When people think underrated, they normally think of some young up and coming player, maybe an unheralded player on a bad team. Maybe a guy that plays in Cleveland that nobody ever gets to see play. I see it differently.
I believe the best are better than you think. When Tom Brady was just "winning games" early in his career I always maintained that he "could" put up better stats if he had to, but that's not what was being asked of him by Bellicheck. His team would jump out to a lead early, he'd protect it, run the ball, throw short stuff, and have the team play defense. He was asked to be "efficient, limit the number of possessions the other team's offense would get to shorten the game instead of putting up stats. If your team is up by 14 points, if you eat up a lot of clock on offense you are limiting the number of chances the other team gets. If you can score a TD or FG that's a bonus. Brady was very efficient early in his career, won a lot of games but didn't have the stats. He didn't put up big stats but he didn't have great talent around him and he was always limiting the number of possessions his opponents got.
Peyton's career was the exact opposite. He put up big stats early in his career, but it didn't get the Colts anywhere because while he might put up 300+ yards every Sunday, his defense was gassed by the end of the game. If he was playing another team with a QB that could score in the 2 min drill it basically came down to whoever had the ball last won the Colts games, the Colts or their opponents. Maybe 5 years or so ago the Colts started trying to play more "efficient" on offense and it kept the defense fresher. Would you rather have the Colts score on 6/10 offensive drives in a game or would you rather have them score on 7/15 drives in a game? If you shorten the game and are "efficient" it means your opponent has to be even more efficient.
Last year I was slamming the table saying that Peyton Manning was easily the MVP and actually underrated which is difficult considering most people consider you among the best in the game. He had no running game at all, no defense, and his receivers were injured. He seriously had one of the 5 worst offensive lines in the game but he got rid of the ball so darn fast. He had no running game at all and he was throwing passes to Jacob freaking Tammie! He had every excuse in the world but he made it work. If any other QB had that to work with it wouldn't have worked at all but Manning got them to the playoffs. The Colts are seriously deficient in talent and it showed this year. It also showed who the real coach of the Colts was ( HINT: Not Dungy or Caldwell). To call for Chris Johnson or anybody else for MVP last year was a complete joke. To give Dungy credit for the SB or Caldwell credit for "13-0" is a complete joke. You take Manning away from them and they aren't so "genius" anymore.
The two most underrated players in the NFL are as I've said for a couple of years Jay Cutler and Eli Manning. No it's not Navarro Bowman or Joe Hadden or anybody playing for an unpopular team The most underrated players in the NFL are right under your nose. I say this because people are finally waking up to the fact that Eli and Cutler are underrated.
Jay Cutler has put up stats in his career before. You give him a good offensive line, Brandon Marshall, a running game, a coach and he put up big numbers even at the beginning of his career.
NOBODY would succeed with one of the worst offensive lines in the game and one of the worst WR cores in the game. Jay Cutler has been surrounded by crap. Johnny Knox is NOT a good receiver. Devin Hester is NOT a good WR. Too often the offensive line is instantly blamed for a highly sacked QB but in Cutler's case it's 95% attributable to the poor line and NOT Cutler holding onto the ball too long. The reason why his stats sucked a couple of years ago is because he's such a competitor. He puts the ball where the WR is supposed to go but Johnny Knox/Hester an the others don't know how the play the position. Basically Cutler would rather go down swinging and take a chance and that's killed his stats, but make no mistake, the only reason he does that is because he's surrounded by crap and wants to win that bad.
I guarantee you if you gave Jay Cutler...
Dez Bryant/Miles Austin/Jason Witten/L.Robinson/an offensive line/D. Murray
Roddy White/Julio Jones/Tony Gonzalez/Harry Douglas/an offensive line/Michael Turner
His stats would be MUCH MUCH better. Not even guys that are playmakers, just give him guys that do what they are supposed to do! The offense would be more efficient, his stats would greatly greatly improve and instead of calling him a turnover machine you'd be talking about his toughness/rocket arm/mobility etc. Instead he has one of the top 5 worse offensive talents around him and most people think he's average-ish. I'd also guarantee you that if put Matt Ryan or Tony Romo on the Bears they wouldn't even look close to as good as Cutler has been. No way in hell those teams would go to the NFC championship games, they wouldn't even make the playoffs! Harry Douglas and Laurent Robinson are the 4th best pass catchers on their respective offenses, where would they rank on the Bears? They'd both be the best guy Cutler has to throw to.
Same thing with Eli Manning.
He runs one of the best 2 min drills in the league...
He has NOT had the talent around him on offense.
Remember when the Giants were screwed they lost Tiki Barber and his 1800 yards total offense? The Giants won the superbowl when he left! Other people stepped up because ELI is the real reason why that offense works. He calls all the plays and puts his guys in position to succeed like a leader. People are so fooled by his weak demeanor that they fail to objectively rate the guy.
Remember when losing Plax or Shockey would kill the Giants? They were 13-3 #1 seed following the SB year. Kevin Boss went from being an obscure late round draft pick into a formitable tight end. The Giants have had receivers step up too. Steve Smith was just a "slow possession receiver" that made the pro bowl. He's done nothing with Mike Vick and the Eagles and in fact even Maclin/Jackson regressed under Vick/Young. What has Kevin Boss done in Oakland? What has Derick Ward done in Tampa? How bad did it hurt the Giants when they lost Barber/Plax/Shockey/Toomer/Boss/Ward/Lineman etc?
Mario Manningham is NOT a very good wr. He runs extremely poor routes and drops far too many balls but most people don't know how poor of a wr he is.
Victor Cruz came out of nowhere. Do you think he'd have the same success on other NFL teams? The guy wouldn't even get to play for most teams nevermind thrive.
Jake Ballard was a college blocking TE that wasn't even drafted, now he's turned into an "average starting TE". Has Eli ever not had a TE?
The offensive line is NOT very good. The Giants retooled their offensive line and can't run the ball. They had a backup center in last night, kicked their LG out to LT to block D.Ware. They rank 30 or 31 running the ball. No running game puts you in a lot of 3rd and longs and it puts a lot of pressure on your QB. Especially when he doesn't have time to throw... He's throwing a a college blocking TE, an undrafted Victor Cruz, and his running backs can't catch. Eli Manning has more 20+ yard completions than anybody in the league. ANYBODY. Aaron Rodgers/Drew Brees/Tom Brady included. Eli has never had RB's who can catch so he doesn't get all those dink/dunk yards Mcnabb/Brady always got throwing all those screens. Eli Manning throws downfield more than any QB in the league. That's part of the reason why he has a lower completion percentage and more picks ( many off tipped balls). It also makes the Giants offense harder to defend. Defenses can't creep up because he DOES throw downfield. I guarantee you if Mcnabb was throwing more intermediate passes he wouldn't have such a high career completion percentage, the guy was known for throwing intermediate passes at guys feet!
You take Eli off the Giants and replace him with an "AVERAGE starting QB" and the team is 2-8 or 3-7 at best. Quick, put Joe Flacco on the Giants and what's their record? They've had to rally in the 4th quarter to win 6 of their games. If Eli wasn't so good at the 2 min drill ( not just in the 4th Q) but at the end of the half they'd be much worse.
Eli Manning is a pro at film study. He didn't get sacked at all last night despite the heavy pressure because he studies film religiously. He doesn't get injured either which is a huge plus.
People never realized his value in the running game. Him calling audibles to run more favorable plays can't be easily quantified but its there. Remember last night when dallas had a stacked blitz to the Giants Right and Eli ran a running play right at the blitz? Cris Collingworth correctly pointed out that he "knew" the blitz was a fake and that the dallas safety and linebacker would bail. Eli didn't fall for the trick and the running play was the correct call. So how much of a benefit is it when your QB will run the ball when it's favorable and audible to a pass when he sees 8 in the box? It increases the odds of winning. Eli has never been a stat guy until he's had to be. In the past he's been more than happy to throw for 180 yards and hand the ball off to his RB's to protect the lead and shorten the games. When he has to throw for 300+ yards he can.
and finally nobody has suffered from more dropped balls and tipped passes INTs than Eli in the past. It's been comical. His receivers have screwed him over more than any QB I could remember. It hasn't happened this year but I guarantee you that if you gave Eli Manning Dez Bryand/Miles Austin/Jason Witten/an offensive line and you gave Tony Romo the Giants supporting cast it wouldn't even be close.