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Deadspin Presents: The Most Underrated NFL Players & Coaches of the Past 30 Years

Deadspin Presents: The Most Underrated NFL Players & Coaches of the Past 30 Years

Welcome to day two of Deadspin’s Most Over/Underrated players in the NFL since 1990. Yesterday, we argued a lot about players who don’t match up with their reputations. Today, we delve into those players who we believe never got enough credit for what they provided their teams. Once again, we’ll go position by position and name a coach for the squad.

Let the kangaroo court begin — all rise …

Rich O’Malley: Alright let’s go … Just like yesterday, let’s begin with one name each: Your most underrated player in football in the past 30 years. Go …

Dustin Foote: Frank Gore - RB

Donovan Dooley: Cam Newton - QB

Carron J. Phillips: Vick - QB

Rich: Aeneas Williams, CB

DeArbea Walker: Aaron Rodgers, QB

QUARTERBACKS

Rich: 2 QBs, the natural starting place once again. Here are your nominees:

QB: Jim Kelly, Steve Young, Cam Newton, Matt Stafford, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick, Vick, Eli Manning

JESSE HAS ELI Y’ALL!!!!

Carron: DeArbea is coldblooded with Vick

2 days in a row lol

DeArbea: Michael Vick is too

Lol

Carron: I’m ready to physically fight over Vick

DeArbea: So he isn’t underrated ?

Donovan: Newton won a MVP and went to a Super Bowl ... Vick did not

Carron: Newton doesn’t go No. 1 and have that platform without Vick....he set the table for every QB in the league right now that’s Black.

Rich: Vick IS the only player here with two votes. A very spread-out category for once

Carron: Michael Vick had racist Falcons fans from Georgia with 7 jerseys on......that shit was wild

Donovan: Cam Newton did the same in Carolina and faced a ton of racism as well and had better accomplishments.

Rich: I’m not married to my pick, but my justification on Rivers was dude put up huge numbers in an unassuming way. And the Chargers were always expected to crap out in the playoffs anyway because they just weren’t ever quite there, which is not his fault. Better numbers than a lot of guys of his era. But … never had the team to get the ring.

Dustin: Not married either. But I want to throw out another #1 drafted QB, Matt Stafford, in the conversation. I think he has been generally underrated throughout his career. Anyone else think he could have more wins if he wasn’t on the lions?

Rich: He would have more wins if he worked here than playing for the Lions.

Crap, where’s Megatron?
Crap, where’s Megatron?
Photo: Getty

Carron: The Lions didn’t make him throw all those late game INTs.

Donovan: Tell that to Megatron, Dustin.

Dustin: Good point, but he did leave too early!

Donovan: I’ll agree that Vick had more of an impact but was he underrated as a player though?

Rich: That’s the Q.

Carron: There is no Cam without Vick. I was there. Cam was a HS freshmen in atlanta when Vick was Vick.....Cam don’t happen without No. 7

Carron: YES

DeArbea: Definitely underrated

Donovan: I think Cam is actually underrated or at least more underrated than Vick.

Carron: Eric came in here bragging about Eli… Eli’s wins at Lambeau

But u kno who always went there and showed out.

VICK

He was the face of the league and people act like it didn’t exist because of dogs.

The man’s number isn’t even retired.

Rich: How do you think his talents are viewed now by a majority of NFL fans who remember him?

Bc yes it is HARD for many to look past the dogfighting

Carron: Of course they remember the runs, they forget about the passes to Crumpler and Finnegan

And how good the Falcons were.

Donovan: Which is why he isn’t underrated. He was the face of the league. Not even in 2015 did Cam get that treatment from people.

Carron: That rating dipped...because of dogs.

Rich: Alright I’m making this a two-man race: Vote or die.

Carron: Vick is very layered.

Rich: I think Donovan’s point on Cam is valid. I’m going with Cam.

Last call for rationale with your votes.

DeArbea: Vick.

Dustin: Vick. He was never MVP/all pro like cam. Should’ve been

Carron: Cam Newton is playing TE after high school without Michael Vick’s impact....that went away and made him underrated...because of dogs.

Donovan: Not mad with a Vick selection ... I just wanted to see the argument.

Rich: We have a winner. Vick it is.

Good argument y’all! Way to “yell” all loud and stuff! Ok ...

RUNNING BACKS

Thurman Thomas, Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James, Frank Gore, Jerome Bettis, Barry Sanders, Eric Dickerson, Frank Gore

Carron: Barry

Rich: Again a lot of variety here, eras and styles. Gore the only two-voter.

Donovan: Edgerrin James was the truth and never got the credit he deserves in Indy.

DeArbea: Dickerson for sure.

Rich: All those Indy guys lump together for me, that was a system thing for me AFTER Dickerson.

Carron: With all due FOOTBALL respect to the MAGA-hat-wearing, women-abusing Jim Brown … Barry Sanders is the greatest RB of all time … and is never mentioned as such.

Rich: I hear him mentioned at LEAST in Top 3 and sometimes the best.

Carron: Top 3 is disrespect.

lol

Dustin: Folks, Gore is still playing in a position that chews up and spits out players after 2 years. He was drafted in ‘05.

Donovan: Don’t mean he’s actually good and/or underrated.

Rich: I really, really have a hard time defining Barry Sanders as underrated.

DeArbea: SAME

Carron: Don’t give me a bronze when i’m gold material lol

Rich: Most people who never saw Brown call Barry the greatest they ever saw. I certainly do.

Carron: Jim Brown was playing against 145-pound white dudes from Cornell lol

Rich: FAIR POINT CARRON! lol

DeArbea: lol

Rich: Gore is, for me, also a terrific pick. Dustin’s rationale is valid.

undefined
Frank Gore “back in the day.”
Photo: Getty

Carron: If Barry had Emmitt’s O-line … my God

Rich: OMG

Carron: and a QB, or a WR

Donovan: But Gore is rated pretty fairly.

Dustin: Frank gore is #3 on the all-time rushing list...

Carron: Frank Gore is 374 years old. He should be!

Rich: lolololol

Donovan: Gore has played a lot of years but hasn’t done much in the last five of them.

Carron: Frank Gore played at Miami with Michael Irvin LMAO.

Rich: Yeah that’s a Hal Baines-ification of stats if i’ve ever seen one.

Dustin: All time rushing leaders? OK

Rich: As you said, Gore’s played forever. Most RBs don’t. Ergo …

Dustin: THATS WHY HES UNDERRATED.

Carron: Frank Gore is the most “durable” RB of all time.

Rich: I’m not saying it DQs him, but it’s a really fair point to say he’s, as Mike Francesa would say, a COMPILAH.

Donovan: Most durable = underrated ???

Carron: Nope

Dustin: Don’t forget ... #3 on rushing list.

Durability is an underrated quality in RBs

Rich: Votes!

Donovan: Because he was the most durable, not because he was better than the elites

Carron: Barry

Rich: Gore, bc despite being around forever he’s always been underrated.

Dustin: Frank

DeArbea: Dickerson

Rich: It’s up to Don

Donovan: I need to hear an argument on Dickerson.

undefined
ED looks like a tank coming thru.
Photo: Getty

Rich: You’re up, De. The right argument could sway me here actually

Carron: People don’t talk about ED and OJ like they should because of their drama....which underrates them

Dustin: Frank Gore has rushed 3,000 more yards than Dickerson

Carron: ED played less than 10 years! I think.

Rich: Yeah. He played an 11th season but only appeared in four games.

DeArbea: 5-time All-Pro in 6 seasons

Carron: Gore’s been in the league 25 years lol. ED a 2,000-yd rusher

DeArbea: In that era too ...

Rich: I will say, for me, ED was right there for me as the best RB in the league when I was first watching FB, but you don’t always hear his name called out with the all-time greats.

DeArbea: Right, Rich!

Carron: The only time people talk about ED is when it’s SMU and the death penalty, but ask an oldhead about ED.

Rich: I’m changing my vote. ED

Dustin: NO!

Rich: Still up to Don to break a 4-way tie!

Carron: The pony express!!!!!

Donovan: Hmmmmm

Carron: I’ll switch to ED too

Rich: BIPARTISANSHIP!

DeArbea: LOL

Rich: Across the aisle

Carron: Fuck the NCAA and the death penalty lol

Rich: Good job y’all

Donovan: I was this close to picking Gore too

Dustin: YO

Rich: Hahahaha, he can say he won the popular vote but the House gave it to ED

Carron: That was payback for Morehouse getting the death penalty in soccer when i was in school LOL

Dustin: Shit!

WIDE RECEIVERS

Larry Fitzgerald, DeSean Jackson, Anquan Boldin, Plaxico Burress, Tim Brown, Chad Johnson, Julio Jones, Larry Fitzgerald

DeArbea: Julio Jones!

Donovan: No

Carron: Ocho. OCHO!!!!!!

DeArbea: Not Ocho

Rich: Wait

Hold on

Too many “OCHOs!” and “NOs!” to know what the hell is going on. Reset.

Donovan: I went with Anquan Boldin, who I think is a solid guy who made a lot of big catches

Dustin: Let’s talk about Plax. without him, you Eli lovers wouldn’t have been talking yesterday

Rich: Who “Eli lovers?!”

Dustin: Plax is another underrated player who has lived in the shadow of an off-field incident

Donovan: Plax had moments, but he wasn’t underrated

Carron: Did y’all not watch Chad Johnson play football?

DeArbea: Ya, but I don’t think he is underrated at all

Donovan: Yes and he was great but he was considered a top four receiver in his prime.

He’s not underrated.

Carron: And they’re not gonna let him in because of that jacket he made

Rich: Agree on how Chad is viewed. Underrated to me is being almost unrecognized for major accomplishments. Tim Brown is a HOFer, nine-time Pro Bowler, played with AWFUL QBs and STILLl managed to be one of the Top 20 greatest WRs ever — and no one remembers him.

Carron: Ocho is one of the 10 best WRs ever....and he doesn’t get his due because...he’s Ocho

And I do [remember Brown]. We old, tho!

Rich: Tru lol

But that’s what I’m saying too, did you think about him for this?

Bc if you forgot him……

Carron: I think he’s properly rated. I thoroughly believed Chad should be wayyy higher in people’s minds.

Rich: Boldin intrigues me. I like Fitz too, but I’m thinking at this point I’m not SURE he really is “under” anymore.

Dustin: Yeah who had Boldin?

Donovan: I had Boldin.

Carron: Boldin was a QB at FSU.....He was just huge and bigger than people lol. A damn FB at WR lol

Rich: I don’t think Plax or Jones have enough support so, it’s vote time on one of these:

Brown, Ocho, Boldin

I’m sticking Brown

Carron: No. 85

undefined
Chad Ochocinco lays out.
Photo: Getty

DeArbea: Brown

Dustin: Think all these players are underrated, but I like the Boldin pick. Gonna go with Donovan.

Carron: Brown...9 Pro Bowls, Boldin … 3. And Brown has a Heisman.

Rich: Donovan must be deep in researchland on Google trying to find the killer stat bc he’s ghosted Boldin in his time of need here!

Brown it is with the Carron move over!

Carron: lmaoooo. I just picked a Notre Dame dude...i hate y’all

Rich: Oh I feel that pain too, man.

TIGHT ENDS

Mark Bavaro, Mark Bavaro, Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, Witten, Aaron Hernandez, Travis Kelce, Kelce

DeArbea: Travis Kelce for sure

Carron: Hernandez

Donovan: Ehh nah on Kelce

Carron: I’m picking all the problematic dudes!

Rich: So first of all, Bavaro was awesome, and I KNOW he played INTO the 90s, but man does he feel like he’s from a different era of FB. I can’t consider him here.

DeArbea: Kelce still is not getting the respect even after the Super Bowl. I don’t get it.

Donovan: Cause he has Mahomes

DeArbea: He was first team All-Pro before Mahomes

Dustin: Hernandez was one of the best TE’s when he played, but has a really small sample size

Rich: So the most interesting dude here to me is Witten. He got two votes in overrated and two in under! I picked him here, and so did Dustin.

Carron: Hernandez did what he did in that small sample size....next to Gronk who is arguably the best TE ever....that’s how good Hernandez was

Rich: Donovan if you’re still with us lol tell us why Graham?

Donovan: I think Jimmy Graham has 5 Pro Bowl selections and a first team All-Pro selection. Yet people never include him in the convo with best tight ends, of his era I should say.

Dustin: Not denying Hernandez could’ve been one of the greats. 38 games is just not enough to work from for me.

Rich: Ditto Dustin

DeArbea: Kelce’s career isn’t over yet either so that has to factor into it, Still has at least 5+ more years.

Rich: True. This is a really hard one for me.

Donovan: I’m willing to change from Graham.

Rich: I was thinking about it …vote!

Carron: Don’t let that Netflix doc/and his issues take away from the fact that Aaron Hernandez was a generational talent at TE.

DeArbea: That’s true, Hernandez hadn’t hit his prime either

Dustin: For three years! I’m going Kelce. Think he deserves more credit in KC.

DeArbea: Still sticking with Kelce.

Donovan: I’ll go Kelce.

Rich: I’m very torn bw Kelce and Graham but I’m going Kelce

BOOM, done.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Jumbo Elliot, Jason Peters, Jeff Saturday, Joe Thomas, Randall McDaniel, Peters, Randall McDaniel, Nate Newton

Carron: Peters. Dude been doing it for 30 years lol

Dustin: Didn’t wanna take Gore, tho, huh

Rich: Yeah this is like the wayback machine category!

Carron: He’s younger than Gore by a century LOL

Donovan: Saturday was a staple in Indy that didn’t get talked about enough

Rich: I agree with that, I had McDaniel who was just a damn beast but Saturday is a solid pick

undefined
Jeff Saturday (r.) protects Peyton Manning.
Photo: Getty

DeArbea: That’s true about Peters

Carron: Saturday is going to the HOF

Dustin: Joe Thomas missed the Pro Bowl once in his 11-year career

DeArbea: I had McDaniel

Carron: HOF O-linemen can’t be underrated

Dustin: Six-time All-Pro. Just played for the Browns....

Started every game for 10 years

Rich: Right now it’s 2 for McDaniel and 1 for Saturday, Peters and Thomas. Someone gotta give it up or that’s the final call!

Countdown:

3

2

1

Randall McDaniel it is!

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Richard Seymour, Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers, Jevon Kearse

Rich: Love this list. I’d vote for any of them

Donovan: Dwight Freeney was dominant back in the day

Rich: Mmmhmm. They all kinda were

Dustin: Peppers was dominant back in the day and up till the end of his 17-year career

Donovan: I think we can eliminate Peppers. He was never underrated to me ... people gave him his flowers.

Dustin: Excuse me?

Rich: ?!?

Carron: Pep got his due.

Donovan: We can also eliminate Seymour too

Carron: Shoutout to when he hooped at UNC lol

Rich: Ha

Carron: Seymour did too.

Rich: Kearse and Freeney were very similar talents to me. They freaked people! I would put Thomas with Peppers in getting his due tho.

Donovan: My vote is Freeney.

Rich: Alright so … Freeney/Kearse finals … I’ll stick with Kearse

DeArbea: Freeney

undefined
We’re not quite done kicking Eli, are we. Dwight Freeney sure isn’t. OK, now we’re done.
Photo: Getty

Carron: Freeney… ’Cuse alum love.

Rich: 3 is enough to give it to Freeney.

LINEBACKER

Derrick Thomas, Sam Mills, Patrick Willis, Willis, Junior Seau, Lamar Woodley, Troy Polamalu

Surprisingly few nominees for LB. Not everyone put one.

Carron: WOODLEY!!!!!!!!

SAGINAW!!!!!!!

My vote is biased as hell, i’m gonna be honest. That’s the li’l homie lol

Rich: I adore how every time i put the category nominees up, Carron just yells “WHOEVERHEVOTEDFOR!” as a standalone text!

Carron: HAHHAHHAHAHA

Dustin: Willis should’ve been a HOF finalist this year. Snubbed

Dustin: Eight years is earlyish for a LB, but still he has HOF #s

Donovan: Willis is a good pick. If he didn’t retire early he’d be one of the greats.

Rich: I agree. I would change to him … and that would be enough.

CORNERBACKS

Charles Tillman, Troy Vincent, Richard Sherman, Sherman, Aeneas Williams, Patrick Peterson, Darrell Green, Sherman

Three for Sherman. Any changers?

Donovan: Charles Tillman is a good one.

DeArbea: Green is the great that no one talks about.

Rich: Aeneas Williams played on TURRIBLE teams and was an ace at shutting down the other team’s #1 guy. Top 5 CB to me. Never gets enough chatter.

And Green is sorta on a par with Williams there, I agree. Still think he’s slightly more well-regarded

Dustin: A few years ago I wouldn’t have said Sherm, but he’s impressed me in SF. Thought he would wash away in the Bay

Carron: (whispers) Patrick Peterson has been the #1 corner since his rookie year.

He wore the No. 7 at LSU

Donovan: Sherm ,is he underrated though, I don’t view Peterson as underrated.

Rich: I’m on the fence there.

Carron: He’s not flashy. He don’t talk. He just plays and goes home.

DeArbea: Sticking with Green

Rich: Alright, I think it’s down to Peterson, Sherm or Green.

VOTE!

I have to change off Williams, so …

Donovan: If it’s between those three .. I’ll go with Peterson

Dustin: Like the Peterson pick. i’m gonna move over.

Rich: I’ll make it a blowout, then!

SAFETIES

Merton Hanks, Hanks, Bob Sanders, Troy Polamalu, Rodney Harrison, Sean Taylor, Ed Reed, Reed

Rich: Carron, you wanna go first….. [wink]

Should we narrow right down to Reed and Hanks?

Donovan: Reed is my vote

Rich: I’m gonna go Hanks

DeArbea: Reed for sure

Rich: I don’t see him as UNDERrated … huh.

Carron: Sean Taylor

That dude.....

Tragic

Too much of his legacy is on how he died and not how he played, which makes him underrated.

Rich: VOTES!

Donovan: I’ll change to Taylor

Rich: It’s a really good point, Carron makes

Dustin: Reed - recency bias for me

Donovan: Honestly Ed Reed got a lot of praise

Rich: Agree, I’ll change to Taylor too!

SEAN TAYLOR, CARRON!

Carron:

KICKERS

Justin Tucker, Adam Vinatieri, Tucker, Tucker, Stephen Gostkowski, Jason Hanson, Josh Brown, Hanson

Carron: THAT dude

Donovan: Tucker

Rich: I won’t go to war again for Gost like I did yesterday! I’ll take my win there and be happy.

THO I WILL IF YOU TEST ME

Dustin: Tucker could become the G.O.A.T.

Carron: Hanson is the first player to score 2100 points in NFL history with one team. 2100, off kicks!

Rich: That’s bc the Lions could never get in the end zone!

Carron: And the Lions needed all 2100....and STILL sucked!

Rich: Hahaha

DeArbea: Changing my vote to Tucker

Carron: When a kicker is your most valued offensive player......he should be rated highly … Hanson is not

Dustin: Didn’t Tucker’s leg get Baltimore into the ‘13 SB?

Rich: Ok … but … so … someone who could become the G.O.A.T. should not be considered underrated!

Dustin: Could

Rich: I’ll go Hanson.

undefined
Jason Hanson 2100, the rest of the Lions 35.
Photo: Getty

Dustin: He’s a kicker … still has like 13 years ahead of him!

Rich: ppppfffffffff … where the hell are we? It’s 2-2.

Donovan: I’ll be willing to change to Hanson

Rich: We need Don’s vote, there it is. Hanson.

Rich: And finally, one that looks like a blowout:

Coach: Marv Levy, Herm Edwards, Tony Dungy, Mike Tomlin, Tomlin, Tomlin, Dungy, Tomlin

Fucking Chris picking Herm SMDH

Carron: Tomlin

Dustin: Hhahahaha. Tomlin for sure.

Rich: Yeah I’m not coming off of Tomlin here myself

Donovan: So Tomlin and Dungy both got one Bowl ?

Rich: But I’ll let the two Dungy votes have a go

DeArbea: Dungy I feel, but willing to change my vote

Carron: Tomlin is in the AFC North, gotta put up with a QB with sex assault allegations, the Pouncey twins, ABrown … and still wins like 10 games a year … AND stays on the hot seat … AND won a SB!

Racism is a MFer

Rich: Yes to all

Dustin: Tomlin has NEVER had a losing season as HC

Rich: Bonkers

Carron: And Tomlin is never thought of like the big guy in KC

DeArbea: Now that I think about it, since Dungy has TV airtime he has a lot of league influence, and people still talk about his career in high regard. So it’s not a strong argument anymore.

Rich: Done. Tomlin. Hey … we did it y’all!

Final thoughts?

Donovan: Im Gucci

DeArbea: I’m fine with Tomlin

Carron: Barry and Ocho got robbed

Dustin: P will was snubbed again

DeArbea: I hope Michael Vick gets his much deserved respect.

Carron: @DeArbea Walker gon make me cry

DeArbea: Like, talk about him in the same convo as Brady and Peyton. He was impactful in that era too

Dustin: And Frank Gore is underrated AND durable! both can be true

Rich: lol some GRUDGES coming OUT

Carron: Frank Gore was 35 when Dustin was born

Dustin: You’re not wrong

Carron: LMAOOO

Rich: BWAHAHAHA i was typing a thoughtful reply to De agreeing with her sentiment and then you come out with that and give us the perfect kicker

Alright, thank you all. This was a hoot and I think we have TWO solid squads here.

Take care, everybody!

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

Saginaw Native. Morehouse Man. Syracuse (Newhouse) Alum. 2019 NABJ Award Winner. 2016 PABJ Journalist of the Year. I only eat my wings lemon-peppered. And I like brown liquor & brown women.

Deputy Editor, Deadspin. Author, "One Lucky Fan: From Bleachers to Box Seats, Chasing the Ultimate Sports Dream to Visit All 123 MLB, NBA, NFL & NHL Teams." Earthwalker.

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