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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Deadspin Presents: The Most Overrated NFL Players & Coaches of the past 30 years

Deadspin Presents: The Most Overrated NFL Players & Coaches of the past 30 years

Illustration: Ed Murawinski

Greetings, fellow weary 2020-ites. We come in peace, and to attempt to distract you from the daily doom and gloom with a little levity and a lot of hot air. We’ve put together a crack committee of five EXPERTS (looks around to see if anyone calls him on that, realizes he’s not in an office and there is no one there, realizes interpersonal communication is a dying art these days, realizes he is looking at his dog for a reaction, realizes nothing is real anymore and he can say anything he wants to and there are no consequences because that’s what his government has taught him for four years ... returns to writing his sentence) — EXPERTS, I SAY! [dog cocks head] — to argue the most over and underrated players in the NFL since 1990, the final league of the big four to receive this treatment.

Today we begin with overrated. These players represent to us the pinnacle of uninformed groupthink: “OH, THAT GUY IS THE BEST!” when indeed that guy is not the best nor anywhere near such thing. You’re gonna recognize nearly every name instantaneously and have an opinion on them within .7 seconds, because you’ve been brainwashed to think that way about them. You’ve had it drilled into you that we need to respect these players because of their inherent value, when really a lot of them are ham-and-eggers who turned a little good press into an image.

We’re here to tear that facade down.

The entire Deadspin staff submitted nominations. Our crack committee will argue the results and dub one player/coach in each position as Mr. Over/Underrated. You will then disagree if it’s a player you really like and yell at your computer or phone imagining you are yelling at us. We can take it. It’s all in good fun. Remember the fun? Does anybody remember laughter?

So … now then … join us, won’t you?

Rich O’Malley: We are going to begin with me asking for ONE player in ANY position who is your MOST overrated. JUST give me a name — don’t start arguing yet!

Dustin Foote: Marvin Lewis, coach

Donovan Dooley: Josh Norman, corner

Carron Phillips: Eli, QB

DeArbea Walker: Jason Witten, TE

Rich: And I’ll go Shockey, TE

So … given that list, let’s jump first to quarterback. One of the primo positions in sports. Carron — you have the floor. Why is Eli your number one? And don’t just say bc he beat the Pats twice, so you think he is a very bad man.

[Lol “several people are typing” is my favorite Slack alert. This should be good. Here we go …]

Eli’s got that look.
Photo: Getty

Carron: If Eli’s last name wasn’t Manning, then you couldn’t tell me that a QB with a .500 record as a starter would be in the HOF discussion. I get that he has 2 chips. And he beat the best team ever, but the Giants winning that Super Bowl had ZERO to do with him. I think Eli was a really good/solid QB in a place where it’s hard to be that. But I’m taking Phil Simms If i have to pick a Giants QB, any day over him.

Donovan: I think most people know Eli is trash, it’s just when you beat the greatest ever twice on the biggest stage following legitimate playoff runs, it’s hard to argue against that.

The problem with Eli and the HOF discussion is simply based on the fact people like Joe Namath are in the Hall

DeArbea Walker: Ya, Eli is not that great but he is still a Hall of Famer, come on

Carron: Joe Namath is a god, tho

Donovan: Namath’s stats were terrible! And so was his record

Dustin: I think Eli is outrageously overrated too and I’m a Giants fan.

Carron: But still, no one has ever done what Namath’s done: He literally made the most famous position in sports….sexy

Donovan: Namath’s in the Hall strictly off one game ... why can’t Eli be in off two games?

Carron: Because Joe won that game. Eli didn’t

Rich: Matt Snell would like a word

Carron: If you can wear white furs, do cocaine, sleep with models, and guarantee a Super Bowl victory while lounging …. u deserve to be in the HOF

DeArbea: LOL

Rich: Aaaaand we need to find the B’way Joe in pantyhose commercial to insert here:

Rich: BUT … Namath doesn’t fit our time frame anyway. So …

Carron: Eli Manning winning 2 Super Bowls is like when Trent Dilfer won one … it wasn’t because of Dilfer, just like it wasn’t because of Eli

Donovan: “Wasn’t because of Eli” is mad debatable

Rich: I mean he put that ball RIGHT on Tyree’s helmet lol

Eric Barrow: Just going to step in here quick to defend Eli.

Five playoff wins on the road…two at Lambeau.

And his throw to Mario Manningham in Super Bowl 46 was one of the biggest big-time throws in Super Bowl history.

Dustin: This is exactly what makes him overrated! Y’all are forgetting the HUNDREDS of ints he threw

Carron: Thousands

Carron: 5 playoff wins on the road ... 3 of them came when he played on a team that carried his mediocre ass

Dustin: And he was really a below-average QB for most of his career

Rich: Here are the other nominees from our ballots: Brady, Big Ben, Matt Ryan. A couple of others at Deadspin gave Favre a nod. How does Eli compare to any of them? And are all of them HOFers even if you think overrated?

Carron: Everybody on that list would run Eli off the field

Rich: Can’t say I disagree

Donovan: Y’all are acting like people don’t KNOW Eli is mediocre at best though?? So how is he overrated if everyone knows that. Two things can obviously be true, with Namath as the precedent.

You can be mediocre as a QB and get in the Hall of Fame based solely off a few moments in your career

Carron: Because mediocre at best doesn’t belong in THE HALL OF FAME

Dustin: Yup

DeArbea: That’s an indictment on the Hall of Fame

Rich: Not the only sport with that problem

Carron: Also, at the time Joe got in……standards and records were wayyyyy different

We can’t hold Joe to Brady-like standards. Different time. Different game.

But Eli…….

Rich: Donovan you had Matty Ice. Why?

Carron: Matt Ryan is trash, too

Donovan: I believe that many people try to put Matt Ryan in that category with elite QBs in the game and they force that narrative on him. But elite QBs can’t have the amount of talent he’s had around him in Atlanta over the years and the best result they got is a 25-point meltdown on the biggest stage in the world

Rich: That meltdown was so epic it topped our list of worst sports heartbreaks

OK, let’s think about it this way: If we were to make a list of the Top 10-15 QBs of all time, would any of the names (forget Namath) above appear on most lists?

This guy again.
This guy again.
Photo: Getty

I know one would. Brady. So De, why was he yours?


Dustin: That’s a take

Rich: 🔥

Carron: Since u wanna come at WHITE JESUS!!!!!!!

Carron: The only player with SIX SUPER BOWL RINGS


Rich: I will admit this is not gonna be an easy justification for ya!

DeArbea: I wasn’t on the Brady is overrated train until recently. Not saying he isn’t great, but with how well Matt Cassel did in that system in 2008, and now Cam, I mean should Brady be on this pedestal? I get the six rings, but I’m just looking at results across the board.

Carron: Who has more comebacks?


DeArbea: The system!

Carron: Who puts more fear in defenses?… nobody

Dustin: The Cassel system did not get them to the playoffs!

Carron: Pat Mahomes never beat him ….

And they had a home game and couldn’t do it

Dustin: Overtime rules. Pat didn’t get a chance, to be fair

 DeArbea: They still went 11-5

Carron: Ain’t our fault we draft good players

DeArbea: Cassel is a good player?

Carron: What Cassell had around him? Cassell was solid

Dustin: The year before they went 16-0!

Donovan: Remember Jacoby Brissett in the Belichick system too....

Donovan: Played really well

Carron: Imagine if Brady had the offensive talent Matt Ryan did … I’ll just leave this here

Rich: I went with Roethl... oh the hell with that, Big Ben. I compared his numbers to a few other contemporary QBs and he just came in shy of them in a lot of the categories. Plus the Steelers almost always smothered with D (almost). So I knocked him down a peg for the ring.

Donovan: Reports also said he was a horrible team leader

DeArbea: Ya Big ben has had that stigma for most of his career

Rich: Well also off the field ... yeahhhhhh, not great, Bob.

Final Q on QBs: If Eli Manning wouldn’t appear on most Top 10 lists, CAN he be “overrated?”

Dustin: Of course

Rich: Or is he just disliked because of resting brat face?


Dustin: He will be in the Hall of Fame

With a career .500 record

Donovan: No one thinks he’s good, how can he be overrated?

Rich: But if we establish that there are non-worthy players in the Hall …

Donovan: Thank you Rich

DeArbea: Ya, Big Ben sadly will be in there even those he has spent the last decade with an abysmal record

Rich: Alright, vote time: Who of the five gets tagged? Anyone change their mind?

I’m sticking with Ben, because he might appear on a few Top 10/15 lists

Donovan: I’m going Matt Ryan

Dustin: We are not the ones casting HOF votes, we’ll comment on them


Carron: “I said, what I said” - (NeNe Leakes Voice)

Rich: OK De, tiebreaker vote, it’s time to call it between Brady/Eli

DeArbea: Sticking to mine as well

Carron: Get Eli ass up outta here

Rich: It’s a five-way tie. I need to rule:

The unmatched vitriol gives the award to ... Eli.

Carron: Boom!!!!

Look at gawd!

Rich: Let it be noted for the record that Dustin responded to the Eli ruling with a [checks notes ...] “parrot rolling its head around” emoji! (Ed. note: TIL there is, apparently, an entire genre of “party parrots” RO)


RB: Chris Johnson, Melvin Gordon, Marshall Faulk, Ladanian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, Ezekiel Elliott, are the nominees

Sorry Zeke was Jesse Spector’s pick and he’s not here to argue it, but we can.

Donovan: I’m willing to be persuaded on this one

Zeke realizes what’s about to happen.
Photo: Getty

Carron: Damn…this is gonna be so mean

Zeke…it’s gotta be Zeke

Rich: You voted for Tomlinson tho!

Carron: I know

But this wasn’t the list then lol

Donovan: I’m not mad at a Zeke selection — what has he done the last few years that Austin Ekeler hasn’t?

Rich: Damn! Eric had Emmitt Smith!

Carron: I’m with Eric on Emmitt ....

EB: The Fridge could’ve run through the holes he had!

Rich: I went Faulk, just again comparing him to others who played around the same time for the same amount of time and didn’t get the same numbers. But I’m starting to head toward Zeke too. Jesse’s nominee may be our dark horse!

Dustin: Zeke has had three seasons +1000 yds. Gordon has 1 ...

Donovan: Outside of the rookie year, he’s just been another “good back” that you can get in the second or third round

DeArbea: Zeke

Rich: Well then we have an easy quorum. NO MORE BETS. Window’s closed. Poor Zeke stuck his head in the room because I copy/pasted too many names and he gets it lopped off!

Alright on to WR and I’ll just throw everyone’s votes in now since we’ve already had a wild card:

WR: Odell Beckham, Wes Welker, Brandon Marshall, Beckham, Beckham, Michael Irvin, Victor Cruz, Wes Welker, Beckham

FOUR OBJ votes! Are we done here?

Dustin: One more time for OBJ?

Donovan: Fine by me

DeArbea: Yep fine with me

Rich: Lol dude makes otherworldly catches and we’re like, “Nah, we good: It you.”

Carron: CRUZ!!!!

Rich: I wouldn’t argue Cruz either

DeArbea: In Cleveland OBJ has been horrible though

Donovan: OBJ talent hasn’t matched production for me

Carron: I saw OBJ play in person, and it blew my mind. I really want that dude to play with a competent QB.

Rich: But no one is changing enough minds to top poor OBJ so ... NEXT! (Ed. note: Yes, this discussion took place BEFORE this! But we’re sticking with it — RO)

Tight end: Jeremy Shockey, Shockey, Travis Kelce, Shockey, Shockey, Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, Witten

Four Shockeys! Two Wittens. I had Witten as my underrated. That’s football, Suzyn!

Is this another blowout?

Carron: Damn, what Shockey do to y’all?

Dustin: Picking up a disgruntled NY football fan vibe ...

Rich: I’m a Jets fan. I just always thought he was WAY too fawned over

Donovan: I think he’s the best option to go with

Rich: Agree, doesn’t seem much argument against.


O-line: Nate Newton, Nate Solder, Nate Solder Bruce Matthews, Mike Webster

Not a ton of nominees in this one! Everyone punted!

Donovan, Dustin ... go. You both had Solder

Dustin: He was anointed as the savior of the Giants’ line last year and just had a bad year. Overrated and overpaid

Donovan: Drafted in the first round as a lineman and never made a Pro Bowl

Rich: Soooo … we are basically gonna have a team of guys primarily associated with the Giants. As a Jets fan, I approve this message. Great job. Done.

DeArbea: LOL

Rich: Speaking of G-Men …

Strahan is spitting mad he’s even on this list.
Photo: Getty

D-line: Michael Strahan, Warren Sapp, Suh, JJ Watt, Suh, Suh, Suh, Watt

Four for Suh. Anyone say nay?

DeArbea: Wow not Michael Strahan! I’m with SUH

Rich: Strahan a better lineman or TV host?

DeArbea: Strahan’s probable a better TV host, but I didn’t think he was that bad as a player

Donovan: Suh isn’t a bad pick, he’s most known for stomping on people now and not his play

Rich: Exactly!

Dustin: In defense of Suh, this is his 10th year and he has never missed a start.

Suh is a three-time first-team All-Pro, five-time Pro Bowler

Donovan: Strahan was actually a good DE

Rich: That one was pretty clear: Suh it is. This next one should generate some chatter:

Linebacker: Ray Lewis, Lewis, Lewis, Shawn Merriman, Brian Urlacher, Ray Lewis, Urlacher, Urlacher, Merriman

4 lewis, 3 urlacher, 2 merriman

Carron: Urlacher

DeArbea: Ray Lewis?

DeArbea: What?

Urlacher for sure.

Rich: Of just our group of five here, Urlacher would win

Carron: Look, I lived in Atlanta….twice….Ray killed that man. I can’t stand him. But he was a helluva linebacker.

Urlacher racist ass gotta go

Donovan: Urlacher

DeArbea: Right

Rich: Boy, bye! K then … cornerbacks … hey, look: Another Giant!

CB: Josh Norman, Champ Bailey, Norman, Norman, Norman, Ronde Barber, Norman, Richard Sherman, Jason Sehorn

Carron: Bye Josh

Looks like another completed pass against Josh Norman.
Photo: Getty

Rich: Yeah, this seems … like blowout city. Anyone wanna give a good reason he was on their list?

Donovan: Josh Norman can’t guard a soul in man-to-man

Rich: There’s one!

Carron: Jason Sehorn broke racial boundaries …. even though he used to get burnt all the time LOL

Rich: Yeah, he always got a lot of love thrown at him just for that reason. And marrying Angie Harmon.

DeArbea: Josh Norman can’t play man-to-man so, ya, he has gotta go. The attention he got is for no reason. I’m fine with Norman.

Carron: I’ll take Josh in a Cover 3, tho LOL

DeArbea: LOL

Donovan: Oh he can play Zone

He can guard grass exquisitely

Rich: De, you took Sherman. Why?

DeArbea: Just looking at the pieces between him, Earl and Kam. He got a bulk of the attention in Seattle and didn’t think he deserved it. That’s all. He isn’t bad, but Thomas was a key reason why their secondary was that great.

Rich: OK ...

Safety: Jon Lynch, Troy Polamalu, Earl Thomas, Ryan Clark, Lynch, Clark, Jamal Adams

2 votes in our group for Clark. De and Dustin, how come?

Carron: Ryan Clark

Rich: Ah, we have a previous no-vote moving to Clark: That’s three!

Dustin: The dude’s on TV all the time and has made one Pro Bowl!

DeArbea: He was overrated.

Carron: He just doesn’t belong with the rest on this list

Rich: Moving on to kicker:

K: Stephen Gostkowski, Gary Anderson, Stephen Gostkowski, Jay Feely, Morton Anderson, Janikowski, Gostkowski, Gostkowski

Carron: Janikowski!!!!!!!

Strong leg, but ...
Photo: Getty

Rich: Gostkowski is my under-rated kicker, yet here he is on a million ballots, wth?

Dustin: Feely is the only special teams analyst on TV and is, statistically, far from the best. Can someone get Vinatieri to call games?

Donovan: I’m willing to sway my vote on kicker

DeArbea: Gostkowski

Rich: Gost is Top 7 all-time in FG%! The others on this list at 30, 50, 55 & 62. Come on, now, what gives, this is nuts? not to mention SB wins, which no one else on this list has. What’s the possible argument for Gost? I can’t believe I’m summoning the most outrage over a dang kicker!

Dustin: Did you see him week one?

Not switching my vote, just saying there may be some recency bias.

Rich: Did I see him week one?! Of this bizarro season? Did you see all the Super Bowls when he didn’t miss a field goal?! OK, I am finally outraged at one of these things — and it’s a bloody kicker! Five demerits to you all.

Final vote, go: I’m sticking with Morton

Dustin: Feely

Donovan: Janikowski strictly ’cause of his time in Oakland

Rich: Ha! so that’s two votes and that’s enough here to make Sebastian our last-second winner!

And finally ... who’s their coach?

Coach: Mike Ditka, Mike Martz, Ditka, Jon Gruden, Marvin Lewis, Mike McCarthy, Gruden, McCarthy, Sean McVay

Rich: That’s a lot of … Ditka.

Dustin: Marvin Lewis coached 16 years in the league. He had six winning seasons and never won a playoff game. The other coaches my colleagues suggested have all been to or won a Super Bowl. Lewis had a loooong coaching career, he was treated like a championship-winning coach by the bengals and really came out of. There without any hardware.

DeArbea: Sticking with Mike McCarthy

Donovan: I’ve never seen someone get more clout for one Super Bowl than Gruden

Rich: In our group it was 2 Grudens 2 McCarthys and 1 Lewis

Carron: Gruden

Dustin: Marvin Lewis never won a playoff game and he’s coached LONGER than Gruden

Rich: That is a very fair knock

Donovan: But Marvin Lewis is not perceived as a good coach

Dustin: He was treated like one

DeArbea: Ya Marvin is not looked at as a good coach

Dustin: Says who? He coached for the same team for 16 years! Someone must’ve liked him.

Donovan: That’s cause the Bengals are an atrociously run organization

Dustin: You don’t think the coach is a part of that?

Donovan: Marvin was horrible don’t get me wrong .. but he wasn’t overrated

Rich: I am really torn on where I land here, but I’m def switching my vote. And I think beyond Cincy, Lewis wasn’t really talked up much, more maligned really ... So I too am gonna go with … Gruden, sealing his fate.

Rich: Alright that wraps up overrated! Any final thoughts? THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU’VE DONE!

Donovan: I can sleep good at night with our overrated selections

Rich: My final thought is … dude beats the most hated team in America TWICE including ruining their perfect season yet DAYUM people still hate Eli!

Thanks for joining us. See you tomorrow with our UNDERrated debate.

(This transcript was lightly edited for clarity. It was … extra ... in there at times!)