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The 13 Most Underrated Quarterbacks in NFL History

The most under-rated Quarterbacks of all time!
Publish Date:10/11/2023
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

Naming the greatest Quarterbacks is pretty easy, today we are going to name the most underrated Quarterbacks in history. Quarterbacks on this list are not in the Hall of Fame.

13) Ken O’Brien

O’Brien was a part of the much talked about NFL draft class of 1983 and while he was no Elway or Marino, he wasn’t an Eason or Blackledge either. In the seven seasons (1985-1991) he started at least 12 games for the Jets, O’Brien threw for at least 3,300 yards four times with an interception rate of two percent or less three times. He was top-10 in the league in passing yards four times, pass attempts five times, passing touchdowns twice and passer rating twice (No. 1 in the league in passer rating in 1985). Injuries really hurt O’Brien’s career, will that and bad offensive line play from the Jets as O’Brien was sacked the most times in 1985 (62) and 1989 (50), with another season (1987) where he was taken down 50 times. When you speak of Dan Marion just remember that for his career O’Brien was 8-8 against Marino and two of three best yardage totals of O’Brien’s career (479 yards on Sept. 21, 1986, and 393 yards on Nov. 10, 1985) came against Miami.

Video: Ken O'Brien Highlights

Ken O’Brien Highlights

12) John Brodie

Brodie was drafted but the 49ers in 1957 but did not become the starter until 1961 when Y.A. Title was traded. Brodie would go on to lead the NFL in passing yards and passing completions three times and touchdowns twice. He was selected as the NFL MVP in 1970. The 49ers went to the NFC title game in 1970 and 1971, and then in 1972, after missing several games with injury, he came off the bench to replace a struggling Steve Spurrier in the final week against Minnesota and led a 4th quarter comeback to get them back to the playoffs for the third time. Brodies’ best season was in 1970 when he led the league in completions (223), passing yards (2,941), and touchdowns (24) en route to being named the league’s MVP.

Video: John Brodie highlights

John Brodie highlights

11) Brad Johnson

When people talk about how you don’t need an elite Quarterback to win a Super Bowl Brad Jonhson’s name always tends to pop us and it shouldn’t! I can see throwing Trent Dilfer on that list or even a Jim McMahon but Johnson had a long and accomplished NFL career. Johnson threw for almost 30,000 yards in his career and of course he led the Buccaneers to their first-ever Super Bowl title. Johnson started his career off in Minnesota but was injured at the start of the 1998 season and backup QB Randall Cunningham entered and the Vikings had a great season. Johnson was then traded to the Washington Redskins in 1999. In his first of two years there, he topped 4,000 passing yards, as the team won the NFC East and a Wild Card Round game. The franchise has won one playoff game since. He then made his way to Tampa and we all know what happened there. Johnson was still starting NFL games at the age of 40.

Video: Brad Johnson 2002 Buccaneers Highlights

Brad Johnson 2002 Buccaneers Highlights

10) Danny White

Danny White started out as the Cowboys punter but after Roger Staubach retired after the 1979 season White took over as the starter. He had big shoes to fill and he did just that he filled them. In 1980 most people had no idea what to expect from White and a lot of people were surprised by what White did in 1980. Starting all 16 games, he led the Cowboys to a 12-4 record, throwing for 3,287 yards and 28 touchdowns, all while still maintaining his role as the punter. After beating the Rams in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, White led a dramatic comeback in the divisional round, defeating the Atlanta Falcons, 30-27, they would lose the NFC Title game to the Eagles. In 1981 the Cowboys were once again 12-4 and once again they would lose the Championship game to the 49ers. In 1983 they lost to the Redskins in the NFC Championship again to fall just one game short once again. In his career, Danny White threw for 21,959 yards. Roger Staubach threw for 22,700. White threw for 155 touchdowns for the Cowboys. Staubach threw for 153. With four more years than White as a starter, Troy Aikman threw 164. White had a winning percentage of .674 as a starter. Aikman’s was .569. Even take away that dreadful first year for Aikman when the Cowboys were 1-15 (Aikman was 0-11 as a starter) and his winning percentage is still lower at .610. The lack of a Super Bowl title separates White from Staubach and Aikman, but White did not have the talent around him that those two men had.

Video: Danny White Career Highlights

Danny White Career Highlights

9) Dave Krieg

Krieg came from tiny Milton College, never heard of it? Well, most haven’t since it has long since been closed. Krieg was signed in 1980 by the Seattle Seahawks to back up starter Jim Zorn, by 1983 because of a Zorn injury Krieg became the starter. That 1983 season saw Krieg lead the Seahawks all the way to the AFC Championship game. Along the way, he beat John Elway and the Broncos in the Wild Card game and then upset Dan Marino in Miami. Krieg got beaten up a good bit in his career, and he’s still been sacked the fifth-most times in league history (494). The most memorable sack game was in 1990 when at Arrowhead stadium Krieg was sacked by Derrick Thomas seven times in one game, but the important thing about Krieg was at the end of the game he dodged Thomas as he tried for sack number 8 and threw a last-second game-winning touchdown pass. After Seattle, Krieg played for the Chiefs (1992-93), Detroit Lions (1994), Arizona Cardinals (1995), Chicago Bears (1996), and Tennessee Oilers (1997-98). At age-37 with Arizona, he started all 16 games, and he started 12 games for Chicago the following year.

Video: Dave Krieg Seahawks Highlights

Dave Krieg Seahawks Highlights

8) Tony Romo

In the nine seasons that were Romo’s prime  (2006-2014), Romo averaged 4,127 yards and 30 touchdowns per 16 games played. In 2014, his last fully healthy season, he led the NFL in completion percentage (69.9), touchdown rate (7.8 percent), yards per attempt (8.5), passer rating (113.2), and QBR (79.7). Romo’s 97.1 career passer rating is the fourth-best all-time. The problem for Romo was that the Cowboy’s teams he played on were always lacking something, like an owner or a head coach, none of that was Romo’s fault. In the end, lack of playoff success is what has him on this list.

7) Drew Bledsoe

Bledsoe has been relegated to being a footnote in history, you know he’s the guy that got hurt and then was replaced by an unknown Tom Brady. It’s a shame because Bledsoe was a lot more than just that. Bledsoe was drafted No. 1 overall in 1993 out of Washington State by the New England Patriots. Bledsoe in just his second season led the league in completions (400), attempts (691), and passing yards (4,555), as well as interceptions (27). He led the league in attempts in 1995 (636) and 1996 (626) too, letting it fly at a level that would stand up among the leaders in that category today. He led the league in completions again in 1996 (373). In 2002 with the Bills, he topped 600 pass attempts one last time (610). Bledsoe’s 44,611 career passing yards still ranks in the top 20 all-time and when you look at his career you just get a general feeling of what might have been without the injury.

Video: Drew Bledsoe Highlights

Drew Bledsoe Highlights

6) Jim Hart

Hart started 168 games, with nine seasons in the top-10 of the league in passing yards. He also finished top-10 in pass attempts nine times in that span, with eight top-10 finishes in completions as well. Hart was the man behind Don Coryell’s offense in the mid-70s that took the Cardinals to two playoff appearances. In 1974 Hart was named the NFC Offensive Player of the year and began a streak of 4 consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. When Hart retired after the 1984 season with the Washington Redskins, Hart was third all-time in passing yards (34,665), behind only Fran Tarkenton and Johnny Unitas. Hart’s only black mark is that he threw more ints than touchdown passes, but the game was much different through the majority of his career than it is today and there are Quarterbacks who played back then who are in the Hall of Fame that also threw more interceptions than touchdown passes.

Video: Jim Hart Highlights

Jim Hart Highlights

5) Steve Bartkowski

Bartkowski in his career took an absolute physical pounding in Atlanta. Which led to 42 missed games over 11 seasons in Atlanta, and seven knee operations for Bartkowski during his career with four more knee surgeries after he retired. Bartkowski when healthy was as good as just about anybody in the league at that time and if you don’t believe me look at his healthy 1980 and 1981 seasons in those two seasons Bartkowski had back-to-back 30 touchdown seasons and in 1980 led the Falcons to the playoffs where a two-touchdown lead disappeared in the fourth quarter as Danny White led a great Cowboys comeback to knock off Bartkowski’s Falcons. In 1983, he led the league in passer rating (97.6) and had the best interception rate in the league (1.2 percent, 22 touchdowns against five interceptions). In 1984, he led the league in completion percentage (67.3).

Video: Steve Bartkowski 1980 Falcons Highlights

Steve Bartkowski 1980 Falcons Highlights

4) Boomer Esiason

Boomer would probably be in the hall of fame if he would have played better in Super Bowl 23 and beaten Joe Montana. Esiason in that Super Bowl played horrible and the Bengals still only lost by 4 points. In that 1988 season, Esiason led one of the single-greatest one-season turn arounds in NFL history as the Bengals the year before had a disastrous season finishing at 4-11. In 1988 the Bengals offense was explosive and led by that year’s MVP Boomer Esiason. Esiason still ranks around the top 20 all-time for passing yards. Boomer is arguably the best play-action passer ever. Actually, I’ll say he was the best play-action passer ever.

Video: Boomer Esiason Highlights | 1988 NFL MVP

Boomer Esiason Highlights | 1988 NFL MVP

3) Vinny Testaverde

Vinny actually started games at the age of 44 for the Carolins Panthers. For his career, Testaverde threw for 46,223 career passing yards (15th all-time) in the NFL, and he’s also top-20 ever in passing touchdowns (275) and completions (3,787). He also started 16 games in a season in both his age-37 and age-38 seasons, and 15 games in his age-41 season. Maybe the reason he is under-rated is that so much was expected from him after winning the Heisman trophy in college? Either way, Vinny was a damn good Quarterback. The New York Jets went 12-4 in 1998, and 12-1 in the games Testaverde started as he had 29 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. They also reached the AFC Championship, as the best team Testaverde played on. The biggest issue with Vinny was that his situations were not always the best of situations to win in but he never complained and give it everything he had each and every game.

Video: Vinny Testaverde Highlights

Vinny Testaverde Highlights

2) Bert Jones

Jones would turn the Colts into a perennial AFC power in the mid-70s leading the Colts to three straight AFC East titles. Unfortunately, they ran into two legendary teams that would beat them in the first round in all three years. In 1975 and 76, the Colts were beaten easily by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and in 1977 the Colts would fall in one of the greatest playoff games ever played, losing to the Oakland Raiders 37-31 in the famous “Ghost to the Post” game. The Colts had some weapons for Jones in the mid-70s, led by receivers Roger Carr and Glenn Doughty and running back Lydell Mitchell. After 1977, many people thought the Colts were going to be the next super team in the AFC, but that all changed in the 1978 preseason as Jones would sustain a shoulder injury, which would be a reoccurring problem through the 1978 and 1979 seasons. The big problem would be Jones unwillingness to relax and rehab it as he would constantly be trying to play with negative results. 1978 and 1979 would find the Colts in last place without their star quarterback. Jones three best years were 1975-77 and they were the three best consecutive years of any quarterback who played in the 1970s.

Video: Bert Jones Highlights (Final Version)

Bert Jones Highlights (Final Version)

1) Ken Anderson

Ken Anderson was Joe Montana before Montana was. Anderson was a third-round draft pick out of tiny Augustana College and when he got to the Bengals the offensive coordinator was non-other than Bill Walsh. In four full seasons (1972-1975) with Walsh, Anderson led the NFL in passing yards twice (1974 and 1975), yards per attempt twice (1974 and 1975 again), and completion percentage once (64.9 percent in 1974). The Bengals also made the playoffs in 1973 and 1975. Unfortunately, when Paul Brown retired he somehow passed up hiring Walsh and went with Bill”Tiger” Johnson as the head coach, it was actually the biggest mistake Brown had ever made with the Bengals. Anderson was still an elite QB without Walsh around though and won back-to-back passing title once again in 1981 and 1982. Anderson won league MVP in 1981 when he threw for 3,754 yards with 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Bengals reached Super Bowl XVI, losing to the 49ers with Walsh as the head coach. Anderson led the NFL in completion percentage in 1982 and again in 1983. Anderson also led the league in passer rating four times in his 16-year career (1971-1986), all with the Bengals. Now if you are done reading this and what Anderson achieved you know it’s almost criminal that this man is NOT in the hall of fame. Dan Fouts is in the Hall and he wasn’t close to being as good as Anderson. Anderson was a quiet soft-spoken man and maybe that was the problem? Either way, Anderson needs a place in Canton ASAP!

Video: Ken Anderson Highlights (Final Version)

Ken Anderson Highlights (Final Version)

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