There are plenty of people in and around the NFL who wonder why former Bengals’ quarterback Ken Anderson isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And it’s a valid question.
Because he’s qualified.
He was a former league MVP. He was a Comeback Player of the Year. He took the Bengals to their first Super Bowl. He led the NFL in passing four times, in passing yardage twice and set a single-season completion record in 1981 that stood for 27 years until Drew Brees broke it.
When he retired, he ranked sixth all-time in passing yardage and today not only ranks seventh in playoff passer ratings but holds at least 31 Bengals’ passing records. He was a Hall-of-Fame finalist twice, but the last time was 1998, and nothing happened then … or since.
So, all together, Bengals’ fans: Why isn’t Ken Anderson in Canton?
“I don’t know,” Anderson said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “I guess because we didn’t win the Super Bowl. I’ve heard a lot of people say that; that had we won the game against San Francisco (Super Bowl XVI) maybe my chances would have been a lot better. Other than that, I don’t know.
“I’ve heard that maybe (it’s because) we play in a small market, and we weren’t exposed to the New Yorks, the Chicagos, the Washington, D.C.’s on a regular basis. I don’t know, and, to be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.”
That’s fine. But a lot of people do, especially Bengals’ fans. Of the modern-era quarterbacks not in Canton, Anderson and former New England and Oakland star Jim Plunkett are at the head of the class — with Plunkett winning two Super Bowls.
Which raises the question: Should Super Bowls be a measuring stick for Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks? Anderson hinted at it, and it’s always a topic of discussion when quarterbacks are candidates. In fact, of the modern-era quarterbacks who could have played in Super Bowls … or on teams that were in Super Bowls … only two — Dan Fouts and Warren Moon — never made it to the championship game.
Anderson made it once. Plunkett made it twice.
“I think it’s more pronounced when you look at who’s in the Hall of Fame, perhaps, or who may go in when they talk about quarterbacks and championships,” said Anderson. “And I think they talk about that with the quarterback position more than any other position. Of course, when you start talking coaches I think it’s that way as well.
“Certainly the guys that are in … I always say, ‘Who’s the greatest quarterback of all time?’ They talk, of course, Brady now with his number of Super Bowls. And Montana and Bradshaw. But I go back to Otto Graham. What was he in the last game of the year? Ten times and won seven? Nobody compares with that.”
Graham retired after a string of 10 straight championship games, winning his seventh in 1955. Talked out of retirement that year, he went on to become the league MVP and winner of the Hickok Belt, awarded annually to the professional athlete of the year. He retired after leading Cleveland to a 38-14 defeat of the L.A. Rams in the championship game and was inducted into the Hall in 1965.