Quarterback is the most important position in sports and because of that, the quality of any such quarterback is always a hot debate topic. Are they good, are they bad, or are they in-between? Is this a guy who can lead your team to a title, or will you be stuck in mediocrity or worse with him under center? The same goes for quarterbacks from previous generations. Ask any NFL fan and they can give you at least their top 5 quarterbacks of all-time without even thinking about it.
This article dives into that discussion in a little different way. Here we take a look at not the best, or worst, but some of the most overrated and underrated guys to ever play the position. Some of these guys get too much praise, while others don’t get enough. So flip through this list and see what you think. Maybe you agree with our list, or maybe you don’t.
15. Vinnie Testaverde (underrated)
If you take a glance at Testaverde’s numbers you may think he’s one of the greatest Hall of Fame snubs in NFL history. He ranks 7th in NFL history for all-time passing yards, for crying out loud. Of course, you can throw for a ton of yards when you play for 20 seasons, which he did.
The ageless Testaverde should get credit for his longevity, something that many NFL players can only dream of. While he does have just a 90-123 career record as a starter, he should be commended for leading the 7th -most fourth-quarter comeback all-time.
15. Carson Palmer (overrated)
It’s a little unfair to call Palmer overrated because he’s going to garner serious consideration from the Hall of Fame. He also deserves a lot of credit for being able to come back from serious injuries on multiple occasions.
However, despite throwing for nearly 300 touchdowns and having over 100 more touchdowns than interceptions, Palmer only played in four playoff games, and in one of them, he only threw one pass before getting hurt. Without leading his team to a few more playoff appearances, you have to admit that Palmer is a little overrated.
14. Mark Brunell (underrated)
Mark Brunell gets forgotten about because he refused to retire so for so many years we saw him on Sundays either playing in mop-up roles or carrying a clipboard. But in his earlier days with the Jacksonville Jaguars Brunell was a force to be reckoned with.
Brunell ranks 31st all-time in passing yards and 29th all-time in passer rating. He’s ahead of some serious legends like Terry Bradshaw and Joe Namath in those categories. Maybe his best achievement though was leading the Jags to the AFC Championship Game in just their second season in existence.
14. Rich Gannon (overrated)
Technically, we could label Gannon as a late-bloomer, as he ended up going to four straight Pro Bowls from 1999 to 2002 and winning league MVP in 2002. But he also started his career in the NFL in 1987, so it’s fair to label him as a little overrated just because of how long it took him to figure everything out.
He spent the first decade of his career being a subpar starter in Minnesota and a serviceable at best backup in Kansas City. Yes, Gannon deserves some respect for the success he had late in his career. But compared to other MVPs, he doesn’t stack up.
13. Boomer Esiason (underrated)
Boomer Esiason is like so many men on this list, great but just not the best of his generation so history forgets about their greatness. Case in point: Esiason led the otherwise inept Bengals franchise to a Super Bowl in 1988. Who did they come up against? Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers.
However, Esiason ranks 16th all-time in both passing yards and touchdowns so the guy has the numbers to prove his credentials. What’s more, Esiason has a higher career passer rating than John Elway and Johnny Unitas. Impressive.
13. Daunte Culpepper (overrated)
There’s no denying that Culpepper had impressive physical tools and could have been something special in the NFL. However, injuries prevented him from carving out the kind of career that would make him one of the all-time greats. He really only had about three stand-out seasons, including the 2004 season when he had over 5,000 total yards.
After that season, injuries derailed his career. But even before then, Culpepper had seasons plagued by turnovers and inconsistency, which is why he’s a little overrated, all things considered.
12. Phil Simms (underrated)
Kids, Phil Sims isn’t just that guy whose job Tony Romo stole, he was an outstanding NFL quarterback. Simms ranks 23rd in NFL history for career passing yards with 33,462. Simms was named to two Pro Bowl, in 1985 and 1993.
But his greatest moment as a professional came in Super Bowl XXI when he completed 22 of 25 passes and three touchdowns. He set an NFL postseason record with a 150.9 passer rating for the game and most importantly won the game.
12. Joe Flacco (overrated)
Winning one Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP doesn’t change the fact that Flacco is an incredibly average quarterback. He’s always had impressive arm strength and is one of the best deep-ball passers. But Flacco has also thrown 10 or more interceptions in every season until 2018.
His stats are steady but largely unimpressive. Also, Flacco has never been selected to a Pro Bowl, which shows that he’s nowhere near the top of the class when compared to other quarterbacks of his generation, yet he’s often mentioned in that category because of that one Super Bowl.
11. Doug Flutie (underrated)
Before anyone freaks out we’re not arguing that Doug Flutie is the greatest quarterback of all time or even a Hall of Famer. But we need to acknowledge that Doug Flutie is tremendously underrated. After a slow start to his career in the USFL and the NFL Flutie headed to Canada.
Flutie dominated the CFL, winning 3 Grey Cups and 6 Most Outstanding Player Awards. He still owns the record for most passing yards in a season. Flutie returned to the NFL for 7 years where he earned a Pro Bowl nomination and threw for 12,715. He retired with 20 more touchdowns than interceptions and had a career passer rating of 76.3. Flutie was a good NFL quarterback.
11. Trent Dilfer (overrated)
People forget that Dilfer was an Elite 11 quarterback in high school and the 6th-overall pick back in 1994, but only ever developed into a glorified game manager. He does have a Super Bowl ring to show for his efforts, but let’s be honest, the Baltimore defense won that Super Bowl.
In the end, he only made one Pro Bowl and finished his career with a modest 55% completion percentage and more interceptions than touchdowns. Come on, that’s a below-average quarterback in any era.
10. Kordell Stewart (overrated)
It’s hard not to romanticize about “Slash.” Obviously, he was an incredible athlete and a once-in-a-decade type player. But as a quarterback, he had limited success. In 1997, he committed four turnovers in the AFC Championship Game. The only other time he did anything special is when the Steelers went 13-3 in 2001, only to lose in the AFC Championship again.
Over the years, Stewart would be benched in favor of quarterbacks like Kent Graham, Tommy Maddox, and Rex Grossman. Those names say everything you need to know about Slash as a quarterback in the NFL.
10. Ken Anderson (underrated)
Without Ken Anderson, there would have been no 49ers dynasty because he was the man under center while Bengals assistant Bill Walsh was pioneering what would become known as the “West Coast Offense.” Anderson led the NFL in passing yards under Walsh twice, but it wasn’t just Walsh’s influence that made Anderson what he was.
After Walsh left for San Francisco, Anderson won an MVP with the Bengals in 1981. He even took the historically inept franchise to the Super Bowl where as fate would have it, they got beat by Walsh’s 49ers. Yet, the Hall of Fame has never come calling for Anderson. Maybe someday.
10. Jake Plummer (overrated)
Having the nickname “The Snake” makes Plummer easier to remember than most of the other mediocre quarterbacks of his era, but ht was just that, a mediocre quarterback. He didn’t throw more touchdowns than interceptions in a season until his fifth year in the league.
Plummer never won that much in Arizona and couldn’t make it work with Mike Shanahan in Denver even though he was seemingly the perfect fit for Shanahan’s offense. At the end of his career, Plummer lost his job to Jay Cutler, which is quite embarrassing considering the way Cutler’s career panned out.
9. Tony Romo (underrated)
Tony Romo’s shortcomings as a quarterback are well established, and perhaps more established than any other quarterback because Romo was the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. But, despite his lack of playoff success and record with injuries, Romo had an excellent career.
Romo trails just Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach for wins as Cowboys quarterback and has the fourth-best passer rating in NFL history. The men he trails are all certain to be Hall of Famers when they retire. Yet, people will always underestimate him because he failed to get the Cowboys to the conference championship game.
9. Kerry Collins (overrated)
Collins deserves some credit for being Carolina’s first quarterback in their expansion season and sticking around the NFL for over a decade. But he was never anywhere close to being an elite quarterback. He made two Pro Bowls, but they came more than a decade apart, so there was little consistency.
Collins consistently struggled to hang onto a starting job whenever he got one, which is why he played for six different teams. He may have had a prolific career in college, but in the NFL, Collins was little more than a journeyman and a backup.
8. Steve McNair (underrated)
Steve McNair was a winner, plain and simple. He had a career record of 91-62, and while that’s not all down to his quarterback play much of it is due to his leadership. He battled injuries during his entire career but still played more often than not. He was just tough.
But don’t get thinking McNair was all heart and no talent. McNair ranks 33rd all-time in passing yards so the guy has the numbers to back it up. It’s a shame he never got the chance to go back to the Super Bowl after he led the Titans to within a literal fingertip of lifting the Lombardi Trophy.
8. Bernie Kosar (overrated)
By Cleveland’s standards, Kosar is a legend, but we all know the Browns have lower standards than the rest of the league. It’s curious to note that he did start 10 playoff games, going 5-5, which is somewhat impressive. But he had just four seasons with over 3,000 yards passing.
Kosar also finished his career with a losing record as a starter. Outside of leading the Browns to a 12-4 record in 1986, Kosar didn’t do much to stand out, so it’s tough to understand why he’s still thought of so highly.
7. Drew Bledsoe (underrated)
Drew Bledsoe is remembered most these days for being the guy that got hurt and allowed Tom Brady to ascend to his throne as GOAT. But that’s not fair. Bledsoe was a good quarterback in his own right, it’s just that Brady took things to another level.
In case you’re not convinced listen to this, Bledsoe ranks 8th all-time in passing yards with over 44,000. Eight times he posted seasons with more than 3,500 passing yards. As for Bledsoe not being a clutch performer, he ranks 10th in NFL history for most game-winning drives and 4th quarter comebacks. That’s clutch.
7. Jim McMahon (overrated)
McMahon had a lot of flair and bravado, but he wasn’t really a standout quarterback despite being the fifth overall pick in the draft in 1982. He helped the Bears win Super Bowl XX after a 15-1 season, but that team was so loaded with guys like Walter Payton and Mike Singletary that they could have one with just about anyone at quarterback.
Injuries are partly to blame for his career heading south, but for a guy who went to one Pro Bowl, he gets way too much credit for being a great player.
6. Randall Cunningham (underrated)
Huddle up, youngsters. Before Lamar Jackson became the league’s greatest dual-threat quarterback there was Mike Vick. But before Michael Vick shook up the league there was Randall Cunningham breaking ground for what a quarterback could do.
During his 1990 season alone, Cunningham threw for 3,466 yards and ran for 942. He scored 35 touchdowns altogether. In 1998, he led the league in rushing yards per game with 106. His passer rating was just 81.5 but that does rank him above Mike Vick and John Elway. Cunningham held the all-time rushing record for a quarterback until Vick broke it in 2011.
6. Jeff Hostetler (overrated)
Good ole Hoss has two Super Bowl rings on his hand. Of course, he was only the backup to Phil Sims for one of them. The other Super Bowl win he started, although he probably owes that one to Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood. For some reason, people think of Hostetler as a long-time starter in the NFL, but the guy has less than 100 touchdown passes in his career.
The year of his one and only Pro Bowl performance, he only led the Raiders to a modest 9-7 record. He’s perhaps the most glorified backup in NFL history and little more.
5. Ken Stabler (underrated)
It’s hard to imagine that a quarterback who won a Super Bowl and is in the Hall of Fame could be considered underrated but here we are with The Snake. In his very first season, Stabler led the league in completion percentage.
From there he would go on to one of the greatest careers in NFL history. At the time of his retirement, Stabler finished with the second-highest completion percentage of all-time. Yet that was his only major league-wide standout statistical category. The guy won a league MVP twice but didn’t put up massive numbers. That’s why it took so long for him to get inducted into the Hall of Fame.
4. Trent Green (overrated)
How in the world did Trent Green even stay in the NFL for a full decade? The best thing he ever did was get hurt so that Kurt Warner could take over and lead the Rams to the Super Bowl in one of the greatest stories in NFL history.
He spent five years in Kansas City after the Chiefs gave up a first-round pick to get him, but he only had two winning seasons in those five years. For much of his career, he was the least-worst option his team had at the time. Even calling Green an average quarterback seems like a compliment he doesn’t deserve.
4. Warren Moon (underrated)
Warren Moon’s numbers are lower than you might expect for a quarterback with his reputation, but that’s because he spent the first six years of his career in the Canadian Football League. He didn’t come to the Houston Oilers until he was 28.
His late start in the NFL didn’t hold him back, and in fact, maybe helped him as he played until was in his 40s. At age 41, Moon threw for an NFL leading 245 yards per game. Let’s see Brady do that. Moon ranks 5th all-time in passing yards in the NFL, but if you add in his Canadian numbers he ranks second. Incredible.
4. Michael Vick (overrated)
When he came into the league, Vick was supposed to be a transformative figure. He was going to change how the quarterback position was played. But that just didn’t happen. The best quarterbacks are still the guys who sit in the pocket and can dissect defenses with their arms and minds.
Vick was different and exciting, and no one can deny that he had some good years, including four Pro Bowl appearances. Even if you take away all of his issues off the field, his performance on the field does not qualify him as the legendary or mythical figure he’s sometimes made out to be.
3. Otto Graham (underrated)
It’s easy to overlook the greatness of Otto Graham because he was great so very long ago. In fact, his career started before Bill Belichick was born. After fighting in World War II (told you it was a long time ago) Graham joined the newly formed Cleveland Browns of the AAFC. Over the next nine years, Graham would dominate the league and the NFL once the team switched leagues.
Graham is a 7-time league champion and 5-time league MVP. It’s almost not worth looking at statistics as the game has changed so much since those days, yet remarkably Graham still holds the NFL record for yards gained per pass attempt and for the highest career winning percentage for an NFL quarterback.
3. Matthew Stafford (overrated)
When you sign what at the time was the largest contract in NFL history, you better be worth it, and Stafford just isn’t. No one’s denying that Stafford has immense arm talent, which is why people throw him in the conversation about the best quarterbacks in the game.
But he’s only been to one Pro Bowl, and the Lions have lost all three playoff games they’ve reached since drafting Stafford. He can sling it, but he’s not a winner, and until Stafford can win a few playoff games during the duration of that $135 million contract, he will continue to be overrated.
2. Fran Tarkenton (underrated)
Fran Tarkenton was one of the most clutch quarterbacks ever. He was responsible for 34 game-winning drives over his career, which ranks ahead of men like Joe Montana and Tom Brady. Despite this, he is often overlooked when talking about the greatest quarterbacks of all-time.
Throw in his incredible numbers and you’ve got a legitimate top 10 quarterbacks of all time here. Tarkenton ranks 6th all-time in passing yard and 4th all-time in passing touchdowns. This was in a day before modern offenses were airing it out on every play.
2. Brett Favre (overrated)
Okay, so Favre did retire as the owner of a lot of the all-time records for quarterbacks. You also can’t knock his 297 consecutive starts. But the greats like Peyton Manning, Joe Montana, and Tom Brady had an art to playing the position that Favre didn’t have.
He was a gunslinger whose arrogance caused him to make stupid throws, as he failed to value the football as a quarterback should. Yes, he’s worth of a spot in the Hall of Fame, but if you think he’s on the same level as Manning, Montana, and Brady, you’re kidding yourself.
1. Dan Fouts (underrated)
Dan Fouts must-watch today’s NFL and wish he had been born about 30 years later. In a day and age where the NFL was about brute strength and the power running game, Fouts’ Chargers teams were airing it out. They were outliers.
Fouts ranks 5th in NFL history with 43,040 career passing yards. That’s an incredible total. He ranks 9th all-time in passing yards per game with 237. That number blows his contemporaries out of the water. In fact, no other quarterbacks in his generation averaged over 200 yards per game.
1. Eli Manning (overrated)
Yes, winning Super Bowls means a lot, but it’s not everything. The 20 weeks that come before a Super Bowl mean something too. Look, Eli is a talented quarterback who’s had quite a few good seasons and some incredibly special moments.
But winning two Super Bowls doesn’t mean he’s on the same level as John Elway, or Joe Montana, and especially not his older brother. The fact that people legitimately believe that because David Tyree made an unbelievable catch and the Giants defense played two great Super Bowls against the Patriots is why Eli will always be overrated.