State Your Case: It’s time we talked about Roman Gabriel


Roman Gabriel photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Rams

Hard to believe, but since Norm Van Brocklin left the Rams in 1958 there’s only one Los Angeles Rams’ quarterback who played more than two seasons with the club that I’d consider Hall-of-Fame worthy … and, no, his name is not Kurt Warner.

He played in St. Louis, not L.A. It’s not Jim Everett or James Harris, either. Or Vince Ferragamo, Zeke Bratkowski, Pat Haden or Bill Wade.

So who’s left? Try Roman Gabriel.

All the guy did was lead the Rams a 41-11-4 record in four consecutive years where he three times was named to the Pro Bowl and voted the league’s MVP. Then, after leaving the Rams for Philadelphia, he was the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in 1973 — a season when he was named to his fourth Pro Bowl and led the league with 3,219 yards and 23 touchdown passes.

But that’s not all. From 1966-72, he had 22 rushing touchdowns. So what? So it was more than any other Ram, and his 30 career rushing scores were more than any other quarterback anywhere during his 16-year career (1962-77).

When he retired, he ranked as the Rams’ all-time leader in touchdown passes, completions and yards passing. Furthermore, he still holds the team’s TD record … 46 years after playing his last game with L.A. Want more? We have it. He had a winning record (86-64-7) for his career and was 11-11-1 from 1962-65. And why is that significant? Because the other Rams’ quarterbacks from 1962-65 were a combined 4-27-1.

He twice led the league in scoring passes, is the only quarterback from his era to rank high among all-time quarterbacks in lowest interception percentage and played in 89 consecutive games — the highest among quarterbacks of the 1960s. Plus, there are social implications, with Gabriel the first Pacific islander to start at quarterback in the NFL. Gabriel is of Filipino descent.

What’s missing, of course, is a championship ring, but no sweat. Dan Fouts doesn’t have one. Neither does Warren Moon. And it didn’t keep them out of Canton. It didn’t keep George Allen out, either, and he was Gabriel’s coach in L.A.

In fact, when Allen took over for Harland Svare in 1966, one of the first moves he made was to make Gabriel his starting quarterback. Result: Gabriel started all 14 games, and the Rams went on to their first winning season (they were 8-6) since 1958.

The following year they were 11-1-2 and won their division. In 1968, they were 10-3-1 and second in the Western Conference’s Central Division. Then they were 11-3, followed by 9-4-1 in 1970. Granted, that’s a relatively small window of success, but small sample sizes qualify for Hall-of-Fame conversations ever since the induction of Terrell Davis last summer.

And that’s what I’m calling for here.

Look, do I think Roman Gabriel was the best quarterback of his time? No, I don’t. John Unitas was. But he was among the best, with a strong and accurate arm, durability and a knack for making those around him better. He did it in L.A., and he did it in Philadelphia.

I keep hearing people say he deserves to have his case heard by Hall-of-Fame voters, and, yes, I’d say he does. Just as Ken Anderson and Jim Plunkett deserve to have their candidacies heard. Like Plunkett, Gabriel has been neither a finalist or a semifinalist, meaning he’s never been discussed by selectors.

And that’s a shame.

Granted, he’s a longshot for Canton. Quarterbacks that didn’t win a playoff game aren’t on anybody’s short list. But a quarterback who twice led the NFL in touchdown passes, was a league MVP, put his team back on the map and was durable, accurate and successful should at least be heard.

And that’s Roman Gabriel.

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12 Comments

  1. Rob
    May 15, 2018
    Reply

    Clark, the Qb’s who are in the Senior Pool, I would assume Ken Anderson has the best shot of getting nominated by the senior pool? Any update for the senior’s for the 100th Anniversary?

  2. May 15, 2018
    Reply

    Attn:
    NFL
    PFHOF
    48 Selectors/Voters

    Must Read article by PFHOF Selector/Voter – Clark Judge

    Please cross-reference each point Mr Judge makes not only for
    Roman Gabriel
    but also PRECEDENCE HAS BEEN SET for both
    TOM FLORES
    &
    JIM PLUNKETT

    Fact:
    “Plus, there are SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS, with Gabriel the first Pacific islander to start at quarterback in the NFL. Gabriel is of Filipino descent”

    Fact:
    “What’s missing, of course, is a championship ring, BUT NO SWEAT. Dan Fouts doesn’t have one. Neither does Warren Moon. And it didn’t keep them out of Canton. It didn’t keep George Allen out, either, and he was Gabriel’s coach in L.A.

    Fact:
    “SMALL SAMPLE SIZES QUALIFY for Hall-of-Fame conversations ever since the induction of Terrell Davis last summer”

    Fact:
    “And that’s what I’m calling for here.
    I keep hearing people say he deserves to have his case heard by Hall-of-Fame voters, and, yes, I’d say he does.
    Just as Ken Anderson and
    JIM PLUNKETT DESERVE to have their candidacies heard.
    Like those two quarterbacks, Gabriel has been neither a finalist or a semifinalist, meaning he’s never been discussed by selectors”

    Fact:
    “AND THAT’S A SHAME”

  3. bachslunch
    May 15, 2018
    Reply

    No question Roman Gabriel remains one of the top QB HoF candidates. The best not in by far is Kenny Anderson, but Gabriel and John Brodie constitute the two best not inducted after Anderson.

    • May 15, 2018
      Reply

      Not Plunkett? Agree with you on Anderson, but Plunkett’s two Super Bowls must count for something.

    • Robert ewing
      May 22, 2018
      Reply

      I concur bachslunch 100%

  4. Donna C Dunn
    May 15, 2018
    Reply

    Let’s do our best to get Gabe into the HOF. He deserves consideration. He is a very gracious and compassionate man. All these years later he still hosts a golf tournament for charity, with the proceeds going to Disabled veterans and police and fire departments. Good man, good upbring, good manners. Such a gentleman.
    Thank you for your consideration.

  5. bachslunch
    May 15, 2018
    Reply

    Clark, I’m honestly not sold on the idea of Plunkett as a HoFer. He did win two titles, but so did Tommy Thompson, Tobin Rote, and Jack Kemp. And he ranks horribly as a regular season QB — in Kiran Rasaretnam’s system his ranks for best 4/7/10 seasons are really dismal at 134th/90th/50th (out of 161st/95th/50th) and doesn’t even appear on Chase Stuart’s ranking list at all. No HoF QB even approaches this level of futility, except for perhaps 4-title winner Terry Bradshaw who has a 4/7/10 of 101st/74th/45th and 58th in Stuart’s rankings.

    By contrast Gabriel’s 4/7/10 is 21st/17th/15th, Brodie’s is 35th/23rd/16th, Rote’s is 70th/66th/43rd, Kemp’s is 112th/88th/n/r, and Thompson’s is 42nd/46th/n/r in Rasaretnam’s system. Gabriel is also 28th, Brodie is 17th, Thompson is 55th, and Rote ranks 139th in Stuart’s system. Kemp doesn’t show up on Stuart’s listings at all, either.

    I’m fine with Gabriel, Brodie, possibly Thompson, and maybe Rote for the HoF if you’re really squinting hard and stretching it. Wish Plunkett had better regular season stats — but regrettably in fact, he’s not even as good as super-sub Earl Morrall who ranks 56th with Stuart and 105th in best-4 with Rasaretnam. Or at least that’s what the adjusted stats I see say. YMMV.

  6. Jeff
    May 15, 2018
    Reply

    I don’t think Plunkett is a hall of famer, by any stretch. Fine QB with two great postseason runs, but was he ever named to a single pro bowl, much less an all-pro team? Was there ever a year where he was considered among the top 5 QBs in the game? I mean no disrespect, but I just don’t see it. I’m not sold on Gabriel as a Hall of Famer, but I do agree that he and Brodie and especially Anderson are at the top of the list of QBs in the senior pool. I think Anderson would be the best pick among the three.

    • May 15, 2018
      Reply

      Agree. He would. But he’s not on any short list for seniors committee. Not sure why.

  7. Bill
    May 15, 2018
    Reply

    Roman deserves HOF honors. Mention John Unites and Roman G. are
    talked about ”in the same breath”. Personally, I copied their styles as I
    started my QB career. But, his records speak for themselves.

  8. Scott Dochterman
    May 18, 2018
    Reply

    I’m glad you wrote and spoke about Roman Gabriel. Not sure he’s a Hall of Famer, but he’s worthy of discussion.

    I dig your series discussing the biggest HOF whiffs with local reporters. They’ve been interesting and informative.

    But I do think there’s too much discussion about the AFL, in particular the All-AFL team. I know it was an oasis in a desert in terms of style and energy, but it was only a decade and in reality, the AFL was in little shape to compete with NFL teams for the first five years. It’s really not different from discussing overlooked players from an All-AFC team in the 1980s, except quality players competed all 10 years.

    I covered the Chiefs for six years and frankly, they were overrepresented on the All-AFL team. They were a wild-card team the year they won the Super Bowl. That’s not taking anything away from Johnny Robinson, who deserves induction, but he would make six KC defenders from the 1969 team in Canton. Heck, the Steel Curtain only has four Hall of Famers and the Cowboys have only three from their five Super Bowls teams in the 1970s.

    When it came to the Chiefs, I was hoping to hear more banter and discussion about Neil Smith, Priest Holmes and Brian Waters cases with Covitz.

    I do listen to your show every week and enjoy it very much.

  9. bachslunch
    May 20, 2018
    Reply

    In fairness, the Steel Curtain teams could easily reach six players (add L.C. Greenwood and Donnie Shell as options), while the 70s Cowboys could easily reach five (Cliff Harris, Chuck Howley).

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