This Sunday night, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady returns to Foxborough to face his old team. After winning the Super Bowl with the Bucs last season, he has nothing left to prove to the New England Patriots, but I imagine he would still relish beating them on the field.
A Hall-of-Famer in waiting, Brady is not the first player eventually enshrined in Canton who played a franchise that let him go. Others have over the decades with mixed results. Here are five memorable instances (in chronological order).
Norm Van Brocklin
“The Dutchman” retired from the Los Angeles Rams after the 1957 season, but changed his mind and was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. Van Brocklin was given full control of the offense and had the Eagles in postseason contention when they faced the Rams in 1959. With the game tied 20-20 and about 90 seconds to play, Van Brocklin completed three long passes for 80 yards to put his team on the Los Angeles seven-yard line. There, Paige Cothren kicked the winning field goal.
Perhaps the biggest statement on this list, the San Francisco 49ers traded what they believed to be a washed-up Tittle to the New York Giants in 1961. In The Big Apple, he found new life and was in the middle of setting a single-season record for touchdown passes (36) when he faced his old team in 1963. It wasn’t even close, as Tittle threw four scoring strikes in a 48-14 beatdown of the 49ers at Yankee Stadium.
The San Francisco 49ers traded Montana to the Kansas City Chiefs before the 1993 season after opting to go with Steve Young as the team’s starter. This made the teams’ Week 2 matchup in 1994 a much-anticipated event. Montana played steady while the Niners fumbled twice and Young threw two interceptions in a 24-17 win for the Chiefs. Legend has it that fans in San Francisco sports bars were mainly rooting for “Joe Cool.” Ultimately, San Francisco won the Super Bowl, while Montana retired at the end of the season.
Favre retired from the Green Bay Packers after the 2007 season and then unretired. After a lengthy back and forth, the Packers traded him to the New York Jets where he played one season. In 2009, he signed with the Minnesota Vikings and faced the Packers in a Week 4 "Monday Night Football" showdown. Favre threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns in a commanding 30-23 win. With the victory, Minnesota improved to 4-0 and Favre became the first quarterback to beat all 32 NFL teams. The Vikings also beat Green Bay 38-26 in their second matchup on their way to the NFC Championship Game.
After Manning missed the 2011 season because of complications from neck surgery, the Indianapolis Colts released him and opted to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick. Manning signed with the Denver Broncos and was in the midst of setting single-season records for passing yards and touchdowns when the two teams met in Week 7 of the 2013 season. The Broncos' high-powered offense sputtered for much of the game and the Colts led 36-17 with 12:59 minutes left. Denver managed to close the lead to 39-33 with 17 seconds remaining, but Indianapolis recovered the onside kick. Manning faced his old team three more times, going 1-3 against the Colts.
— 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.