Frank: Most overrated and underrated Eagles: QBs

Frank: Most overrated and underrated Eagles: QBs
June 27, 2011, 7:57 pm
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Monday, June 27, 2011
Posted: 3:56 p.m.
By Reuben FrankCSNPhilly.com

You could ask 100 Eagles fans if Donovan McNabb is overrated or underrated, and 50 will probably tell you hes overrated and 50 will tell you hes underrated.

Underrated? Heck, only eight quarterbacks in NFL history have won more playoff games.

Overrated? Heck, the guy goes to the playoffs seven times and the NFC Championship game five times and doesnt win a Super Bowl.

The way we see it, McNabb isnt overrated or underrated. Overall, time has judged him fairly. A very good quarterback, the best in Eagles history, but not a Hall of Famer.

No, McNabb doesnt go into either category in our conversation about the most underrated and overrated quarterbacks in Eagles history.

Who does? Read on.

Next Monday: Coaches.
Overrated
Ron Jaworski
Ron Jaworski has become one of the very best color analysts in football. He really knows how to run a first-rate country club. Hes tirelessly active in charity endeavors around Philly and South Jersey. His recent book with Greg Cosell, The Games that Changed the Game, is terrific.

Jaws is a great guy. Funny, accessible, insightful.

Hes also become a Delaware Valley icon. As one of only two quarterbacks to ever lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl and an area resident for 34 years now, hes a fixture in our community.

So its not easy to classify him as one of the most overrated quarterbacks in Eagles history.

But we will anyway.

Of the 33 NFL quarterbacks whove thrown 4,000 or more passes since 1974 Jaworskis rookie year only one has a worse completion percentage than Jaworskis 53.1 career figure. Thats Joe Ferguson, as 52.7 percent.

Jaworskis 72.8 career passer rating is also second-worst of the last 37 years, again behind only Ferguson (69.3).

But really, what we remember Jaws most for is the Eagles 1980 Super Bowl run. And thats where the numbers are really surprising.

During the 1980 postseason, Jaworski completed 44 of 105 passes (42 percent) for 572 yards, with two TDs and seven interceptions. Thats a 38.3 passer rating for the entire 1980 postseason.

In the NFC Championship Game, Jaws was 9 for 29 for 91 yards, no TDs and two interceptions. His passer rating that day 12.3 is worst in Eagles postseason history, worst in NFC Championship Game history and fourth-worst in NFL playoff history (among QBs throwing 25 or more passes). And his 31.0 percent completion percentage that day is third-worst in NFL history.

Two weeks later in the Super Bowl, Jaworski went 18 for 38 (47 percent) for 291 yards with one TD pass and three interceptions all picked off by Raiders linebacker Rod Martin, who only had two during the regular season. Of the 88 quarterbacks to start a Super Bowl, Jaworski is one of only seven with a passer rating under 50, a completion percentage under 50 percent (47 percent) and three or more interceptions.

Jaworski is responsible for three of the six-worst postseason passer ratings in Eagles history, all in the span of 23 days in January of 1981.

People constantly blast Donovan for his Super Bowl performance, even though he threw for 357 yards and three TDs (two more than Jaworski). Why isnt Jaworskis Super Bowl performance fair game?

Of the 32 quarterbacks in NFL history whove thrown 250 or more passes in the postseason, only two have a worse career passer rating than Jaworskis 63.4 figure (Fran Tarkenton 58.6, Drew Bledsoe 54.9). Only one completed a lower percentage of his passes than Jaworskis 46.5 percent thats Daryle Lamonicas 44.5. Jaws started nine playoff games and never completed 55 percent of his passes. Not once.

Great guy. Mediocre quarterback.
Ty Detmer
Detmer-mania didnt last long, but it was overwhelming for a stretch there in 1996. Detmer, who had spent three years as Brett Favres backup in Green Bay, was brought to Philly by Ray Rhodes to compete with Rodney Peete, and when Peete suffered a season-ending torn patella tendon during a loss to the Cowboys at the Vet early in 1996, Detmer got his first career chance to start.

Detmer, a record-setting passer at BYU, won his first four starts after joining the Eagles and was named NFC Player of the Week after a four-TD win over the Dolphins, earned Player of the Month honors for October, compiled a 94.7 passer rating during his four-game winning streak and was basically hailed as the second coming of Joe Montana.

Only problem is that he wasnt very good.

After that Miami game, Detmer threw more interceptions the rest of the year (13) than touchdowns (11).

In a 1995 wild-card game against the Lions, Rodney Peete put up 58 points. In their wild-card game a year later against the 49ers, the Eagles scored 0, giving Detmer the unwanted distinction of being the only quarterback in Eagles history to get shut out in the postseason. Thirty-nine playoff games; one shutout. How rare is an NFL postseason shutout? There have been four since that day at Candlestick Park.

After throwing his second interception deep in 49ers territory in that 1996 wild-card game, Detmer was benched for ancient Mark Rypien who hadnt taken a meaningful snap during the regular season. Detmers passer rating vs. the Niners 47.4, fifth-worst in Eagles postseason history.

After a miserable start in 1997, Detmer lost his job to Bobby Hoying and eventually bounced around to the 49ers, Browns, Lions and Falcons. But he was never able to recapture the glory of that single month in 1996.

After that 4-0 start in 1996, Detmer won only five of his last 15 starts with the Eagles and only won seven of his last 22 NFL starts.

In those memorable first four starts, Detmer threw eight TDs and two INTs. Over the rest of his forgettable career, spanning parts of eight seasons, he threw 26 TDs and 31 INTs.
Roman Gabriel
He was such a star with the Rams, its easy to forget just how bad Roman Gabriel was as an Eagle.

During his years in L.A., Gabriel was a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, an all-pro pick and the NFL MVP in 1969. He fashioned a 74-39-6 record in 11 years with the Rams, including a 49-16 mark from 1967 through 1971.

Gabriel was traded to the Eagles in 1973 after new Rams coach Chuck Knox decided to go with John Hadl as his starter, and although he played fairly well in 1973, he was only a shadow of his former self and retired after the 1977 season after going 12-25-1 as a starter with the Eagles.

Gabriel arrived in Philly during a real down time in franchise history. They went from 1961 through 1978 without reaching the playoffs, so it wasnt all his fault. Those were not good teams. But for a guy with such outstanding credentials in his first decade in the NFL, you expected a little more than 12 wins in 38 starts.

Gabriels .329 winning percentage as an Eagle is worst in franchise history among those who started at least 25 games. Only Norm Snead, at 28-49-3 (.369) is even close.

Who had a better record? Mike Boryla (.444), Bubby Brister (.400) and Koy Detmer (.375), to name a few.

Gabriel never won a playoff game not as a Ram, not as an Eagle and reached the postseason only twice in his 16-year career.

Actually, he was overrated with two different teams.
Underrated
Randall Cunningham
He ran and scrambled and eluded defenders with such unprecedented explosiveness and electricity its easy to forget just exactly how brilliant a passer Randall Cunningham was.

Despite playing behind one of the worst offensive lines ever assembled, despite playing in an offense that had a running back with more than 700 yards in only only of his six years as a starter, despite playing for a coach who didnt seem to care about offense, Cunningham put together some dazzling numbers.

Passing numbers.

Cunningham was more than a tremendous athlete playing the quarterback position. Even though he never fulfilled his true potential until he retired and eventually resurfaced with the Vikings, Randall remains vastly underrated as a quarterback.

During the nine years from 1987, when Cunningham became a full-time starter, through 1995, his final year with the Eagles, Randall went 61-37 a .622 winning percentage. During that same eight-year period, only Steve Young, Joe Montana, Jim Kelly and Jim McMahon had a better won-lost record than Randall among QBs making at least 75 starts.

But those who think Cunninghams winning percentage was only a product of his amazing scrambling and a tremendous defense, consider this:

Of the 43 quarterbacks who threw at least 1,000 passes from 1987 through 1995, Cunninghams 80.5 passer rating ranked 14th. And six of the 13 ahead of him (Young, Montana, Kelly, Dan Marino, Warren Moon) are in the Hall of Fame and another (Brett Favre) will be.

Even though he missed virtually all of 1991 and most of 1993 and got benched a month into 1995, only eight QBs threw more TDs during that nine-year span than Cunningham (five are in the Hall of Fame) and only eight threw for more yards (four are in the Hall of Fame).

And Randall did all of this almost exclusively without Mike Quick, whose knee problems began surfacing just as Cunningham was taking over the team. By 1988, Cunninghams first non-strike season as a starter, Quick was playing only sporadically and was a shell of his five-time Pro Bowl self.

Imagine if the Eagles played on a grass field at the Vet and Randall had a healthy Quick to play with in the late 1980s and early 1990s? Both of them would be the in the Hall of Fame by now.

Cunningham has admitted he never really studied the quarterback position until he got to Minnesota, but even so, he was instinctive and smart enough that during his nine key years with the Eagles, he threw interceptions at a lower rate than all but seven other NFL quarterbacks Montana, Bernie Kosar, Ken OBrien, Phil Simms, Steve Young, Jeff Hostetler and Neil ODonnell.

And we havent even mentioned that during those nine years, Cunningham ran for 3,639 yards over a thousand more than any other quarterback during the same span (Young had 2,311) and rushed for 27 more touchdowns.

And he did all this despite being sacked 317 times more than any QB in football while missing most of three different seasons.

Its impossible to defend Randalls playoff numbers with the Eagles he was 1-4 with three TDs and five interceptions but we blame Ryan as much as anything for that. And you go try to win a playoff game with Ron Johnson and Gregg Garrity as your starting wideouts.

Once Randall got to Minnesota and had Cris Carter and Randy Moss in their prime to throw to, he was unstoppable. If not for Gary Andersons field goal miss and some stupid late-game play calling by Dennis Green against the Falcons in the 1998 NFC Championship Game, Cunningham would have probably won a Super Bowl and been a legit Hall of Fame candidate.

When he retired for good after the 2001 season, Cunningham owned the 18th-best passer rating in NFL history.

As it is, we look back at Randall as a scrambler, a weapon, an athlete. We should look back at him also as a pretty darn good passer.
Rodney Peete
The 1995 Eagles were a strange team, a scattershot assemblage of older veterans hanging on for dear life late in their careers and young, hungry holdovers from the 1994 Rich Kotite catastrophe that lost its last seven games after starting out 7-2.

Ray Rhodes, who replaced Kotite soon after the 1994 season ended, did a masterful job in that 1995 season, squeezing 10 wins out of the Eagles and making the playoffs despite having to bench Cunningham after a 1-3 start.

The guy who made it all work was journeyman Rodney Peete, who played for six teams during his 16-year career but was never better than 1995, when he won nine of 12 starts and led the Eagles to their first home playoff win since 1980 a record-breaking 58-37 win over the Lions, Peetes former team.

In that wild-card game, Peete went 17 for 25 for 270 yards, three touchdowns and a franchise-record 143.3 passer rating. To this day, that is the eighth-highest rating in NFL postseason history. Only Peyton Manning (twice), Kurt Warner (twice), Phil Simms, Joe Montana and Bart Starr have ever posted a higher rating in an NFL playoff game.

During his four years an Eagle, Peete went 15-9, with three of the losses coming during the miserable 3-13 1998 season. Among QBs with 25 or more starts in Eagles history, Peetes .625 winning percentage is second-best, just behind only McNabbs .629 figure.

Overall, Peete had a mediocre career, going 30-33 as a starter with his five other NFL teams. That 1995 wild-card win was his only career playoff victory.

But after Randall and before Donovan, he was the perfect guy to lead the Eagles through a time of transition in the mid-1990s.
Tommy Thompson
When we talk about the historic Eagles teams of the late 1940s, we talk about legends like Steve Van Buren and Al Wistert, mythical figures like Alex Wojciechowicz and Bucky Kilroy, superstars like Pete Pihis and Bosh Pritchard.

The one guy who generally goes unmentioned is Tommy Thompson, and all he did was quarterback the Eagles to two of the three championships in franchise history.

From 1947 through 1949, when the Eagles reached three consecutive NFL Championship Games and won the last two, there was no quarterback in the National Football League better than Thompson.

Thompson didnt become the Eagles regular quarterback until he was 31 years old, but from 1947 through 1949, he threw 57 touchdown passes and 37 interceptions, and his 87.1 passer rating during those years was best of any NFL QB (although Otto Graham, playing in the old AFC, had a higher mark).

The Eagles went 28-7-1 during those three seasons, losing in the 1947 NFL title game before winning in 1948 and 1949. Theyve won one title in the 61 years since.

Thompson should be among the most hallowed players in Eagles history. He did what Randall and Donovan and Jaws and Michael Vick couldnt do win a championship.

And he did it twice in a row.E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RoobCSN.

Related: Frank: Most overrated and underrated Eagles: DLs Frank: Most overrated and underrated Eagles: WRs