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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Top 10 Most Underrated Quarterbacks in NFL History: Who is the Most Underrated?

Top 10 Most Underrated Quarterbacks in NFL History: Who is the Most Underrated?

Publish Date: 01/03/2024
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

Today, we will look at the most underrated quarterbacks in NFL history. None of these men ever won a Super Bowl, but most were on teams that did not give them the weapons to win it all. Some just ran into the Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montanas of the world, and that was the reason they never won it, but all of these guys were borderline elite quarterbacks that time has forgotten.

Criteria

Stats are why a lot of these quarterbacks made the list; winning also helps, and all of these guys were winners who got their teams to the playoffs on multiple occasions. If you love articles like this, check out our list of Worst Quarterbacks in NFL History!

10) Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

From 2006-2014, Romo averaged 4,127 yards and 30 touchdowns per 16 games played during his prime (2006-2014). During that last fully healthy season (2014, his ninth and last), Romo led the league in completion percentage (69.9), touchdown rate (7.8 per cent), yards per attempt (8.5), passer rating (113.2), QBR (79.7) and career passer rating (97.1).

Unfortunately for Romo, however, Cowboy teams that he played on were often lacking something – be it an owner or head coach – leaving no matter what talent existed within that team, thus leaving no chance for playoff success to occur despite all these achievements by this great passer.

  • 4 Time Pro Bowler
  • NFL Passer Rating Leader(2014)
  • NFL Competition Percentage Leader(2014)
Video: Tony Romo Exciting Highlight's: Greatest Escape Artist in NFL History.

Tony Romo Exciting Highlight’s: Greatest Escape Artist in NFL History.

9) Dave Krieg, Seattle Seahawks

Krieg hails from Milton College – most likely an unknown institution these days since it has long since closed down – where he played college football before signing with the Seattle Seahawks as back up toΒ  Jim Zorn in 1980 and eventually taking over starting duties due to Zorn’s injury in 1983. Krieg led his Seahawks to an AFC Championship game during 1983, defeating John Elway and Denver in the Wild Card round and upsetting the Miami Dolphins.

Krieg was subjected to significant physical abuse throughout his career, leading to him being sacked an unprecedented 494 times – more than any other player ever. The most memorable sack game was held at Arrowhead Stadium when Krieg was sacked seven times by Derrick Thomas- though Krieg was able to avoid Thomas as he attempted for number 8 and threw a game-winning touchdown pass for victory at the last second!

After leaving Seattle, Krieg went on to play for the Chiefs (1992-93), Detroit Lions (1994), Arizona Cardinals (1995), Chicago Bears (1996) and Tennessee Oilers (1997-98). At age 37, he started all 16 games for Arizona.

  • 3 Time Pro Bowler
  • NFL Completion Percentage Leader(1991)
  • Seahawks Ring of Honor
Video: Dave Krieg Highlights

Dave Krieg Highlights

8) Drew Bledsoe, New England Patriots

Bledsoe has long been remembered only as an afterthought in NFL history – the injured quarterback whom Tom Brady replaced after suffering an injury during a game against the Jets. Yet Bledsoe was far more than that: Bledsoe was selected No. 1 overall out of Washington State by the New England Patriots and, in just his second season, led the league in completions (400), attempts (691), passing yards (4,555), as well as interceptions (27).

Bledsoe was one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks ever, leading in attempts and completions for three consecutive years. He led all NFL quarterbacks with 44,611 career passing yards at that point, and his 44,611 total still places him among the 20 all-time. If only it hadn’t been for his injury.

  • Super Bowl Champion
  • 4 Time Pro Bowler
  • NFL Passing Leader(1994)
  • Patriots Hall of Fame
Video: Best of Drew Bledsoe | Career Highlights

Best of Drew Bledsoe | Career Highlights

7) Jim Hart, St.Louis Cardinals

He started 168 games over his career and enjoyed nine top-10 finishes in passing yards, nine times finishing in the top-10 in pass attempts, and eight in completions. Hart was an instrumental component in Don Coryell’s offense that propelled the Cardinals to two playoff appearances during the mid-1970s.

In those years, he earned NFC Offensive Player of the Year honors, as well as four Pro Bowl invitations in succession. Hart retired after his last season with the Washington Redskins in 1984 as third in all-time passing yardage with 34,665. Only Fran Tarkenton and Johnny Unitas had more yards. Hart’s only fault lies in throwing more interceptions than touchdown passes; however, this was common practice during much of his career. Many QBs from back then also have Hall-of-Famer status despite throwing more ints than touchdowns.

  • 4 Time Pro Bowler
  • 1974 Offensive Player of the Year
  • Whizzer white NFL Man of the year(1975)
Video: Jim Hart Highlights

Jim Hart Highlights

6) Steve Bartkowski, Atlanta Falcons

Bartkowski endured an extraordinary amount of physical trauma during his eleven seasons with Atlanta, leading him to miss 42 games during this span and undergo seven knee operations; four more came following retirement. Bartkowski, when healthy, was one of the premier quarterbacks of his era, and the proof is in his 1980 and 1981 campaigns, in which he had consecutive 30-touchdown seasons (in 1980, he led the Falcons to playoffs, where Danny White led an amazing Cowboys comeback that ended Bartkowski’s Falcons career).

Additionally, in 1983, he led the league in passer rating (97.6) with the best interception rate (1.2 per cent – 22 touchdowns against five interceptions), as well as completion percentage (67.3). Finally, in 1984, he led all quarterbacks with completion percentage (67.3).

  • 2 Time Pro Bowler
  • NFL Passing TD Leader(1980)
  • NFL Passing Rater Leader(1983)
  • NFL Completion Percentage Leader(1984)
  • Falcons Ring of Honor
Video: Steve Bartkowski Highlights

Steve Bartkowski Highlights

5) Boomer Esiason, Cincinnati Bengals

Boomer may have made more history had he played better in Super Bowl 23 against Joe Montana and defeated him. Meanwhile, Esiason performed horribly in that game yet only lost by four points.

That year was part of one of the single-greatest one-season turnarounds ever, as they finished at 4-11 in 1987. However, in 1988 Boomer Esiason led an explosive Bengals offense that year that would go on to finish 12-4; truly the best play-action passer ever Boomer was a hot and cold quarterback, but when he was hot he was a wonder to watch. Esiason’s issue was playing Joe Montana in the Super Bowl. Montana is a top 10 Super Bowl Quarterback of all time.

  • NFL MVP 1988
  • NFL Man of the Year 1995
  • 4 Time Pro Bowler
  • Bengals Ring of Honor
Video: Boomer Esiason's Top Plays With The Cincinnati Bengals

Boomer Esiason’s Top Plays With The Cincinnati Bengals

4) Danny White, Dallas Cowboys

White initially joined the Cowboys as their punter; after Roger Staubach retired at the end of 1979 season, he took on an even greater responsibility and began as their starting Quarterback. White certainly filled in those huge shoes well! People were caught off-guard when White unexpectedly led the Cowboys to a 12-4 record by starting all 16 games while throwing for 3,287 yards and 28 touchdowns while simultaneously remaining their punter.

After defeating the Rams in the 1980 Wild Card round of playoffs, White spearheaded an astounding comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional Round by winning 30-27 despite an eventual loss in the NFC Title Game against the Philadelphia Eagles. In 1981, the Cowboys again finished 12-4, only to lose in the NFC Championship game to the 49ers for a second consecutive time.

In 1983 they fell one game short again when losing to Redskins for the NFC title again; Danny White would go on to throw for 21,959 yards during his career, while Roger Staubach would throw for 22,700. White was responsible for throwing 155 touchdown passes during his four seasons as a starter for the Cowboys, while Staubach only managed 153.

  • Super Bowl Champion
  • 3 Straight NFC Championship Games
  • 1982 Pro Bowl
Video: Danny White Career Highlights

Danny White Career Highlights

3) Vinny Testaverde, Cleveland Browns

Vinnie made history when he started games at 44 for the Carolina Panthers. For his career, Testaverde amassed 46,223 career passing yards (15th all-time in NFL) and ranks among the top 20 in passing touchdowns (275) and completions (3,787). Vinny started 16 games each of his age-37 and 38-year-old seasons, and perhaps underrated because so much was expected from him after winning the Heisman trophy in college.

Either way, Vinny was an exceptional Quarterback. The New York Jets posted a 12-4 record in 1998; his 29 touchdown passes to seven interceptions was one reason they reached the AFC Championship game just short of the Denver Broncos. Vinny never complained or gave anything less than 100% effort.

  • 2 Time Pro Bowler
  • All-Rookie Team 1987
  • Over 46,000 Passing yards
Video: Vinny Testaverde Highlights

Vinny Testaverde Highlights

2) Bert Jones, Baltimore Colts

Jones helped turn the Colts into a perennial AFC power in the mid-1970s, winning three consecutive AFC East titles before running into two legendary teams who would defeat them all three years in the first round. In 1975 and 76, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated them easily; then, in 1977, in one of the greatest playoff games ever witnessed, losing to the Oakland Raiders 37-31 in the famous “Ghost to the Post” contest. Bert Jones career was an amazing story.

In the mid-70s, Jones was equipped with some strong weapons on the Colts roster; these included receivers Roger Carr and Glenn Doughty and running back Lydell Mitchell. After 1977, many thought the Colts would become one of the AFC’s premier teams, but that changed in the 1978 preseason when Jones sustained a shoulder injury which would recur throughout the 1978 and 1979 seasons. Jones refused to relax and rehab his body properly, trying to play through pain without success. Jones was never the same after that injury.

  • NFL MVP 1976
  • NFL Offensive Player of the Year 1976
  • 1976 Pro Bowl
  • NFL Passing Yards Leader 1976
  • George Halas Award 1979
Video: Bert Jones Highlights (Final Version)

Bert Jones Highlights (Final Version)

1) Ken Anderson, Cincinnati Bengals

Anderson was selected in the third round from Augustana College, and when he arrived with the Cincinnati Bengals, his offensive coordinator was none other than Bill Walsh himself! Walsh drafted Anderson in 1972, and during their four full seasons together (1972-75), Anderson led the NFL in passing yards twice (in 1974 and 1975), yards per attempt twice (1974 and 1975 again), completion percentage once (64.9 per cent in 1974), passing yards per attempt three times.

In the 1973 and 75 seasons, they made it to the playoffs. As Paul Brown retired, he made one of his worst mistakes ever with the Bengals by choosing Bill “Tiger” Johnson as their head coach instead of hiring Walsh; this decision could prove fatal for their fortunes in Bengals’ football history. Anderson continued his remarkable play without Walsh as his coach, winning back-to-back passing titles in 1981 and 1982. Anderson won league MVP in 1981 when he threw for 3,754 yards with 29 touchdowns and ten interceptions.

  • 1981 NFL MVP
  • 1981 Comeback Player of the Year
  • 1981 Offensive Player of the Year
  • NFL Man of the Year 1975
  • 4 Time Pro Bowler
  • 2 Time NFL passing yards Leader
  • 4 Time NFL Paser Rating Leader
  • 3 Time NFL Completion Rating Leader
  • 1981 Bert Bell Award

Anderson led his Bengals team to Super Bowl XVI before losing it against the 49ers with Bill Walsh as head coach.

Video: #10 Ken Anderson | NFL Films | Top 10 Players Not in the Hall of Fame

#10 Ken Anderson | NFL Films | Top 10 Players Not in the Hall of Fame

Honorable Mentions

Ken O’Brien, New York Jets

O’Brien was part of the much-hyped 1983 NFL draft class and, while not as celebrated as Elway or Marino, wasn’t quite Eason or Blackledge either. O’Brien held a four-season average interception rate below two per cent during those seven seasons (1985-1991). He amassed at least 3,300 yards four times while throwing for at least 3300. He led his league four times in passing yards, five in attempts, two touchdown passes, and once in passer rating

John Brodie, San Fransisco 49ers

Brodie was initially drafted by the 49ers in 1957 but did not become their starting quarterback until 1961 after Y.A. Title was traded. Since then, he has led the league in passing yards, completions, touchdowns, and multiple playoff appearances.

Brad Johnson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brad Johnson often comes up when discussing why an NFL team does not require an elite quarterback to win a Super Bowl. That should not be surprising, though! I could see including Trent Dilfer or even Jim McMahon on that list, but Johnson had an illustrious NFL career, which should not be discounted from this discussion. Johnson amassed almost 30,000 yards and led the Buccaneers to their inaugural Super Bowl championship. Johnson began in Minnesota before suffering an injury at the start of the 1998 season – while backup QB Randall Cunningham took over, and the Vikings enjoyed another outstanding campaign under him. Johnson was traded to the Washington Redskins in 1999. Within two seasons with them, he amassed over 4,000 passing yards while leading them to win an NFC East divisional and Wild Card Round game before departing for Tampa.

Β 

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