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What are the top 5 quarterback controversies in NFL history?

Updated July 10, 2024 - 8:35 am

The Raiders have a quarterback battle on their hands. Will it be Aidan O’Connell or Gardner Minshew lining up behind center in the season opener against the Chargers?

Decisions, decisions.

The competition between the two brings up memories of great quarterback controversies over the years.

Here are the top five in NFL history:

Joe Montana vs. Steve Young (San Francisco 49ers)

This was the doozy of all quarterback controversies. It involved two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks and divided a fanbase.

The 49ers ultimately had the chutzpah to move on from the face of their franchise and hand the keys to a young gun waiting in the wings.

Montana, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, played for five seasons with Young looking over his shoulder after San Francisco added Young from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1987.

The 49ers somehow made it work. They even rotated between the two passers to start the 1988 season.

Things changed when Montana missed the 1991 season with an elbow injury. Montana became the backup the following season and joined the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993.

Drew Bledsoe vs. Tom Brady (New England Patriots)

Bledsoe was a good quarterback for the Patriots.

He made three Pro Bowls with the team after being drafted first overall in 1993 and led New England to Super Bowl 31. The Patriots rewarded Bledsoe by giving him a record-breaking 10-year, $103 million contract in March 2001.

The NFL then changed forever in Week 2 of the 2001 season. Bledsoe suffered a chest injury that sidelined him indefinitely.

A second-year quarterback named Tom Brady was subsequently forced into the lineup.

Brady, a 2000 sixth-round pick, thrived after being given an opportunity. Coach Bill Belichick named Brady the team’s permanent starter after just seven games.

The Patriots did not lose another game after the decision. They defeated the Rams in Super Bowl 36, leading Bledsoe to be traded to the Buffalo Bills in the offseason.

Brett Favre vs. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)

The Packers pulled a shocker in the 2005 draft.

They grabbed Rodgers with the 24th overall pick after a surprising fall for the California quarterback, setting up an all-time battle with Green Bay legend Brett Favre.

Favre was 36 years old at the time but showed no signs of letting up. It created an awkward dynamic. Favre had to feel like he was being pushed out. Rodgers had to worry about his growth being stunted sitting on the bench.

Favre played three more seasons as the Packers’ starter before announcing he was retiring in March 2008. He changed his mind a few months later.

Green Bay decided to move on to Rodgers, so they traded Favre to the New York Jets. Favre played another three seasons in the NFL, while Rodgers carved out his own legacy as one of the best to ever play the game.

Philip Rivers vs. Drew Brees (San Diego Chargers)

Brees, coming off his third season with the Chargers, was taken aback when assistant coach Brian Schottenheimer told him the club might take a quarterback in the first round in 2004.

Brees said it would be the worst mistake the organization ever made.

The Chargers followed through with their plan, using the first overall pick on Eli Manning. They then traded Manning to the Giants for the draft rights to Rivers.

The battle between Brees and Rivers was delayed because Rivers held out in training camp. Brees responded with a breakthrough season and guided the Chargers to an 11-5 record.

He was solid the following year as well, but a shoulder injury in the team’s final game ruined any chance of him receiving a contract extension in San Diego. Rivers took over in 2006 instead.

Brees overcame the injury and put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career in New Orleans. Rivers did the same over his career with the Chargers. But for three years, it was a quarterback controversy that gripped an entire city.

Dak Prescott vs. Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys)

Sometimes, fate just steps in.

That was the case in 2016 when the Cowboys selected Prescott in the fourth round as the potential heir apparent to Romo, a fan favorite who rose from undrafted free agent to Dallas hero.

Romo was 36 years old at the time but still playing well. Then, disaster struck.

Romo suffered a back injury in the Cowboys’ third preseason game. He missed the first 10 weeks of the regular season.

Prescott took the gig and ran with it. He guided Dallas to an 8-1 record, raising the question of who would start when Romo was ready to return.

Romo, ever the diplomat, saw the writing on the wall. He graciously stepped aside in a famous press conference.

“Dak Prescott has earned the right to be our quarterback, as hard as that is for me to say,” Romo said.

Romo’s career was over at the end of the season.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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