5 Most Devastating Quarterback Injuries in NFL History

Green Bay isn't the only team that has had to play on without its MVP quarterback

Aaron Rodgers’ season ended on Sunday with a broken collarbone at the hands of the Vikings. The Green Bay quarterback joins the ranks of many signal-callers whose season has ended or been interrupted due to injuries.


How devastating will losing the two-time NFL MVP be to the Packers’ season? Only time will tell. Green Bay was 4-1 going into last weekend’s game against Minnesota and may mirror some teams that adjusted and saw success. Then again, the Packers may fall into the category of teams who had their seasons and shots at greatness derailed by losing a top-flight quarterback. Here are five quarterback injuries whose repercussions can still be felt by fans.


5. Jim McMahon, Chicago Bears (1986)

One could argue that Carson Palmer’s ACL tear in 2014 or Derek Carr’s broken leg last season should take this fifth spot. However, I’m going to go with Green Bay's Charles Martin slamming McMahon to the ground. The defending Super Bowl champion Bears were 9-2 and in a dogfight with the Packers, when McMahon threw an interception. As you can see in the video, Martin came up behind and slammed McMahon to the ground. The Packers' lineman was ejected and received the first multi-game suspension for an on-field incident in NFL history. Unfortunately, McMahon reinjured his shoulder and was out for the rest of the season. The Bears won out, but without a quarterback of McMahon’s caliber, they could not keep pace with the Redskins in the Divisional Round and lost 27-13. This makes the list because it may very well have ended the Bears’ chance at a dynasty.



4. Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers (1991)

A common misconception is that Montana’s absence during all but one game of the 1991 and '92 seasons was caused by Leonard Marshall’s vicious sack that knocked him out of the NFC Championship Game loss to the Giants. In actuality, he played in two preseason games in 1991. Then he injured his elbow throwing a post pattern in practice. At first, he thought it was tendinitis, but it turned out that he had torn his tendon and had to have surgery, Montana missed the entire 1991 season in which the 49ers went 10-6 and missed the playoffs for the first time since '82. San Francisco rebounded in 1992, going 14-2 as Steve Young came into his own as the starter. Montana only played one half of the 49ers' regular-season finale and was traded to the Chiefs after the season.


3. Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia Eagles (1991)

The Eagles' quarterback tore his ACL on the first play of the second quarter of the opening game against the Packers. Philadelphia proceeded to rotate between three quarterbacks — Jim McMahon, Jeff Kemp and Brad Goebel — en route to a 10-6 season where it barely missed the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Eagles fielded one of the best defenses in NFL history. Imagine what they could have done with Cunningham leading the offense the entire season?


2. Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins (1993)

Having lost in the AFC Championship Game the year before, the Dolphins had a great shot at making a run at the Super Bowl. Then in the midst of a 4-1 start, Marino threw a swing pass against Cleveland and tore his Achilles tendon. The injury ended Marino’s season and he had to wear a special shoe to accommodate it to even start in 1994. As for 1993, the Dolphins managed to have a 9-2 record after Thanksgiving, but lost their last five games and missed the playoffs. The Dolphins have not played for an AFC title since.



1. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts (2011)

The Colts went 10-6 in 2010 and made the playoffs. In the offseason, Manning had a neck operation, but then had to have spinal fusion surgery a few days before the first game of the 2011 season. This forced him to miss the entire 2011 season. The Colts signed Kerry Collins out of retirement (while also relying on Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky for the majority of the season) and proceeded to go 2-14. No quarterback injury has derailed a team’s season the way Manning’s did in 2011. To make matters worse, the injury effectively ended his run in Indianapolis due to a variety of extenuating factors that were impacted, as well as ushered in the Andrew Luck era.


— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, October 18, 2017 - 10:37

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