A case has been made for former Cleveland Browns quarterback Frank Ryan as the most underrated player in NFL history.
You’ll have to excuse most casual NFL fans for not remembering the former three-time Pro Bowler, the last Browns quarterback to lead his team to a championship. Even some younger Browns fans may not truly know the feats the former signal-caller achieved presumably in between handing the ball off to Jim Brown.
That’s what makes veteran sports scribe Mike Tanier of Bleacher Report’s ranking of the most underrated players in NFL history all the better for every generation of Browns fans. There’s nostalgia, education and pride all packed together nicely by one sportswriter taking an early-Summer deep dive into obscurity.
Tanier didn’t just research Ryan on the Internet for a few minutes and then come to this conclusion, either. He established a sound methodologic approach with qualifying criteria.
His argument for Ryan generally adhered to the rules he laid out, was succinct and summarized best in his closing remarks:
There have been many better quarterbacks than Ryan in NFL history. But none accomplished more than Ryan while receiving less acclaim. By being overshadowed by Brown, achieving his greatest success just before the dawn of the Super Bowl era and getting stuck behind the Tom Brady and Peyton Manning of your grandfather's generation, Ryan earned the title of the NFL's All-Time Most Underrated Player.
Although not scientific, Tanier’s qualifications are more or less met, making Ryan a bonafide contender for this, well, honor he has been bestowed.
Ryan never won a Super Bowl, and he never earned All Pro honors thanks to the simultaneous existence of titans Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve some recognition from modern day folk. After all, he did help win the last championship a Cleveland football team has seen since 1964 and twice led the NFL in passing.
Tanier’s criteria and subsequent reasoning, although debatable and virtually impossible to prove, seem to have found a cozy landing place on the former Browns quarterback.