Worthiest candidate for the 2019 HOF senior nomination (Round 2)? It’s Gabriel


Roman Gabriel photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Rams

Round 2 of the Talk of Fame Network series of senior polls goes to a former NFL MVP.

We asked our listeners and readers to vote on a slate of 10 candidates and former Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel won in the closest poll of the 200 in our site’s history. Gabriel received 1,318 votes to edge former Redskins cornerback Pat Fischer at 1,233 votes. That gave Gabriel 44 percent of the vote total with Fischer at 41 percent.

Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch was next with 221 votes for seven percent of the support. Linebackers Mike Curtis and Chuck Howley received enough support to win several of our past polls, as did Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall. But they registered mere blips in this one compared to Gabriel and Fischer.

From 1967-1970, Gabriel quarterbacked the Los Angeles Rams to a 41-11-4 record. He was voted to three Pro Bowls and NFL MVP in 1969. Gabriel was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1973 and led the NFL that season with 3,219 passing yards and 23 touchdowns. He was voted the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year that year and was sent to his fourth Pro Bowl.

Gabriel passed for 29,444 yards and 201 touchdowns in his career and also rushed for 1,304 yards and 30 more scores.

Fischer was voted one of the 70 greatest Redskins and a member of the franchise’s Ring of Honor. He played 17 seasons and 213 games at cornerback, which was at the record for his position at the time of his retirement. He intercepted 56 career passes, which ranks 18th all-time and ninth among pure corners. That ties him with Lem Barney, a Hall of Famer, and Charles Woodson, a soon-to-be Hall of Famer.

Fischer overcame a huge obstacle – his size (5-9, 170 pounds) to go to three Pro Bowls and set an NFL record for cornerbacks with his 16 fumble recoveries.

Talk of Fame Network host Ron Borges believed there was one cornerback shorted in this poll – Cincinnati’s Ken Riley. He barely registered a blip.

“Ken Riley has 65 interceptions,” Borges said. “He didn’t get them by accident or by being an average player. He’s fifth all-time in picks and started 14 games at cornerback in his final NFL season at the age of 36. What that tells me is if he’d played in New York or Los Angeles instead of Cincinnati we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”

Pittsburgh linebacker Andy Russell won the first of the five senior polls.

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21 Comments

  1. Rasputin
    July 4, 2018
    Reply

    “our listeners and readers”

    I have a sneaking suspicion that over 99% of these Gabriel/Fischer voters had never listened to an episode or read an article on this site before. I doubt many of them even read the whole article accompanying that poll. Just a hunch.

    Looks like the Gabriel twitter/facebook accounts beat the Fischer link on the Redskins site. That’s actually fairly impressive considering how much traffic the Redskins site has thrown here before for stuff like that. Though it’d be interesting to see which of those guys won the IP address vote.

    • social media
      July 5, 2018
      Reply

      Rasputin,

      re: “I doubt many of them even read the whole article accompanying that poll”

      re: “I have a sneaking suspicion that over 99%…voters had never listened to an episode or read an article on this site before

      “many” – “over 99%”

      these written assumptions, miss or sir, respectfully, how could you possibly even know this?

      • Rasputin
        July 5, 2018
        Reply

        You even just quoted me as saying “doubt” and “suspicion” and I also said “hunch”. But that’s based on the huge influx for those two particular players greatly out of proportion with the rest of the players’ votes or the reality of their case strength, with a lot of unfamiliar screennames, and the fact that I looked for and quickly found the Gabriel FB/Twitter accounts and Redskins fan site loudly linking to this poll and directing their audiences to this site to “vote”.

        A hunch, but a reasonable one.

        • social media
          July 5, 2018
          Reply

          Rasputin, as well as others that comment on Talk of Fame website, and Mr Borges, Mr Gosselin, Mr Judge – please comment

          re: “I’m not necessarily saying Roman Gabriel should never be in the HoF, but he’s not even the highest priority senior QB and there are other candidates at various positions who are more deserving, plus many of them are older”

          Do you have a list:

          Coaches and also players by each position that you feel should be in the HoF?

          re: “plus many of them are older”

          Once you have your list, which coaches players have been waiting the longest?

          How many on your list are still alive?

          It appears when you hear the shows and read what is written here on Talk of Fame, if they do not hurry and get more individuals inducted, they are going to have many more posthumous inductions

          I look forward to your and other’s comments here

          Thank you

          • Rasputin
            July 8, 2018

            That’s a big question, but here are some of the top guys at various positions and their ages:

            LB – Chuck Howley (82; most deserving overall), Maxie Baughan (79), Joe Fortunato (RIP), Tommy Nobis (RIP), Larry Grantham (RIP), Lee Roy Jordan (77) , Randy Gradishar (66)

            QB – Ken Anderson (69), Jack Kemp (RIP)

            OL – Ed Budde (77), Ox Emerson (RIP), Jim Tyrer (RIP), Riley Matheson (RIP), Walt Sweeney (RIP)

            WR/E – Billy Howton (88), Drew Pearson (67), Cliff Branch (69), LaVern Dilweg (RIP), Del Shofner (RIP), Harold Carmichael (68)

            RB – Don Perkins (80), Verne Lewellen (RIP), John David Crow (RIP), Chuck Foreman (67)

            DB – Johnny Robinson (79), Cliff Harris (69), Bobby Dillon (88), Lemar Parrish (70), Jimmy Patton (RIP), Everson Walls (58), Dave Grayson (RIP), Bobby Boyd (RIP), Ed Meador (80), Cornell Green (78)

            DL – Al Wistert (RIP), Earl Faison (RIP), Harvey Martin (RIP), Ed Sprinkle (RIP), Jerry Mays (RIP), Houston Antwine (RIP), Alex Karras (RIP), L.C. Greenwood (RIP), Ed Too Tall Jones (67), Mark Gastineau (61), George Andrie (78),

          • Rasputin
            July 8, 2018

            Meant to include Mac Speedie with the receivers.

  2. Michael Avolio
    July 4, 2018
    Reply

    I believe Gabriel is a worthy Hall of Famer.

    But honestly I feel Mike Curtis is sorely underated and he’d get my vote before Roman.

    • July 4, 2018
      Reply

      All of these guys are deserving. Just shows you how difficult senior process is … and how many outstanding players have slipped through the cracks.

  3. Vinny
    July 4, 2018
    Reply

    My name is Vinny and I’m the person that has been spearheading the Roman Gabriel HOF effort. I came across the Talk of Fame Network a few years ago when I realized that Mr. Gabriel hadn’t been inducted yet and I began to crunch the numbers. The football content that Rick, Clark and Ron put out on the TOF is priceless as they are doing a great job preserving the rich history of this great game. They also give football connoisseurs a taste of what the inside HOF voting process looks and feels like which is a rare treat. I enjoy also reading the comments from the readers and listeners as you all know the ins and outs.

    Not sure if you all had a chance to check out Ryan Michael’s QBS write-up/interview with Roman but his statistical breakdowns and comparing Roman to other HOF QB’s is very compelling.

    http://quarterbackscore.webs.com/apps/blog/entries/show/45769620-ryan-michael-qbs-interview-with-1969-nfl-mvp-quarterback-roman-gabriel

    When comparing Gabriel to quarterbacks already in the HOF at their ranking at the time of retirement, he has more career TD passes then 11 HOF QBs, more career passing yards then 12 HOF QBs and more pass completions then 12 HOF QBs.

    • 1969 NFL MVP (AP)
    • 4x Pro Bowl selection (1967, 1968, 1969, 1973).
    • 2x touchdown pass leader (1969, 1973)
    • 3x interception-percentage leader (1965, 1969, 1973)
    • Retired ranked No. 1 in NFL history in career interception-percentage, min. 100 starts: 3.31%
    • 1973 Comeback Player of the Year (PFW/PFWA).
    • Most passing yards, single-season during the post-merger “dead ball” era: 3,219 (1973)
    • One of four players in NFL history to lead the league in touchdown passes with two different teams.
    • Broke Johnny Unitas’ record of 88 consecutive starts, retiring with the longest streak in NFL history: 89 (1965-1972)
    • Retired as the Rams all-time leader in touchdown passes: 153
    • Retired as the Rams all-time leader in passing yards: 22,223
    • Retired as the Rams all-time leader in pass completions: 1,705

    * Gabriel finished just behind OJ Simpson (first player to rush for over 2,000 yards) in the 1973 MVP voting in which he led the league in touchdown passes (23), passing yards (3,219) and passing completions (270).

    * He is 1 of 4 QB’s to lead the NFL in passing with 2 different teams – others being Sonny Jurgensen, YA Tittle and Peyton Manning.

    *Once getting the starting nod in 1966, he lead and helped transform a Rams team that was coming off of 7 losing seasons in a row to a winning franchise. As Rick mentioned, from 1967 to 1970, the Rams went 41-11-4 with Gabriel at the helm, finishing with either a first or second-place division finish in that stretch.

    *During Roman’s 89 game Iron man streak, from 11/28/1965 to 9/17/1972 the Rams went 61-23-5 with a .713 winning percentage.

    *Gabriel was a trailblazer and pioneer, being the first Asian-American Filipino Quarterback to star in the NFL and pave the way for other minority football players.

    Roman doesn’t have any rings on his resume which seems to be one of the big hang-ups but should that stop one of the greatest QB’s of his era from being in the HOF? A lot of people out there believe that the story of football wouldn’t be the same without Roman.

    Thank you for your time
    Vinny

    • July 4, 2018
      Reply

      Vinny, very thorough post. Enjoyed talking to you the other night. Keep fighting the good fight.

      • Vinny
        July 4, 2018
        Reply

        Thanks and you got it Clark! Enjoyed chatting with you as well – Happy 4th!

    • Rasputin
      July 5, 2018
      Reply

      Actually Gabriel’s statistical case isn’t as compelling as you indicate. To make the HoF on pure stats without championships QBs typically have to finish ranked in the top 5 and maybe the top 3 in salient metrics. Here’s how Gabriel stacks up against the 7 modern HoF QBs with no championships in the 3 metrics you emphasized (counting AFL stats):

      Rank At Retirement

      Career Passing Yards
      Dan Marino 1st
      Fran Tarkenton 1st
      Y.A. Tittle 1st
      Dan Fouts 2nd
      Warren Moon 3rd
      Sonny Jurgensen 4th
      Roman Gabriel 8th
      Jim Kelly 10th

      Career Passing TDs
      Dan Marino 1st
      Frank Tarkenton 1st
      Y.A Tittle 1st
      Sonny Jurgensen 3rd
      Dan Fouts 4th
      Warren Moon 4th
      Roman Gabriel 9th
      Jim Kelly 13th

      Career Completions
      Dan Marino 1st
      Fran Tarkenton 1st
      Y. A. Tittle 1st
      Dan Fouts 2nd
      Warren Moon 3rd
      Sonny Jurgensen 4th
      Roman Gabriel 6th
      Jim Kelly 8th

      Here’s how they stack up in major efficiency stats:

      Career Passer Rating
      Sonny Jurgensen 1st
      Dan Marino 4th
      Jim Kelly 5th
      Frank Tarkenton 6th
      Y. A. Tittle 7th
      Dan Fouts 13th
      Roman Gabriel 15th
      Warren Moon 22nd

      Career Completion Percentage
      Sonny Jurgensen 2nd
      Jim Kelly 5th
      Dan Marino 5th
      Fran Tarkenton 5th
      Y. A. Tittle 5th
      Dan Fouts 7th
      Warren Moon 20th
      Roman Gabriel 21st

      The only guy worse than Gabriel in your three categories is Jim Kelly, and he’s way better than Gabriel in passer rating and completion percentage. He also took his team to 4 consecutive Super Bowls.

      Now let’s compare Gabriel in your three metrics to several non-HoF QBs with strong resumes whom I chose almost at random from the pool of borderline candidates (it’s not a comprehensive list):

      Career Passing Yards
      John Hadl 3rd
      Jim Hart 3rd
      John Brodie 4th
      Drew Bledsoe 7th
      Ken Anderson 7th
      Roman Gabriel 8th

      Career Passing TDs
      John Hadl 4th
      Ken Anderson 7th
      John Brodie 8th
      Roman Gabriel 9th
      Jim Hart 10th
      Drew Bledsoe 13th

      Career Pass Completions
      John Brodie 2nd
      Ken Anderson 4th
      Jim Hart 4th
      Drew Bledsoe 4th
      Roman Gabriel 6th
      John Hadl 7th

      These comparisons are more revealing than citing nameless HoF QBs, lumping in those who are in Canton for reasons other than volume stats, while failing to make apples to apples comparisons with other non-HoF QBs. While the NFL MVP is impressive it’s also hard to make an accolade argument for Gabriel since he only has 4 Pro Bowls. Many of the other good non-HoF QBs have more.

      I’m not necessarily saying Roman Gabriel should never be in the HoF, but he’s not even the highest priority senior QB and there are other candidates at various positions who are more deserving, plus many of them are older. But it should be comforting that Rams QBs Bob Waterfield, Norm Van Brocklin, and Kurt Warner are all in the HoF. Not sure the franchise is in urgent need of a fourth one.

      That said, I congratulate you on controlling enough online traffic to edge out the Redskins site that often overwhelms these polls when they notice one and link to it even when it’s an obscure, totally undeserving Redskin being advanced. Does that mean you set up the Gabriel FB and Twitter accounts?

      • Anonymous
        July 5, 2018
        Reply

        Rasputin,

        re: “Rank At Retirement” stats

        can you send a link to where you found this?
        thanks

        • Rasputin
          July 5, 2018
          Reply

          The Pro Football Reference leaderboard pages let you pick what year you want to take the ranking for the category being looked at through. So use the player’s final year but be careful. The numbering on the side is misleading because it’s of the number (counting each number once even if it’s a tie), not the players for some reason (probably just an oversight) so you have to do a bit of counting if there are some ties above the player you’re researching. You also need to beware of Otto Graham since PFR mistakenly lumps in his AAFC stats so look up his NFL only stats (let me know if you need help with that) and compensate accordingly.

      • Robert
        July 5, 2018
        Reply

        Why am I not surprised rasputin is the only Debbie downer on Gabriel why do you have to be a Debbie downer

        • Rasputin
          July 6, 2018
          Reply

          I’m not surprised Robert bothers showing up despite having nothing factual or logical to contribute.

      • Vinny
        July 5, 2018
        Reply

        Rasputin,

        Correct, I manage the Twitter and Facebook pages for the Roman Gabriel effort.

        I think at the end of the day, the obvious uphill battle is the current senior inductee process that is in place which I think most would agree. There are too many seniors that are HOF worthy and not enough spots per year to go around for inductions.

        I’m leading an effort for Roman Gabriel as I and many others believe that his impact on the game was tremendous and the sport’s story would be different without him. Gabriel was a larger than life athlete that helped transform a losing franchise into a winning one. He was one of the most durable and productive quarterbacks of his generation playing against some of the toughest defenses in league history. He was a pioneer and trailblazer being the first Asian-American Filipino QB to star in the league. I believe that all of those elements should carry weight in his Hall of Fame case.

        You raise excellent and valid points. Historically, that maybe the case that QBs typically have finished in the top 5 and maybe the top 3 in salient metrics but nowhere does it say that it’s a requirement. I’m a firm believer that rings solely aren’t a good measure to determine ones career Hall of Fame worthy and I know others may disagree. Football is a team sport and a championship ring is a team’s accomplishment, not an individual one. Hall of Fame recognition is an individual award recognizing an individual player’s career and their impact to the game. Roman Gabriel was one of the best quarterbacks to play in his era. Let’s look at some of those stats compared to Hall of Fame quarterbacks from similar eras.

        Roman Gabriel (1962-1977)
        Len Dawson (1957-1974)
        Joe Namath (1965-1977)
        Bart Starr (1956-1971)
        Fran Tarkenton (1961-1978)
        Roger Staubach (1969-1979)
        Johnny Unitas (1956-1973)
        Terry Bradshaw (1970-1983)
        Ken Stabler (1970-1984)
        Bob Griese (1967-1980)

        Roman Gabriel has more passing yards then Len Dawson, Joe Namath, Bart Starr, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Ken Stabler and Bob Griese

        Roman Gabriel has more touchdown passes then Joe Namath, Bart Starr, Roger Staubach, Ken Stabler and Bob Griese

        Roman Gabriel has more completions then Len Dawson, Joe Namath, Bart Starr, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Ken Stabler and Bob Griese

        Roman Gabriel has a better TD to INT ratio then Len Dawson, Joe Namath, Bart Starr, Fran Tarkenton, Johnny Unitas, Terry Bradshaw, Ken Stabler and Bob Griese

        One can say that Gabriel has better numbers then several QBs with rings and lesser numbers then most of the QBs without rings in the HOF. I’m not trying to prove that Gabriel is better than all of the QBs in the Hall of Fame. My argument is that Gabriel’s resume carries just as much weight compared to several QBs in the HOF and deserves recognition. I think it speaks volumes on how many people are continuing to come out and show support for Gabriel’s name to be called.

        • Rasputin
          July 6, 2018
          Reply

          I agree completely that there aren’t enough senior slots, especially given that the HoF started too late (in the 1960s) to fully deal with the first few decades of NFL history and has been playing catch up and failing ever since. I also understand that you don’t attach great importance to SB rings when it comes to HoF arguments, even for QBs. But the fact is that HoF voters DO and always have attached great importance to rings. They see QB as the position that impacts team results the most, and thus QBs’ legacies are most impacted by championships. With your new list above, which to your credit does explicitly list names, the QBs you’re comparing Gabriel with are ALL SB WINNERS (some won multiple times) except for Tarkenton, who eclipses Gabriel statistically having retired ranked 1st in career yards, 1st in TDs, and 1st in completions, and way ahead of Gabriel in passer rating and completion percentage.

          So you’re making volume career stats comparisons with QBs who AREN’T IN CANTON BECAUSE OF VOLUME CAREER STATS, leaving out the QBs I cited who are in based on such stats. I don’t see the value in such a comparison or exactly what you’re seeking to prove. I think career volume stats are overrated anyway (similar to your view of SB titles), as they’re largely dictated by what system a team runs and how long a player stays healthy and hangs around (I’d take Staubach, who retired ranked #1 in NFL history in career passer rating and with two SB rings he was critical in winning, but who had a shorter starting career than most due to his military service, over any other 70s QB any day). But I recognize that several QBs are in because of their volume stats, so when I’m considering a player’s HoF worthiness I try to make apples to apples comparisons. That’s why I also compared Gabriel to several other non-HoF QBs. That shows he’s not a unique omission or necessarily the most deserving QB not already in.

          Ken Anderson is the QB most talked about as a borderline HoFer and the one I would prioritize over others at that position. In addition to outranking Gabriel in yards, TDs, and completions, he also led the NFL in passer rating 4 years and completion percentage 3 years. He made 4 Pro Bowls, 1 AP first team All Pro, and was NFL MVP (like Gabriel), and was even Walter Payton Man of the Year. He put the recent expansion Bengals on the map, won their first playoff victories, and led them to their first Super Bowl. He’s STILL the Bengals’ all time passing yardage leader and is easily more important to that franchise than Gabriel was to the Rams. The Rams had just had 2 different HoF QBs in the not too distant past when Gabriel came along in the early 60s, they having won championships in the 40s and 50s, one of them with a record setting offense in 1951.

          John Hadl made 6 Pro Bowls, 1 first team All Pro, and was Walter Payton Man of the Year. He also eclipsed Gabriel in yards, TDs, and completions, though his efficiency stats weren’t quite as good. Hadl was even a Ram for a couple of years and made his first team All Pro there in 73 the season after Gabriel left for Philadelphia.

          That said, I think Gabriel was a good QB (side note-I defended him a while back in a tangent in a long debate with another poster) and I agree that you raise some legitimate points in his favor in HoF discussions (not the “Asian-American” thing; I don’t think identity politics should have any weight in evaluating players; I’m also not sure why you credit him for turning the Rams back into a winning team while dismissing SB wins because it’s a “team sport”).

          My point is that you can’t just compare Gabriel to HoFers, especially ones who are in for reasons other than the categories you’re comparing. We have to compare him to other potential candidates. That’s the point of an exercise like this. I put Gabriel below Anderson but he’s roughly in the mix with guys like Hadl, John Brodie, Jim Hart, Drew Bledsoe, Norm Snead, Randall Cunningham, and maybe Jack Kemp (7 Pro Bowls, 2 AFL titles, AFL Player of the Year). Though in comparisons with most of those guys you’d need to emphasize his efficiency stats more than his volume stats since they trump him on the latter. Those are just QBs.

          Numerous players from other positions like Chuck Howley, Johnny Robinson, Cliff Harris, Jimmy Patton, Mac Speedie, and Al Wistert just to name a few are far more deserving of Canton than Roman Gabriel is. In fact it’s easy to argue that Gabriel is one of the least deserving people in this very poll. Some of them, like Howley and Robinson, are in their 80s and still alive so there should be greater urgency involved.

          Chuck Howley is the only player with 5 AP first team NFL All Pro selections in the 20th Century Super Bowl era who’s not already in the HoF. The other 9 are in (apples to apples). He was also Super Bowl MVP and accounted for multiple key turnovers in another Super Bowl. He ranks 2nd in NFL history among LBs with 43 career takeaways and he’s in the exclusive 20/20 sack/interception club. He had 7 different accolade years. Howley even had a revolutionary impact as the NFL’s first weak-side LB, his success causing Landry’s innovation to spread around the league. He’s the greatest LB in Cowboys history and, despite being a storied franchise, Dallas currently has zero LBs in Canton. Despite all that Howley has never even been a finalist and gotten to have his case heard. That’s mostly due to the anti-Cowboys bias that set in across the media partly as a backlash against the “America’s Team” thing in the early 80s and ran strong well into the 2000s. An anti-Cowboys clique still exists though it seems to have diminished in recent years. Correcting that glaring historical injustice, preferably while Howley is still around to enjoy it, should be a priority even for non-Cowboys fans.

          What people coming out to show support for Gabriel “speaks to” is that you’ve done a good job organizing Rams fans on his behalf. It also speaks to the impact one or two well placed links can have on a non-scientific online poll. I would just caution that it’s even more important to make sure one is organizing people for the right cause.

          • Rasputin
            July 6, 2018

            Meant Howley’s 43 takeaways rank 2nd among OLBs in NFL history.

          • Vinny
            July 9, 2018

            Rasputin,

            All stat comparisons/arguments that you mention are all valid and great points. As you said, if the HOF doesn’t get off to a late start (in the 1960s) to fully deal with the first few decades of NFL history, perhaps we wouldn’t be having this conversation and Gabriel would have made it into the HOF before falling into the Senior process. I understand that the voters place a great importance on championships. One of my arguments was to compare Gabriel to other QBs that he battled against week in and week out during the same era to show that his body of work (volume stats) is up to par to the other QBs putting championships to the side.

            I agree with you that one of the ways to go is to emphasize his efficiency stats vs. his volume stats with that being one of his strongest attributes. I think it’s also a good idea to not just compare him to HOFers but to compare him to the other HOF candidates.

            I understand the reason to rank players by position and who are most deserving because of the limited amount of spots per year. Each of the players being discussed are all qualified and HOF worthy. I think that each player has their own unique story and case to be heard for HOF consideration that the committee will vote on and induct the player that see is most fit at the time. I do believe that Gabriel deserves to be in the Hall of Fame just as much as any of the candidates being discussed. That is why I started an effort for Roman. Not only are Rams fans getting behind the effort but many others that have followed, worked, covered, played and coached this great game that we all love.

  4. Irene SIMMONS
    July 4, 2018
    Reply

    Roman Gabriel was one of the all time GREAT quarterbacks! If ever someone deserved to be in the NFL Hall of Fame, it is definitely him.

    So many people want to see this happen for Gabe!

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