Football is a team game, but more often than not it’s the quarterbacks who stand out from the crowd. While they might get all of the plaudits, sometimes there are players on the team who make greater contributions, but they go under the radar. We are celebrating the most underappreciated football players in NFL history.
The safety for Green Bay throughout the ‘90s is yet to get close to making it into the Hall of Fame. Butler had what many might consider a Hall of Fame career, including making it to four Pro Bowls and becoming a Super Bowl champion. Finally, he was selected in the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team. He is famed for creating the Lambeau Leap, when he jumped into the crowd following an impressive touchdown. Butler was the most dangerous safety in the NFL during the ‘90s, scoring a career total of 721 solo tackles and 38 career interceptions.
Even some of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL get overlooked, and that’s the case for Frank Ryan. He played his best football for the Browns and led the rankings for passing touchdowns twice in his career. In one title game he threw three touchdowns, and won 65 percent of his NFL starts. He could be relied upon time and time again, but because he played before the Super Bowl was created, he’s unrecognized. As of yet, he has not been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite leading the Browns to three NFL championships.
Gradishar played ten seasons for the Broncos and became integral in the ‘Orange Crush Defense.’ The linebacker was selected for the Pro Bowl game seven times during his career and featured in the All-Pro lineup twice. Perhaps he has been overlooked for the Hall of Fame because he didn't manage to win a Super Bowl. Gradishar must be wondering what it will take to get the recognition his career deserved. The linebacker averaged 205 tackles in his 10 NFL seasons, meaning he hit over 2,000 in his career.
Although statistics for sackings didn’t begin before 1982, Jim Marshall has been credited with 127 by the Vikings. The ferocious defensive man would rank in the top 20 of all time for sacks if his stats were official. Part of the reason why Marshall was able to score so many sacks is that he seemed to play forever. It’s tough to last even one season in the NFL, and if you aren’t good enough you’ll get found out. Marshall played for 19 seasons from 1961 to 1979, starting 270 games plus 19 in the playoffs. He only made the Pro-Bowl twice and so far hasn’t been close to getting in the Hall of Fame.
These players showed they were cut out for the big time, but because of team failings, or playing in a different era, they aren’t appreciated. If they were playing now they would be talked about for days, but unfortunately they look like missing out on the Hall of Fame.