Friday, July 5, 2019

Looking at the Quarterbacks Waiting for HOF Induction

By John Turney
As we've mentioned there is quite a bit of excitement concerning the 2020 Centennial Class of Pro Football Hall of Fame. Among those discussed at the quarterbacks. Though not scientific our perception is that the benchmarks most often used to justify a quarterback being HOF-worthy is to compare them with the ones in the Hall of Fame that they perceive as having the "lightest" credentials. The old Bill James comparison (James wrote that one way to know if a baseball player is worthy of the Hall of Fame is to compare him to someone already in).

And three quarterbacks that are oft-mentioned are Ken Stabler, Dan Fouts, Bob Griese, and Joe Namath. We are not saying we agree, but we'd be lying if we didn't say we don't know what those arguments are about.

We've highlighted the careers of some of the HOF hopefuls and Stabler, Fouts, and Namath. Light blue means we've estimated that is an "excellent season". Light red means "good". Purple and orange are less than excellent or good.

We will fully admit we just eyeballed these seasons so if you have a beef with our classifications we will agree with you. But this is simply something to illustrate how many excellent and good seasons these quarterbacks had.

As a jumping off a point for discussion, we chose Ken Anderson, Roman Gabriel, John Brodie, Joe Theismann, and Phil Simms. All won MVP awards and Theismann won a ring and Simms won two rings.
Namath won two MVPs and a ring and was a phenom is a young player in New York. He was inducted to the HOF in 1985 in a heated three-year process.

Raiders executive Al LoCasalle told us in the 1990s, concerning Stabler and the Hall of Fame, "Kenny had some great years but he also had some bad years". And that is true. We count only six excellent/good seasons. He was the consensus MVP in 1976 and won the Maxwell Club MVP in 1976 and won a ring that year.

We've seen Fouts get some grief from critics because he never won it all. He was the consensus MVP in 1982 and set all sorts of passing records. He didn't have a high passer rating and we think that sets off some of the statniks about his career while Ken Anderson won four passing titles which is based on the passer rating. 

Air Coryell, the Chargers offensive nickname threw more downfield and is riskier than the West Coast Offense Anderson was in took more chances and threw more risky balls and therefore, more interceptions. And due to those factors, Fouts usually had a lower passer rating than Anderson.

However, it's not like Fouts didn't have a good rating (89.6 from 1980-83), he did. Just not quite like a peak Anderson or Joe Montana had.
We've added in Bob Griese who did have 2 titles and a 1971 NEA MVP but sometimes gets some shade for so-so statistics.  We have 1972 as incomplete because he was hurt most of the season but he did come back in time to QB a win in the Super Bowl. 

 By our count, Anderson had seven excellent/good seasons. There seems to be sentiment to get another Bengal in the Hall of Fame but we find that to be a thin reason. The real honest question is did Anderson stand out enough to be Hall of Fame?

Our take is sans the ring his career compares favorably with Ken Stabler and if Stabler is in, then why not Anderson? Well, that's the question we see on chat boards, Twitter and other players we surf. Is that a valid reason? Well, according to Bill James, yes.

We have no stake in the debate so we don't care if Anderson gets in or not. Like for all HOFers, it's a tough process and if they get in they are, in effect, worthy.

However, in all honesty, we cannot see how Anderson is any better or more qualified that other quarterbacks that get mentioned, like Gabriel Brokie, Theismann, and Simms.

Gabriel had a four-year apprenticeship in which he did well, given the circumstances and you can read about that here. His 1967 season was MVP-worthy and in 1969 he won the MVP. But we find only four total excellent seasons and four others that were good and that is being pretty generous (as we have been with all the quarterbacks here, i.e. 1970-72 is especially generous.

Also, he actually did some impressive work in his first four years, going 11-11-1 in wins/losses when other Rams QBs of that span were 4-27-2.  Playing .500 ball on that team is noteworthy, if maybe not HOF material.

Frankly, we never saw Gabriel as a Hall of Fame quarterback. There seems to be some resurgent interest in his career but we know his game well, have seen him play a lot and there are some fantastic things on film—his arm, his short-yardage running, his avoidance of interceptions. He also, in the 1960s, had a super-strong arm. He could deliver a strike on the 'out' from the far hash, something only a few quarterbacks could do—he, Namath, maybe Bukich in that era.

However, it never struck us as in the same category as the HOFers from his era like Jurgensen, Starr, Namath, and others. To us, he's a solid Hall of Very Good.

His numbers are in the same ballpark as Gabriel with eight excellent/good seasons. But also like Gabriel even though he has an MVP to his credit (1970) we never saw him as a Hall of Famer. He was a picture-perfect passer and could move the ball well.

Theismann had six excellent/good seasons and has his ring and an MVP (1983). Perhaps if hey had won it all in 1983 it would make a difference. But if the ring makes the difference then he gets a leg up on some of these others but if not, he's behind Gabriel and Brodie. And we don't see them as HOF, we see both as Hall of Very Good.

Two rings (1986 and 1990) and the NEA MVP in 1986 (not a consensus MVP, that was Lawrence Taylor) have not given him a lot of Hall of Fame push. His "excellent seasons" are the hardest for us to classify. Perhaps 1984 and 1985 are just as good as 1986-88 or maybe 1986-88 should be "good" rather than excellent. Hard to tell. You make you own call.

All told it seems to us that while we get the "he had as good a career as Stabler" debate that either all the quarterbacks are HOF-worthy or none of them are. The committee will, of course, make the decision but gun to our head, all would be Hall of Very Good.


  1. Great article. The NFL I think has generally done a good job of avoiding lame picks like in the baseball HOF. With higher standards, not sure if any of these QBs should get into the HOF. I'm a diehard Redskins fan and I wouldn't put Joe T in the HOF (We already have 2 completely deserving QBs in, Baugh and Jurgensen, and his career does not measure up in longevity; he was horrible in his last season of 1985 before LT broke ihis leg). Not sure which of this group is most deserving to go into the HOF - Prob Anderson or Brodie. OK with them in.. or out.

  2. The thing is, alot of these QBs have better arguments than someone like Jurgenson, who was a great thrower like Namath and Lamonica, but just couldn't win games...Then there is Conerly, who has been a finalist for the Hall seven times, has a championship and came close to two others times, except for Johnny U...His unselfishness as a player, while letting Heinrich start games, while he,and coach Lombardi,studied over defences may have kept him out of the Hall.

    Then you look at two time champions like Tommy Thompson, who played with one eye, Phil Simms, who was tough in bad Meadowlands weather and Jim Plunkett, who was a late bloomer like Theisman. How strong are there arguments ?

  3. I don't see any of these as HOFer, but I may be in the minority. The eye test on all of these guys fails IMO. They didn't scare anyone, Thiesmann and maybe Simms was only one on a team that was really good.

    If you like stats then Ken Anderson is your guy. I just don't see it. But I do think Anderson gets in,.

  4. if bengals ( Kenny Anderson) wins the super bowl 16 Anderson is in !! he was just as good as the qbs inn the 70's that won super bowls . between 1977 to 1980 he and the bengals went 20-32 and that isn't good after going 37-16 in the years of 1973 -1976 he wins that super bowl this isn't even a conversation he was just as good as bradsshaw , stabler , stabach , Tarkington , greise but them guys won and also won super bowls (except fot Tarkington) I talk about this on my youtube page on why Anderson isn't in the the hall of fame .

  5. I understand the arguments for Anderson, who was a great athlete, but when you're barely over 500 in winning pct, it's a tough call. Though I like him, he just didn't win enough big games. Had he won crucial games against the Raiders in 76, and Oilers in 77, which would have won the division over Pittsburgh, he would have already been in, I think.

  6. hell, if they let Kurt Warner in, why not just bring in all of these guys?

  7. @ JHoltgym warner was a feel good story rags too riches but those years from 1999-2001 he was the best in the biz he went 35-8 , 12,612 yards and 98 tds he would have easily thrown for over 100 tds but he missed some games in 2000 , 1x sb champ, 2x nfc champion 2 x mvp, 2x 1st all pro 3 pro bowls . unfortunately martz gets outcoached by billiechek otherwise he has at least 2 rings and one of the best offenses of all time. throw in his character he didn't pout when he got benched for bulger, they traded to the giants he sits behind a young eli manning never said a word, then gets traded to Arizona sitting behind matt leinhart didn't say a word . then from 2007-2009 won the nfc west title twice went 24-18 throws for 11,753 yards 83 tds goes to a pro bowl wins another nfc title goes to another super bowl (almost pulls that one out) and then walked away. you put up those season I mentioned 6 years in all he won a lot games , threw for a lot of yards and tds then throw the feel good story on top of that , they had too put him in .

    1. in cases like these, to some degree its make my point to some extent when you note that he was benched for the likes of Bulger, kid Manning, Leinhart…….Johnny U got cut by Pittsburgh, but that's a very different kettle of fish.....

  8. Great article, John! Personally, I don't think any of the guys analyzed here are HOFers. They're all HOVG material.

    How do you see Chuckin' Charley Conerly's credentials? I seem to see a lot of blue and red seasons on his resume.

    1. He's right on the borderline, but yeah, he's got good credentials.

  9. Correction to my previous comment; Dan Fouts is a legit HOFer.

  10. You've done a lot of comparisons to Stabler, but you have left out a very important factor in the Snake's career. His ability for drama. Whether in wins or losses, (mostly wins) Stabler was a step ahead. In games with names, Stabler leads the field by a huge margin. "The Immaculate Reception", The Holy Roller", "The Sea of Hands", The Ghost To The Post" are all Ken Snake Stabler. It is what made him stand out as a QB to be feared in the 4th quarter. He was magical to Raider fans and a nightmare to everyone else.

    1. Didn't leave it out, that is known by anyone who watched the games. However, with that as a given, he still had some bad years and is a borderline-type HOF player

  11. Great point Ray...Stabler had a flair for winning at the end of a ballgame, like Bobby Layne. That twist of his body, with Hamilton all over him, then scoring on glass knees, made that playoff win over NE in 76, legendary.
    Saints fans will never forget the Snake's four TDs in the 4th Qrt, to beat them in the Superdome on MNF in 79, either...That 78 season for the Raiders and Stabler, was so bad, it kept Madden and Ken, out of the Hall, for years...