These 10 Hall of Fame-caliber NFL players are synonymous with one uniform, even though they finished their playing days in the wrong colors.
There’s many ways we could have gone here. After all, the NFL has enjoyed 102 seasons and thousands of notable players have adorned the field.
We didn’t make room for Tom Brady with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or Thurman Thomas with the Miami Dolphins. Each easily could have been on the list. The same can be said for Deion Sanders with the Baltimore Ravens or Andre Johnson with the Tennessee Titans.
However, with all the choices we had, these are the 10 we went with:
10 NFL greats who finished their careers in the wrong uniform
10. Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos
Manning spent four fantastic years with the Broncos, winning a Super Bowl and reaching two. However, even though he’s now a Denver staple, he’ll always be rightfully remembered with the horseshoe as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.
9. Bruce Smith, Washington Redskins
Smith is the NFL’s all-time leading sack artist, and spent the first 15 years of his career with the Buffalo Bills. Yet the final four were with Washington, where he was still excellent, racking up 29 sacks.
8. O.J. Simpson – San Francisco 49ers
Another Bills’ legend who left the team late in his career was Simpson, who became the league’s first 2,000-yard rusher in a single season with Buffalo in 1973. However, battered from nine years of punishment, Simpson was traded to the 49ers in ’78 before retiring after the 1979 season. He ran for 1,053 yards and four touchdowns with San Francisco.
7. Brett Favre – Minnesota Vikings
Favre looked very out of place with both the Jets and Minnesota Vikings. Hell, you could argue the same for the Atlanta Falcons. However, the Vikings were the most bizarre considering their rivalry with the Green Bay Packers, whom Favre starred for from 1992-07. In two seasons with the Vikings, Favre reached the NFC title game and earned a Pro Bowl berth.
6. Joe Montana – Kansas City Chiefs
Montana was a popular choice as the game’s all-time quarterback before Brady came along, and rightfully so. He won four Super Bowls with the Niners and was the face of a dynasty before being dealt to the Chiefs in 1993. In Kansas City, Montana played two years and reached the postseason twice, including a berth in the AFC Championship Game.
5. Franco Harris – Seattle Seahawks
Harris was a cornerstone of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ dynasty in the 1970s. However, despite rushing for 1,007 yards in 1983, Harris was released by Pittsburgh before signing with Seattle in ’84. The result was 170 rushing yards on 2.5 yards per carry before he retired.
4. Joe Namath – Los Angeles Rams
Namath is the most legendary figure the American Football League has from its history, having won the upstart league’s first Super Bowl as a member of the New York Jets. But with aching knees on a bad team, he went to the Rams in 1977 with championship dreams. Unfortunately, Namath only played in four games before calling it quits at season’s end.
3. Jerry Rice – Seattle Seahawks
Rice is the game’s undisputed all-time receiver, yet he wore three uniforms. He’s most remembered with the 49ers before moving on to the Oakland Raiders, where he performed to the tune of two 1,000-yard seasons between ages 39-41. At 42 years old, Rice played 11 games with the Seahawks, managing only 25 catches for 362 yards.
2. Emmitt Smith – Arizona Cardinals
The NFL’s all-time leading rusher, Smith spent 13 years with the Dallas Cowboys, winning three Super Bowls. At age 34, Smith moved onto the Cardinals, where he rushed for 1,193 yards and 11 touchdowns on 3.3 yards per game across two seasons.
1. Johnny Unitas – San Diego Chargers
Nothing in NFL history beats this. Unitas was not only the face of the Baltimore Colts but the city itself through the 1950s and ’60s, helping win three titles. He was the greatest player of his era. Somehow, the Colts unceremoniously benched and then traded Unitas to the lousy Chargers in 1973, where he played five games (four starts) and threw three touchdowns against seven interceptions.