During various years of his NFL career, Brodie led the League in passing yardage, passing touchdowns, least sacks, and lowest percentage of passes intercepted. He retired as the third most prolific career passer in NFL history, having been named the 1970 League MVP and a two-time Pro Bowler.
Brodie very nearly chose golf for his sporting career, turning professional following completion of his time on the Stanford team and playing in several tournaments on the PGA Tour.
Brodie later said of his first golfing experience
"You talk about pressure. I was always worried that I wasn't going to make the cut. Fact is there was only one time I was close enough to say I was in competition in the final round. I had to make up my mind. I couldn't be pro in two sports and do justice to either one."
Brodie first appeared with the 49ers as a rookie in 1957, seeing limited action. He got more playing time in 1958 through 1960, sharing time with Y.A. Tittle; he became the starter in 1961 (Tittle was traded to the New York Giants), and continued in that role through 1973.
Brodie was among the leading passers in the league throughout the 1960s. His best statistical year was 1965 when he led the League in passing yardage (3,112 yards) and passing touchdowns (30), leading to his first of two Pro Bowl appearances.
A football signed by John Brodie that was gifted to President Gerald Ford.
Following his outstanding 1965 season Brodie was courted by the Houston Oilers of the rival American Football League. Newspaper reports indicated that a contract with the Oilers paying between $650,000 and $1,000,000 had been arranged. Rumors of a forthcoming merger between the two leagues combined with an improved contract offer from the 49ers moved Brodie to stay put in San Francisco, however, and a multi-year deal paying Brodie $900,000 over several seasons was instead inked.
The 1970 season proved to be a particularly stellar for Brodie. During that year he led the entire NFL with 24 touchdown passes, while taking a league low 8 sacks during the entire season. Brodie also paced NFL quarterbacks with a league-leading 2.6% of his passes resulting in interception. Brodie's outstanding season was rewarded when he received the 1970 NFL Most Valuable Player Award.
When Brodie retired from the NFL at the end of the 1973 season, he ranked third in career passing yards, behind only Johnny Unitas and Fran Tarkenton.
After he retired from football, Brodie served as an NFL football and golf analyst for NBC Sports and competed as a professional golfer on the Senior PGA Tour (now the Champions Tour) from 1981 to 1998. Brodie had one win and 12 top-10 finishes, earning a total of $735,000. He had the longest gap between appearances in the U.S. Open — missing the cut in both 1959 and 1981.
Brodie suffered a major stroke in 2000 which rendered speaking difficult for him.
John has been married to Sue for 55 years, and they have five children, four daughters and a son, and ten grandchildren. One of his daughters, Erin, found fame on television in 2003, while another daughter Diane, was married to former NFL quarterback Chris Chandler.
During the 1969 NFL season Brodie experienced tendonitis in his throwing arm which caused him to miss two and a half games. He received cortisone shots in an effort to remedy the problem, without apparent success. In desperation for relief, Brodie was introduced to a representative of the Church of Scientology, who — Brodie insisted at the time — used Dianetics-based techniques to completely eliminate the tendonitis by the following week. Thus began a connection between Brodie and the church.
Brodie was for years thereafter one of the leading celebrity endorsers of the Church of Scientology. This public role was ultimately ended when several of Brodie's friends were expelled or harassed in a power struggle with the Church's hierarchy. While professing continued admiration for the teachings of church founder L. Ron Hubbard, "there were many in the church I felt were treated unfairly," Brodie told the Los Angeles Times in 2006.