Four quarterbacks and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis held the top five spots in a Sports Illustrated poll in which 180 NFL players were asked to name the most overrated player in the league. It was a sign of three things:

1) Players believe there is too much emphasis based on the quarterback position. Tim Tebow was a runaway choice with 34 percent of the votes even though he has thrown a grand total of three passes for the Jets this season.

2) Ray Lewis is overrated.

3) They never heard of Mario Williams.

The other three quarterbacks on the “most overrated’’ list were Mark Sanchez, giving the Jets a rare double, Tony Romo of the Cowboys and Michael Vick of the Eagles.

Coaches and players have bemoaned the amount of credit and criticism given to quarterbacks since Paddy Driscoll played for the Bears in the 1920s. Their arguments are valid, but there is no denying that quarterback is the most important position on the field. Generally, teams with good ones win and teams lacking them do not.

The teams with the five highest-rated quarterbacks (minimum 100 passing attempts) — Denver, Green Bay, Atlanta, San Francisco and Pittsburgh — had a 26-11 record through the first eight weeks of the season. The teams with the five lowest-rated QBs — Carolina, Indianapolis, the Jets, Cleveland and Kansas City — had an 11-26 record.

Is that a coincidence?

The link is no greater surprise than the names of three coaches currently on the hot seat: Rex Ryan (Jets), Romeo Crennel (Chiefs) and Andy Reid (Eagles). One or all could be kicked to the curb before February. Chan Gailey (Bills) also could be in trouble if Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t play better and losses continue piling up.

Ryan has been under pressure to replace Sanchez, a mediocrity despite quarterbacking the Jets to consecutive AFC championship games. If the Jets want to experiment, they should insert third-stringer and former Alabama QB Greg McElroy. Crennel has one foot out of the door in Kansas City, where Matt Cassel has thrown six TDs and 10 INTs. The Chiefs haven’t led at any point in regulation time all year. Reid’s next desperate move to save his job could be replacing Vick, who has eight picks and lost five of his nine fumbles. The Eagles have lost four of their last five games.

It’s not a coincidence, either.

Allen supplies drama

The Celtics’ season opener Tuesday night against the Heat arrived with some made-for-TV drama after Ray Allen left Boston in a snit. Allen for years had a chilly relationship with point guard Rajon Rondo, but his beef last season with Doc Rivers ultimately prompted him to sign with Miami.

Rivers told The Sports Hub radio in Boston that he wanted Allen, who won a championship in Boston in 2008, but the 37-year-old veteran was unhappy with the idea of coming off the bench behind Avery Bradley. Bradley, 21, started 28 games last season, established himself as a three-point threat and played better defense than Allen.

Allen severed his ties with the Celtics, including healthy relationships he had with veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Allen is expected to come off the bench in Miami, where he took less money than Boston offered. Rivers said he attempted to call Allen, but the guard refused to return his messages.

“Why it ended the way it ended, I really don’t know," Rivers said. “I think it was ego than anything else. I do think it’s easier for players to go somewhere else and play a backup role than the place they were a star at. … The other stuff, the bad relationships and all of that, I didn’t think that existed. Rondo and Ray had their days, but so did anybody. That’s part of being a family and a team."

Number, please

Southern California was called for six personal fouls against Arizona last week and leads the nation with 82 penalties in eight games this season. It’s an embarrassing number for a Top 25 team, but their dirtiest play all year was made by Coach Lane Kiffin.

Kiffin had backup quarterback Cody Kessler swap jerseys with punter Kyle Negrete for special teams plays in the first half of a blowout victory over Colorado Oct. 20. Kessler even ran for a two-point conversion wearing No. 35 rather than his own No. 6. Kiffin told the Los Angeles Times he found nothing wrong with the switch.

“We change jerseys all the time with our guys,’’ Kiffin said. “We’ll change some more this week. Everything’s within college rules.’’

Rules allow for two players to wear the same jersey number, but they cannot be on the field at the same time. Numbers cannot be changed during the game as a means of deception, which appears to describe Kiffin’s stunt. No matter the rules, it was sleazy and beneath standards one would expect at USC.

“I know he’s got a reputation, a target on him, and I talk to him every single day about the best way to act,’’ Athletic Director Pat Haden told the Times.

Translation: Kiffin is a child.

A Classic loss

Bank on the NHL announcing Thursday that it will cancel the Winter Classic, the biggest indication so far that Commissioner Gary Bettman is intent on wiping out an entire season for the second time in eight years.

Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who feared the worst last April, is considering an option to play in Europe. In an email to ESPN The Magazine, he said having a whole season canceled “is not only insane, it is a blatant disregard for the sport ... ” He was convinced the NHL was measuring the unity of the NHLPA.

“”I think that a deal is there to be made and recent events lead me to believe the NHL is simply testing us," Miller told ESPN The Mag. “After they have satisfied their curiosity about the strength of our resolve we will have real negotiating for the first time in this whole debacle."

Royal laugh

Rob Gronkowski created a minor stir from some who thought the Amherst native was mocking guards at Buckingham Palace during a touchdown celebration at Wembley Stadium. Good heavens, people, grow a sense of humor.

Classic Gronk, when asked to explain the celebration: “You know the little Nutcracker dude that is guarding the house?”

I’m not one for touchdown celebrations, but that was hilarious.


Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel after a 30-17 win over his former team, the Eagles: “They have a lot of issues over there. I’m happy to be away from all that controversy. We’re 7-0 over here, baby.”


“Even when the Bills are off, someone is setting personal rushing records against Buffalo.” — @deafjeff64.

Stats Inc.

3,654 — Days between last Saturday and Oct 26, 2002, the last time Notre Dame opened the season with eight straight victories.

33 — Years since Indiana’s basketball team, the preseason No. 1, last opened the season as the top-ranked team.

7 — Total yards rushing for Cardinals in their 24-3 loss to the 49ers.

Quick hits

• The Islanders took a step toward progress when deciding to play in Brooklyn starting in 2015, assuming there’s a season. The Isles has some great years at Nassau Coliseum, but visiting the building never felt like a religious experience like the old Montreal Forum, Maple Leaf Gardens or Boston Garden. The Coliseum felt more like the county fair.

• Need a hockey fix? There numerous options for the right price. Canisius plays Clarkson this weekend at Buffalo State. Niagara is home against UConn. Buff State, which beat startup Penn State, plays host Friday to Morrisville State. Next week, you can catch the Buffalo Junior Sabres at the Northtown Center in Amherst.