In 1960 and 1961, Jack Kemp quarterbacked the Chargers to the AFL Championship Game, ultimately losing both times to the Houston Oilers. Then, in 1964 and 1965, Kemp reached the AFL Championship Game again, only this time, the San Diego Chargers were his opponent! Both times! That’s right, in four of the first six seasons, Kemp started in the AFL title game either for or against the Chargers. And in all four games, San Diego went 0-4, as Kemp’s Bills defeated the Chargers, in both games, on the strength of some dominant Buffalo defenses. San Diego did win the AFL title in 1963, otherwise that would go down as one of the saddest stretches in championship game history.
Craig Morton was the Dallas Cowboys quarterback in the late ’60s and early ’70s, before Roger Staubach took the job. Morton was the team’s starter in five playoff games before moving on to Denver. With the Broncos, Morton appeared in five more playoff games, with the most famous of those being Super Bowl XII. But Morton would not be able to pull off the upset that day: the Broncos committed eight turnovers, and Dallas won, 27-10.
From a “worth to his franchise” standpoint, it’s hard to touch Manning with the Colts, but Ken Stabler was a beloved Raiders quarterback for a decade. In 1980, a 35-year-old Stabler was with the Houston Oilers, who made the playoffs despite Stabler’s 13 TD/28 INT ratio. Houston’s opponent in the first round? The Oakland Raiders, in Oakland. As with Morton, there would be no story of redemption here, as the Raiders won, 27-7.
So Manning will either join Kemp as the only quarterbacks to beat their former teams in the playoffs, or join the Morton/Stabler as quarterbacks who lost in the most painful way possible: against the team that abandoned them.
Not quite qualifying, but still interesting trivia: In 1990, Steve Walsh was the New Orleans quarterback in the playoffs against the Bears; four years later, he was Chicago’s starting quarterback in the playoffs. In 1999, Brad Johnson was Washington’s starting quarterback in a game against Tampa Bay; two years later, he would be the Bucs starting quarterback in the playoffs, and would win the Super Bowl with Tampa Bay the following year. Michael Vick played the Eagles in both the 2002 and 2004 playoffs with the Falcons, and then was the Eagles starter in the 2010 playoffs. Steve McNair was the Titans quarterback when Tennessee played the 2000 Ravens; six years later, McNair was Baltimore’s starter in the playoffs. Brett Favre was Green Bay’s quarterback against the Vikings in 2004, before leading Minnesota to the NFC Championship Game five years later.
And finally, Jeff Garcia played Tampa Bay in the 2002 playoffs as the 49ers starting quarterback, and then would be the Bucs starter in the 2007 playoffs. Why did I save Garcia for last? Because of one favorite bit of Garcia-related playoff trivia: incredibly, he played the Giants as a member of the 49ers, Eagles, and Bucs. That’s just freaky.