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Green Bay Packers may have shown unique foresight by drafting Aaron Rodgers

Sep. 18, 2010
 
It would be a rare achievement if the Packers drafted a future Hall of Famer in Aaron Rodgers with another future Hall of Famer, Brett Favre, on the roster.
It would be a rare achievement if the Packers drafted a future Hall of Famer in Aaron Rodgers with another future Hall of Famer, Brett Favre, on the roster. / File/Gannett Wisconsin Media

Thinking ahead?

Modern Hall of Fame QBs and their teams’ quarterback draft picks after they turned 30.

♦ Troy Aikman
Dallas (1996-’00): None selected.

♦ George Blanda
Chicago Bears (1958): ‘ 58 -- Bob Hallum (30th round).
Houston Oilers (1961-’66, AFL drafts): ‘61 – Jake Gibbs (6th), Ron Miller (21st), Don Fuell (26th); ‘62 – Glynn Griffing (14th); ’63 -- Don Trull (14th); ’64 -- Bill Munson (16th); ’65 -- *Ollie Cordill (4th), *George Hafner (10th), *Bill Anderson (11th); ’66 -- Ed Buzzell (18th), *Tim Van Galder (2nd), *Bill Davis (4th), *Roger Marshall (8th).
* Were chosen in separate redshirt drafts.
(Note: Blanda signed with Houston in 1960 following the first AFL draft. He played with the Oakland Raiders from ’67-’75, but was primarily a kicker.)

♦ Terry Bradshaw
Pittsburgh (1979-’83): ’80 -- Mark Malone (1st), Bill Hurley (4th); ‘81 – Rick Trocano (11th).

♦ Len Dawson
Kansas City (1966-’75): ’67 -- Charlie Noggle (16th); ‘68 – Mike Livingston (2nd), Jack Gehrke (10th); ‘71 – Chuck Hixson (13th); ‘72 – Dean Carlson (7th); ‘74 – David Jaynes (3rd).

♦ John Elway
Denver (1991-’98): ’91 – Shawn Moore (11th); ‘92 – Tommy Maddox (1st); ‘96 – Jeff Lewis (4th); ‘98 – Brian Griese (3rd).

♦ Dan Fouts
San Diego (1982-’87): ’83 -- Bruce Mathison (10th), ‘85 – Paul Berner (9th); ‘87 – Mark Vlasic (4th).

♦ Otto Graham
Cleveland (1952-’55): ’52 -- Harry Agganis (1st), Don Klosterman (3rd); ‘54 – Bobby Garrett (1st), John Gramling (24th); ’55 -- Bobby Freeman, DB-QB (3rd), John Borton (13th).

♦ Bob Griese
Miami (1976-’80): ’76 -- Jeff Grantz (17th); ‘78 – Guy Benjamin (2nd), Bill Kenney (12th); ‘79 – Larry Fortner (12th); ‘80 – David Woodley (8th).

♦ Sonny Jurgensen
Washington (1965-’74): ’71 – Bill Bynum (14th); ‘72 – Don Bunce (12th); ’74 --Don Van Galder (14th).

♦ Jim Kelly
Buffalo (1990-’96): ’92 -- Matt Rodgers (12th); ‘95 – Todd Collins (2nd).

♦ Bobby Layne
Detroit (1957-’58): ’57 -- Jack Kemp (17th).
Pittsburgh (1959-’62): ‘59 – Johnny Green (21st); ‘61 – Terry Nofsinger (17th), Mike Jones (20th).

♦ Dan Marino
Miami (1992-’99): ‘92 – Mark Barsotti (11th); ‘98 – John Dutton (6th).

♦ Joe Montana
San Francisco (1987-’92): ’87 -- John Paye (10th); ‘92 – Darian Hagan (9th).
Kansas City (1993-’94): ‘94 – Steve Matthews (7th).

♦ Warren Moon
Houston (1987-’93): ’87 -- Cody Carlson (3rd); ‘89 – Chuck Hartlieb (12th); ‘90 – Reggie Slack (12th); ‘92 – Bucky Richardson (8th).
Minnesota (1994-’96): ‘95 – Chad May (4th).
Seattle (1997-’98): None selected.
(Note: Moon’s last year as a starter was 1998. He signed with Kansas City following the ’99 draft and played in three games over two seasons.)

♦ Joe Namath
New York Jets (1974-’76): ‘76 – Richard Todd (1st), Dave Buckey (12th).
(Note: The Los Angeles Rams signed Namath following the ’77 draft and he played one year with them.)

♦ Bart Starr
Green Bay (1965-’71): ‘67 – Don Horn (1st), Dave Bennett (11th); ‘68 – Billy Stevens (3rd); ‘71 – Scott Hunter (6th).

♦ Roger Staubach
Dallas (1973-’79): ‘73 – Dan Werner (8th); ‘74 – Danny White (3rd), Keith Bobo (12th); ‘76 – Mark Driscoll (13th); ‘77 – Glenn Carano (2nd), Steve DeBerg (10th).

♦ Fran Tarkenton
New York Giants (1971): ’71 -- Tom Blanchard, P-QB (12th).
Minnesota (1972-’78): ‘72 – Neil Graff (16th); ‘73 – Mike Wells (4th); ‘76 – Bill Salmon (10th); ‘77 – Tommy Kramer (1st).

♦ Y.A. Tittle
San Francisco (1957-’61): ‘57 – John Brodie (1st), George Parks (30th); ’58 -- Bob Newman (2nd); ‘60 – Bob Waters (7th), Gary Campbell (14th); ‘61 – Bill Kilmer (1st).
New York Giants (1962-’64): ‘62 – Glynn Griffing (4th); ‘63 – Mike Taliaferro (10th); ‘64 – Harry Schichtle (6th), Gary Wood (8th).
(Note: The 49ers traded Tittle to the Giants following the 1961 draft, but before the season.)

♦ John Unitas
Baltimore Colts (1964-’72): ‘65 – Steve Tensi (16th), George Haffner (20th); ‘66 – Jack White (8th), Jim Ward (14th); ‘67 – Terry Southall (6th); ‘68 – Jeff Beaver (15th); ‘69 – Larry Good (9th); ‘70 – Gordon Slade (7th); ‘71 – Karl Douglas (3rd); ‘72 – Van Brownson (8th), Gary Wichard (16th).
(Note: The Colts sold Unitas to San Diego before the 1973 draft and Unitas played one season for the Chargers, but appeared in only five games.)

♦ Norm Van Brocklin
Los Angeles Rams (1957-’58): ‘57 – Bobby Cox (4th); ‘58 – Frank Ryan (5th), Al Jacks (10th), Ron Parrish (21st).
Philadelphia (1959-’60): ‘59 – Jim Grazione (4th), Dick Jamieson (25th); ‘60 – Jack Cummings (4th), Dave Grosz (12th).
(Note: The Rams traded Van Brocklin to the Eagles following the 1958 draft, but before the season.)

♦ Bob Waterfield
Los Angeles Rams (1951-’52): ‘52 – Bill Wade (1st).

♦ Steve Young
San Francisco (1992-’99): ‘92 – Darian Hagan (9th); ‘93 – Elvis Grbac (8th); ‘97 – Jim Druckenmiller (1st).

(The years listed after each team represent the drafts from the time the player turned 30 until his career was over.)

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Cliff Christl covered the Green Bay Packers for more than three decades and is a former sports editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. A native of Green Bay, Christl is one of 44 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

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Maybe it’s absurd, certainly it’s risky to start talking about Aaron Rodgers becoming a Hall of Fame quarterback some day. He has been the Green Bay Packers’ starter for only two full seasons — the first year, they finished 6-10; the second year, he was outplayed by Brett Favre twice, Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner, the three quarterbacks he faced who might be destined for Canton.

And he didn’t exactly start this season off with a bang.

But, let’s face it, if Rodgers, who is 26, continues to put up numbers like he did the past two seasons and starts winning big games over the next five to 10 years, he’s going to be knocking, maybe even pounding, on the door. And if that happens, General Manager Ted Thompson should be canonized in Packers’ lore for making one of the great draft picks of all time.

In fact, it’s one that may turn out to be unprecedented in the first 75 years of the National Football League draft. And, surely, it’s a pick that has saved the Packers from some rough seasons and maybe even a dreadful repeat of the enduring famine of the 1970s and ‘80s following Bart Starr’s retirement as a player.

There are 23 quarterbacks from the modern-era – essentially post World War II – in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and all of them played beyond the age of 30. Moreover, only five of them left the game before the age of 35.

That means their teams had plenty of opportunities to draft their successors. For example, Starr turned 30 more than 10 months before the 1965 NFL draft and last played in 1971. Thus, the Packers had seven drafts to find a suitable replacement from the time the clock started ticking on Starr’s career until injuries forced him from the game, and they never did.

And they weren’t alone.

Not once in the history of the NFL has a team with a future Hall of Fame quarterback over the age of 30 drafted another future Hall of Fame quarterback. Teams that found themselves in that situation have drafted a total of 110 quarterbacks going back to 1952 and only 11 have ever been named to a Pro Bowl and only four of those have been named to more than one.

That partly explains why Rodgers has a chance to be the first even if that day doesn’t arrive for another 15 years or so. Please, no snickers over when the five-year waiting period following Favre’s retirement is likely to end to pave the way for his induction, which would be the necessary first step.

(Just to clarify, Dan Fouts doesn’t count because he was selected just days after San Diego purchased 39-year-old Johnny Unitas. Considering Unitas played in only five games for the Chargers and never established himself as a starter, the circumstances were totally different.)

There was not one quarterback among the 15 non-senior finalists in last year’s Hall of Fame voting and there might not be a single retired quarterback right now who looms as a shoo-in. Perhaps the one combo that could beat Favre-Rodgers into the Hall would be Drew Brees-Philip Rivers, but Brees wasn’t 30 when San Diego acquired Rivers and Rivers wasn’t actually drafted by the Chargers.

To be sure, there’s a lot of ifs involved here, but already Rodgers might rank among the top 10 quarterbacks drafted as heirs apparent to 30-plus, likely Hall of Famers. And there’s no clear-cut choice at the top of the list.

Danny White, selected in the third round in 1974 when Roger Staubach was 31, led Dallas to the playoffs five times from 1980-’85. John Brodie and Bill Kilmer were both selected in the first round by San Francisco after Y.A. Tittle turned 30. Brodie played 17 years with the 49ers, most of them as a starter, whereas Kilmer wound up having his best seasons with Washington in the 1970s. Tommy Kramer was chosen first by Minnesota when Fran Tarkenton was 37 and started for most of his 13 years with the Vikings.

Jack Kemp never played for Detroit after he was drafted in the 17th round when Bobby Layne was there, but started in five championship games in the old American Football League and won one. Frank Ryan, chosen No. 1 by the Los Angeles Rams in 1958 prior to Norm Van Brocklin being traded to Philadelphia, won an NFL title with Cleveland six years later. And Bill Wade, taken first by the Rams in 1952 after Bob Waterfield turned 30, won a title with the Chicago Bears in 1963.

There have been three cases in the NFL’s modern era where teams have transitioned from one starting future Hall of Fame quarterback to another. The Rams drafted Van Brocklin in 1949 when Waterfield was 28 and the two shared the job before Van Brocklin took over. Technically, Van Brocklin was followed at Philadelphia by Sonny Jurgensen, but the Eagles actually drafted Jurgensen before they traded for Van Brocklin. And Bill Walsh traded for Steve Young when Joe Montana was 30.

But most teams ignored the game’s most important position even as doomsday neared. Dallas, for example, didn’t draft a single quarterback after Troy Aikman turned 30 and then reached for Quincy Carter in the second round 12 days after Aikman announced his retirement. And those who spent first-round picks with the hope of landing their quarterback of the future often struck out. Bobby Garrett, Tommy Maddox and Jim Druckenmiller were among the colossal busts.

That’s why Thompson’s selection of Rodgers in his first draft when Favre was 35 should never be underestimated for its potential historical significance.

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