Football fans tend to put their favorite players on a lofty pedestal, perhaps even more so than fans of other sports. When someone has a memorable season or is part of a Super Bowl-winning team, they instantly become legends on par with the greatest players to ever put on a jersey.
We’re taking some of those guys down a few pegs by looking back through NFL history at some of the most overrated players in history. To qualify for this list, the player had to be given some kind of high honor for their playing career or has to be included in conversations of the NFL’s all-time greats without deserving that distinction.
Here are our picks for the most overrated players in NFL history.
25. Peyton Hillis — RB (2008-2014)
Telling Stat: 35 Yards Per Carry
Poor Peyton Hillis. He will forever be listed among the league’s most overrated players, all because Cleveland’s fans loved him so much they voted him onto the cover of “Madden NFL 12.” Getting to be on the cover of that video game is one of the league’s highest honors and Hillis is unquestionably the worst player to ever get it (including Vince Young). For his career, Hillis averaged just 35.0 rushing yards per game and less than four rushing touchdowns per season. Even his two seasons with the Browns weren’t very good, when he ran for 14 touchdowns, fumbled 10 times and averaged less than 70 yards per game.
24. Roger Wehrli — CB (1969-1982)
Telling Stat: 40 Passes Intercepted on Defense
Cardinals lifer Roger Wehrli got a ton of credit as a dominant cornerback in his era but his figures just don’t stand up to his fellow Hall-of-Fame defensive backs. He was a three-time All-Pro and a seven-time Pro Bowler, which shows how much respect he earned but he wasn’t exactly an interception magnet. In 14 seasons in the NFL, Wehrli only managed to grab 40 interceptions, which ranks him just inside the top 80 and is less than half of the 81 picks taken by all-time leader Paul Krause.
23. Art Monk — WR (1980-1995)
Telling Stat: 4.3 Receiving Touchdowns Per Season
Getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the highest honor any football player can achieve and, as you’ll see on this list, there are many inductees who might not deserve it. Wide receiver Art Monk was a fine player in his day, but his stats are simply not worthy of a bust in Canton. He won three Super Bowls with the Washington Redskins in the 1980s and 1990s, which is what scored him an induction, because it certainly wasn’t his 56.8 receiving yards per game.
Monk never caught more than eight touchdowns in a single season but his lengthy career gave him some impressive total stats, also helping his HOF cause.
22. Joe Montana — QB (1979-1994)
Telling Stat: 211.2 Passing Yards Per Game
Don’t get us wrong, Joe Montana was one of the great big-game performers in football history but his career figures shouldn’t put him high in the conversation of the NFL’s greatest quarterback. Montana’s four Super Bowl rings and three MVP awards are what landed him legend status. His accuracy was stellar but Steve Young posted a better career passer rating and Montana’s average of 211.2 passing yards per game is lower than mediocre players like Jay Cutler and Case Keenum.
21. Tim Brown — WR (1988-2004)
Telling Stat: 58.6 Receiving Yards Per Game
While we’re knocking off California football icons, let’s take a look at Tim Brown’s career. The long-time Raiders wide receiver was extremely popular with fans and people involved in the sport, landing him in nine Pro Bowls. Yet a simple look at his stats make his placement in the Hall of Fame look a bit shaky, including the fact that he averaged less than 60 receiving yards per game — and less than 50 yards per game in playoff games.
Brown is in the top 10 for both career receiving yards and touchdowns but anyone who played for 17 seasons likely would be.
20. Ken Stabler — QB (1970-1984)
Telling Stat: 222 Interceptions
Ken Stabler won a ton of games with the Raiders, including a Super Bowl, but he was totally reckless with the football. He completed less than 60% of his career passes but it’s his touchdown-to-interception ratio that makes him look overrated as a Hall of Famer. He threw 194 touchdowns versus 222 picks and had a completion percentage of 57.8 in the playoffs, which makes it seem like a miracle that his teams had any success in the postseason.
19. Terry Bradshaw — QB (1970-1983)
Telling Stat: 51.9 Completion Percentage
The most famous pass of Terry Bradshaw’s career was called the “Immaculate Reception” and not the “Immaculate Pass” for a reason — as it went right to a defender. Bradshaw’s legacy and enshrinement in the Hall of Fame is owed entirely to being with the right team at the right time. The “Steel Curtain” Steelers were loaded with so much talent that all Bradshaw had to do was complete 51.9% of his passes and maintain a career passer rating of 70.9 to land in Canton. The fact that he threw for 212 touchdowns versus 210 interceptions also doesn’t help his case as a great passer.
18. Bob Hayes — WR (1965-1975)
Telling Stat: 2.8 Catches Per Game
The fact that former Cowboys great Bob Hayes won two Olympic gold medals and a Super Bowl is incredible but he was little more than a deep-ball threat on the football field for a relatively short NFL career that landed him in the Hall of Fame. In his 11-season career, Hayes only had two 1,000-yard receiving seasons and he caught just 12 touchdowns in the span of his final five seasons. He only averaged 56.2 receiving yards per game — and 32.8 in the playoffs — on a measly 2.8 catches per game.
His numbers just don’t stack up to today’s second-tier wide receivers, let alone the best ones in the game.
17. Marcus Allen — RB (1982-1997)
Telling Stat: 55.1 Rushing Yards Per Game
Longevity in the NFL is impressive on its own, especially at running back, but it shouldn’t be enough to earn someone Hall-of-Fame status. Marcus Allen spent 16 seasons in the league and didn’t surpass 900 rushing yards in any of his final 12 campaigns and only led the league in rushing yards once in his career. The former two-time All-Pro pick and MVP also averaged just 55.1 rushing yards per game for his career, which is fewer than guys like Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee, whom nobody argues are among the all-time greats.
16. Troy Aikman — QB (1989-2000)
Telling Stat: 199.6 Passing Yards Per Game
Troy Aikman played quarterback for the world’s most popular football team at the height of their powers and won three Super Bowls with them, so there was virtually no way he wasn’t going to land in Canton. However, Aikman never led the league in passing yards or passing touchdowns in his Cowboys career, which explains why he was never an All-Pro pick. Combine that with the fact that he averaged less than 200 passing yards per game and threw only 165 touchdowns and you’ve got a guy undeserving of his bust in the Hall of Fame.
15. John Stallworth — WR (1974-1987)
Telling Stat: 4.5 Receiving Touchdowns Per Season
Another wide receiver who put up some pretty pitiful numbers but made it into the Hall of Fame was John Stallworth. The Steelers icon was part of four Super Bowl-winning teams but was an All-Pro pick only once, which makes sense when you see his stats. For his 14-season career, Stallworth averaged less than five touchdowns per season and just 52.9 receiving yards per game. Those low averages mean he ranks outside the all-time top 60 for receiving yards and touchdowns.
14. Bob Griese — QB (1967-1980)
Telling Stat: 56.2 Completion Percentage
Similar to Troy Aikman, Bob Griese took his link to some great, championship teams and rode it to a Hall of Fame induction, despite average numbers. He threw fewer than 200 touchdowns in his career and completed only 56.2% of his passes, which likely wouldn’t get him near a yellow jacket in today’s game. Winning two Super Bowls with the Dolphins and going 92-56-3 as a starter helped his legacy greatly but his career passer rating of 77.1 is lower than Jon Kitna’s and his career passing yards rank him outside the top 70 for all quarterbacks.
13. Norm Van Brocklin — QB (1949-1960)
Telling Stat: 53.6 Completion Percentage
Norm Van Brocklin’s big-arm passing style was revolutionary in the 1950s but his numbers would make him a mere journeyman today. It’s tough to compare early passers to today’s QBs but, for the purposes of this story, we have to and Van Brocklin was average at best. He was a two-time NFL champion in his short career but he threw for just 173 touchdowns compared to 178 interceptions. Completing fewer than 54% of his passes also doesn’t reflect too favorably on his legendary status in Canton.
12. Archie Manning — QB (1971-1984)
Telling Stat: Zero Winning Seasons
One of the few players on this list to not be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Archie Manning’s career has still been vastly overrated. He landed in the New Orleans Saints ring of honor despite never leading any team to a winning season in his career as a starting quarterback. In fact, he finished his NFL career with a starting record of 35-101-3, which is incredibly bad and means he probably should’ve never played a full tenure in the league. He also threw 173 interceptions versus only 125 touchdowns, making him undoubtedly the most overrated passer in the Manning family.
11. Charlie Sanders — TE (1968-1977)
Telling Stat: 37.6 Receiving Yards Per Game
There are only eight tight ends in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, making it one of the toughest positions to earn a yellow jacket for playing. The fact that Charlie Sanders is among them is questionable, based on his meager career stats when compared to the average modern tight end. The Lions favorite was a three-time All-Pro but his career was short and he caught for less than 38 yards per game on fewer than three receptions per game. Six touchdowns are the most Sanders ever caught for in a season and he topped 600 receiving yards in a season just once.
10. Dan Hampton — DE (1979-1990)
Telling Stat: 57 Sacks
How does a guy who only recorded 57 sacks land in the Hall of Fame as a pass rusher? He plays as part of the greatest football team in history, for one. Dan Hampton played defensive end for the vaunted 1985 Chicago Bears, where he was fine but his numbers were dwarfed by several of his teammates. Hampton was only an All-Pro pick once and surpassed 10 sacks in a season only twice in his career. His career sacks total barely lands him in the all-time top 150. His career sacks total barely lands him in the all-time top 150.
9. Dave Casper — TE (1974-1984)
Telling Stat: 35.5 Receiving Yards Per Game
Probably the most overrated tight end to be enshrined in Canton is Raiders hero Dave Casper. The two-time Super Bowl winner was considered a premier player at the position in his era but his numbers look weak today. For his career, Casper averaged just 35.5 receiving yards per game and fewer than three catches per game. He wasn’t much a scoring threat either, only surpassing the 10-touchdown mark once.
8. Jim Plunkett — QB (1971-1986)
Telling Stat: 52.5 Completion Percentage
Just like fellow Raiders icon Ken Stabler, we’re considering Jim Plunkett overrated as a big-time quarterback. He’s not in the Hall of Fame, so that lowers the overinflation of his legacy a bit but he’s still got plenty of rabid supporters because of his two Super Bowl rings. He was dynamite in the playoffs but, aside from that, was terribly average, amassing an overall record of 72-72 as a starter. His 52.5 completion percentage is also awful and it’s best not to think about the fact that he threw just 164 touchdowns compared to 198 interceptions.
7. Jan Stenerud — K (1967-1985)
Telling Stat: 66.8 Field Goal Percentage
It’s a shame that the first pure kicker who was ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was one whose numbers weren’t even that good. Jan Stenerud ranks inside the top 15 all-time for field goals made but he’s outside the top 100 for field goal percentage. In fact, he only made 66.8% of his field goal kicks, which would get him fired in a hurry these days. To put it into perspective, starting kickers these days typically make at least 85% of their field goals but Stenerud had nine seasons below 65%.
6. Floyd Little — RB (1967-1975)
Telling Stat: 3.9 Yards Per Carry
Floyd Little deserves his iconic status among Denver Broncos fans but he in no way should be in Canton as a Hall of Famer. In a career that lasted only nine seasons, all of which were played in Denver, Little was a first-team All-Pro pick just once. He averaged only 54.0 rushing yards per game on 3.9 yards per carry and he only topped six rushing touchdowns in a season twice. All those meager figures mean Little ranks outside the top 100 for rushing touchdowns and yardage.
5. Russ Grimm — OL (1981-1991)
Telling Stat: One Super Bowl Start
Russ Grimm owes his place in Canton purely to his time as a member of “The Hogs” offensive line unit for the Washington Redskins. However, he wasn’t a starter on the line for many of that group’s biggest games. Of the three Super Bowls Grimm won with the Redskins, he didn’t start in two of them and he only started at least 10 games in six of his 11 seasons. Despite all that time on the pine, Grimm made three All-Pro teams and made the Hall of Fame.
4. Bobby Layne — QB (1948-1962)
Telling Stat: 243 Interceptions
Bobby Layne is the oldest player on this list, so passing obviously wasn’t the science it is today when he was slinging a ball, but he still needs to be taken down a few pegs. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame and was named to the NFL’s vaunted 1950s All-Decade Team but he completed fewer than 50% of his passes for his career. That lack of accuracy lended itself to him throwing 243 interceptions, which is about 50 higher than his touchdown total.
3. George Blanda — QB (1949-1975)
Telling Stat: 60.6 Passer Rating
Another early passing legend who looks vastly overrated today is George Blanda. The three-time AFL champion and Pro Football Hall of Famer held the record for NFL games played for a long time and the 26 seasons he spent in the league are still the most ever. Despite that remarkable longevity, Blanda’s numbers are pretty bad, including a career passer rating of 60.6. The fact that he completed just 47.7% of his passes also doesn’t reflect well on his heroic status.
2. Paul Hornung — RB (1957-1966)
Telling Stat: 35.7 Rushing Yards Per Game
Pretty much every member of Vince Lombardi’s championship Packers teams is in the Hall of Fame and that includes rusher Paul Hornung, who really doesn’t deserve it. The four-time NFL champion once missed an entire season for gambling, meaning his career was only nine seasons long. In that span, Hornung surpassed 500 rushing yards just three times and rushed for only 50 touchdowns while fumbling 22 times. In addition to those awful numbers, Hornung averaged just 35.7 rushing yards per game, which is just above what Jim Brown would earn each quarter.
1. Joe Namath (1965-1977)
Telling Stat: 50.1 Completion Percentage
There’s no way Joe Namath would be remembered as an iconic quarterback if he hadn’t played in New York with his undeniable charisma, because his numbers were just terrible. True, “Broadway Joe” led the Jets to their only Super Bowl win as a franchise so far, but he had a record of 62-63-4 as a starting quarterback. On top of that, Namath had a completion percentage of 50.1% and it sunk to 42.7% in the playoffs. Anyone with a career passer rating of 65.5 should not be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame but that’s what happens when the voting board is full of East Coast homers.