Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

MarksSen09.jpg

» Film Room: Sen'Derrick Marks

The Jaguars' defensive tackle is a bit of a late bloomer, but he has become one of the bright spots in a dim season in Jacksonville.

26 Jul 2006

Ken Anderson and the Hall of Fame, Revisited

Guest column by David Lewin

In a recent FO mailbag a reader asked why Ken Anderson is not considered a candidate for the Hall of Fame despite having two of the top ten quarterback seasons of all time according to an essay in Pro Football Prospectus 2005. Here was Mike Tanier's response:

Mike Tanier: You mention the baseball HOF. I usually start any discussion about the Pro Football Hall of Fame with a warning: Canton is not Cooperstown. The two Halls have different traditions and different tendencies. Recently, Jimmy Smith retired, and many writers speculated that Smith might be a HOFer, citing his statistics. Smith has as much chance of reaching the Hall of Fame as I do. Cooperstown rewards guys who hang around for 20 years and ring some magic bell like 3,000 hits. Canton rewards guys who win championships, or dominate the game for a period of years, or change the way the game is played or perceived. Smith did none of those things.

Anderson is an interesting case. He won a conference title but no Super Bowls, so he falls short in that category. His stats are great but not overwhelming, and he is hampered by playing part of his career in the offense-starved 1970s. He may have been among the best players in the league in 1981 or 1982, but in most seasons he would have been considered the third, fourth, or fifth best quarterback in the league behind Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Dan Fouts, and guys like Ken Stabler and Fran Tarkenton.

Anderson did "change the game" in one way: he was essentially the first West Coast Offense quarterback. To some voters, that's actually a disadvantage; they may hold against him the fact that his great 1974 and 1975 statistical years came in an offense that emphasized short passes. Had he won a playoff game or two in the mid-70's, his reputation might be better. (Cincinnati's problem wasn't Anderson, it was horrible run defense in a run-heavy era.)

It is somewhat unfair to say that Anderson is not considered a candidate for the Hall, as he has been a finalist twice. Still, this seems like less than Anderson might deserve. Mike Tanier's concise and accurate response about why Anderson is not in the Hall didn't answer the deeper question: Should he be?

Anderson was an elite quarterback in the 1970s and early 1980s. He appears to have been good enough to merit serious Hall consideration. Anderson went to the Pro Bowl four times, leading the NFL in quarterback rating each season. He was named NFL MVP in 1981. At the time of his retirement he ranked sixth in career passing yards. In addition to his skills as a passer, he was one of the best running quarterbacks of his era.

Although the NFL specifies that only on the field performance should be taken into account, off the field behavior and contribution to the game often come into play in the Hall of Fame selection process. This does not seem to be a major factor for Anderson. He comported himself in a professional manner, and got on fine with the media. As Mike noted, he contributed to the league by pioneering the "West Coast Offense" with Bill Walsh and Paul Brown, and he is currently quarterbacks coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. All of this seems quite reasonable for a Hall of Fame candidate, so let's take a closer look at Anderson's performance on the field.

Method

In the Tennessee chapter of Pro Football Prospectus 2006 I take a look at whether Steve McNair is going to end up in the Hall of Fame. In order to evaluate the hall candidacy of McNair and other recent quarterbacks I used a methodology similar to that used in last year's essay "100 Greatest Quarterback Seasons of All Time."

The basic idea is to adjust every quarterback's statistics to a 2004 offensive climate; this puts every player on a level playing field. For example if in a given year there were 25 percent fewer passing yards than there were in 2004, then every quarterback to play in that year gets credited with 33 percent more passing yards for that season. Also, every season is prorated to 16 games, including the strike shortened 1982 and 1987 seasons. This process was repeated for each year of each quarterback's career. The results allow us to compare apples to apples in terms of statistics. It also enables application of an approximate PAR formula to each player's career stats, giving us a one-number value of a player's career production.

This approximate PAR formula is slightly different that the one from last year's book. It does not include sacks, fumbles, or a defense adjustment. Leaving out sacks is not a major problem, since they are often (though not always) a reflection of offensive line play more than quarterback play. The quality of defenses faced pretty much evens out over the course of a career. Overall, the formula is quite accurate and gives a good summary number of a player's passing and running performance.

Other factors like reputation and playoff performance certainly play into a quarterback's hall chances. For the purposes of this article I will use four main categories for the evaluation of quarterback careers: passing VOA, to measure efficiency; career total DPAR, to measure overall productivity; number of top 100 seasons, to measure dominance; and number of titles (Super Bowls, or AFL/NFL titles in the pre-Super Bowl era), to measure winning. In the case of Ken Anderson these numbers clearly show that not only does he numerically belong in the Hall, but also that he actually ranks above almost all of the quarterbacks already enshrined there.

(For those new to our site, PAR (Points Above Replacement) and VOA (Value Over Average) are our proprietary statistics, normally based on play-by-play breakdown. PAR is a total stat, VOA a rate stat. More here.)

Please note that tables in this article feature only quarterbacks who began their careers after 1950 and finished their careers before 1990. This excludes early players for whom we do not have reliable stats. It also excludes current and recently retired players like Joe Montana, Dan Marino, John Elway, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon, Brett Favre, Steve Young, Troy Aikman, and Peyton Manning. If you would like to see how these guys stack up, pick up Pro Football Prospectus 2006 and check out the Tennessee chapter. The formatting is slightly different here than in the book, but between the two articles pretty much every great quarterback in NFL history is covered.

Ken Anderson

There are a few major arguments against Ken Anderson. The first is that he simply wasn't good enough. This is easy enough to debunk using statistics, and then the others come into play: he didn't win in the playoffs, he didn't dominate the game, and he was the product of a West Coast system that was ahead of its time.

Hall of Fame Quarterbacks 1950-1990, and Ken Anderson
Pass Rush Pass Total Top
Name Years Cpl Att CPct Yards YPA TD INT VOA PAR PAR PAR 100* Titles
F. Tarkenton 1961-1978 5689 8637 65.9% 64149 7.43 436 208 27.0% 68 1484 1552 6 0
J. Unitas 1956-1973 4682 7337 63.8% 55932 7.62 363 198 23.5% 15 1165 1180 3 3
K. Anderson 1971-1986 3797 5744 66.1% 43795 7.62 270 132 29.2% 49 1061 1110 4 0
L. Dawson 1957-1975 3302 4745 69.6% 37795 7.96 278 129 37.5% 11 1029 1040 4 2
D. Fouts 1973-1987 4176 6502 64.2% 51016 7.85 312 197 23.1% -5 1024 1020 4 0
S. Jurgensen 1957-1974 3725 5631 66.1% 42324 7.52 305 147 27.7% -1 984 983 2 0
R. Staubach 1969-1979 2567 3938 65.2% 32028 8.13 221 90 36.7% 47 848 895 4 2
B. Griese 1967-1980 2998 4562 65.7% 35165 7.71 270 136 27.7% 6 788 794 0 2
B. Starr 1956-1971 2917 4371 66.7% 33285 7.61 180 107 26.6% 22 772 794 1 5
J. Namath 1965-1977 2997 4935 60.7% 38255 7.75 226 171 12.8% -4 565 562 2 1
T. Bradshaw 1970-1983 2963 5082 58.3% 37599 7.40 295 174 10.3% 43 499 542 1 4
*Number of seasons listed among the Top 100 QB Seasons (1960-2004) in PFP 2005.
VOA and PAR numbers are approximations
.

Anderson's conventional accomplishments are good, but he really stands out when we put him in the context of his era. The table above shows every Hall of Fame quarterback whose career began after 1950 and ended before 1990. It has their era-adjusted career statistics as well as their approximate rush PAR, pass PAR and pass VOA. There are 11 Hall of Fame quarterbacks plus Anderson.

It is easy to see why many regard Johnny Unitas as the greatest quarterback of all time. He has excellent numbers overall, as well as three titles and five top 100 seasons. Fran Tarkenton is the only guy with better numbers than Unitas, but his failure to win a title has left him on the outside looking in when it comes to best QB of all time debates. It seems that in this regard Tarkenton is very similar to Peyton Manning and Dan Marino.

Anderson ranks third in total PAR. He also ranks third in passing VOA. He ranks ahead of Dan Fouts, Sonny Jurgensen, Bob Griese, Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Namath in both total PAR and passing VOA. This means Anderson both accomplished more in total over the course of his career and was a more efficient passer than all these players.

In the cases of Starr, Bradshaw, Namath, and Griese it is clear they did not get into the Hall of Fame because of their statistics; they got in because they won Super Bowls, made guarantees, and went undefeated. The point of comparing Anderson to them is not to say that because they are in, he should be in. It is simply to establish that Anderson's career statistics are far above the minimum threshold for a Hall of Fame quarterback. The table clearly shows that if statistics alone were the measure of a quarterback's greatness, Anderson would be mentioned among the greatest of all time.

Unfortunately for Anderson statistics are not the only criteria for induction. Winning championships is highly valued by the selectors and this is something that Anderson did not do. His Bengals made the Super Bowl once, in 1982 (following the 1981 season), when he lost to the budding San Francisco 49ers dynasty and a young Joe Montana. This loss can hardly be blamed on Anderson, who went 25-of-34 for 300 yards and two touchdowns, ran four times for 15 yards and a score and clearly outplayed Montana. His 25 completions and 73.5% completion rate both set Super Bowl records.

Still, it must be acknowledged that Anderson lacks the clutch credentials of many of the quarterbacks in the Hall. Anderson must be compared to the quarterbacks on the list that never won a Super Bowl. There are three: Tarkenton, Fouts and Jurgensen. While Anderson can't match up with Tarkenton's gargantuan numbers, he does beat Fouts and Jurgensen in both total PAR and passing VOA.

Before we move on, it's worth noting that not all titles are created equal. NFL or AFL titles pre-1966 were achieved in leagues with between 8 and 14 teams. From the first Super Bowl on there were never fewer than 24 teams. The chance of winning a title is equal to one over the number of teams in the league; therefore these titles are worth somewhere between a conference title and half of a Super Bowl title. Most HOF voters fail to properly account for this. Now, on to the guys who didn't win any titles, easy or hard.

Sonny Jurgensen

Comparing Anderson to Jurgensen shows great similarity. In fact Jurgensen's era-adjusted stats are almost identical to Anderson's. Jurgensen's Eagles and Redskins teams of the 60s were consistently mediocre, worse in fact than Anderson's Bengals teams. Jurgensen only made a Super Bowl late in his career after he was replaced by Billy Kilmer as the Redskins' starter in 1972. Jurgensen has two of the top 100 seasons of all time (26 and 30), while Anderson has two of the top 10 and four of the top 100 (including the prorated strike-shortened 1982).

Anderson had a slightly more productive career, more playoff success, and more dominant seasons than Jurgensen. This is not to say that Jurgensen should not be in the Hall. He should be; many regard him as the greatest pure passer of all time. The point is that if Jurgensen is in then Anderson should be in as well.

Dan Fouts

Fouts is a particularly interesting comparison with Anderson because their careers were almost completely concurrent. As the numbers above show, Fouts threw the ball more over the course of his career but was slightly less efficient. Anderson was a much better runner than Fouts; Anderson's excellent running ability is often overlooked.

Looking at their careers on a year-by-year basis shows some interesting trends. Anderson was a star in the mid 70s, then had a couple of down years, and re-emerged in the early 1980s after passing rules were liberalized. Fouts did not emerge as a star until 1978, after the rule changes. This next table shows Anderson and Fouts' unadjusted stats for the years in which both were starters, 1973-1984. Can you tell which one of those is a Hall of Famer and which isn't? Didn't think so.

Ken Anderson and Dan Fouts 1973-1984
Name Comp. Att Comp. % Yards YPA TD TD% INT INT% Rush R. Yards YPC R.TDs
Anderson 2384 3988 59.78% 29802 7.47 182 4.56% 147 3.69% 352 2001 5.68 16
Fouts 2585 4380 59.02% 33854 7.73 201 4.59% 185 4.22% 197 480 2.44 11

Many people would say that Anderson's numbers are inflated by playing in a system (Bill Walsh's West Coast Offense) that was ahead of its time. This may or may not be true, but it applies equally to Fouts, as his career took off right around the time Bill Walsh joined the Chargers as an assistant coach, after being passed over for the Bengals' head coaching position. In fact, despite all the controversy about whether Bill Walsh or Sid Gillman is the originator of the West Coast Offense, the truth of the matter is that they worked together with the Chargers in 1976, and because of this their systems are intertwined.

All in all, Anderson posted similar numbers to Fouts during the late 70s and early 80s. Fouts' team was quite pass-happy, leading to bigger overall numbers, but Anderson and Fouts both have four seasons in the top 100. Fouts never reached a Super Bowl, partially due to a 27-7 defeat at the hands of Anderson and the Bengals in the AFC Championship Game in 1981. As the 27-7 score implies, Anderson (14-of-22, 161 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT, 5 rush, 39 yards) soundly outplayed Fouts (15-of-28, 185, 1 TD, 2 INT).

While both players failed to capture a Super Bowl title, Anderson was the better clutch performer and is equally if not more deserving of enshrinement. That Fouts made it in his first year as a finalist while Anderson is still waiting reflects the selectors' fondness for "big" seasons. They are impressed by Fouts' 4,700+ yards in 1980 and '81 even though these seasons were not really as good as Anderson's 1974 and '75.

The West Coast Offense

As discussed before, and mentioned in Mike Tanier's response in the mailbag, Ken Anderson's numbers are often discounted because they came in the West Coast Offense when it was new and defenses were unsure how to defend it. Critics have also tried to argue that the short passing used in the West Coast Offense requires less skill than throwing downfield. While this may or may not be true, it must be applied to all of the quarterbacks who ran the WCO. Among those in the Hall of Fame or soon to be, this includes Montana, Steve Young, John Elway, Fouts (sort of), and Brett Favre.

Montana is considered by many to be the greatest quarterback of all time, and he probably is (a topic for a future application of this research, perhaps). He played in Walsh's WCO when it was still relatively new, and at the same time that Anderson was having some of his best seasons using the same system. Look at the numbers for both quarterbacks from 1979-1983. This was the beginning of Montana's career and the end of Anderson's. It is impossible to say from those numbers who was better at the time.

Ken Anderson and Joe Montana 1979-1983
Name Comp. Att Comp. % Yards YPA TD TD% INT INT% Rush R. Yards YPC R.TDs
Anderson 1071 1699 63.04% 12700 7.47 75 4.41% 55 3.24% 137 909 6.64 8
Montana 1045 1645 63.53% 11979 7.28 78 4.74% 44 2.67% 151 596 3.95 7

Obviously Montana would go on to distinguish himself from Anderson over the rest of his career and with his postseason performance, but the fact remains that Anderson came by his numbers no more easily than Montana did. In fact, if Anderson had not been so adept at running Walsh's system who knows if it would have ever caught on as it did.

Other Players

It seems that compared to the other players in the Hall of Fame Ken Anderson belongs. What about compared to those not in the Hall? Are there any other quarterbacks not in the Hall of Fame that our system sees as worthy, or maybe even some that are more worthy than Anderson?

The answer is no. There are no other quarterbacks in the history of the NFL not enshrined in the Hall of Fame that approach Anderson's statistics. The only other quarterback (who played in the period 1950-1990) who has some claim to the Hall is Ken Stabler. Stabler was a contemporary of Anderson, playing from 1970-1984. Stabler has a 21.8 percent career approximated VOA, 691 total PAR, two top 100 seasons, and one Super Bowl title. This compares favorably to Namath (12.8 percent, 562, 2, 1). Of course Namath got in at least partially for being a world-class hype man.

Stabler has been a finalist three times, most recently in 2003. Meanwhile Anderson has only been a finalist twice, most recently in 1998. Stabler is borderline case, and while he would probably be the best quarterback of his era not in the Hall of Fame left out (except Anderson of course) he would also be the worst of his era in the Hall. Anderson falls in no such gray area. He is statistically one of the top quarterbacks of all time. His teams' playoff success and his reputation among Hall voters do not match up to his regular season stats. Still, it is crazy that Anderson is not among the 23 post-WWII quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame.

When not writing guest columns for FO, David Lewin takes classes at, and plays quarterback for, Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. His writes about his new projection system for rookie quarterbacks, as well as Steve McNair's career, in the new Pro Football Prospectus 2006.

Posted by: Guest on 26 Jul 2006

91 comments, Last at 01 Apr 2009, 11:46am by GJones

Comments

1
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 1:00pm

Author's note:
In the table Unitas is listed as having 3 top 100 seasons while in the text he is listed as having 5. This is because he had two seasons that would rank in the top 100 if years 1955-1959 where included.

2
by Michael David Smith :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 1:04pm

It saddens me how much Hall of Fame voters, TV analysts, and the average fan overstate the importance of having won a Super Bowl in evaluating the career of a quarterback. A quarterback is one player, and the Super Bowl is one game. Ken Anderson is not in the Hall of Fame because his teammates didn't play better in one game. That's just stupid.

3
by gticm (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 1:06pm

Being a Bengal fan for the last 35+ years, and watching/idolizing Ken Anderson as a youngster and teenager, I couldn't agree more with you David.
Course, numbers don't lie, do they?
I still cuse and spit at the ground when I hear Ronnie Lott's name.

4
by Stuart (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 1:15pm

Well done. The articles at FO have been top notch lately, some of the best I've read at the site.

5
by Tom Streufert (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 1:23pm

Love articles like these, keep it up. No doubt that stats don't mean as much toward football HOF as baseball. The two that come to mind are Lynn Swann and Art Monk. 336 is in and 906 is not. Swann's in on Flash and that one touchdown scored in XIII he didn't even need to go down! His catch in X was incredible, however. Monk, no flash 3 rings, he should be there. No big highlights on biggest stage.

6
by James G (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 1:29pm

Now that we ended a recent QB rush (2006-Aikman, Moon, 2005-Marino, Young, 2004-Elway, 2002-Kelly, 2000-Montana) and I don't see another recent QB up for enshrinement until Favre, I wonder if the HOF voters have any chance of revsiting Anderson and Stabler. Looking at raw stats, I am not surprised that Fouts made it first ballot - he did lead the league in yards passing 4 years straight and also made the Pro Bowl 6 times. But the player in the HOF, based on conventional stats / conventional wisdom, that I would compare Anderson to is Jim Kelly, and he made it on his first try.

Both Kelly and Anderson made 4 Pro Bowls. Neither won the Super Bowl, although both made it there. Kelly has seasons of being ranked 3rd/3rd/5th in yards passing, while Anderson actualy has 4th/1st/1st/5th/3rd. Anderson also led 3 times in The Hidden Game state Adjusted Yards/Pass. I think either on traditional stats or FO metrics, Anderson is actually deserving.

7
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 1:32pm

Anderson blows Kelly away in my numbers, however Kelly probably got a boost for playing on a team that made four straight Super Bowls, so I chose not to compare Anderson to him.

8
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 1:33pm

By the way we are still looking for few more people for PAR fantasy football, so shoot me an email at dlew33@yahoo.com.

9
by James G (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 1:40pm

Following up my own comment about revisiting Anderson - it doesn't seem likely. Checking Pro HOF website, I see no QBs were enshrined between Fouts (1993) and Montana (2000). Anderson made it as a finalist twice in that period, but missed out. Bizarrely, Stabler's 3 finalist periods were twice before Fouts and once after Montana.

10
by Ryguy (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 1:51pm

Good job and I've always complained that the NFL Hall of Fame is way more subjective than every other Hall of Fame. Writers just sit down and mostly yell names of players they like or others who win championships and I agree with comments 2/3. One of the problems I think is that the writers don't know how to objectively judge for the hall of fame. Anderson deserves it and he should get it.

Also I'd be interested in PAR fantasy football

11
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 2:02pm

His Bengals made the Super Bowl once, in 1982 (following the 1981 season), when he lost to the budding San Francisco 49ers dynasty and a young Joe Montana. This loss can hardly be blamed on Anderson, who went 25-of-34 for 300 yards and two touchdowns, ran four times for 15 yards and a score and clearly outplayed Montana. His 25 completions and 73.5% completion rate both set Super Bowl records.

A good article, but I disagree that Anderson outplayed Montana in Super Bowl XVI.

1. Montana went 14 for 22 for 157 yards for the game, but because the 49ers were up 20-0 at halftime, threw only 4 times (completing 2 for 25 yards and 1 first down) in the 2nd half.

Meanwhile, Anderson was ordinary in the 1st half (7 of 13 for 83 yards, 1 interception) as the Bengals failed to score, but excelled in the 2nd half (18 of 21, 217 yards, 2 td, 1 int). In the 2nd half, the Bengals never had the ball with the chance to tie or take the lead, so the 49ers were likely playing a "bend, don't break" defense."

With the Bengals down 26-14 with 1:57 and no timeouts left, Anderson went 6 of 6 for 74 yards and a touchdown against a prevent defense.

2. Montana was sacked once; Anderson was sacked 5 times.

3. Anderson ran 4 times for 15 yards for 2 first downs and a touchdown.

Montana, however, was just as good, running 6 times for 18 yards (including a kneel down for minus-4 on the last play of the game) for 3 first downs and a touchdown.

4. Montana did not turn the ball over; Anderson threw 2 critical interceptions: one in the red zone tied at 0 in the 1st quarter and the second on the Bengals first play down 23-14 with 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter, effectively ending any chance at a comeback.

12
by TGT (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 2:16pm

Great article, but I have to point out the math error (which I assume was an editting gaffe).

"For example if in a given year there were 25 percent fewer passing yards than there were in 2004, then every quarterback to play in that year gets credited with 25 percent more passing yards for that season."

Each quarterback should be getting 33% more passing yards, not 25% more. The league average was 75% of the 2004 league average. To get from 75% to 100%, you have to add in 33% of the 75%.

-TGT

13
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 2:24pm

Yeah, thats a stupid writing error on my part, I assure you the math behind the article is correct.

14
by The Pittsburgh Steelers (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 2:31pm

Ken Anderson should have responded better to adversity if he wanted to be in the Hall of Fame, instead of whining about the selectors.

15
by admin :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 3:04pm

The error referenced in 12/13 should now be fixed.

16
by Duck in MA (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 3:40pm

I personally think that all QB HoF induction articles should ignore Namath and Bradshaw. Both were fine QBs, but as the numbers show, they were not exactly at the top of their classes. But they didn't get in for their numbers, each have their reasons for getting in - 4 rings and a guarantee are what made them famous, and hence in the Hall.

That said, when you think of dominant QBs from 75-85, Anderson isn't the first name that pops into your head, is it? This is what I think is slowing his entry into the HoF. But he's certainly in the top-5, and with all the people around him at his position in that era already in the Hall, one would expect that if the voters used some common sense and looked at the stats, he should get inducted. Then again, maybe the numbers do lie (not something to be said lightly on this site!), and the simple fact that he's not the first QB you think of from that era will do him in. As you said earlier, those kinds of numbers would get him in to the Baseball HoF, but that's not the place he's aiming for.

17
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 5:36pm

Is it possible that we're overvaluing the contributions of Anderson because passing was so de-emphasized during the early to mid-1970's? To quote Bill James:

If Gavy Cravath is the best home run hitter of 1915 and Babe Ruth is the best home run hitter of 1925, is Gavy Cravath equal to Babe Ruth? No, he isn't, because 20 homers are not the same as 50, no matter how many home runs anybody else in the league may have hit.

Rating all-time wide receivers with similar methodologies, Haven Moses and Reggie Rucker make the Top 50 despite severely underwhelming statistics. Are they HOFers too?

18
by James G (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 6:17pm

Travis - The top in one year isn't equivalent the top in another year, but the averages across years should be relatively close to the same place. Therefore, it makes sense to rate guys as + or - some average rating. 50 HR might be better than 25 HR, but if you hit 25 HR and the next best guy hits 2, I dare say that's much better than if you hit 50 HR, and there are 20 or more people hitting 40-49 HR.

19
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 7:00pm

Travis - The top in one year isn't equivalent the top in another year, but the averages across years should be relatively close to the same place.

I'm not sure what you mean by the "averages across years." Raw passing numbers in the 1970's were well below those of today, so you can't be talking about multi-year averages.

What I'm saying is that a QB who passes the ball on less than 50% of his team plays (Bengals pass play percentage in 1974: 44.2%; 1975: 47.0%), as was the case for almost all QB's in the 1970's, is less valuable than a QB who does so more often. There is no way that 324 passes in 1974 had the same value as 525 passes (note: number approximated) in 2005, especially seeing how teams actually had more plays per game in 1974 (1974: 65.8; 2005: 60.2; note that neither includes sack totals).

This is not an indictment of Anderson or any other QB of the era, but a reflection of the rules and the way the game was played.

20
by Joe Pisarcik Magnet (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 7:20pm

Intersting article.

FWIW, Allen Barra has written with the view that Starr is roughly equal if not better than Unitas (Barra is also a Bama grad, IIRC); mainly because his yards per pass #s are similar while his interception rate is lower. But this is the first time I've seen a comparison of multiple QBs. When did historical VOAs and PARs get calculated?

21
by paytonrules (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 8:10pm

#17
Bill James is right - but I don't think it applies here. After all the list of names there are basically contemporaries. Sure there's some difference I suppose.

I think the great thing about this site is the "over replacement" and "over average" metric. The average selector knows in their "gut" when they see a guy who is way better than average, and they know that when they see Ken Anderson he could be replaced by "flaming turd-monkey" and still put up numbers because of their offense.

The average selector is of course wrong, and the numbers there show it.

22
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 8:33pm

Re: 21

Ken Anderson was certainly a better-than-average quarterback. He was better than most of the QBs of his era. What I don't know is whether he was historically great, and I wonder whether the method used here works to answer that question because the era differences are so great.

23
by JRM (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 9:01pm

It saddens me how much Hall of Fame voters, TV analysts, and the average fan overstate the importance of having won a Super Bowl in evaluating the career of a quarterback. A quarterback is one player, and the Super Bowl is one game.

Well said, and I strongly agree.

24
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 9:14pm

I have to agree with Travis here. It isn't as if his argument isn't a widely used one in the current NFL, after all - there's an awful lot of commentators who, (quite rightly, IMO) respond to praise of Ben Roethlisberger based in part on his excellent per-play stats by questioning if his performance would be so exceptional if he were throwing the ball more often.

The situations aren't exactly comparable, of course, but if a team doesn't throw the ball that much, whether that is because of team offensive philosophy (the current Steelers) or general league trends (the 1970s Bengals), the team's quaterback, irrespective of his level of talent, is not as valuable.

Now, also IMO, Anderson deserves to make the Hall as the first QB to make a success of the WCO - not something every QB manages even in today's pass-happy NFL, mark.

25
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 10:34pm

#20
The historical PAR and VOA are approximated like they were for the best QB seasons article. They are not exact, but they give us a good ballpark number and summary of a player's conventional statistics. I would agree with your statement that Starr was a more efficient passer than Unitas, as the numbers bear that out. What that statement overlooks is that Starr threw the ball far less than Unitas and wasn't even a full time starter for the first few years of his career. It is essentially Roethlisberger v. Culpepper in 2004, Roethlisberger had a higher DVOA, but he was defnitely not the better player as he was helped by throwing half as much.

When you take into account that Unitas threw the ball nearly twice as much as Starr, had more dominant seasons, and won 3 titles (on teams not nearly as stacked as Starr's Packers) you have to say that Unitas was the better player, and based on what I have found in this research probably the best quarterback ever.

26
by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 11:06pm

The situations aren’t exactly comparable, of course, but if a team doesn’t throw the ball that much, whether that is because of team offensive philosophy (the current Steelers) or general league trends (the 1970s Bengals), the team’s quaterback, irrespective of his level of talent, is not as valuable.

A quarterback who only throws a handful of times, but tosses a couple of TD passes early in the game, staking his team to a multi-score lead and allowing them to shut down the pass is much more valuable than a QB who throws the ball 30-40 times a game because the defense can't stop anyone or because 4 or 5 of those 30-40 passes are ending up in the hands of the other team...

27
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 11:27pm

A quarterback who only throws a handful of times, but tosses a couple of TD passes early in the game, staking his team to a multi-score lead and allowing them to shut down the pass is much more valuable than a QB who throws the ball 30-40 times a game because the defense can't stop anyone or because 4 or 5 of those 30-40 passes are ending up in the hands of the other team.

You mean like Joe Montana vs. Ken Anderson in Super Bowl XVI?

28
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 11:31pm

Ken Anderson is not as good as Joe Montana. I was not born when Super Bowl XVI happened and I will happily concede that Montana may have played better than Anderson. This does not effect the point of the article.

29
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 11:36pm

Re: 28

No, but it affects the paragraph I cited in post #11. On the whole, it's unimportant.

What's important for me is the severity of the era adjustment for all early- and mid-1970's players, as I've previously mentioned. I wonder what your opinion on that is.

30
by Joe Pisarcik Magnet (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 11:44pm

Thanks, David. I recall the single season article from last years book, I just had a brain cramp.

I think that it's cool to see an article like this. I'm used to seeing baseball HOF articles and don't recall seeing too many football HOF articles like this. While I don't think this article is the last word on the subject, I think that it's a good start. I'll have to reread Barra's argument, but I think that he factored in quality of receiving corps as well as some other stuff.

I also think that Tarkenton and Staubach should be in the mix when it comes to discussing the inner circle QBs. No titles for Tark, sure, but he made it to the Super Bowl 3 times (and I don't know how much weight to put on the postseason. More than baseball, but prolly less than hoops.) I'm not sure, but a case could be made for adjusting Staubach for his service time. And, as my handle may suggest, I'm not really a fan of the Cowboys.

31
by James G (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 7:43am

Travis - my point in #18 was that the value of an average one year should be the same as the value of an average for another year, regardless of the totals of those averages. To use, the HR example, 25 HR in a year when the average is 12.5HR/# of that player's at bats should be as good as 50 HR in a year when the average is 25HR/# of that player's at bats.

We can't simply look at Anderson's rankings, but we can look at how valuable he was compared to average at his position. That's where crediting the 33% more passing yards comes in, and I think it's reasonable.

But I do understand your point. Another way to adjust may be to make total yardage in other seasons equivalent to 2004, but note the % rushing and passing yards in the given season and adjust to varying rushing and passing totals per season.

32
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 9:48am

I can't really argue with the complaint that if Fouts is in the HOF, Anderson merits it as well. Though I think it's unfair to label Anderson as the better clutch performer simply based on that Championship game. It was biterly cold that day (the wind chill reached -60 F). And while the conditions were the same for both teams, I think it's clear that the Chargers faced more than the typical visiting team challenges that day.

I do think Anderson (statistically)benefited greatly from the being in the WC offense his entire career (a review of Fouts' career pre 1976 vs. post 1976 shows a huge difference). I lived in Cincinnati for most of his career and never regarded Anderson as a great player. He was never the sort of player that you felt was going to lead his team back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter.

33
by admin :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 10:59am

Probably because if Anderson led them back from 10 points down to 3 points down, the Bengals defense would just let the opponent run to eat up the rest of the clock. That was the biggest problem -- in a run-heavy era, the Bengals run defense was terrible.

34
by James G (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 11:03am

One thing that would be interesting is a comparison of season-by-season PARs of Fouts and Anderson. Both have 4 top 100 seasons according to the chart above. If you use the simple method of yards/attempt, Anderson had a few brilliant seasons, and a few medicore seasons. Fouts seems to have fewer mediocre ones - his only seasons below 7.0 Y/A were his rookie year and his last year. Anderson had 3 right in the middle of his career. Regardless of rate or efficiency stats, I don't think anybody is going to deny a QB that led the league in total yards passing for 4 years straight.

Looking at the non-SB champs up there, Fouts led the league in passing yards 4 times, and set records each of the first 3 years he did it and Jurgensen led the NFL in passing yards 5 times (granted it was before the merger, so there were fewer teams). Tarkenton led only once and Anderson only twice. Tarkenton, however, was the all-time record holder in total career passing yards when he was inducted, and still only behind Marino, Favre, Elway, and Moon. Tarkenton actually took 3 times to be inducted.

Given his total passing yardage, lack of championships, and fact that he only made 4 Pro Bowls, I guess I am not surprised he's not in the HOF. Cursory glances through pro-foootball-reference seem to suggest that 5 Pro Bowls is enough to get a QB in, and 4 is not. I found several 4-time Pro Bowlers at QB not in (Anderson, Esiason, Stabler, Cunningham), and very few in (Kelly).

35
by MRH (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 11:08am

I spent some time looking at ’60-‘70s era qbs a while ago. I used a method similar to one I’ve seen discussed elsewhere, perhaps in Aaron’s 100 Greatest Seasons articles, using normalized passer ratings (NPR). I compared the passer rating of a qb to the rating of the league as a whole for each year of his career. A passer rating that equals the league average is a “1�. Better than average is over 1, below average is under 1. This method allows some ability to compare QBs across seasons.

For example, Anderson in his best year (1974) scores a 1.49, one of the best of the seasons I looked at ( his rating of 95.67 divided by the league passer rating of 64.09). His 1978 season was a 0.89, meaning he was a below average qb last year. That was his worst season. Then I subtracted one from every score and summed the remainders. For his career, Anderson’s “Points Above Normalized Passer Rating� (PANPR) was 2.40, and it was 2.53 for the seasons where he threw more than 100 passes. Here’s how that compares with some of the others discussed in the article (name, Total PANPR, Total PANPR in seasons w/over 100 passes):

Tarkenton – 4.00 – 4.00
Dawson -- 2.98 -- 3.46
Unitas -- 2.10 -- 3.03
Jurgensen -- 4.56 -- 2.92
Starr -- 2.58 -- 2.81
Staubach -- 1.62 -- 2.64
Anderson -- 2.40 -- 2.53
Griese -- 2.56 -- 2.27
Fouts -- 1.46 -- 1.46
Stabler -- 0.15 -- 1.45
Bradshaw -- 1.01 -- 0.24
Namath – (-0.29) – (-0.39)

This system grades Anderson a little lower and Starr higher than David’s method (and admittedly doesn’t consider rushing stats). However, I agree with David’s conclusion that Anderson deserves to be in the HoF.

Namath just doesn’t belong with this group statistically. Even if I throw out his last three seasons when he was clearly a below average or worse QB (0.78, 0.60, 0.89), his career PANPR is 0.45.

Bradshaw merits some additional discussion. There are really two Terry Bradshaws. Because my system rolled up the bad years with the good, it looks like he was an average QB (career PANPR close to zero). But actually there was a bad Bradshaw and a great Bradshaw. The 70-74 Bradshaw was gawdawful. He completed 48% of his passes (league average was only 51% though). He threw 48 TDs and 81 INTs: a ratio of about 0.6 TDs per INT (league was about 0.8). His average NPR was 0.81. This is why many people thought the Steelers would lose the SB after the ’74 season – and if he had not improved and had only one SB title on a team with a great defense, he would be remembered as Trent Dilfer the First. Somewhere in late ’74 or early ‘75, though, the light went on for Bradshaw and from ’75-’82 his average NPR was 1.14 (compare to Staubach’s and Anderson’s 1.15 for their career). This is when Bradshaw was a HoF worthy QB.

36
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 11:21am

#35 Your method is essentially a very simplified version of what I did. #34 If there is one thing to take from this site its that raw yardage is not a very good stat. This is my point, Anderson's not in because his raw yardage numbers aren't unbelievable, but he was very efficient and he played in an era stacked against passers.

37
by James G (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 11:49am

I'm not saying raw stats are better, just pointing out that I'm not surprised Anderson's not in based on those - yesterday I actually was, but upon second glance, those totals won't get you in. I still would like to see the season-by-season listing PARs of Fouts and Anderson, because it's not overall career #s that get you in, it's multiple seasons of greatness. Fouts and Anderson make a good comparison because their careers overlapped so much. If you use yards/attempt, and use the 14 seasons they played at the same time, but take out 1986 and 1977 because of lack of games for one or the other, Fouts actually beats Anderson in yards/attempt 8 out of 12 times. And 3 of those were the first 3 years Fouts was in the league. I want to know if something similar happens when you look at the PAR statistics.

38
by stan (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 12:02pm

Random comments in response --

- Anderson went to 4 pro bowls, Bradshaw was selected to only 3.

- The light that went on for Bradshaw was that he had the greatest array of talent playing on the same team with him as any QB since Starr. Amazing how much better a QB performs when he has an awesome line protecting him, a great running game to set up the pass, outstanding receivers to catch his bad passes and a tremendous defense to win him championships.

- BTW, Aikman was his generation's Bradshaw. Looked great with great talent. Looked awful without it.

- Steve McNair in the Hall? Steve McNair!!??? This was a joke, right? Great players go in the hall. Good players get considered. When did mediocre players get in the conversation?

- I know this is beyond the ability of stat crunchers to evaluate, but the key is to look at the quality of the surrounding players. It all starts with pass protection. Pass pro (or for the defense, pass pressure) is the most critical element in pro football. It is where the game is won and lost. Great pass pro makes weak QBs look great (see e.g. Titans in 2003). Poor pass pro makes it almost impossible for all but the greatest QBs to even function.

Any decent QB will complete the pass, if he knows he has all day every time he drops back. In that situation, 9 of 10 for a TD and 135 yards is almost a bad start.

And you can't evaluate pass pro with sack totals. Great QBs avoid sacks by beating the blitz with hot reads or by throwing it away. Poor QBs take sacks they shouldn't take (see e.g. Steve McNair).

39
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 1:05pm

>We can’t simply look at Anderson’s rankings, but we can look at how valuable he was compared to average at his position. That’s where crediting the 33% more passing yards comes in, and I think it’s reasonable.

It depends on exactly how different the two eras are. Most baseball statisticians would accept that you can't compare 19th century and 20th century players -- the eras are too different.

Similarly, in an environment in which QBs throw five passes a year, and one ends his career with a stat line of 30-40 with 3 TDs and 0 INTs, that doesn't make him the best QB of all time.

40
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 1:27pm

James, I'll post Anderson and Fout's year by year PAR totals tonight.

41
by Gerry (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 1:31pm

"Are there any other quarterbacks not in the Hall of Fame that our system sees as worthy, or maybe even some that are more worthy than Anderson?

The answer is no. There are no other quarterbacks in the history of the NFL not enshrined in the Hall of Fame that approach Anderson’s statistics."

I would really be interested in seeing the comparison, with those statistics, between Ken Anderson and Phil Simms.

In conventional stats, they seem quite comparable to my eyes. Almost identical yards per attempt. Almost the same number of pass attempts, with Simms having just slightly more TDs and just slightly fewer interceptions. But Anderson played in significantly more games.

I am guessing that with the advanced metrics, Simms falls behind due to his 1000 fewer career rushing yards and his 200 more career attempts.

But when you throw in the things that HOF voters are swayed at, as the article notes (but are not the stats the article is looking at) Simms comes out ahead, having won a Super Bowl and having led a team for most of the season that went on to win it, having been Super Bowl MVP in a performance for the ages, having had a 4000 yard season.

I've always thought that those two are extremely comparable in value, and both deserve enshrinement. Anderson was probably slightly better, but they are, I assert, comparable. And I would be very surprised if Simms does not meet the threshold of at least approaching Anderson's statistics.But I am open to having my misperceptions revealed!

42
by Joe Pisarcik Magnate (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 1:55pm

I'd like to see a qualitative approach to HOF debates. Baseball has the Keltner List, we could do the Testaverde List for football. I say Testeverde because I was recently having an alcohol fueled discussion with nmy buddy the Wig about Phil Simms and he mentioned Vinny.

For those who aren't familiar with Bill James, here is the list of Keltner Kwestions:

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

2. Was he the best player on his team?

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?

8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Substitute football for baseball in those questions, Pro Bowl for All-Star, playoffs for pennant races and [i]voila[/i]! You have a Testaverde List.

43
by OMO (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 1:56pm

"It saddens me how much Hall of Fame voters, TV analysts, and the average fan overstate the importance of having won a Super Bowl in evaluating the career of a quarterback. A quarterback is one player, and the Super Bowl is one game. Ken Anderson is not in the Hall of Fame because his teammates didn’t play better in one game. That’s just stupid. "

Amen brother, amen.

44
by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 2:32pm

Re: 33

The Bengals run defense was horrible in 1972, 1974, and 1975, but were pretty good in 1973, 1976, and 1977. After the passing rules were liberalized, they were alternatively slightly-worse-than-average or great.

Bengals' Defense Yards per Rushing Attempt:

1972: 4.47 (21 of 26)
1973: 3.94 (8 of 26)
1974: 4.33 (24 of 26)
1975: 4.64 (24 of 26)
1976: 3.68 (5 of 28)
1977: 3.61 (9 of 28)
1978: 3.95 (17 of 28)
1979: 4.20 (19 of 28)
1980: 3.58 (3 of 28)
1981: 4.05 (16 of 28)
1982: 3.81 (12 of 28)
1983: 3.49 (3 of 28)
1984: 3.92 (12 of 28)

What about Anderson's replacement, Boomer Esiason, who had a similar career (4 Pro Bowls, 1 Super Bowl loss, 1 MVP)? How does he rank?

45
by James G (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 2:38pm

#42 - Keith Joyner altered the Qs for football for the Coffin Corner (publication of the Professional Football Researchers Association) in 1997. Click my name for a link to his article, which discusses the HOF chances of Andre Reed. One thing for football is that I think based on who is in the HOF already, the Qs have to be altered depending on the position played.

46
by pops (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 2:59pm

Beyond stats (oops) we should distinguish being being "valuable" and being "good" or "better" than another QB. Value is defined by efficiency at playing a role in a team. Montana is the perfect example of a QB who fitted a role perfectly in his team, and then got to be known as the best QB ever. Other QBs are asked to take a greater role, and sometimes fail at it.
So, ¿who is more valuable, the QB who throws 2 TDs early and manages the game, or the QB who throws for hundreds of yards trying to come from behind? Number 1 obviously... unless number 2 actually wins the game in the end, of course.
So we see that value is defined by winning, and in the end winning is a team effort.

As for being better, it's easily done after looking at QBs in different situations over a period of time: playing with the lead or from behind, with a great team or a bad one, under pressure or with time to throw. Unfortunately, this is not always possible: Montana, for example, always played in relatively favorable circumstances. And Marino just the opposite. We never saw Montana carry the team on his shoulders for a whole game or a whole season, or Marino just fill a role while the rest of the team did it's share. Who knows? Maybe Montana's arm would've fallen off, maybe he would have still been great. Maybe Marino would have won multiple titles, maybe he'd have done no better than Manning.
So, going beyond stats, the conclusion is that it's pretty darn hard to say who's better, who's more valuable, or who's more deserving anyway. But it's fun to talk about, isn't it?

47
by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 3:17pm

Re: 46

Value is defined by efficiency at playing a role in a team.

I disagree. Value should be defined as the amount a player contributes to the possibility that his team will win. A nickel corner has less value than a starting running back, even if they both have roles to fill.

And, in my eyes, a QB who throws on 60% of his team plays is far more valuable to his team than one who throws on 45%, assuming their efficiency is near-equal.

Re: 45

Note that the linked article suffers from the same problem I discussed earlier; 1970's WR Haven Moses and Reggie Rucker wind up in the top 25.

48
by Joe Pisarcik Magnet (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 3:30pm

Thanks, James G. I think that I've seen that article before, but it's been a while.

49
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 3:30pm

I'll answer everyone' requests for different players tonight. I will post a comparision of the top 5 retired guys not in the hall (Anderson, Stabler, Simms, Esiason, Cunningham) and some of the weaker moderns in the Hall (Kelly, Aikman, Moon) I will also post the top 5 quarterbacks in total PAR. For each player I will give their total in the four categories I feel are most important (total PAR, VOA, Top 100 seasons, titles) it is very interesting to compare players like Simms, Esiason, and it gives an interesting look at the best QB ever debate (Montana v. Unitas in my opinion) Some of of this content was held out of this article because it is in PFP, but I can give people what they have been asking for without giving away too much. Still, make sure you go out and pick up PFP 2006

50
by MRH (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 4:43pm

Re #41 - Simms created those passing stats in a looser offensive/passing environment, post-1978. About half of Anderson's stats were accumulated in the more difficult offensive setting pre-1978. So if their conventional stats are equal, Anderson would be the better statistical passer.

51
by Sebastian (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 4:50pm

Re: Travis

That HR example lacks in more than one way. The point is that in baseball, every plate appearence follows the same logic: There's a pitcher who pitches and a hitter who's trying to hit. It makes almost no difference how the defense fields (unless they do something real dumb like play without a SS and an extra outfielder) for the hitting of the ball, especially a HR. If the ball travels enough distance, it's a HR, whether Babe Ruth or Gavy Cravath hit it. If a quarterback's throw is a little of, it makes a world of a difference whether he's throwing to Jerry Rice or Koren Robinson. Whether he can regularly throw 5 or 15 yard out patterns is a question of the opposing defense, but certainly also a question of the era he's playing in. Ruth is in no way a good example because he reached a tipping point in baseball: he was such a powerful hitter that he could regularly swing for the fence with that approach paying off. Football's changes came along gradually, there's never been a quarterback/receiver duo who could just go long on every play . Anderson merely played in an era where offensive football wasn't dominated by pass-heavy offenses, he can't just decide to swing for the fence on every play.

52
by jetsgrumbler (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 5:10pm

i had never seen the joyner article before, but i think it proves the point that travis' analysis makes: stats don't always work as the best measure of achievment. i know that statement is vebotten on this site, but joyner's list has three receivers ranked ahead of jerry rice. that should be a rima facie showing that his methodology is flawed.

re: 46 and 47

what does it say about marino and montana's value that their replacements had such close success? fiedler led dolphins to a playoff win the following season, and steve young achieved even greater offensive success than montana.

53
by LaViva (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 5:26pm

From 1975 to 1982, Ken Anderson was WITHOUT DOUBT one of the best two or three QB's in the league. That's an eight-season run of dominance. Not as long as Elway or Marino, but certainly longer than Bradshaw, Namath, Stabler, even Staubach. Even more, until the early 1980's, Anderson played behind a horrendous offensive line. Not until Anthony Munoz and Max Montoya were brought in did he have elite blockers. When he did, in 1981 and 1982, he was the best QB in the league. The sole reason he has not been enshrined in the Hall of Fame is because he never one the big one. It's that simple. He probably should have won it all during the strike-shortened 1982 season, but, typically, the Bengals run defense tanked in a home playoff game against the N.Y. Jets and gave up 200+ yards to Freeman McNeil. If you want to go on numbers alone, Anderson belongs in the Hall. His numbers should actually be greater, but he was pushed out of the starting lineup in 1985 by a whining Boomer Esiason, who at the time was hinting that he wanted to be traded to the NY Jets to replace Richard Todd if he was not the starter in Cincinnati. Granted, Anderson was way up in age at the time, but he could have very easily started for another year or two and added 5,000 - 6,000 passing yards and 25-30 TD's to his career totals, maybe more. The Hall of Fame is obviously a popularity contest. All you have to do is look at the enshrinement of Lynn Swann to realize that. He got in with 336 catches, 5462 yards, 51 TD's. By comparison, guys like Plaxico Burress, Troy Brown, Eddie Kennison, Ike Hilliard, etc. have already surpassed Swann's numbers. Are they Hall of Famers? I think not. Numbers are obviously irrelevant to the Hall of Fame voters. All that matters is titles and fame. Guess that's why they call it the Hall of "Fame."

54
by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 5:36pm

Re: 51

My argument boils down to this:

1. NFL teams had slightly more offensive plays per game in the early- and mid-1970's as they do today.

2. Even though the number of plays was roughly similar, teams passed far less frequently in the 1970's than they do today or in the AFL of the 1960's (not sure about the NFL of the 1960's; team statistics are not available on Pro Football Reference).

3. The mid-1970's Bengals always ran more than they passed.

4. At the least, Ken Anderson was more efficient than most QB of the era. If we had play-by-play data, I have no doubt that he would have a Top 5 DVOA in 1974 and 1975, and probably 1973 and 1976. His DVOA for those years might very well have been among the best of all time.

5. However, he did not have the same value to his team in those years as a similarly efficient QB would today because he affected a smaller percentage of his team's plays. We shouldn't be looking at what Anderson might have done if he played today; we should be looking at what Anderson meant to his teams of the time.

6. The extremes of the 1970's era adjustment can be seen by looking at WR. If we do the exact same adjustment, looking at how WR stats of the era compare to WR stats today, a 60 catch, 770 yard season in 1975 (Reggie Rucker) translates into approximately 130 catches and 1400 yards.

55
by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 6:16pm

"...stats don't always work as the best measure of achievment. i know that statement is vebotten on this site..."

I don't think anyone on this site has ever said stats always work as the best measure of achievement. I think everyone who writes for this site and most of the readers think stats can be very useful tools, and that the stats we use here are more useful than the conventional stats that you'll read in newspapers and see on TV. But we also acknowledge that there are limitations to stats, and that everything is subject to debate.

56
by Nathan (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 8:16pm

But we also acknowledge that there are limitations to stats, and that everything is subject to debate.

I'm not sure that EVERYTHING is subject to debate...

57
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 10:22pm

Here are some of the numbers requested for discussion:
Name Total PAR Pass VOA Top 100 Titles
Phil Simms 557 13.4% 0 1
Boomer Esiason 622 14.5% 2 0
R. Cunningham 611 14.2% 1 0
Jim Kelly 678 20.3% 0 0
Moon 832 14.7% 1 0

I think these numbers show that Simms, Esiason and Cunningham were good, but not nearly good enough to make the Hall. They don't have the efficiency of Kelly or the total numbers of Moon. Moon and Kelly also both spent years in other leagues (CFL, USFL).

58
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 10:26pm

Travis here is the year by year Fouts v. Anderson breakdown for the years they both played. It should be noted that these numbers are era adjusted, but when comparing the totals from the same year that has no effect. By my count they split 6-6.

Fouts Anderson Year
-14 96 1973
30 152 1974
28 149 1975
78 68 1976
39 67 1977
97 27 1978
106 62 1979
103 18 1980
128 133 1981
145 147 1982
73 55 1983
73 38 1984

59
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 10:46pm

Other interesting comparisons:
Marino v. Tarkenton who's the best QB never to win a Super Bowl?
Marino: 1272 Total PAR, 23.4% Pass VOA, 3 Top 100 Seasons
Tarkenton: 1545 Total PAR, 27.0% Pass VOA, 6 Top 100 Seasons

Unitas v. Montana v. Steve Young, who's the best ever?
Unitas: 1178 Total PAR, 23.5% Pass VOA, 5 Top 100 Seasons, 3 titles
Montana: 1190 Total PAR, 35.0% Pass VOA, 4 Top 100 Seasons, 4 titles
Young: 1088 Total PAR, 42.7 Pass VOA, 5 Top 100 Seasons, 1 title

60
by Joe Pisarcik Magnet (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 11:04pm

Thanks, David. Interesting stuff.

61
by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 11:30pm

David,

Thanks for providing those breakdowns. A couple of comments:

1. The relative worths of Fouts and Anderson look pretty fair for the most part. I'm interested in knowing how Anderson offset Fouts' extra 130 passes in 1981. Do you have year-by-year VOA available?

2. I don't know how others feel, but it doesn't seem right to me to include a performance from the 9-game 1982 strike season as one of the best ever, unless that player also had a great playoffs. The Bengals went one-and-out. (Researching the game: Anderson was great in the 1st quarter against the Jets, twice leading the Bengals to TDs, but threw an interception on 1st and goal up 14-10 in the 2nd. The Bengals would not score another TD despite numerous possessions, and Anderson threw a 98-yard pick-six down 30-17 in the 4th.)

Anderson also benefited by playing the 1-8 Houston Oilers twice and the 0-8-1 Baltimore Colts once with that year, though he did play (and beat) the 8-1 Los Angeles Raiders. The combined non-Cincinnati record of their opponents was 31-40-1.

62
by James G (not verified) :: Fri, 07/28/2006 - 7:58am

#58 (David) - I made a mistake in my post above counting 1985, because Anderson was basically done by then, but I think you make a mistake by including 1977, when Fouts only played 4 games. That leaves them pretty even, but gives Fouts a season-by-season advantage of 6-5.

63
by jebmak (not verified) :: Fri, 07/28/2006 - 11:44am

Re:56

It's true, I mean everybody knows whether Manning or Brady is a better QB, no use debating that.

64
by jebmak (not verified) :: Fri, 07/28/2006 - 11:47am

Re:59

It is interesting that both of the QB's that didn't win a Super Bowl have higher PARs than those you list who did. Perhaps your answer to the second question is one of the first two.

65
by Jerry (not verified) :: Fri, 07/28/2006 - 7:19pm

Re #53:

From 1975 to 1982, Ken Anderson was WITHOUT DOUBT one of the best two or three QB’s in the league.

At the time, that certainly wasn't the national perception. Fouts, Stabler, Staubach, and Bradshaw leap to mind right away. As I think back, guys like Pastorini and Grogan were held in higher regard; Anderson was considered a dink-and-dunk guy before the Niners made that respectable.

This article is about assessing Anderson in retrospect, which is entirtely reasonable, but Kenny wasn't considered a top-level QB while he was playing.

66
by stan (not verified) :: Fri, 07/28/2006 - 7:47pm

re: 65

I think Pro Bowl selections argue against your point. Anderson was chosen to four, one more than Bradshaw. I think that the 4 rings have made Bradshaw's reputation become much greater in the years since.

I don't believe that Grogan was ever chosen. Pastorini made it once.

Very hard to argue that contemporary opinion had Grogan or Pastorini ahead of Anderson. I was playing in college and going to law school during the time period, and I certainly don't remember it that way.

67
by Steve (not verified) :: Sat, 07/29/2006 - 2:19am

I think the Football HOF is very much about perception and moments - which gives FO a lot to chew on because it often doesn't make sense. While I will not debate anyone here about Anderson versus Fouts, I will say that I lived that time and from about 1978 to 1983 you wouldn't have had much argument from anyone about who was more 'dominant' during that period. Fouts' Chargers were the talk of the town. Anderson's Bengals were always "solid". Statistically this may be debatable, but perception holds large sway over HOF voters and the NFL and the early 80s Chargers were a legitimate force in the football culture.

It is this perception - perceived dominance over a period of time - that certainly adjusts people's radar about a player. Swann versus Monk comes to mind here - because while I LOVE Art Monk, in his prime Swann seemed to make the big catch at will and was raised to a level of stardom that his stats don't reflect (rightly or wrongly).

There is a huge list of these types of guys. Perception is a valuable asset for a wanna-be HOFer in the NFL.

68
by Steve (not verified) :: Sat, 07/29/2006 - 2:24am

re 66.

I agree - although I do think that Anderson would be relegated to Pastorini, Grogan, Jim Hart territory in those types of discussions - perhaps being the "best of the rest". He never seemed a part of the genuinely elite. Even flash-in-the-pan guys like Bert Jones "seemed" better than Anderson. Part of this may have been the coverage of the times (far less media - and therefore your "moment" becomes more important when you have it). To me Anderson always seemed good because he had stats, but he never seemed "elite".

69
by James G (not verified) :: Sat, 07/29/2006 - 9:20am

67 - and a followup to my post in 62. I think we actually see a valid statistical reason to think that Fouts was greater than Anderson at the time. Although, Fouts only beats Anderson 6-5 in PAR ratings over the 11 full seasons they both played simultaneuously, Anderson won the first 3 years Fouts was in the league. After Fouts gets going in his 4th year, he holds a 6-2 advantage in PAR, and both years Anderson won, he won very narrowly (133-128 and 147-145). Look at some of those seasons right before Anderson did well, too: Fouts wins 97-27, 106-62, and 103-18.

Anderson is likely done in by his start well, have a poor middle, finish well pattern to his career, whereas Fouts started poorly, and then did well for the rest of his career.

70
by stan (not verified) :: Sat, 07/29/2006 - 11:32am

re: Bert Jones

Awesome talent with a cannon for an arm. For the short time he played, he was really special. I haven't looked at his stats. That is just my memory of watching him play on TV. (Sort of a QB version of Billy Sims -- short, brilliant career.)

He consistently made throws that no one else could make. He made the Colts a real contender despite (my perception) not having the overall team talent of the Raiders or Steelers.

At his best, no other QB in the league was close. Now I'll go check his numbers.

71
by thad (not verified) :: Sat, 07/29/2006 - 10:50pm

re 6
where did you get that he led in adj y/pass?
They don't list the leaders in the books.
God am I a football geek or what?
I own all three books they put out and checked.

72
by Tony (not verified) :: Sun, 07/30/2006 - 5:43pm

You mention that Ken Anderson didn't win a superbowl and the one he played in the Bengals lost to a Pesky Joe Montana and the 49ers..
Well then maybe we need to compare Dan Marino.. He had the exact same outcome Played in one Superbowl and lost it to Joe and the 49ers Just a couple years later!!

73
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sun, 07/30/2006 - 6:54pm

Great article, followed by a great thread. I think that Anderson belongs in the HOF, and it strengthens my belief that the HOF has been too resrictive. I agree that while objectively factoring the relative strength of teammates is difficult when evaluating a player for HOF status, it is something that should be attempted, particularly for qbs. The fact that Anderson's numbers look as good as they do, when his team usually was awful at run defense, speaks very well of him. Also, Tarkenton looks even better when one considers that he played on crappy teams for the first 2/3 of his career; he actually was past his physical prime by time he was surrounded by competent teammates. One of my earliest memories of actually viewing a game analytically came when I was about ten, and saw Tarkenton nearly singlehandedly defeat a champisonship-caliber (70?, 71?) Cowboy team when Tarkenton was on the woefully undermanned Giants roster. It remains for me perhaps the greatest performance by a QB I ever saw, but I tended to attribute this opinion to merely the distant memories of childhood, until I read Zimmerman recalling his memories of that game, in one of his columns a few years ago.

Tarkenton was really, really, really, good, and if he had anywhere close to the support that Unitas or Montana had, to say nothing of Starr or Bradshaw, during the first eleven years of his career, the debate over who was the best qb ever might have a decidedly different consensus. I say this as somebody who normally thinks Montana or Unitas (I can't ever quite decide) deserves the title.

74
by Don M (not verified) :: Sun, 07/30/2006 - 8:32pm

There's no question that Ken Anderson should be in the hall of fame, basically he's not in the hall of fame because the 49ers stopped Pete Johnson from the one yard line, three or four times, a single play or two go differently in a single game and he'd have a superbowl win, and numbers that would easily get him in the hall of fame. So I don't even see how it's debatable if he should be in the HOF or not. True during his career he wasn't held to be one of the top two or three QBs, but hey guys, reality check Troy Aikman was held up by the talking head types as one of the best ever during his career, in retrospect thinking about his receivers, offensive line, defense and running game, that looks pretty stupid, and I'm sure none of the talking heads would repeate it today.
I once was trying to explain to a youngster that I didn't think Terry Bradshaw was all that great. His comment was, "Well it wasn't the defence that one four superbowls" My point being time changes perception dramatically and in some cases it keeps people from remembering how good a guy who *almost* won it all from a small media market compared to a guy who won four superbowls in a major media market, with a wee bit of help from the steel curtian and Franco & the boys.

75
by James G (not verified) :: Mon, 07/31/2006 - 8:39am

Thad (71) - I got those ADJ Y/PASS statistics off the individual player pages on pro-football-referencec.com.

76
by senser81 (not verified) :: Tue, 08/01/2006 - 1:49pm

If you are an author, and you have to include that Anderson "is currently quarterbacks coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars" in your HOF argument, I think that should be an indication of something right there.

The QBs chosen to compare to Anderson are interesting. By only comparing him to a few HOFers, you don't really get a total picture. I would have liked to have seen a few QBs not in the HOF that have similar statistical achievements to Anderson, and see if Anderson is superior to those QBs like Neil Lomax, Bernie Kosar, John Brodie, etc. Also, comparing a QB's stats to Joe Namath and Terry Bradshaw is like comparing a RB's stats to Gale Sayers or a WR's stats to Lynn Swann. Again, it doesn't give the total picture.

The statement that Starr and Griese clearly did not get into the HOF because of their statistics is incorrect. On a season-by-season basis, Starr and Griese typically would finish among the league leaders in passing efficiency, and Starr has arguably the greatest postseason statistics in NFL history. Perhaps the author's point was to compare Anderson's career totals to Starr and Griese, but one can compare any number of QBs to Starr and Griese's career totals and conclude "QB X meets the minimum HOF statistical threshold" (if such a thing exists).

The implication that pre-1966 league titles are the equivalent to less than half a Super Bowl title (?) is not only far-fetched, its also not really relevant to the Anderson argument. First, the author is assuming that all titles are won on chance, thus pre-1966 teams all had better odds for lucking into a title, and that Bart Starr’s Packers 1962 NFL Title is less impressive or equally impressive as Ken Anderson’s 1981 Bengals losing the Super Bowl by 5 points. Second, its not like Anderson’s teams were always falling just short of the Super Bowl every year. In Anderson’s 16-year career, the Bengals made the postseason 4 times, and 1981 was the only season in which Anderson’s team won a playoff game.

It appears that the argument for Anderson is two-sided. On one hand, Sonny Jurgensen is somewhat penalized for playing in a pass-happy era (1960’s) where its more difficult to be significantly statistically superior to your peers, while Anderson not only has an easier time appearing to be statistically superior to his peers by playing in a run-happy era (1970’s), he is also given subjective credit for ‘performing so efficiently’ in a run-happy era. Its as if Anderson is rewarded twice for playing in the 1970’s. On the other hand, Anderson is given credit for more “dominant� seasons than Jurgensen. Huh? Jurgensen ranked 1st or 2nd in seasonal passing TDs 5 times (Anderson never finished higher than 3rd during his career), and Jurgensen finished 1st or 2nd in seasonal passing yards 6 times (Anderson accomplished that 2 times). Maybe its just me, but I don’t think any historian would say Anderson was a more dominant passer than Jurgensen. Either way, the point is that the terms “efficient� and “dominant� appear to be used interchangeably by the author, which is incorrect.

The content of the Fouts comparison makes little sense to me. To say that Anderson was a “star� in the mid-1970’s is stretching it a bit…I’d say guys like Tarkenton, Staubach, Griese, Stabler, Bert Jones, and Terry Bradshaw were considered to be star QBs ahead of Anderson. To then say that Fouts “did not emerge as a star until 1978, after the rule changes.� as the only counter-argument is once again misleading. Subjectively speaking, Dan Fouts was considered one of the top 2 or 3 QBs (and more likely THE top QB) from 1979-1983. The numbers Fouts put up were unprecedented. It’s a much different situation than the author’s implication that Fouts was only considered to be on the same level as Anderson after the 1978 rule changes. Fouts was a much bigger “star� than Anderson. I also don’t understand why the comparison cuts off at 1984. Fouts’ 1985 season was statistically superior to 12 of Anderson’s 14 seasons, yet it isn’t even a blip on the radar in the discussion. Also, if Anderson’s career stats were compared guys like Starr and Namath, then why not compare them to Fouts’ career stats?

I cannot comment on the Joe Montana comparison.

The last paragraph that gives lip-service to other QBs not in the Hall of Fame is interesting. Again, the statement that no other non-HOF QB approaches Anderson statistically is misleading. Guys who played before, during, and after Anderson have better career totals. Similarly, many QBs from different eras were more dominant than Anderson. Perhaps the author is trying to say that Anderson was more efficient than any non-HOF QB, but it appears that the words “statistically�, “dominant�, and “efficiency� all mean the same thing in this article. I can only hope that 10 years from now we won’t be hearing about the statistically dominant and efficient yet completely-overlooked Dave Krieg.

When judging QBs who really deserve the HOF, I think we should look at Benny Friedman. In my humble estimation, an argument can be made that Friedman was the best player in the entire league for half his career, yet Friedman had to wait forever to get into the Hall. Friedman’s case for the HOF doesn’t need statistical gyrations or era-based formulas…he was simply one of the best players of his generation, regardless of position. The same cannot be said of Anderson.

77
by Jason Mulgrew (not verified) :: Tue, 08/01/2006 - 2:25pm

My father told me Keny Anderson was not ever considered among the best quarterbacks. He was more like 5th best in his best years. I sure hope this helps.

78
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Wed, 08/02/2006 - 7:40pm

#76

All the guys you mention at the top do not approach Ken Anderson in terms of career numbers when era is factored in. Guys like Kosar, Krieg, and the others named posted both efficiency and total value numbers around half of Anderson's. I think I made it clear that you cannot compare Anderson to Bradshaw and Namath becuase they didn't get in on numbers.

The point of this article is that Anderson's numbers, taken in context, are by far the best of anyone not in the hall, and much better than most of those in the hall. Whether or not that means he should be in the hall is up for debate.

On this site we all know that saying someone had more yards or more TD passes than someone else is not very meaningful. Advanced metrics show that Anderson was consistently underrated because at the time efficiency was not valued.

79
by Jerry (not verified) :: Wed, 08/02/2006 - 8:28pm

Re #78:

What I said in #65 in response to a rather hyperbolic comment, and Steve and senser81 went on to say more eloquently, is that Anderson wasn't considered a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback during his career. The numbers may look different in retrospect, especially since the 49ers made us appreciate the offense that the Bengals ran at the time, and I'm willing to defer to others about how that does/should affect Hall of Fame voting, but the fact that the Hall of Fame panel didn't think that Anderson deserved enshrinement tells you something about how he was perceived.

80
by Josh B. (not verified) :: Wed, 08/02/2006 - 10:01pm

Sure, Anderson may not have been perceived as great, but what is that really worth?

Almost all human beings are highly flawed at perception, mainly because they focus on what happens rather than what doesn't happen. This is why efficiency is underrated in football, and far more underrated in basketball (read The Wages of Wins to see what I'm talking about).

81
by Joe Pisarcik Magnet (not verified) :: Wed, 08/02/2006 - 10:28pm

The more I look at this list, the more I've been thinking. By listing Top 100 seasons, I think that the David is looking at a peak value as well as career value. For baseball, I kinda like BPro's Pennants Added approach. If you applied their methods to football, one 150 PAR season would be worth more than two 75 PAR seasons. (It's in their 2002 annual, but I couldn't find it online.)

They use Wins Above Replacement, because it's easy to convert runs to wins in baseball (usually it's @ 10 runs an extra win). How many points does a football team need to get to generate an extra win? Guesstimating from the figures in the first section of FPro, I came up with a figure of @ 14-15 points. That seems a little low.

82
by senser81 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/03/2006 - 10:22am

re: #78

I guess I don't know what you mean with the caveat "when era is factored in". John Brodie's career totals are on par with Anderson's, and a guy I didn't mention, John Hadl, has higher career totals than Anderson. Brodie and Hadl were much different than Anderson...gunslingers who normally ranked near or at the top of the league standings in yards and TDs (something Anderson rarely did). Neither Brodie nor Hadl were nearly as efficient as Anderson and both had high INT totals, but if you are going to factor in ‘era’ with Anderson’s numbers, at the very least perhaps some mention should be made that INTs were more prevalent in the 1960’s.

In terms of QB stats and totals, Milt Plum had the best single-season QB rating for about 30 years, Jim Hart was had the third highest yardage total in history, Jeff Garcia was once in the top 5 in all-time passing efficiency rating. If the HOF was solely based on statistics, then we wouldn’t have any offensive linemen and guys like Timmy Brown would make it before Gale Sayers.

I don’t quite understand the ‘advanced metrics’ comment, either. We don’t need a complex statistical analysis to determine that Ken Anderson was an efficient QB in an era where most QBs were not efficient. I’m sure that the HOF voters are aware of such things and have taken them into account. Another QB who was underrated at the time because efficiency wasn’t valued was Bart Starr, but Starr has extraordinary postseason statistics, too, and was arguably the greatest clutch player in NFL history. I would assume that HOF voters take the player’s body of work as a whole into account when considering their HOF worthiness. And even though its not considered on this site, I would hope that the HOF voters don’t ignore those “trivial� things such as yards and TDs in their statistical analyses.

Re: #80

Since the title of the structure in Canton is Pro Football Hall of Fame and not Pro Football Hall of Efficiency, I’d guess that ‘not being perceived as great’ would be something that is somewhat worthy.

83
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Thu, 08/03/2006 - 5:25pm

#82

If you would like I can post the era adjusted numbers for Hadl, Plum, Hart and Brodie when I get back from vacation this weekend. I said that they are not close to Anderson's, but clearly you do not believe me, so I will post them in full. The fact of the matter is that they are not comparable to Anderson. None of them topped 600 PAR for their career.

84
by Steve (not verified) :: Fri, 08/04/2006 - 1:58pm

Re: #80

Canton is perception over statistics in many cases and I personally like that about it. Earl Campbell is a great example - if you looked at raw stats you see a guy who put up 5 1000+ yard seasons and had a very nice 4.3 APC (although he only exceeded that YPC for his first three years). Now a STATISTICAL argument can be made that Laurence McCutcheon (a very good back) was comperable over his career. He had the same YPC, had 4 1000 tard seasons and another for 911, played on a perennial playoff team... But Earl Campbell was ridiculously good - and in watching them play there was simply no comparison.

So, the long of it is - yes, it matters.

85
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Fri, 08/04/2006 - 4:01pm

Great article... I'm convinced... I can't do the same to justify Monk's enshrinement as strong, in fact when I did so it appeared the voters had a valid case against Monk.

86
by Marv (not verified) :: Sun, 08/06/2006 - 12:14pm

A personal quest of mine someday is to put together a petition as to why Kenny Stabler should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in Canton, Ohio.

Once I put it together I will try to figure out who to send it to in hopes of convincing HOF voters that Stabler is worthy of recognition in the Hall.

Here’s a start:

Kenny Stabler played 15 NFL seasons. He was a back-up for the Raiders in 1970 but a starter for the Raiders for the years 1971-1979. He was the starter for the Oilers in the 1980-81 years, and got some playing time in 1982-84 for the Saints. His Raiders years were clearly his best, although he passed for almost 62% his first year with the Oilers, and his skills had clearly diminished by the time he reached the Saints.

Stabler led the league in Completion Percentage twice (1973 and 1976), Yards Per Attempt once (1976), and TDs twice (1974 and 1976). His 1976 season gave him a passer rating over 100, a rare event in the NFL. As of the 1998 edition of Total Quarterbacks, Stabler ranks 45th in career Passer Rating, 28th in Yards, 6th in Completion Percentage (he was ranked higher, but since retirement he has been passed by guys named Young, Montana, Aikman, Farve, and Kelly, who all played in a high-percentage offense in the modern NFL), and 26th in Touchdown Passes. I know that with each year more stat-inflated guys push Stabler’s ranking lower and lower, but when he played he was very comparable to the best of his era.

Stabler guided his teams to the playoffs 8 times in his first 10 seasons as a starter (in 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, and 1977 with the Raiders and 1980 with the Oilers), winning the Superbowl once (1976 with the Raiders).

When John Madden was elected to the HOF yesterday, I noticed a few things. Al Davis continually referred to great plays like the holy roller, ghost to the post, and so on. ESPN showed clips of Madden’s successes in coaching. Stabler was there in all cases. The NFL changed its rules in part because of the holy roller. If Madden was one of the most winning coaches, Stabler must rank up there among the most winning QBs.

87
by empty13 (not verified) :: Sun, 08/13/2006 - 8:51pm

Well maybe but I will always remember the Stabler-led Saints giving up a huge lead at home against Dallas.

This was at the end of the dominance of the Too Tall / Dutton / Too Mean / Manster DL. They sucked it up and won the game for Dallas by basically beating the crap out of Stabler and the OL. A safety they nailed him on, a 3rd consecutive sack, started the denouement.

Stabler had stayed around for one too many seasons. He looked like Dallas/2004 Vinnie Testaverde kicking the ball around for Dallas, while raptors circled.

88
by Mike Reid (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2007 - 4:18pm

The Bengals run defense was horrible in 1972, 1974, and 1975, but were pretty good in 1973, 1976, and 1977.

You can't make me tackle running backs.
You can't make your defense something it ain't.

89
by robert bailey (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 10:36pm

Ken Stabler is the best not in the HALL.Ken Anderson is the second best not in.There were too many lucky quarterbacks with great defenses allowing them to have the ball for a longer period of time to perform and offensive weapons to execute with.They became legendary and elite.Once the Steelers defense gelled together to form the Steel Curtain with Joe Greene,Jack Lambert,Dwight White and L.C.Greenwood and to also have players like Mel Blount,Donnie Shell,Lynn Swann,John Stallworth,Mike Wagner,Franco Harris,Rocky Bleier,Mike Webster,Bennie Cunningham and other good players Terry Bradshaw became a legend because Chuck Knoll and Art Rooney were able to put together a team that clicked together like Browns of the 50's,the the Packers of the 60's,the Cowboys in the 70's,the 49ers and the Redskins of the 80's,the Cowboys and the Bills of the 90's and the Patriots of the modern day.To break it all down my argument is the same as the the pro football writers.Winning is everything and many do get cut short of their true value to the game.Maybe someday this will change and the players who have contributed greatly to this game will be accepted as great,because they did their best and they are some of games finest.It seems as though luck is the only way to get in unless you have ungodly stats.ART MONK 4 HALL OF FAME

90
by michael (not verified) :: Thu, 01/01/2009 - 2:08pm

Ken Anderson belongs in the HOF for several reasons. He won 4 passing titles before Joe Montana and Steve Young starting winning them on a regular basis. In fact, Kenny was only the second QB to win four titles, having done it nearly 35 years after Sammy Baugh won his fourth title. He made the Cincinnati Offense (nka the West Coast Offense which was a misnomer at the time since the true west coast offense was devised by Sid Gilliam and run by Al Davis and the Raiders) the legendary offense it is today in the process making Bill Walsh and his progeny some of the greatest coaches of all time. Later, Walsh as a Cincinnati coach ran the Gilliam offense and the raider offense with the bengals. If Greg Cook, the bengals' legendary passer had not been injured, the Cincinnati Offense would not have existed to morph later into the revised west coast offense as it is known today. Walsh had to devise a system of short passes and passes to the backs to accomodate Cook's replacements such as Sam Wyche and Virgil Carter who did not have arms comparable to Cook's. That was 1970. In 1971, Walsh found his man in the college draft who would run his "new" offense to perfection: Ken Anderson. However, to say that Anderson did it with "short passes" or was a syatem quarterback is simply wrong. Doesnt anyone remember a guy by the name of Isaac Curtis? Ken Anderson and Isaac Curtis comprised one of the most potent and memorable long ball threats of the "offense-starved" decade of the 70's. In fact none other than Don Shula who was on the rules committee at the time single-handedly spearheaded a rule change in 1978 to effectively limit the long-ball threat posed by the Ice Man. Simply put, Ken Anderson and Isaac Curtis changed the game and get little credit for doing so. Kenny belongs in the hall of fame - and for that matter so does Curtis.

91
by GJones (not verified) :: Wed, 04/01/2009 - 11:46am

Randall Cunningham is by far the greatest player not to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Three NFL MVP/POYs [1988, 90 and 98] in what was considered to be a golden era of NFL QBs. Four All Pro Seasons [1988, 90, 92 and 98]. Cunningham is the all-time leading rusher among NFL QBs [4,928]. Led his team in rushing in four consecutive seasons [1987-90]. Higher career passer rating 81.5] than John Elway [79.9], Warren Moon [80.9], Dan Fouts [80.2]. Was first NFL QB to complete 20 TD passes and rush for 500 yards in a single season. Cunningham did it four consecutive seasons [1987-90]. Cunningham's two longest punts 91 and 80 yards are longer than Ray Guy's longest [77, 74.] Randall Cunningham had a better career TD-INT ratio than [207-134: 1.545] Brett Favre [464-310: 1.497], Jim Kelly [237-175: 1.354], Warren Moon [1.249], Ken Anderson [197-160: 1.231], Troy Aikman [165-141: 1.170], Dan Fouts [1.049 ], Terry Bradshaw [1.009], Ken Stabler [.874], Joe Namath [.786] among others. Cunningham winning pct as a NFL starting QB [82-52-1: .612] is equal to Dan Marino's [147-93: .6125], and greater than Troy Aikman's [94-71: .570], Ken Anderson [91-81: .529], Dan Fouts' [86-84-1: .506], Warren Moon's [102-101: .502] and Joe Namath's [63-63-4: .500]. Cunningham's team were 12-4 in games started against Aikman [6-2], Favre [4-2], and Elway [2-0]. Cunningham completed 42 more TD Passes 207 than Troy Aikman threw 7 fewer interceptions, while attempting 426 few passes. Cunningham is the only NFL player to have three 400-yard passing games and three 100--yard rushing games. Cunningham's worthiness of HOF recognition goes far beyond statistics. He had one of the greatest arms in football history, His passing, running and punting talents made him the most multi-talented player in football history. Don't look for ESPN or NFL Network to ever reveal these perspectives and statistics.

Top 10 QBs Who Aren't - but some should be- in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

1. Randall Cunningham

2. Roman Gabriel

3. Ken Anderson

4. Phil Simms

5. Ken Stabler

6. John Brodie

7. John Hadl

8. Daryle Lamonica

9. Boomer Esiason

10. Jim Plunkett