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Lunchbreak: Favre, Cunningham Land on Top 10 List of Retirement Comebacks

Playing careers end for everyone at some point, but the pull of the game sometimes causes players to return to action after stepping away from the league.

The Vikings have had a pair of quarterbacks arrive in town after initially hanging up their cleats, only to produce perhaps the best seasons of their respective careers.

Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports recently ranked the top 10 best NFL comebacks out of retirement, and included two signal callers who suited up in Purple — Brett Favre and Randall Cunningham — on his list.

Favre, a Hall of Famer who played for the Vikings in 2009 and 2010, joined Minnesota after a retirement that followed one season (2008) with the Jets. Favre had already retired after the 2007 season with the Packers.

Kerr had Favre at No. 3 on his list. Kerr wrote that Favre might have been at his best when playing for the team he played against 32 times, including the postseason.

View some of the best images from Brett Favre's days as a Viking on the heels of him being named a 2016 Pro Football HOF finalist.

Shortly after the Jets season ended, Favre retired again, only to come back and quarterback the Minnesota Vikings in August of 2009. He had arguably the best season of his career at age 40, completing 68.4% of his passes while throwing for 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns to just seven interceptions (107.2 passer rating).

The Vikings reached the NFC Championship Game as Favre took the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints to overtime. Favre played one more season in Minnesota before retiring for good at age 41. He started 321 straight games at quarterback (regular season and postseason) and did not miss a game until his final season.

Cunningham, meanwhile, missed the 1996 season due to retirement. He landed in Minnesota for the 1997 season, where he played in six games with three starts, and helped lead the Vikings to a thrilling 23-22 road Wild Card playoff win over the Giants.

Kerr, who ranked Cunningham sixth on his list, said the quarterback was simply on fire the following season in 1998.

The 1998 season was Cunningham's best in the NFL, as he threw for 3,704 yards and 34 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions to lead the Vikings to a 15-1 record. Cunningham threw four touchdown passes in four separate games and led the NFL with a 106.0 passer rating, earning First-Team All-Pro honors at the age of 35. He threw for 505 yards and five touchdowns in two playoff games, but the Vikings were shocked in overtime by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game.

Cunningham never recaptured that 1998 magic and lost his starting job in 1999, but played three more years as a backup quarterback. He signed a one-day contract to retire with the Eagles in 2002. Cunningham threw for 7,102 yards and 57 touchdowns to 29 interceptions following his return.

Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham topped Kerr's list. Graham retired after leading the Browns to the 1954 NFL championship, only to come back for the 1955 season and win yet another title.

Hartman: Vikings in good hands with Gary Kubiak

Gary Kubiak will be the fifth different person to call the Vikings offensive plays since the start of the 2016 season, but there's no doubt he's been the most successful of that bunch.

Kubiak served as the team's assistant head coach/offensive advisor in 2019 while Kevin Stefanski was the offensive coordinator. But with Stefanski now the Browns head coach, Kubiak is back in a familiar role.

Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman recently noted that Kubiak, who is entering his 25th NFL season as 13th overall as a coordinator, isn’t short on experience in the league.

Hartman wrote:

There was no doubt when Kubiak was brought in as an assistant head coach last season that he was going to play a big part in the offensive game plan with Stefanski in his first season as an offensive coordinator.

And Kubiak said that as he looks back to last season — when the Vikings finished eighth in points per game, their highest mark since 2009 — he thinks the way the team brought in some of his concepts will be a big help this year after the difficult offseason.

View photos of the Vikings 2020 coaching staff.

"I was very impressed with how the group picked up a new scheme, basically," Kubiak said. "I know there was some overlap from that standpoint with what they had done in the past. But Kevin did a tremendous job of meshing with what I have done for years and what they wanted to hold on to, and I think we made up some ground really, really quickly. There is always things that you can do better, but I think the good thing is we have been able to go back and evaluate every play probably 10 times over from last year and decide where we want to continue to grow and what we maybe want to take out."

Kubiak has won four Super Bowls in his career. He won one as the Broncos head coach, captured two more as Denver's offensive coordinator and earned another as the quarterbacks coach with the 49ers.