Less than three years after replacing future Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to a fourth Super Bowl title. His performance earned him the No. 1 spot in this week's Cross-Sport Power Rankings.
Since taking over in 2008, Rodgers ranks among the league leaders in passing yards (fourth), touchdown passes (fourth) and passer rating (third). More importantly, he's matched Favre in the most crucial stat of all: championships.
Is Rodgers on his way to having the best career by a player or coach who faced the tough task of replacing a legend? The Stats & Information Group has compiled a list of 10 worthy contenders for that title. Do you disagree with anyone on our list? Feel free to comment below.
10. Kevin Harvick
He replaced Dale Earnhardt for Richard Childress Racing following Earnhardt’s death in the 2001 Daytona 500. Just weeks after the tragedy, Harvick won at Atlanta in only his third career Sprint Cup start. Harvick has won 13 other NSCS races in a career that's spanned 10 seasons. In 2010, Harvick's third-place finish in the points race was the best of his career.
9. Leroy Kelly
After Jim Brown completed arguably the greatest career by a running back in NFL history in 1965, Kelly faced the nearly impossible task of replacing the Browns legend. Kelly, who had just 43 rushes in the two seasons he played alongside Brown, rushed for more than 1,100 yards in 1966, leading the league with 5.5 yards per rush. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
8. George Seifert
Taking over for three-time Super Bowl champion Bill Walsh in 1989, Seifert and Joe Montana led the 49ers to a Super Bowl win over the Denver Broncos, joining Don McCafferty as the only head coaches to win the Super Bowl in their first season. (Seifert added a second ring five years later with a different starting quaterback, Steve Young.) During his eight seasons in San Francisco (1989-96), the 49ers won 98 games, 13 more than any other franchise.
The 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year took over the storied No. 7 jersey for Manchester United in 2003, following in the footsteps of George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham. Ronaldo scored more than 80 goals in the Barclays Premier League and led the Red Devils to three straight league championships (2007-2009).
6. Jimmy Johnson
Dallas went 1-15 in 1989, Johnson's first season after taking over for Tom Landry, the head coach of the Cowboys for the team’s first 29 seasons. Things improved quickly for Johnson after drafting Emmitt Smith in 1990. The team won back-to-back Super Bowls following the 1992-93 seasons.
5. Sidney Crosby
The 2007 Hart Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion benefited from playing with the man he replaced as the face of the Penguins franchise when Mario Lemieux came out of retirement in 2005. Since his one season with Lemieux, Crosby has led the league in points (2006-07) and goals (2009-10 along with Steven Stamkos). He also took the Penguins to consecutive Stanley Cup Finals, beating the Red Wings in 2009.
4. Carl Yastrzemski
Yastrzemski had more to worry about than playing left field in the shadow of the Green Monster during his 1961 rookie season with the Boston Red Sox. He was replacing Ted Williams, arguably the greatest hitter in the history of baseball. Yaz hit .266 as a rookie, but finished his 23-year career with a .285 batting average, 452 HR and more than 1,800 RBI. The Hall of Famer was a near-unanimous choice for the 1967 AL MVP Award after winning the Triple Crown, a feat no other major leaguer has accomplished since.
3. Tim Duncan
Duncan was lucky to land on a Spurs team just one season removed from seven straight playoff appearances. The Spurs also featured an established post presence in 1994-95 NBA MVP David Robinson.
They quickly formed one of the league’s best defensive duos, leading the Spurs to NBA titles in 1999 and 2003. Duncan won consecutive NBA MVP awards playing alongside Robinson in 2001-02 and 2002-03, and continued to dominate following Robinson's retirement. To date, the four-time NBA champion is one of just 13 players in league history with 21,000 points and 11,000 rebounds.
2. Mickey Mantle
Mantle replaced Joe DiMaggio in centerfield for the Yankees in 1952, the second season for the 20-year-old. That summer, Mantle earned the first of 14 straight All-Star selections. Overall, the three-time American League MVP finished his career with 536 HR, third-most in MLB history at the time of his retirement in 1968.
1. Steve Young
He finally took over as the 49ers starting quarterback in 1991, after serving as an understudy to Hall-of-Famer Joe Montana from 1987-90. In 1992, he was named the league MVP and started a stretch of seven straight Pro Bowl selections. Young added another MVP Award in 1994, guiding the 49ers to their fifth Super Bowl title.
Young was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005, and entered the 2010 season as the top-rated passer in league history among qualifiers. However, Young no longer holds that distinction, having been dislodged atop the career passer rating list by none other than Aaron Rodgers.