Tuesday, February 1, 2022

The Ken Anderson & Roman Gabriel HOF Conundrum

 By John Turney 
Ken Anderson

Every year the Hall of Fame announcement and the Super Bowl occur at nearly the same time. And since the Bengals and Rams are playing the discussions about players who deserve to be in the Hall and other such HOF questions will center around those teams.
Roman Gabriel
We'll cover the quarterbacks here—Ken Anderson and Roman Gabriel. We've shown each of their career in modified charts from Pro Football Reference

We've highlighted in blue seasons that were great or very good. Yellow is not that good, to be generous, and no highlight in somewhere in between.

In our opinion, Gabriel had 4 great seasons, three good ones and nine that were not HOF-worthy, for whatever reasons.

Anderson had six great seasons two decent ones and 8 non-HOF-type seasons.

Gabriel's "record" for great and good and so-so seasons is 7-9.
Anderson is 8-8.
Gabriel's career began slowly, having to fight for playing time, and there was an knee injury in there as well from 1962-65. However his W-L record was 11-11-1 in 23 starts. All other Rams quarterbacks were 4-27-2. Think of that Gabe was .500 and everyone else was .151—and they saw QBWins is not a quarterback stat.

And the passing stats reflect a similar difference in Gabriel and everyone else—the bottom line is Gabriel was the Rams best quarterback but he was a starter just 41% of the time.

Anderson was 7-6 as a starter in 1972 so we gave him a "good season" mark.

Gabriel then went through his peak—1966-75, which had seven "above the line seasons" and four at or below the line. 

In 1967 the MVP voting took place with a week to go and in the season finale against the player who won the MVP award, Johnny Unitas, Gabriel outplayed and beat Johnny U. decisively and won the NFL Offensive Player of the Week. The win knocked the 11-0-2 Colts out of the playoffs since they and the Rams both went 11-1-2 but the Rams beat and tied the Colts so they made the post-season. Had the vote taken place after that game and if the voters then had today's sensibilities there is a likelihood that Gabriel would have been the MVP.

Nineteen sixty-eight was a good year, Pro Bowl worthy, and then in 1969 Gabriel was the NFL MVP and getting the Rams a second Coastal Division title.

From 1970 through 72 Gabriel was a solid pro going 21-11-1 as a starter while fighting frequent injuries but missing just one game. He was top 3-5 in major passing categories and in QB wins. He did slump in 1972 and that, after some drama, led to Gabriel being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles.

In his initial season with the Birds, Gabe had an MVP-level season, though there was no beating O.J. Simpson for that award that year.  Gabe's record was a less-than-impressive 5-8-1 but that was with a team and was 2-11-1 the previous year and in 1973 there were a few games they should have won so a 7-7 record was not out of reach which is impressive for such a poor team.

Gabe slumped again in 1974 and had a minor comeback in 1975 where we gave him a middle-of-the-road grade on the season. In 1976 and 1977 he was a backup typical for that era.

Anderson, in 1973, began a four-year run where he was a top-flight quarterback in a league with some HOFers. . . Tarkenton, Staubach, Bradshaw, Stabler, Griese, Hart, been Bert Jones.
Among those Anderson was clearly a top-three QB in that span.

Then the doldrums hit. From 1977 through 1980 Anderson should have been continuing his peak but he didn't. He was 16th among his peers in passing yards, 21st in touchdown passes, 18th in QB wins, 18th in passer rating. 

How could a top 3 (if not higher) quarterback go to maybe the 16th to 18th best? There were injuries, perhaps a lost of confidence. However, all players face those things. The truth is Anderson dropped pretty far down a hole.

Then, in 1981-82, he played at an MVP level and got the Bengals to the Super Bowl in 1981. In a league with Dan Fouts and Joe Montana, Anderson was likely the best, but no lower than 3rd. 

From 1983-86, his finishing years he was 8-16 in QB wins and threw more picks than touchdowns. it was a typical post-peak decline, again for that era, similar to Gabriel's.

So, to sum up—each player has a case for the Hall of Fame but neither should be at the top of any list. There are many, many more so-called "non-skill" players with better cases. Blockers and tacklers (as Rick Gosselin calls them) are underrepresented in the Hall of Fame based on the numbers of them versus the number of skill players on a team—maybe as many as 100 short but certainly 50-75 or so. 

So, while the prize is a Super Bowl win the talk of Anderson or Gabriel perhaps emerging from the senior committee as the nominee are slim. So the Rams and Bengals fans will have to settle for the Super Bowl ring this year if their team can bring it home.

It seems Anderson and Gabriel have been weighed, measured, and found wanting.


  1. If either QB made the Hall, I wouldn't complain but it just goes to show how QBs are truly judged ... winning, especially winning one or more championships. Yes, it's a team game, and outstanding passers get recognized but QBs are paid to orchestrate an offense and hopefully elevate the talent and effort around them. That's what leaders do. These guys did that but couldn't win enough in big games, especially in the postseason. Anderson in my opinion should be considered an outstanding passer, and the HOF has honored enough of them, including Sonny Jurgensen, Joe Namath, Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, and Warren Moon. Only Namath won a championship and only Marino consistently led teammates to victory. Anderson deserves that consideration as well. Gabriel led outstanding teams but had a lot of losing seasons to end his career with a bad team. Yet, for his prime years, he hardly ever turned the ball over, unless occasional fumbles holding the ball too long. Unlike the other HOF passers, except for Moon, Anderson and Gabriel were good runners with Anderson being the consummate athlete. Another thing that hurts Anderson was his injuries coincided with his great teammate, wide receiver Issac Curtis, who was nicked up too much and never caught alot of passes to begin with.
    The team traded its other receiver, Charlie Joiner, who developed into a HOF player himself. Had Curtis stayed healthy, he and Anderson would already be in.

    Great job guys looking at their overall careers. Stafford for the Rams can change his career evaluation if he can win a championship next week. Always known as an outstanding passer, he can now be known as a winner, though it helps to have an All-Star team assembled around you.

    1. How low do you want to set he bar for skill players. Why does everyhting have to be HOF? Some guys are just HOVG.

    2. Thats true John, so why is Moon or Jurgensen in the HOF ? Because they threw pretty passes ? So did Matt Hasselbeck. Moon had a road winning pct below 38 pct and thats HOF worthy ? If we are counting his canadian career, it would make more sense. Yes, Anderson and Gabriel lost big games, which hurts them but won alot too. During the 82/83 "Super Bowl Tournament" when the Bengals played the Jets, Len Dawson stated on air that he thought Anderson was the best passer in NFL history and this guy has seen em all. Its a very subjective process indeed. Youre right, lots of HOVG QBs including Tommy Thompson, Charlie Conerly, Phil Simms, Joe Theismann, Eli Manning, Donovan McNabb, Randall Cunningham and others. Its definitely tough to make the HOF, even for throwers like Brodie, Lamonica, and Hadl.

      Great debates either way !

    3. Moon and Stabler dubious, IMO. SO, if we start putting guys in who are with the lowest---then the Hall's value drops. When there are limited spots, put in guys not borderline at best. Gradishar, Howley, Kenn, Jacoby, WIllie Anderson, and so on..

      Everyone likes QBs, too many in HOF, I'd take 2-3 out. But people keep wanting to lower the bar, Thiesmann, Simms, Brodie, Gabriel, Anderson . . .

    4. John, it already has dropped like you guys have pointed out before. Too many skill positions over guys that block and tackle. At least 80 more but players are also getting in due to statistical milestones rather than than pure dominance or passing the eye test. I know I can advocate for alot of players myself though many like a smaller HOF. Long as it doesnt reach 3% of all the players that have ever played, it will continue to get subjective scrutiny.

      I just hope the Hall can one day accept the Mid-Decade teams that you guys have advocated. The All-Decade teams were flawed for many years but still have tremendous pull by the voters. Too many players have slipped through the cracks already.

    5. Wow ... I wonder why ? Defensive players deserve statistical analysis just as much as offensive players, especially with ridiculous, gambling influenced fantasy leagues entrenched since the late 90s ...

  2. I think that both deserve to be in.