When Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Brett Favre announced Wednesday, Aug. 18 that he was coming out of retirement to try lead the NFL team to the Super Bowl, he began a adventure into a world were few men have gone before. Former NFL greats have failed to produce quality numbers once they turned the corner into their fifth decade and their skills diminished quickly.
Here is a look at how others have played once they turned 40:
Perhaps the most versatile quarterback to have ever played the game, Warren Moon won five titles with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League before NFL fans south of the border heard of his name. With five years and 20,000 passing yards under his belt, Moon headed south in 1984 as a 28-year-old rookie. He went on to play with the Houston Oilers, Minnesota Vikings, and Seattle Seahawks before ending his career with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2000. He had his best over-40 season in 1997, when the 41-year-old Moon passed for 3,678 yards, 25 touchdowns and posted a passer rating of 83.7. The team went 7-7 under his direction. He struggled the next year when his interception rate increased and his passer rating dropped to 76. He served as a backup during the final two years of his NFL career.
The first man to reach 40,000 passing yards in NFL history, Unitas failed miserably while playing with the San Diego Chargers as a 40-year-old in 1974. He threw for 471 yards in four games and posted a passer rating of 40.0 during his final NFL season.
Hall-of-Fame Quarterback Sonny Jurgensen performed reasonably well as a second-string quarterback during his final season in 1974 when he turned 40. He posted a passer rating of 94.1 and completed 64 percent of his passes during a four-game stint as a starter for the Washington Redskins.
Charlie Conerly posted good enough statistics during his 14-year career with the New York Giants to earn a place in the NFL Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, his final season didn’t win him any votes for a home in Canton. As a 40-year-old, he completed only 41 percent of his passes and threw more interceptions than touchdowns.
The well-traveled NFL quarterback played for seven teams. Ironically he threw with greater accuracy as a 40-year-old with the New York Jets than he did as a 24-year-old rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His best over-40 NFL season came in 2004 when the 41-year-old Testaverde threw for 3,532 yards for the Dallas Cowboys. However, he coughed up more interceptions than touchdowns. His passer rating was 76.4. Testaverdy served as a backup for his final three NFL seasons.
The diminutive, scrambling quarterback found a second life in the Canadian Football League, spending eight years playing with the British Columbia Lions, Calgary Stampeeders and Toronto Argonauts. He returned south to the warm climate of Buffalo, N.Y. in 1998 to resurrect his NFL career. The 36-year-old Flutie won NFL’s comeback player of the year award that season. However, he was relegated to a back-up role with the San Diego Chargers when he turned 40 in 2002.
Pro Football Reference
NFL Hall of Fame