Reineking Recalls: Eddie D.’s QBs

A Football Life, Teams

Editor’s Note: Jim Reineking is an editor for NFL.com. Here’s his take on Eddie DeBartolo and the best predecessor-successor quarterback tandems in history.

“Eddie DeBartolo: A Football Life” debuts on NFL Network tonight at 8 p.m. ET.

In the 23 years that Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. owned the team, the San Francisco 49ers collected an extraordinary five Super Bowl championships.  It helped having the innovative Bill Walsh — a 1993 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee — running the team.  Between the 49ers’ first championship season in 1981 and 2002, the team only experienced three losing seasons.  Continuity at the most important position in the game was also big part of the run of achievement.  Over those 22 seasons, the 49ers had three primary quarterbacks, two of whom would go on to the Hall of Fame. The predecessor-successor transition with Joe Montana and Steve Young helped make DeBartolo’s 49ers one of the great dynasties in the history of the game.  Then, the transition from Young to Jeff Garcia kept the 49ers among the contenders.

With that in mind, here are the greatest quarterback predecessor-successor situations in NFL history, leading off with Montana-Young …

1. Montana-Young

Combined playoff appearances with the 49ers: 16

Combined championships: 5

The 49ers had an embarrassment of riches at the quarterback position from 1988-1992. With two of the all-time great quarterbacks on the roster, the transition from Montana to Young wasn’t the smoothest, but it was hard to argue with the results. The 49ers rolled off 16 consecutive winning seasons with Montana and Young, including five Super Bowl triumphs. In a countdown of the top 100 players in NFL history conducted in 2010, Montana checked in at No. 5 and Young at No. 81.

2. Bob Waterfield-Norm Van Brocklin

Combined playoff appearances with the Rams: 6

Combined championships: 2

The Los Angeles Rams of the 1950s were on the cutting edge of offensive innovation, and were one of the most potent point-scoring forces in NFL history. Not only did the team possess two Hall of Famers at quarterback, but Hall of Fame receivers Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch and Tom Fears, as well as the famous “Bull Elephant” backfield of Dick Hoerner, Tank Younger and “Deacon” Dan Towler. In 1950 — the highest-scoring season of the decade — the Rams averaged 38.8 points per game. By comparison, the highest-scoring team of 2012 — the Green Bay Packers — averaged 35 points per game. Waterfield platooned with Van Brocklin through the 1952 season.

3. Brett Favre-Aaron Rodgers

Combined playoff appearances with the Packers: 14

Combined championships: 2

The Packers didn’t miss a beat when Favre retired for the first time following the 2007 season. Rodgers quickly had the Packers competing for championships, ultimately equaling Favre’s Super Bowl win total in just his third season at the helm. Since 1992, the Packers — thanks to having Favre and Rodgers consistently in the huddle — have had just two losing seasons.

4. Drew Bledsoe-Tom Brady

Combined playoff appearances with the Patriots: 13

Combined championships: 3

It seems silly now given the success Brady has had — five Super Bowl appearances, three Super Bowl victories, supermodel wife — but Brady was a little-known sixth-round draft choice when he replaced a No. 1-overall draft pick/face of the franchise in 2001. At first, the Brady-Bledsoe debate was a big deal in New England, but more than a decade after Bill Belichick opted to stick with Brady it appears he made the right call.

5. Roger Staubach-Danny White

Combined playoff appearances with the Cowboys: 15

Combined championships: 2

White had the difficult job of replacing the supremely popular Staubach in 1980. Staubach had led the Dallas Cowboys to five Super Bowls, winning two. White’s tenure is a curious footnote in NFL history. The Cowboys didn’t reach the Super Bowl with White at quarterback, but it wasn’t like the team didn’t experience any success. White took the Cowboys to three consecutive NFC Championship games. The Cowboys lost each time, including twice to the eventual Super Bowl winner and once in epic fashion to the 49ers (who were en route to their first Super Bowl win).

6. Norm Van Brocklin-Sonny Jurgensen

Combined playoff appearances with the Eagles: 1

Combined championships: 1

After his aforementioned tenure alongside Waterfield in Los Angeles, Van Brocklin moved on to Philadelphia and enjoyed one last season of glory. Van Brocklin led the Eagles — who hadn’t experienced success since their last title in 1949 — to a win over Vince Lombardi’s Packers in the 1960 NFL Championship. Van Brocklin moved to the sidelines as the first coach of the expansion Minnesota Vikings in 1961. Jurgensen also had a brief tenure in Philadelphia before carrying on his Hall of Fame career with the Washington Redskins.

7. Arnie Herber-Cecil Isbell

Combined playoff appearances with the Packers: 4

Combined championships: 2

Like Montana-Young decades later, Herber and Isbell had the great fortune of playing alongside a revolutionary receiver. While Jerry Rice is arguably the greatest modern-era player, Don Hutson was the equivalent in the pre-modern era. Packers coach Curly Lambeau, possessing a dynamic passer-receiver combo of Herber and Hutson, gave a team playing in a leather-helmeted, ground-based, run-first era a very modern feel.

8. Ken Stabler-Jim Plunkett

Combined playoff appearances with the Raiders: 12

Combined championships: 3

A second consecutive non-playoff season in 1979 brought dramatic change in Oakland. Stabler was traded to the Houston Oilers for quarterback Dan Pastorini, who was expected to lead the Raiders back to the postseason. Instead, Pastorini got hurt in the 1980 season opener. Plunkett started the remainder of the season, helped Oakland earn a wild-card playoff spot, and then rolled off three road playoff wins before winning Super Bowl XV. Three years later, Plunkett helped the now Los Angeles Raiders win the Super Bowl again. Stabler’s season of ultimate glory — 1976 — cemented his status as a team legend, and that year’s Raiders team was recently voted by fans as the greatest ever.

9. Steve Young-Jeff Garcia

Combined playoff appearances with the 49ers: 9

Combined championships: 1

After Young led the 49ers to seven consecutive playoff appearances, his career was cut short in 1999. Garcia took over and had the 49ers back in the postseason in 2001. In a return trip to the postseason in 2002, Garcia was a part of one of the most exciting playoff wins in NFL history, helping San Francisco mount the second-greatest playoff comeback in NFL history.

10. Phil Simms-Jeff Hostetler

Combined playoff appearances with the Giants: 7

Combined championships: 2

Four years after Simms led the Giants to their first Super Bowl win, Hostetler was pressed into action and delivered a second title. Late in the 1990 season, Simms was lost with a broken foot. The Giants didn’t miss a beat with Hostetler. En route to victory in one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever played, Hostetler helped ruin the 49ers’ chances at the first three-peat in Super Bowl history with a 15-13 upset win at Candlestick Park in the NFC Championship.

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