As high a profile as quarterbacks command in the NFL, it is a still a position where very good players can end up overlooked.
History affords multiple examples of this. Ken Anderson, Cincinnati's superb quarterback from the 1970s and '80s, placed eighth in the league in passer rating in 1973 and led the league in that category in 1974. Neither of those were enough to get him Pro Bowl recognition. He didn't achieve that status until he repeated his league leading status in passer rating in 1975.
Dan Fouts went through much of the same when he was overlooked for Pro Bowl status in 1978 despite placing in the top five in the league in passer rating, touchdowns, completion percentage and yards per pass attempt. It wasn't until he became only the second quarterback in league history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in a season in 1979 that he finally started receiving the recognition he deserved as one of pro football's elite passers.
The NFL has a similar situation today in the case of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Despite his team being en route (potentially) to the No. 1 seed in the NFC, he would probably have trouble making the top-10 quarterbacks list of many, if not most, fans and media types. In fact, the vast majority of pundits might not even place him as the top quarterback in his division. The perception is that Drew Brees has that honor locked down.
At first glance it looks to be an accurate viewpoint, but after taking a closer look at the game tape and metrics for Ryan and Brees, it is clear there is a strong case to be made for considering Ryan the best NFC South quarterback of 2010.
Let's break this down by category. We'll start with passing productivity by route depth.