As I mentioned when I last blogged on this subject, there is by my formula a three-way tie for 10th-place among quarterbacks. Now, for new readers, let me suggest a reading of previous blog posts on the formula, and the limitations, of this study. When I say, for instance, that these three guys are tied for 10th-best QB of all time, I don’t really, literally mean that I think that they are all exactly equally talented, or worthy of that spot. What I mean, rather, is that these guys, by my system of assigning points, ended up with an equal number, that they are each somewhere around the top ten all-time, one might be 6th or 7th, and another might be 15th, but to rank tenth means you aren’t the greatest of all time, nor are you 50th. You are a Hall-of-Famer or, in the case of one of our top ten, the man I’d now call the most underrated QB of all time, should be. Let’s get to it.
The first QB that ranks in our tenth-place tie is Peyton Manning. Peyton will finish his tenth season in the league this year, and he is on pace, by this evaluation system, to very possibly end his career as the greatest QB of all time. That’ll be tough to do without winning at least one more Super Bowl, and probably two, but if he can put another one under his belt and stay injury-free, he’s got at least a break-even chance to end up on top. Right now, in fact, it’s only his lack of championships that is holding him back, because he consistently is a top-rated QB. He plays the position about as well as it’s ever been played, and but for a bounce here or a bobble there, he’d rank higher than he already is. Peyton Manning is an all-time great, and if he died tomorrow, he’d go into the Hall of Fame.
The second QB in this tie is Bob Griese. Bob, of course, has two Super Bowl titles (and another Super Bowl loss) to his credit, but he was a pretty highly-ranked passer as well, hence his standing. His name doesn’t generally get mentioned as one of the top ten guys of all time; I think he gets overlooked, perhaps because he was on a team with a high-profile coach, a high-profile bunch of running backs, the “No-Name Defense” (which made quite the name for itself), and other Hall of Famers (Larry Little, Jim Langer, Paul Warfield), and even a possible Hall of Famer to be (Bob Kuechenberg). Griese was the QB, but this was such a great team that no one player stood out. And thus, I think Griese doesn’t get his due. Well, it says right here that he was one of the very best of all time.
But the third guy is the one who will astound you. He is not in the Hall of Fame, and almost certainly never will be. Before I did this study, in fact, he’d not have gotten my vote (he surely would now). He never won a Super Bowl. Many of my readers might have never heard of him, although he played well into the 1980s. His team hasn’t even retired his number. The man in question is Ken Anderson. Ken Anderson was never a flashy player; nobody much sits around the bar and regales the denizens with story after story of the exploits of Ken Anderson. But here’s the skinny on Kenny:
- He led the league in passing four separate years (I don’t recall anyone else doing that, though I might be wrong).
- In 1981, he was both “Comeback Player of the Year” and NFL MVP.
- He led the league in yardage and in completions twice, and in fewest interceptions/pass attempt three times.
- He holds, to this day, the record for highest completion percentage in a season (70.6%, 1982).
- He appeared in four Pro Bowls, and one Super Bowl, which despite losing, saw him throw for 300 yards and an at-the-time record of 73.5% completions.
- At the time of his retirement (1986), he was 6th in all-time passing yardage.
Ken Anderson might have been the most accurate passer who ever played the game. That’s not the only measure of a quarterback by any means, but if the job of a QB is to complete passes to his receivers, Ken Anderson is at or very near the top of the list. And it’s for those reasons that Ken Anderson, unexpectedly, ranks as one of the all-time best to play the game. As I said in the preface, these rankings aren’t by any means definitive, but they do place a player in the range where he belongs. That means that Brett Favre might be as good as Ken Anderson. It also means that Ken Anderson might have been a much, much better QB than Brett Favre. And even though my intuition tells me that the former is true and not the latter, I must allow for the possibility, and that’s pretty eye-opening.
Quite simply, if John Elway and Brett Favre are indeed the two most overrated quarterbacks of all time, Ken Anderson is the most underrated quarterback of all time. And it’s not even close.