There are few, if any, positions in sports that carry as much clout and responsibility as an NFL quarterback. They are one of the first to blame for failure, and one of the first to be congratulated for success. It’s a position that demands high IQ for the game itself, along with quality play on the field, and a distinct presence in the locker room. We’ve seen plenty of great NFL quarterbacks over the years, ones that have led their teams to great heights, and received many accolades. Most of them have deserved the praise, but there have been some that get more reverence than is warranted, all things considered.
Some quarterbacks are perceived to be great, because they happened to play on great teams, and thus were able to be carried by other areas of the roster. Some had an elite defense to help them, and some had the offensive personnel surrounding them which would guarantee success for any quarterback. Whatever the case, these quarterbacks definitely have been overrated in some capacity by fans and analysts. They generally aren’t terrible, but the fanfare surrounding their career should be lowered a notch or two, considering the circumstances.
Ranked below are 15 overrated NFL quarterbacks everyone pretends to love.
15. Daunte Culpepper
Since his retirement in 2009, Culpepper’s legacy has been inexplicably heightened by people in certain camps. The former Vikings quarterback had a few good seasons, but never was able to really string together a run that would qualify him as one of the best of his era. Regardless, there is a cult of fans that truly believe that Culpepper was an elite player, and not just a transition starter in Minnesota. The evidence however, points to Culpepper being a massive underachiever on the whole of it, given the brief amount of time he was able to have any success at all. He was a decent player, but not the juggernaut that some narratives say he was.
14. Andy Dalton
For some reason, Dalton has been seen as an acceptable franchise quarterback for the Bengals, despite his inability to carry his team to a single playoff win (with ample opportunity). On top of that, he is unable to step up in prime time games, when a win is needed most under the bright lights. The truth is, Dalton is fool’s gold. He’s good enough to slot in as starting quarterback every year, but he doesn’t have the skill set, nor the intangibles necessary to make a big playoff run in Cincinnati. No one truly believes that he’s a big-time NFL quarterback, he’s just good enough to save face until the Bengals finally have the stones to fire Marvin Lewis. At this point, Dalton will never win an NFL playoff game. Completely undeserving of all the praise he gets on seemingly an annual basis.
13. Carson Palmer
The Cardinals have been able to trick many people over the past four years that Carson Palmer is an elite NFL quarterback this late into his career. The reality is, he was always just an average quarterback masquerading as one that could get a team over the hump. His true colors were shown in the 2015 NFC Championship Game, where he turned in a piss-poor performance that signaled the end of the playoff run for Arizona. Combined that will the injury problems he’s suffered recently, and Palmer is a dud at this point. Sure, his career taken as a whole isn’t too bad, but there’s no way he should have ever been considered the catalyst for the Cardinals to win a Super Bowl. Bruce Arians tried to cut corners and avoid drafting a franchise quarterback, and now his decision has come full circle, and will hinder the team for the next few years.
12. Donovan McNabb
There’s no question that McNabb certainly had his moments over his career, but the primary credit for the Eagles being a juggernaut, elite team in the 2000s should go to their defense, and their defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. There were distinct times that Philly was able to win in spite of McNabb’s performance, and several times in key games he came up short. In fact, he only really ever was able to lead the Eagles to playoff wins when he did have that elite defense, never really elevating the personnel around him on his own accord. His career sputtered out almost immediately after leaving the Eagles. In hindsight, in the era that he played in, and at the time, McNabb was an overrated quarterback. But it didn’t stop him from making the covers of video games, and getting a broadcasting gig after retirement.
11. Brett Favre
Seen as the prototypical gunslinger-type at the quarterback position, there’s no question that Favre was entertaining to watch. He had a cannon of an arm, but he also exhibited some poor decision-making that lost his team games. You could make the argument that Favre only had four or five so seasons where he posted truly elite numbers. For the rest of them, he threw far too many interceptions, turning the ball over at a rapid rate. He was good for some highlight reel plays, and transitioned into advertising pretty well, giving him the kind of crossover appeal that has allowed people to overrate him for the past few years. Ultimately though, Favre was a quarterback who had a handful of good years, and then was a liability in many situations. Since he does have a Super Bowl to his credit, many people are willing to overlook this.
10. Phil Simms
Granted, Simms played in an era where it wasn’t absolutely imperative that the quarterback put up monster numbers, but that doesn’t mean that he was a standout in any way. Again, this is another case of a Super Bowl ring garnering more praise being thrown in Simms’ direction than he deserves, and that one title was largely won because of the performance of the Giants’ defense, which was led by an all-time great in Lawrence Taylor. Frankly, for the majority of his career, Simms’ output was merely ho-hum, and he wasn’t the elite quarterback that some made him out to be. His time spent as a bland, but competent broadcaster has given his legacy a boost as well. In reality, Simms was just a league-average quarterback who happened to be on one or two really good teams.
9. Jim Kelly
The Bills were absolutely stocked to the brim with great skill players in the Kelly era, and he benefited greatly from this superior personnel around him. No one debates that he had a few really good seasons, but his career was far too short to really be considered one of the best of his era. Basically, he wasn’t able to sustain a level of elite play. Yet his legacy is still viewed as one of the best quarterbacks of his generation, and that’s not really the case. Any roster that has the likes of Andre Reed and Thurman Thomas is going to go a long way in helping the quarterback post some great numbers. Nothing wrong with Kelly taking advantage of that for a few seasons, but it should be recognized for what it was. He definitely had a ton of success in the playoffs, but from a pure statistical perspective, Kelly’s career doesn’t live up to the praise.
8. Joe Namath
Namath was always a player that valued “sizzle over steak”, and his numbers reflect this fact. His grandiose persona and Hollywood-esque personality were intriguing no doubt, but for most of his career, “Broadway Joe” just couldn’t cut it under center. Even in the era of the ’60s and ’70s that he played in, the number of interceptions he threw was absolutely putrid. He only registered a single season in which he threw more touchdowns than picks. That’s absolutely horrible, regardless of the time period, or what quarterbacks were expected to do. Nevertheless, fans would rather remember the personality and pop culture figure instead of the mediocre player. Namath is one of the most overrated players of all-time, no doubt about it.
7. Cam Newton
It’s beginning to look like Newton’s breakout 2015 campaign was a little more than a flash in the pan. There’s no arguing his skill set, or the fact that he’s a great athlete. But does Cam really have the ability to become the type of quarterback that can be relied upon, season after season? It really isn’t looking to be the case right now. While he’s always going to be able to produce in some form and fashion because of his arm strength and athleticism, the strides we saw Newton take in 2015 to becoming a great pocket passer were pretty much negated after last season. Still, Cam’s able to get a good amount of press because of his personality, and the numerous controversies that surround him at any given moment. As a player on the field though, he isn’t one of the game’s truly elite players until he’s able to prove otherwise.
6. Tony Romo
It was a wise decision for Romo to retire recently, after the devastation of suffering three major injuries in the past two years. The boisterous fanfare he received for doing so was quite comical however. It would have been thought that we were talking about a shoo-in, first ballot Hall Of Fame player, instead of a quarterback who has a paltry two playoff wins to his credit over his entire career. There’s no doubt Romo’s had some nice seasons, but he’s also always had quality players around him. Putting the kind of numbers he has with the likes of Terrell Owens and Dez Bryant isn’t really too impressive when you stop and think about it. He did prove his worth as a very good quarterback, but the reaction to his retirement was a little over the top for the kind of player he really was. Let’s just hope he’s a better broadcaster for CBS than Phil Simms was.
5. Michael Vick
True, Vick is probably the best dual threat quarterback to ever play the game, but he still wasn’t enough of an arm talent to be considered a truly elite player. In 11 seasons as an NFL starter, he threw for 3,000 yards or more on just two occasions. In the modern game, that just isn’t going to cut it as far as being considered one of the best quarterbacks of his day. Nobody denies that Vick’s ability to run in the open field and contort his body away from defenders was dynamically entertaining, but there’s a reason that quarterbacks are throwers first. Vick’s deficiencies that he’s showed throughout his career show why we don’t often see quarterbacks play in this style at the pro level. He should be best remembered as a great runner, not a great quarterback.
4. Joe Flacco
For a player that came out of a college program like Delaware, Flacco has had a wildly successful NFL career. He’s definitely been a good quarterback, and was instrumental in leading the Ravens to the 2012 Super Bowl victory, even if the team was primarily carried by the defense. However, far too often he gets lumped into the “elite” category of quarterbacks, when he’s really just a solid player. There’s very little concerning his game that anyone could actively criticize, but it’s more just the way he’s perceived by the fans and media. Flacco does his job to a tee, but Baltimore is dependent on having a great defense pave most of the road for success, just as they always have during their best seasons. Flacco is definitely worth having, but he’s several steps back from the Aaron Rodgers’ of the world.
3. Terry Bradshaw
Bradshaw’s career has gotten a leg up from so many outside factors and circumstances over the years. Only a few seasons in his career did he really live up to the high standards of a “great” NFL quarterback. But when you’re under center for the Steel Curtain Steelers teams of the ’70s, there’s no way that your career isn’t going to be overhyped. Couple that with the fact that Bradshaw is a mainstay on Fox NFL Sunday, perhaps the popular pre-game show on T.V., and he’s often thought of as a far better player than he actually was. Make no mistake, the defensive players were the ones able to carry the Pittsburgh teams of the ’70s, and more often than not, Bradshaw was just along for the ride. Great personality on a great team, but as an individual talent he was just so-so.
2. Troy Aikman
Given the fact that Aikman played his entire career with one of the best receivers in the game (Michael Irvin) and maybe the best running back of all-time (Emmit Smith) by his side, his numbers aren’t very impressive. Most of the time, all Aikman had to do was simply manage the game and make high-percentage throws, while handing the ball off to Smith and letting him take up the bulk of the work. Certainly Aikman was a solid player, but his legacy is a little more than a bit exaggerated because of the Cowboys teams that he played on, and the massive success they had. His easy transition into the broadcast booth is also a culprit for the inflation of his legacy. All in all, Aikman was a good game manager that fit the Cowboys system, but on another team he would have been barely above average.
1. Eli Manning
If there’s one quarterback in the past 20 years that has been the beneficiary of a great defense more than Manning has, I haven’t found him. Manning has won two Super Bowls on the back of a great defense, only playing at an elite level sporadically. In between, when the defense hasn’t been one of the best in football, he’s often struggled. He has a penchant for throwing a bevy of dumb interceptions every season, and turns in average seasons, despite having at least one big playmaker around him (now Odell Beckham). But because of his last name, and the legacy that it carries alone, Eli will always be remembered as a far better quarterback than he actually is. In reality though, he hasn’t lived up to the hype, and should be thanking the likes of Michael Strahan and Jason Pierre-Paul for notching him two Super Bowl rings, when his individual play throughout then season didn’t warrant it.
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