Citing high mathematical probability, the Arizona Cardinals (11-3 record) will make the upcoming NFC playoffs, despite being ravaged by injuries at key positions -- namely quarterback (Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton) and tailback (Andre Ellington) -- and subjectively possessing only middle-of-the-pack talent. But none of that would mean squat in a few weeks, if the Cardinals can hold off the surging Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West title and subsequently clinch a first-round postseason bye. FOX Sports South presents a whimsical look at 10 retired (or inactive) quarterbacks who could realistically help Arizona in a pinch -- if the Cardinals couldn't depend on Ryan Lindley (a one-time preseason cut) or Logan Thomas (untested rookie) during the playoffs. (Photos: Assorted Images)
NFL SERVICE TIME: 1987-2000 (Bears, Colts, Ravens, Chargers) ... STATS: 26,288 Yards Passing, 147 TDs ... SKINNY: OK, so Harbaugh hasn't worn an NFL jersey in 14 years; and as a highly successful head coach, he's currently busy trying to lead the San Francisco 49ers to a fourth consecutive playoff berth. However, when watching the 50-year-old Harbaugh warm up on the sidelines for gamedays, one gets the distinct feeling that old Captain Comeback would trade all of his coaching success ... for one last NFL playoff game as a starting quarterback. The arm strength may be there, as well, since Harbaugh likely tosses a minimum of 100 balls during a standard NFL-prep week. (Photos: Mitch Stringer/Assorted Images/Kyle Terada)
NFL SERVICE TIME: 1990-2001 (Colts, Falcons, Raiders, Vikings, Redskins) ... STATS: 27,602 Yards Passing, 156 TDs ... SKINNY: Don't laugh. The 47-year-old George -- who arguably possesses one of the five strongest arms in NFL history -- has spent the better part of the last 10 years staying in shape, honing his footwork and preserving that arm/cannon for pro ball ... just in case an NFL franchise should call. Whether it's a vain attempt to maintain a youthful lifestyle, or a mature admission of under-performing during his prime years (the former No. 1 overall pick registered only one 4,000-yard campaign), George certainly has the desire to be football's next George Blanda. If that's even possible. (Photos: Assorted Images)
NFL SERVICE TIME: 1995-2011 (Panthers, Saints, Gaints, Raiders, Titans, Colts) ... STATS: 40,922 Yards Passing, 218 TDs ... SKINNY: The Penn State product, who turns 42 on Dec. 30, might still be collecting an NFL paycheck, if he hadn't sustained a concussion during the 2011 campaign with the Colts -- otherwise known as the "bridge year" connecting the prolific eras of Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. As part of that, if Collins doesn't get knocked out against Pittsburgh that final season ... perhaps Indy doesn't post the NFL's worst record and, ahem, earn the draft rights to Luck. It's worth noting: Collins enjoyed more passing success in his 30s -- compared to his youthful 20s.
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NFL SERVICE TIME: 1985-1999 (Buccaneers, 49ers) ... STATS: 33,124 Yards Passing, 275 TDs ... SKINNY: Age may only be a number with the 53-year-old Young -- the oldest quarterback of this countdown -- who logged just 143 NFL starts (regular season) in his Hall of Fame career and maintains a youthful appearance on TV every weekend. Plus, we're talking about one of the most accurate passers in league history. From ages 31-36, Young claimed five passing-efficiency titles, annually flirting with a 70-percent completion rate. He also amassed a league-high 37 TD passes in 1998 -- at age 37. (Photos: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports/Assorted Images)
NFL SERVICE TIME: 1999-2003 (Browns) ... STATS: 11,131 Yards Passing, 66 TDs ... SKINNY: Obviously, Couch didn't live up to the hype of a No. 1 overall draft pick. Nor did he endure as the redoubtable face of a storied "expansion" franchise (the NEW Cleveland Browns). To be fair, though, it was a rotator-cuff injury -- and not a lack of talent -- that prompted an early retirement from pro football. Which brings us to this: Assuming his shoulder has completely healed, why couldn't the 37-year-old Couch make a comeback -- not unlike Dennis Quaid's character in the baseball movie, The Rookie? Here's one more interesting note: Current Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians was Couch's offensive coordinator in Cleveland for three seasons (2001-03). (Photos: Assorted Images)
NFL SERVICE TIME: 1999-2009 (Vikings, Dolphins, Raiders, Lions) ... STATS: 24,153 Yards Passing, 183 TDs ... SKINNY: If it weren't for Peyton Manning's absurd 2004 season (then-record 49 TD passes), the Vikings' Culpepper (4,717 yards passing, 41 total TDs) would surely have collected MVP honors. And if it weren't for a debilitating knee injury the following year, Culpepper might have broken Fran Tarkenton's franchise passing records. Instead, the talented QB bounced around with a few teams before concluding his career with Detroit -- as Matthew Stafford's backup. Fast forward to the present: The 37-year-old Culpepper specializes in throwing the deep ball -- a staple of Cardinals coach Bruce Arians' offensive system. His desert presence might even lure Randy Moss out of retirement, too. (Photos: Assorted Images)
NFL SERVICE TIME: 1997-2008 (Redskins, Rams, Chiefs, Dolphins) ... STATS: 28,475 Yards Passing, 168 TDs ... SKINNY: If Green (left) doesn't sustain a severe knee injury during the 1999 preseason, it's eminently possible Kurt Warner never sees the light of day that season with the Rams, the eventual Super Bowl champions. And if Dick Vermeil (right) never claims a Lombardi Trophy with St. Louis (thanks to Warner) ... perhaps he doesn't get a chance to coach Green in Kansas City during the mid-2000s. Put it all together, and the youthful-looking Green (8,506 yards passing at ages 34-35) has an interesting place in NFL history -- both directly and indirectly. A true capper would entail a surreal, but doable comeback with the Cards, at age 44. (Photos: Assorted Images)
NFL SERVICE TIME: 2007-13 (Browns, Broncos, Chiefs, Jets, Rams, Dolphins, Seahawks) ... STATS: 3,043 Yards Passing, 13 TDs ... SKINNY: Technically, Quinn (a first-round pick with the Browns in 2007) hasn't retired from the game; but he still qualifies for this countdown, citing two reasons: 1) Despite his broadcasting duties with FOX Sports, the 30-year-old Quinn remains in great athletic shape. 2) For a short period of 4-6 games, Quinn seemingly has the capacity to match or eclipse the numbers of Ryan Lindley and/or Logan Thomas -- Arizona's primary quarterbacks heading into a Week 16 showdown with Seattle.
NFL SERVICE TIME: 1991-2010 (Falcons, Packers, Jets, Vikings) ... STATS: 71,838 Yards Passing, 522 TDs ... SKINNY: If anyone has the gusto/arm strength to average 290 yards passing/2 TDs at age 45 -- it's the incomparable Favre, arguably the greatest retired quarterback in NFL history. And for those who worry about his physical conditioning, post-retirement, look no further than the many national endorsements that run on Sundays ... showing off Favre's lumberjack-esque physique. To wit, Favre's brilliant 2009 campaign with the Vikings (4,202 yards passing, 33 TDs) easily stands as the league's most prolific season from a 40-something quarterback. In a perfect world, Favre could still be a beast. (Photos: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports/Assorted Images/Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)
SERVICE TIME: 1998-2009 (Packers, Rams, Giants, Cardinals) ... STATS: 32,344 Yards Passing, 211 TDs ... SKINNY: Warner stands as the primary motivation for this countdown, citing his recent ambivalence of whether he could help the Cardinals during the playoffs. And why not? Warner's only 43 years old ... and looks to be in top-notch shape, when handling TV duties with NFL Network. Plus, it's worth noting: From 2007-09, Warner's age 36-38 seasons, the Cards QB (and potential Hall of Famer) notched absurd three-year averages of 3,918 yards passing, 28 TDs and an elite-level completion rate of 65.4 percent. Oh, and he piloted the franchise to its first and only Super Bowl appearance, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the final seconds. (Photos: Assorted Images)