Every fanbase in the NFL at some point has issues with their quarterback position, even if a great one's there. However, some quarterbacks just seem to be overanalyzed and picked apart ad nausem by the media, fans, even fellow players. Come with me behind the fold for the NFL's five most controversy-prone quarterbacks.
For the purposes of this discussion, our lightning rod quarterbacks are on current NFL rosters, started at least a portion of last season for their respective team, yet during the course of their careers have been constantly dissected and their abilities to lead their team constantly questioned, even to this day. The players listed remain controversial for a variety of reasons, but are established enough that credence to both sides of the argument of whether or not said quarterback is the one I want leading my team. For example, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady may be disliked by some fans, but there isn't any evidence or controversy surrounding these two big enough to include them on the list. Also, relative newbies like Tebow and Newton aren't established enough to consider, and guys like Leinart and Alex Smith are apparently who we think they are (average to bad quarterbacks). My list is below; if anyone was missed, throw them into the pit in the comments section.
To recap, Manning temper-tantrumed his way out of San Diego, being traded to the Giants for draft picks Phillip Rivers, Shawn Merriman, and Nate Kaeding. The trade was a lopsided one until David Tyree's catch help ended the Patriots undefeated season, vaulting Manning into the hallowed ground of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks. However, is Eli more Trent Dilfer, Peyton, or somewhere in the middle like a goofy Mark Rypien? Manning's regular season stats include an 80.4 passer rating, only one full season as a starter with less than 14 INTs, and more damning, a 76.3 player passer rating. His 2007 playoff stats are off the charts (95.7 passer rating, 6-1 TD-INT ratio) but despite Manning turning 30 this year, the debate still rages on where he ranks among quarterbacks, hilarious commercials not withstanding.
4. Donovan McNabb, Washington
McNabb's problems trace back to Rush Limbaugh's (arguably) baseless and inflammatory comments which started stirring the pot that McNabb wasn't the golden goose everyone thought he was . While Limbaugh pushed the racial envelope, others outside of Philly started questioning whether McNabb was capable of leading the team to the promise land. Even when he did get to the Super Bowl, a certain loud-mouthed wide receiver passed along that McNabb seemed winded and scared as the game wound down. As McNabb's career winds down, the question has turned from "can he win a Super Bowl" to "should he even start."
3. Tony Romo, Dallas
Romo has led a charmed life; a free agent pickup by the Cowboys in 2003, Romo worked his way into a full-time starting gig in 2006 and a fat new contract in 2007. Since earning his starting stripes, Romo has been criticized for his off-the-field activities (Jessica Simpson and professional golfer aspirations), not to mention his fumbled snap which cost the Cowboys a playoff win against Seattle. His career QB rating is 95.5, third among active players, but is he a stat machine that can't pull through in the clutch, or a good-to-great QB that has had a rough run due to greater team and/or coach/owner issues?
2. Michael Vick, Philadelphia
Yes, we all know about the dog fighting (not going to waste searching for a link), for which Vick has a special seat reserved in Hades in my opinion (I envision him reliving this scene from Goodfellas for eternity, with Vick as Spider and the card players as pissed-off Dobermans), but Vick has made amends and had a terrific 2010 season. However, good defenses were able to minimize Vick's effectiveness enough to win games against Philly, including the Bears, and questions remain about Vick's durability and chance to recreate a MVP-like '10 season. He's been anointed as a top quarterback for this season, which I agree with, but can he do it again with defenses that are better prepared for him and avoid injuries?
1. Jay Cutler, Chicago
This one's obvious to all of us - if you google "Cutler punk" you get a laundry list of criticisms from opponent's fans, commentators, and somewhere in there, Trent Dilfer. Criticisms about his appearance, attitude, gunslinging, hair, leadership, and pain tolerance permeated the sports world after the Packers game, but have been in existence since his days as a Bronco. He earns top slot because no other quarterback in the lead faced the kind of criticism he did from NFL players after the NFC Championship game as they piled on Cutler without knowing the facts.