The NFL tends to makes its quarterbacks into mythical figures, especially if they have any reasonable level of success and longevity in the league. Often, that reputation is earned but sometimes a passer’s greatness can be exaggerated for decades because of a memorable comeback drive or a clutch pass play that happened at the right time.
We’ve looked back through the league’s history and picked out the quarterbacks we think have been overrated at large by organizations, media members, fans and fellow players. To make it onto this list, a passer had to have a solid career in the NFL and have their greatness overstated in some way, whether through accolades, salary or an abundance of opportunities.
These are our picks for the NFL’s most overrated quarterbacks ever.
25. Mark Brunell (1994-2011)
Telling Stat: 50.8 Completion Percentage in Playoffs
Nobody sits around hoisting Mark Brunell up as the greatest NFL quarterback of all time but any guy who gets to spend 17 seasons playing that position at that level clearly has some support. He spent the majority of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars when they first got started as a franchise and led them to a record of 63-54 with four straight playoff appearances — but his career has some ugly numbers tied to it as well. His career passing percentage of 59.5 isn’t great but, in the 10 playoff games he started, it was even worse, diving to 50.8 along with a playoff passer rating of 66.3.
24. Joe Flacco (2008-Present)
Telling Stat: 56.6 Completion Percentage in Playoffs
Joe Flacco’s reputation as a top-tier quarterback sank quickly after his magical Super Bowl run with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012. That playoff run — where he was virtually flawless for four games — set up Flacco’s massive salary deal that involved a $40 million signing bonus and $66.4 million over three years. Flacco’s career numbers are better than many quarterbacks but that money will forever get him slapped with the “Overrated” label because his production fell off almost immediately after he signed the contract.
23. Matthew Stafford (2009-Present)
Telling Stat: 0-3 Playoff Record
The debate on Matthew Stafford’s legacy as a quarterback at football’s highest level will likely rage on long after he’s retired. The numbers he’s put up since joining the league in 2009 are ridiculous — including 256 passing touchdowns and a career passer rating near 90 — but his talents haven’t led to many victories. His record as a starter was 69-79-1 as of this writing, not including a mark of 0-3 in the playoffs. The fact that he spent seven seasons throwing to Calvin Johnson, who is arguably the most talented receiver in league history, makes his lack of success all the more confounding.
22. Dave Krieg (1980-1998)
Telling Stat: 352 Total Turnovers
It’s tough to put Dave Krieg on this list because he had some fantastic stats and led his teams to plenty of wins. But it still could be said that he was a tad overrated. He landed in the Seattle Seahawks ring of honor because of his 70-49 record with the team as its starter and the 194 touchdowns he threw with them in 12 seasons, but he was a turnover machine. Krieg threw for 199 interceptions in his career and fumbled the ball 153 times — the latter of which is the third-highest mark ever — for a total of 352 turnovers.
21. Bernie Kosar (1985-1996)
Telling Stat: 124 Touchdown Passes
Cleveland Browns fans will point to Bernie Kosar as one of the best passers in football history but that really just shows how quarterback-starved they’ve been since he left the team in 1993. He certainly knew how to take care of the ball — putting together a career passer rating of 81.8 — but Kosar wasn’t the kind of quarterback that could carry many games on his own. He finished a 12-season career with just 124 touchdown passes and 23,301 passing yards, both of which keep him from elite status. His 59.3 completion percentage also doesn’t help.
20. Boomer Esiason (1984-1997)
Telling Stat: 51.5 Completion Percentage in Playoffs
Similar to Kosar’s reputation with Browns fans, Boomer Esiason has a stellar reputation with Cincinnati Bengals fans but his career looks pretty average overall. In 1988, he finished his MVP season by completing 45.3% of his passes and having a passer rating of 48.0 in the three playoff games the Bengals played. Esiason turned the ball over more than 300 total times in his career, completed just 57% of his passes and finished his run with a record of 80-93 as a starter. His post-playing career as a broadcaster has also propped up his reputation a bit.
19. Jim McMahon (1982-1996)
Telling Stat: 100 Passing Touchdowns
Similar to others on this list, Jim McMahon had the benefit of quarterbacking one of the best teams in NFL history; in McMahon’s case, arguably the best. Aside from being in the right city at the right time, McMahon’s career stats are nowhere near as awesome as his performance during “The Super Bowl Shuffle.” The “Punky QB” put up some meager numbers, including only passing for 100 touchdowns and completing just 58% of his passes. Regardless of this fact, Bears fans will worship him for all of eternity because of his link to that mythical 1985 squad.
18. Phil Simms (1979-1993)
Telling Stat: 55.4 Completion Percentage
The greatness of Phil Simms as a quarterback has been overstated for two reasons: his high-profile career as a broadcaster and the fact that he won two Super Bowls in the biggest market of them all. Spending his entire career with the New York Giants made him a legend to that team’s fan base but if he’d played in a smaller city, he’d be considered just another starter with decent numbers. He threw for 199 touchdowns, which puts him just inside the top 50, but his career 55.4 completion percentage is what makes him look more pedestrian.
17. Sam Bradford (2010-2018)
Telling Stat: No Playoff Appearances
When Sam Bradford came into the league, he set the all-time record for a rookie contract for $78 million over six years. In total, he earned more than $129 million from the NFL during his career, which ended with a record of 34-48-1 as a starter. Bradford’s accuracy and passer rating are both commendable but a guy who never took a single team to the playoffs and could hardly make it through a full season uninjured doesn’t deserve that kind of bank account. Just ask the team owners who signed the checks!
16. John Hadl (1962-1977)
Telling Stat: 268 Interceptions
The Chargers franchise has a history of sticking with overrated quarterbacks for long periods of time and John Hadl was the first. He was a six-time Pro Bowler who led the team to an AFL championship and landed in the Chargers Hall of Fame but put up some numbers that would make an analytics lover faint. Hadl’s respectable 244 career touchdown passes are outweighed by his 268 interceptions, which are the third-most in history. All that wild slinging gave him a career passer rating of 67.4 and a dismal completion percentage of 50.4.
Even with all that inaccuracy, Hadl’s playing card, shown here from Instagram user @toysinternational, is still a cherished item for Bolts fans.
15. Eli Manning (2004-Present)
Telling Stat: $235.2 Million In Earnings
When you play in the biggest market, have an iconic football name on the back of your jersey and win two Super Bowls, you’re bound to be a bit overrated. Eli Manning’s career stats are actually very good — with him throwing for 362 touchdowns and having a career passer rating of 84.1 — but the amount of money he’s made is not warranted in any way. As of 2019, Manning has made more than $235 million in salary, making him the second-highest-paid player in NFL history. The fact that he has a career record of 116-116 tells you all you need to know about that salary angering Giants fans.
14. Troy Aikman (1989-2000)
Telling Stat: 0 All-Pro Selections
You can’t pick a single stat from Troy Aikman’s career that jumps out as dreadful — but you can’t really pick one that makes it sound amazing, either. Aside from the three Super Bowls he won with some amazing Dallas Cowboys teams, Aikman’s career figures just scream mediocrity. He only threw for 165 passing touchdowns and 141 interceptions, neither of which makes him sound terrible, but they also don’t justify enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where Aikman’s bust rests. It’s safe to say that if he hadn’t played with guys like Emmett Smith and Michael Irving, Aikman wouldn’t be remembered as a great quarterback.
13. Vinny Testaverde (1987-2007)
Telling Stat: 0 All-Pro Selections
There are less than 100 players who have started more than 200 NFL games — and even fewer quarterbacks — but Vinny Testaverde is on the list. He’s also the only QB in league history to throw a touchdown pass in 21 consecutive seasons. But for all those games played, he was never an elite passer, which explains why he was never an All-Pro selection despite a ton of opportunities. He finished his career with a record of 90-123-1 as a starter, as well as a 2-3 playoff record, and only had four winning seasons as a starter in the 21 he played.
12. Ron Jaworski (1974-1989)
Telling Stat: 46.5 Completion Percentage in Playoffs
Ron Jaworski is absolutely beloved in Philadelphia because of his 10 seasons leading the Eagles, despite the fact that he only gave them a winning record four times. “Jaws” also became an overrated player because of his long career broadcasting on ESPN after he retired from the game. But a look at his stats shows a pretty middling player and a borderline bad one in the most important games. Jaworski’s career 53.1 completion percentage lowered to 46.5 in the playoffs and his 72.8 passer rating sunk to 63.4 in the same games. But he soared into the Eagles Hall of Fame regardless.
11. Jim Hart (1966-1984)
Telling Stat: 247 Interceptions
In the nationwide conversation about elite passers, Jim Hart’s name probably doesn’t usually come up, but in St. Louis it definitely does. Hart led the St. Louis Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) for more than 15 seasons under center and landed in the team’s ring of honor. However, his stats are pretty awful, including a ratio of 209 passing touchdowns versus 247 interceptions and a 51.1 career completion percentage. All that inaccuracy led Hart to have a career record of 87-88-5 and a playoff record of 0-2 as a starter.
10. Dan Fouts (1973-1987)
Telling Stat: 3-4 Playoff Record
There’s always some ’80s football fan who throws Dan Fouts into the conversation of all-time great quarterbacks, but they’re either Chargers homers or delusional. He was certainly prolific, throwing for 254 touchdown passes and more than 43,000 yards, but today’s passers match his output on a regular basis and with better accuracy than Fouts’ 58.8 completion percentage. He also threw 242 interceptions and finished his career with a record of 86-84-1 as a starter and a 3-4 mark in the playoffs. He’s one of the more iffy Hall-of-Fame QBs in Canton when compared with today’s players.
9. Terry Bradshaw (1970-1983)
Telling Stat: 51.9 Completion Percentage
It’s telling that the most famous pass of Terry Bradshaw’s career was thrown right to a defender before being miraculously caught by one of his teammates. Perhaps no quarterback in NFL history has had his average legacy propped up by incredible teammates more than Bradshaw, who won four Super Bowls with the Steelers. Those “Steel Curtain” teams had so much talent that all the QB had to do was complete 51.9% of his passes and maintain a passer rating of 70.9 — which is worse than Rex Grossman’s — and he’d land in the Hall of Fame. Bradshaw threw for 212 touchdowns versus 210 interceptions, which shows just how ineffective he could be at times.
8. Ken Stabler (1970-1984)
Telling Stat: 222 Interceptions
Like Terry Bradshaw, Raiders legend Ken Stabler basically did nothing but win games — but he was quite reckless with the football in the process. He amassed a career record of 96-49-1 as a starter and won a Super Bowl, landing him in the Hall of Fame, but a closer look at his numbers isn’t much to be excited about. Stabler completed less than 60% of his passes and threw 222 picks compared to 194 touchdowns, giving him a passer rating of 75.3. In the playoffs, his completion percentage dipped to 57.8, but he was 7-5 in those games.
7. Bob Griese (1967-1980)
Telling Stat: 56.2 Completion Percentage
Dolphins icon Bob Griese made it into the Hall of Fame by throwing less than 200 touchdowns and completing just 56.2% of his passes. Those numbers probably wouldn’t get you near Canton today but his legacy was greatly helped by winning two Super Bowls and finishing his career with a 92-56-3 record as a starter because of the incredible teams he was a part of. In reality, however, Griese’s career passing yards rank him 75th of all time and his 77.1 passer rating is lower than Jon Kitna’s. Also, during the legendary 1972 undefeated Dolphins season, Griese only played six games because of an injury.
6. Norm Van Brocklin (1949-1960)
Telling Stat: 53.6 Completion Percentage
In the 1950s, Norm Van Brocklin was seen as a revolutionary quarterback with a big arm but if he played today he’d probably be a journeyman. He was a two-time NFL champion with the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles, putting him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite a relatively short career. Van Brocklin threw for just 173 touchdowns compared to 178 interceptions and completed fewer than 54% of his passes.
5. Archie Manning (1971-1984)
Telling Stat: 0 Winning Seasons
Based on his career production, you shouldn’t even know who Archie Manning is. But he was somehow inducted into the New Orleans Saints ring of honor despite never having led any team to a winning season in his career. Manning finished his NFL tenure with a record of 35-101-3, which is a number I had to re-read several times to make sure it was real. Amid all those losses, Manning threw 173 interceptions versus just 125 touchdowns and completed 55.2 percent of his passes. Even more than his son, Eli, Archie Manning’s legacy has somehow been vastly overinflated.
4. Jim Plunkett (1971-1986)
Telling Stat: 52.5 Completion Percentage
Another Raiders QB whose legacy has been inflated a bit is Jim Plunkett. True, he was part of two Super Bowl-winning teams and had an outstanding record of 8-2 as a starter in the playoffs but, outside the postseason, he was pretty mediocre. His overall record as a starter was 72-72 and his completion percentage of 52.5 leaves plenty to be desired. What might be the worst notch of his tenure, though, is the fact that he threw 198 interceptions compared to 164 touchdowns.
3. Bobby Layne (1948-1962)
Telling Stat: 243 Interceptions
The oldest player on the list, Bobby Layne obviously played at a time when passing was far from the art form it is today, but that doesn’t excuse his dreadful numbers when comparing him to contemporary players. Layne was part of the NFL’s vaunted 1950s All-Decade Team and made it into the Hall of Fame despite having a completion percentage below 50 percent for his career. His 63.4 passer rating is also awful but makes sense when you consider he threw nearly 50 more interceptions than touchdowns!
I’m not really sure what kind of throwing style he’s using in this 1954 trading card, shown by Instagram user @bousquet_collection, but maybe that explains his inaccuracy.
2. George Blanda (1949-1975)
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🏈George Blanda was a quarterback and placekicker for, an NFL record, 26 seasons! He was able to garner many accomplishments during those 26 seasons like 4-time AFL All Star, 3-time AFL Champion, 2-time AFL passing yards leader along with an AFL MVP! 🏈 Here is one of his mid-career cards: 💥1963 Fleer George Blanda PSA 8💥 #georgeblanda #oaklandraiders #oakland #raiders #california #chicagobears #chicago #bears #illinois #baltimorecolts #baltimore #colts #maryland #houstonoilers #houston #oilers #texas #quarterback #placekicker #legend #aflchamps #mvp #🐐 #🐐🐐🐐 #🔥 #🔥🔥🔥 #holygrailsportscards
Telling Stat: 60.6 Passer Rating
Another NFL legend who is a revered member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is three-time AFL champion George Blanda. For a long time, Blanda held the NFL’s record for career games played and his 26 seasons in the league are still the high mark. For all that time spent in the league, however, Blanda’s career numbers are pretty average, including a dreadful completion percentage of 47.7 percent. The 277 interceptions he threw — compared to 236 touchdowns — are still the second-most in league history.
Blanda played for four franchises during his career, including the Houston Oilers, as shown below in his 1963 Fleer card by Instagram user @holygrailsportscards1.
1. Joe Namath (1965-1977)
Telling Stat: 50.1 Completion Percentage
If Joe Namath hadn’t played in New York and possessed such amazing charisma, there’s no way he’d be in the Hall of Fame or even mentioned among the greatest passers ever. Just take your pick of his stats and you’ll find one that is average at best and atrocious at worst. He was 62-63-4 as a starter, threw 220 interceptions to 173 touchdowns and completed just 50.1% of his passes. In the playoffs, his completion percentage dropped to 42.7, despite the fact that he famously led the Jets to their only Super Bowl win so far. But the fact that his career passer rating of 65.5 is lower than Trent Dilfer’s should tell you all you need to know.