The Top 5 Most Underrated QBs in NFL History
Peyton Manning. Tom Brady. Joe Montana. Johnny Unitas. Every single person that can rightfully call themselves a true NFL fan knows players like these. Quarterbacks like Brady and Manning make the news every week while being compared to legends like Unitas and Montana.
However, while some quarterbacks get nonstop recognition from the media and sports fans, some go unnoticed into the history books. Although they may never be truly recognized for their greatness, this slideshow gives those underrated players a little more credit.
5. Ken Anderson, Cincinnati Bengals
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The few good Bengals never seem to get enough credit, possibly because people are too busy ridiculing the countless bad ones. Ken Anderson is the perfect example of a guy who has somehow been forgotten despite his impressive career, and it may be partially due to the fact that he never could win a Super Bowl, though he came close.
Coming out of college, Ken Anderson was scouted heavily by Bill Walsh, who was impressed by his speed, intelligence, arm strength, and most of all, his toughness. Unfortunately for Anderson, the 49ers passed on him, and he was picked up by Paul Brown and the Bengals.
While Anderson still managed to have a successful career in Cincinnati, he only reached the Super Bowl with the Bengals once, and they were beaten out by Walsh's 49ers, 26-21. However, Anderson completed six consecutive passes on Cincinnati's final drive, ending with a touchdown pass with 20 seconds left in the game. Unfortunately for the Bengals, the 49ers recovered an onside kick attempt, spoiling one of Anderson's most impressive performances.
In the end, the humble Ken Anderson retired as the greatest Bengals passer of all time, throwing for 197 touchdowns and over 32,000 yards. And while he is still remembered and loved in Cincinnati, he seems to be largely unrecognized by the rest of the league.
4. Len Dawson, Kansas City Chiefs (Browns, Texans, Steelers)
Len Dawson on the right.
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Remember Joe Namath? Of course you do. Remember Len Dawson? Maybe not. However, they were equally important in showing the NFL that AFL teams were just as good.
Len Dawson began his career shakily, playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns and Dallas Texans all in his first six years, only producing one worthwhile season (Dawson threw for 2,759 yards and 29 touchdowns as a starter in Dallas). Then, he was picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs and his career took off. He passed for at least 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns for five straight years (significantly more impressive back then) and led the Chiefs to two Super Bowls.
Although they lost Super Bowl I to the powerhouse Green Bay Packers, which featured the likes of Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor and Ray Nitschke, the Chiefs defeated the Vikings in Super Bowl IV in what was one of the most important games in NFL history.
The year before, Joe Namath's Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts in a huge Super Bowl III upset. However, afterwards many made excuses for the win, saying Johnny Unitas hadn't played til the fourth quarter, and it was a one-time fluke. The next year, Len Dawson's Chiefs handily defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV 23-7, firmly making the point that the AFL could compete with the NFL. Without Super Bowl IV to back it up, the Jets' win in Super Bowl III wouldn't have been nearly as important.
Of course, for some reason Joe Namath has gotten all the credit for showing up the NFL, and Len Dawson has largely disappeared from history. Dawson finished his career with 28,711 yards and 239 touchdowns, but he has been almost entirely forgotten despite his talent.
3. Ken "The Snake" Stabler, Oakland Raiders (Oilers, Saints)
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It may be one of the most overrused phrases in football, but it holds true to Ken Stabler: he was a winner. His career stats were 194 touchdown passes, 222 interceptions, 27,938 yards and a passer rating of 75.3. However, he reached 50 wins faster than any other quarterback before him (players like Otto Graham and Johnny Unitas) and won a Super Bowl with the Raiders.
Stabler epitomized Al Davis's famous phrase: "Just win baby" and is one of the most beloved Raiders in team history. No matter how sloppy he looked or how unorthodox his methods were, Stabler found ways to win for the Raiders. He earned the nickname "The Snake" during the Iron Bowl in college when he slithered down the field for a 53-yard, game-winning touchdown.
Stabler, a true renegade and Raider, was the NFL league MVP in 1975 and made two All-Pro teams in his time, but has yet to be voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite an accomplished career.
While the Snake may never be a Hall of Famer and is mostly remembered for legendary plays like "Ghost to the Post" and the "Holy Roller" but not the rest of his impressive career; he is still a fan favorite in Oakland and will go down as one of the greatest Raiders of all time.
2. Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills
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Besides his four straight losses in the Super Bowl, the most heartbreaking thing about Jim Kelly's career is that he will only be remembered for those losses and not the other parts of his incredible career.
Jim Kelly played for 11 seasons in the NFL, all with the Bills. He was one of three legendary quarterbacks drafted in 1983 along with John Elway and Dan Marino, and although he decided at first not to play for Buffalo, in 1986, he made the decision to play for the Bills, who welcomed him.
Kelly brought almost immediate success to the Bills, and in his career, he only lost more than seven games once. From 1990-1993, Kelly led the Bills to four straight Super Bowls and a 48-13 record in the regular season. Unfortunately, the Bills lost once to the Giants on a heart-breaking missed field goal, twice to the powerhouse Cowboys and once to the Redskins.
What is most amazing about Jim Kelly and the main reason he is so underrated is the fact that he could've taken home two paychecks: one for being quarterback, one for being offensive coordinator. Jim Kelly was a pioneer of the no-huddle offense and an expert at reading defenses and calling plays in clutch situations. Few have been able to match his intelligence and ability to completely run an offense.
Unfortunately, whenever Jim Kelly's name is brought up, those four Super Bowl losses will be brought up as well. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2002, but he may never be fully appreciated for his talent and intelligence as a quarterback.
1. Dan Fouts, San Diego Chargers
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Imagine a player like Alex Smith, who has been mediocre for his first couple seasons in the NFL, suddenly began to throw for 3,500-4,500 yards every year for the rest of his career while leading the NFL's most prolithic passing offense of its era. That perfectly resembles the story of Dan Fouts, who started off slowly but hit a hot streak in his fourth year in the NFL that lasted the rest of his 15-year career.
Fouts played his entire career with the Chargers and piloted the potent and revolutionary Air Coryell offense with receivers such as Kellen Winslow Sr. and Charlie Joiner at his disposal. From 1978 to the end of his career in 1987, Dan Fouts never threw for under 2,883 yards and hit the 4,000-yard mark three times in a row years before the NFL became the pass-happy league it is today.
While Fouts threw for his fair share of interceptions, he was one of the best passers in history at airing the ball out and racking up passing yards. However, a subpar defense was the only thing that stood in the way of Fouts and the Chargers, and it caused them to miss the Super Bowl all 15 years of Dan Fouts' career, causing him to be forgotten during discussions of the all-time greats.
Dan Fouts finished his career with 43,040 yards and 252 touchdown passes, showing that the man who looks like he belongs in the forest with a large axe felt right at home on a football field. Fouts' name has been steadily erased from the record books over the years, and his lack of a Super Bowl ring has hurt his legacy, but he still remains the NFL's most underrated quarterback of all time and one of its best.
Just Missed the Cut...
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Warren Moon, Houston Oilers, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks
Jim Plunkett, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, San Fransisco 49ers
Sid Luckman, Chicago Bears
Sammy Baugh, Washington Redskins
Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings/New York Giants
Phil Simms, New York Giants