State Your Case: John Brodie

John Brodie photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers
(Photos courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers)

By Rick Gosselin

Talk of Fame Network

In 1970, the AFL and NFL officially merged, blending their 26 teams.

There were 1,040 players in the league that season — and John Brodie was selected the best of the bunch.

Brodie was voted the NFL’s most valuable player after winning his first passing crown and leading the San Francisco 49ers to the first division title in their 21-year history. Brodie led the league with his 2,941 passing yards and 24 touchdowns and his 49ers reached the NFC title game.

Brodie played for 17 years, all with the 49ers, and retired after the 1973 season. Only two quarterbacks had passed for more yards than Brodie at the time he walked away — Johnny Unitas and Fran Tarkenton. Both are in the Hall of Fame. Brodie has never even been discussed as a finalist.

If you are considered the very best player in the league in any given season, shouldn’t you merit 15 minutes of discussion to determine where you rank among the best players of all time? Brodie was selected a better quarterback in 1970 than Unitas, Tarkenton, Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Len Dawson, Bob Griese, Sonny Jurgensen and Joe Namath. Only Brodie of the nine is not enshrined in Canton.

Brodie is one of 11 quarterbacks selected as an NFL MVP who do not have busts in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is joined by Ken Anderson, Charlie Conerly, Boomer Esiason, Roman Gabriel, Bert Jones, Earl Morrall, Brian Sipe, Ken Stabler, Joe Theismann and Kurt Warner. But at least Anderson, Conerly, Stabler and Warner have all been finalists and subject to that discussion.

Brodie has been eligible for election for 37 years now without his name ever coming up. He’s been in the senior pool for the last 12 years where again his name hasn’t generated any momentum.

And that’s a shame.

Maybe Brodie isn’t Hall of Fame  quality. Maybe he belongs in the Hall of Very Good. But he deserves discussion from the Hall of Fame selection committee to make that final determination. A player is not a candidate for the Hall of Fame until he becomes a finalist. John Brodie is still waiting.

Brodie needs to make no apologies for his career. He played during a Golden Age of quarterbacking. Eleven of the 23 modern-era quarterbacks enshrined in Canton played during the 1960s. Yet Brodie led the NFL in passing yards three times and in touchdowns twice.

Brodie’s problem was talent.Not his but his team’s. These weren’t the Bill Walsh-Joe Montana 49ers. These 49ers didn’t win. Brodie played for four different coaches during his career as the 49ers kept shuffling a deck that could never produce a winning hand (and few winning seasons). He didn’t take a snap in a playoff game until his 14th season in 1970.

Brodie played the bulk of his career during an era when there weren’t eight division champions and four wild cards. There was one team to beat in each conference back then and San Francisco could never beat them. The 49ers chased the Baltimore Colts unsuccessfully in the late 1950s and the Green Bay Packers throughout the 1960s.

When the 49ers finally fielded a team that could compete for championships, Brodie quarterbacked San Francisco to back-to-back division titles and back-to-back NFC title games in 1970-71. But both times the 49ers fell to the Cowboys in a pair of low-scoring games (17-10 in 1970, 14-3 in 1971). Had the 49ers won either of those games, my guess is Brodie’s name would have already been in the room for discussion.

Brodie now ranks 37th on the all-time passing list with his 31,548 yards. Dawson, Bradshaw, Namath, Griese, Starr and Roger Staubach are all enshrined in Canton with fewer passing yards. But all of them won championships. Brodie didn’t. So he waits. And waits. And waits.

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  1. July 28, 2015

    If the criteria for getting nominated (much less inducted) into the National Football League’s Hall of Fame) is winning championships, John Brodie may be waiting for a much longer time. Tom Flores, winning coach of two super bowls for the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders football team, and one as an Assistant to John Madden who only won one super bowl in 1977 (plus another super bowl ring for backing quarterback Len Dawson, winner of Super Bowl 1V), obviously should have been inducted the HOF by now.

    It appears that great accomplishments in the pro football arena matter little to today’s HOF voters, as long as they vote for pro football heroes they can remember after the 1980’s; just like recently inducted players like Warren Sapp.

    Makes one wonder!

    Joe Ortiz, President
    The Official Tom Flores Fan Club

  2. Mike avolio
    July 28, 2015

    I agree both Tom Flores and Brodie belong in the Hall…

    I believe today’s voters are clueless as to the skills of the older players and therefore never give them a thought. ..

    The Senior Voters need to get over themselves, and stop this BS stance of exclusivity and put in worthy players / coaches.. ( exg., Mike Curtis, Jerry Kramer, Robert Brazile, ,Flores, Brodie and many more…

  3. July 28, 2015

    I praise Mr. Gosselin, because he really has “pushed” here for John Brodie’s induction into the Pro Football HOF!

    As a long time advocate for John Brodie’s induction, I have been for several years sending in John Brodie nomination letters to the Senior Player Selection Committee (the letters need to be in my June 1st). So stressing to anyone: If you feel John Brodie should be inducted, then send letters in!

    Send Letters To: Pro Football HOF
    2121 George Halas Drive N W
    Canton, Ohio 44708
    Attn: Senior Selection Committee

    To further support the validity for John Brodie’s induction. There are two q.b.’s whom are indeed members of the Pro Football HOF, Y.A.. Tittle and Sonny Jurgensen, (without titles as their team’s starting q.b.’s) as the case is with John Brodie,(their statistics are similar to Brodie and Jurgensen was never a MVP), so this is further justification for John Brodie’s induction!

    WHEN IT COMES TO DETERMINING IF JOHN BRODIE IS WORTHY FOR INDUCTION: He was a prolific passer even in the era of “conservative offenses”(he certainly did not have access to the “elaborate” offenses of today) ranked statistically with the top q.b’s of his time, (many of whom are in the HOF) overcame many obstacles, including playing in the NFL’s Western Conference, which in the 1960’s produced the NFL Champion eight times, and unlike Len Dawson who played in the “fledgling AFL” in the early 1960’s, who had tougher defenses to face: Was it John Brodie, playing in the well established NFL, facing the (Lombardi) Packers, Colts, Bears, Lions, Rams, Vikings, or was it Len Dawson facing the 1962 Denver Broncos!

    Don’t mean to downgrade Tittle’s, Jurgensen’s or for that matter Dawson’s validity for the HOF, but I had make my point for John Brodie’s induction!

    I can go on and on for John Brodie, but will end this by stating: “It’s John Brodie’s time to become a member of the Pro Football HOF!”

  4. Angelo J. Ghio
    July 28, 2015

    I certainly praise Mr. Gosselin for his “push” here for John Brodie’s induction into the Pro
    Football HOF!

    I have been a long time advocate for John Brodie’s cause.

    I have for several years sent in letters of nomination for John Brodie to the HOF.

    Letters can be sent to: Pro Football HOF
    2121 George Halas Drive N W
    Canton, Ohio 44708
    Attn: Senior Selection Committee

    Letters need to be sent in by June 1st, so anyone wishing for John Brodie inducted, write in!

    I agree with Mr. Gosselin, “It’s John Brodie’s time to be inducted into the Pro Football HOF!

  5. bachslunch
    March 19, 2016

    The most glaring Senior QB oversight is Ken Anderson. But once he gets in, both John Brodie and Roman Gabriel have arguably the best HoF cases.

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