The NFL quarterback is often considered the most important position in professional sports. In addition to being incredibly difficult to play on the field, being a quarterback is also difficult because of the incredible amounts of criticism that every quarterback must face.
However, there are many quarterbacks who are not widely recognized around the league. Some of them are good quarterbacks who have been stuck on bad teams, preventing them from being labeled as "winners" by the media. Others are quarterbacks who simply are never talked about for one reason or another.
This is the list of the five quarterbacks who are underrated by either the media, the fans, or both.
2010 Statistics: 291/474 completions/attempts (61.4 completion percentage), 3,451 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, six interceptions, 95.9 passer rating
Josh Freeman is a great young quarterback who is starting to get some of the recognition that he deserves.
In addition to having excellent statistics in his second season as a pro, Freeman has shown that he is a very good leader, serving as the key reason that the Buccaneers' very young team went 10-6.
Freeman has also led seven game-winning drives in the past two seasons, an outstanding figure for a young quarterback.
However, despite being a better quarterback than Mark Sanchez, Freeman is living in the shadow of his fellow 2009 first round pick in the media, which is why he is still underrated.
2010 Statistics: 255/441 completions/attempts (57.8 completion percentage), 3,000 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 81.8 passer rating
Fitzpatrick is known in some circles as one of the worst starting NFL quarterbacks and, prior to 2010, that would have been true.
However, Fitzpatrick showed in 2010 that he is a decent starting quarterback. In addition to posting decent passing numbers, Fitzpatrick helped the Bills stay competitive in games against vastly superior opponents (including overtime losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens as well as an eight-point loss to the New England Patriots and a three-point loss to the Chicago Bears).
Fitzpatrick likely will never be a great player, but if he were placed on a competitive team, the public perception of him would be much better than it is now.
2010 Statistics: 293/498 completions/attempts (58.8 completion percentage), 3,653 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 87.5 passer rating
Kyle Orton is the primary victim of the "Tebow thing." In one of the more unique quarterback controversies in the NFL, Orton's backup, Tim Tebow, is much more popular with the fans than he is. The Broncos have even tried to trade Orton so that Tebow can start in his place.
However, Orton has a winning record as a starting quarterback, and he also was on pace to throw for 4,496 yards and 24 touchdowns last year before being benched in favor of the aforementioned Tebow.
Even with all of this, Denver was looking to trade Kyle Orton this offseason so that they could turn the franchise over to Tebow.
If Denver wants to go with a "winner" next year, maybe the priority should be to improve a defense that allowed an NFL-high 29.4 points per game last season, instead of replacing their quarterback. Because, simply put, no quarterback can regularly win games with a defense that bad.
2010 Statistics: 262/450 completions/attempts (58.2 completion percentage), 3,116 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 93.0 passer rating
When people hear the name "Matt Cassel", many people think of the quarterback that was proof that anybody could jump into the New England Patriots' offense and succeed after a solid 2008 season in New England.
However, this is the same quarterback that just made his first Pro Bowl and led the Kansas City Chiefs to a playoff appearance.
While Cassel does benefit greatly from an excellent running game led by Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, his solid 2010 season proves that 2008 was no fluke, and that he is a legitimately good quarterback.
Cassel has improved greatly in his ability to avoid taking sacks, as his sack totals have dropped from 47 in 2008 to 42 in 2009 and 26 this past season.
With Steve Breaston and Dwayne Bowe as his top two receivers, expect another solid year from Cassel.
2010 Statistics: 365/574 completions/attempts (63.6 completion percentage), 4,370 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 92.0 passer rating
Schaub has statistically been one of the best quarterbacks in the league for the past two seasons. However, despite being a top ten quarterback, and leading a top ten scoring offense each of the past two seasons, the Texans have missed the playoffs due to a defense that was average-at-best in 2009 and absolutely horrible in 2010.
If the Texans can get their defense on track, Schaub will lead this team to the playoffs and silence his critics.