Who Wins the NFL Award for Most Overrated Quarterback?

Todd FlemingAnalyst IMarch 24, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24:  Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings warms up against the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints won 31-28 in overtime.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

There was recently an article claiming the author believed Ben Roethlisberger was the most overrated quarterback in football. Another recent article claimed that Peyton Manning was the most overrated quarterback in football.

While both writers had plenty of good reasons for taking those positions, I don’t really think either of those claims are true. Where I rank a quarterback, it is generally determined by how much I fear that quarterback come playoff time.

Which quarterback do you not want standing between your team and a Lombardi trophy?

After all, that’s the goal of every team, and fanbase, at the beginning of each season. 

The flip question is equally valid. 

Which quarterback are you thrilled for your team to face come playoff time?

I have no empirical evidence for where these players actually rank on the popular opinion list, just a gut feeling based on other articles I’ve read and fan posts.  Nor am I looking at one stat for where I think a player should actually be rated.  It is more of a cumulative perception based upon both stats and observed play, particularly in the playoffs.

A majority of people would probably put Peyton Manning number one on the overall list of NFL quarterbacks. I would put him third, behind Tom Brady and Drew Brees, who moved up the list this year and finally received the recognition he has earned.

That means I believe he is a net two spots lower than the average spot in which most people would put him, garnering him a fairly respectable negative two rating.

I don’t think there is much that separates the quarterbacks at the top of the list and I don't think even Manning's most ardent defenders think he is that much better than Brady or Brees.

So, why does Brady top the list?  For the simple reason that I do not want my team facing him in the playoffs.

Peyton Manning, who is more inclined to get rattled by pressure, just doesn’t inspire the same level of fear in me as a fan. So, he slides down the list slightly.

As for Ben Roethlisberger, most NFL fans would probably place him somewhere near the bottom of the top ten, in the six to nine range. 

Leaving his off-field issues aside, I’d place him fourth.  

Again, I don’t think much separates his play from those ahead of him. I also think he has been the best quarterback for the Steelers.

In addition to what he has done with his arm, he does everything a winning quarterback needs to do on the field, from making a game saving tackle in the playoffs to throwing a key block that sprung a big play in the Super Bowl.

If he didn’t take so many unnecessary sacks, he would challenge for the top spot on this list. That would land him with a net +2-4 rating, meaning he is certainly not overrated.

So, who really is the most overrated quarterback? Considering the criteria I’m using, which is the net difference between a quarterback’s actual performance and the popular perception of where they should be on the list, I believe there are three serious contenders; Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb, and Jay Cutler.

All are very good quarterbacks, but not as good as they are generally ranked.

While Tony Romo is also considered a contender for this list based on comments I’ve read, I don’t think his ability is that far out of line with where most people rank him.

The same goes for Eli Manning, who I would put somewhere between twelve and fifteen, which I don’t think is that far out of line with where most people outside New York would put him at this point in his career.

So, why Brett Favre?

I suspect most people would put Brett Favre somewhere around five or six on their list.  Many would have him even higher. In reality, I’d put him out of the top ten, somewhere around twelve. And while he likely wins the award of most entertaining quarterback to watch, he has been an unpredictable gunslinger for years.

And, rare is the quarterback who is going to lead his team to a title who throws the ball around with the reckless abandon shown by Favre.  Favre managed it once, but with a truly superb team behind him. 

In this league, where games are frequently won by less than a score, turnovers are lethal. For much of his career, Favre has been a turnover machine.

He is the ultimate boom or bust quarterback. While he holds many of the league’s most coveted passing records, he also hold the all-time interception record and is second all-time in fumbles, and he will likely own that record as well if he plays another season.

He boasts a good, but not spectacular, 13-11 career playoff record. Favre is a very dangerous quarterback. But, he is dangerous to both teams, making him a wildcard. That is what causes his slide.

That leaves Favre with something approaching a negative six rating. He is a blast to watch, but how many of us living outside Minnesota have ever really said, “I sure wish Brett Favre was the quarterback of my team?”

Quantifying where Donovan McNabb stands on this list is a bit tougher because I’m less clear where popular opinion would put him at this point in his career.  At one point, he was likely considered a top ten quarterback. I’m guessing his actual ranking today would come somewhere between ten and twelve. While his career stats are plenty respectable, he has frequently looked lost in the Eagles’ biggest games, which is a huge mark against him.

When answering the question asked at the beginning about which quarterback would I actually want my team to draw in the playoffs, McNabb would make the cut.

I would place him somewhere around sixteenth overall in the list of NFL quarterbacks, meaning that I see him as a slightly above average middle of the pack quarterback. That gives McNabb a negative four to six rating, and puts him just behind Favre as being somewhat overrated.

That brings us to Jay Cutler.  The Chicago Bears gave up a ton to get what they thought was one of the best quarterbacks in the league.  They thought they were getting a top ten quarterback, maybe even a top five quarterback. 

But, like Favre, Cutler throws way too many interceptions. His touchdown to interception ratio was approximately 1:1 in 2009. And his leadership on the field has been less than exemplary with him frequently showing frustration with his teammates.

While his numbers in Chicago were down slightly from his numbers in Denver, the interception problem has remained a constant.

There is a reason Josh McDaniels was not completely comfortable with Cutler as his starting quarterback when he took over in Denver, and that reason was on full display in 2009.

I would put Cutler somewhere around eighteen on the list of current quarterbacks. I suspect popular opinion would put him somewhere around ten. That would give him a negative eight rating, making him the winner of the title of most overrated quarterback.

While Cutler is better than plenty of starting quarterbacks in the NFL, I don’t think any other quarterback can top that negative eight rating disparity. Cutler is a tremendously talented quarterback and can certainly move up the list. But, it would require showing more on-field leadership and better decision-making. 

Considering his relatively young age, that still may come.

But, for now, I think he earns the title of most overrated quarterback in the NFL.


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