2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame Special: Quarterbacks

Long time no see America, this is Lucas Kinser for Cardiac Attack Sports. Been busy with life the past few months, but the recent announcement of the 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame class nominees made me take a position-by-position look at modern-era (post-1970) players who have been overlooked in the selection process.

First up are the worst enemies of Deacon Jones: Quarterbacks. Of the 83 signal-callers with 100 or more career games played and whose career began in 1970 or later and ended in 2007 or earlier, I narrowed down the list to 14. I looked at a number of factors, including consistency, production, awards, Super Bowl wins and Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value rating system. My top 14 are, in alphabetical order:

  • Bert Jones
  • Boomer Esiason
  • Brian Sipe
  • Danny White
  • Jim Everett
  • Jim Zorn
  • Joe Theismann
  • Ken Anderson
  • Ken Stabler
  • Phil Simms
  • Randall Cunningham
  • Rich Gannon
  • Steve Grogan
  • Steve McNair

Then, I used the Approximate Value rating to determine how productive each player was in each season compared to the ten highest scores of each season. Through this, I eliminated:

  • Brian Sipe
  • Danny White
  • Jim Everett
  • Jim Zorn
  • Joe Theismann
  • Phil Simms
  • Steve McNair

None of these seven quarterbacks ranked in the top ten at their position for five or more years, or ranked in the top five for three straight seasons. Theismann was close, but barely missed the cut. Others, like White and Simms, could have done so if they’d stayed healthy, but we’re not dealing in hypotheticals.

Anyways, that leaves seven quarterbacks as legitimate candidates. Here is the arguments for all seven:

Bert Jones

  • 1976 NFL MVP with a 102.5 Passer Rating, second-best in league history at that time behind Y.A. Tittle.
  • Three seasons with at least 3,000 passing yards and 20 or more touchdowns, second-most in league history when he retired behind Sonny Jorgensen.
  • Helped lead Baltimore out of the Unitas era with three straight postseason appearances from 1975-77.

Boomer Esiason

  • 1988 NFL MVP with a league-high 97.4 passer rating and 9.2 yards per pass attempt.
  • Retired in 1997 with the ninth-most passing yards in pro football history (37,920)
  • Ranked in PFR’s Approximate Value ratings among the top ten quarterbacks for six straight seasons from 1985-90.

Ken Anderson

  • 1981 NFL MVP with a career-high 3,754 passing yards, 29 scores and a 98.4 paser rating
  • Paced the NFL in passer rating four times (1974, ’75, ’81 and ’82)
  • Arguably the first successful West Coast quarterback in league history

Ken Stabler

  • 1974 NFL MVP with 2,469 passing yards and a league-high 26 touchdowns
  • Ranked fourth all-time with 26 game-winning drives when he retired in 1984
  •  Led Oakland to a blowout win in Super Bowl XI

Randall Cunningham

  • Three-time Bert Bell Award winner in 1988, ’90 and ’98
  • Retired as the league’s all-time leading rusher for quarterbacks
  • Led his teams on 26 game-winning drives and to 21 fourth-quarter comebacks

Rich Gannon

  • 2002 NFL MVP with a league-high 4,689 passing yards
  • Earned four straight Pro Bowl nods from 1999-2003
  • Led Oakland to three straight postseasons for the first time since the early 1980s

Steve Grogan

  • Ranked in PFR’s Approximate Value ratings among the top five quarterbacks for four straight seasons from 1976-79.
  • Ran for a then-record 12 rushing touchdowns as a quarterback in 1976
  • Led New England to its first three postseason appearances in team history (1976, ’78 and ’82)

Of these seven, I wanted my final selections to have accomplished four of five things in the pro careers:

  1. Win an Associated Press NFL MVP Award
  2. Lead their team to at least one Super Bowl
  3. Rank in the top 10 in a major career category upon their retirement
  4. Average eight starts per season for their careers
  5. Have been a finalist for the Hall of Fame at least once.

Bert Jones never played in a Super Bowl and didn’t play long enough to record any significant career stats, so he goes off the list.

Randall Cunningham never won an AP NFL MVP (although other organizations gave him MVP awards) and never played in a Super Bowl, so he’s off as well.

Rich Gannon fell four starts short of the minimum and hs never been a Hall of Fame finalist, so he’s gone.

Steve Grogan barely reached the start limit, but failed in all other categories (he only started six games in the Patriots’ 1985 Super Bowl season) so he’s off.

That leaves Boomer Esiason, Ken Anderson and Ken Stabler:

Esiason was named the MVP in 1988, led Cincinnati to Super Bowl XXIII, retired with the 9th most passing yards in league history and passed the starts minimum.

Anderson was the 1981 MVP, led the Bengals to Super Bowl XVI, retired with the 7th most passing yards in league history, passed the starts minimum and was a two-time HOF finalist.

Stabler was the 1974 MVP, led the Raiders to a Super Bowl XI win, passed the starts minimum and was a three-time HOF finalist.

Therefore, we have three names to keep in mind. A pair of underrated passers  in the West coast system and one of the NFL’s best comeback artists and team leaders. If I had a vote, these three gridiron warriors would certainly have their busts in Canton.

Thanks for reading my incredibly long, meticulous post. Remember to follow me on twitter at @LucasKinser and look me up on Facebook. Take care and enjoy the rest of your day!