’s career wasn’t much to write home about, as he went 2-2 with the Rams, including this mediocre (at best) opening performance. Namath finished his last season in the NFL with four starts, a 47 percent completion rate, three touchdowns and five interceptions before being benched for Pat Haden. That Rams team was actually pretty good, ending the year 10-4 and winning the NFC West crown.
Johnny Unitas, 40 years old
Sept. 16, 1973
San Diego at Washington: 6-for-17, 55 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions in a 38-0 loss to Washington.
After so many years of greatness with the Colts, Unitas' opener with the Chargers was a dud. Unitas started just four games that year, went 1-3, and threw three touchdowns and seven picks before yielding to youngster Dan Fouts. It was the final year of an illustrious career.
Christopher Price can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at cpriceglobe.