10 Quarterbacks I Would Take Before Aikman in Canton
Regardless of the bias that every sports fan has, one of the most controversial figures in the Pro Football Hall of Fame has been Troy Aikman.
More frustrating is his first ballot induction instead of an induction five years down the road.
There are viable arguments for the Tom Brady of the 1990s so to speak, but I just don't buy them.
Statistics aren't everything, (ask Dan Marino or Dan Fouts) but wins alone cannot be the sole merit for judging a quarterback.
As I argued in my first article on BR, the quarterback position is the most glorified position in the NFL.
While it could be the most important position, but only by a very small margin, the quarterback can be better argued as a product of a system 90 percent of the time.
It's how important of a component in that system a player was that shows his true greatness.
I don't believe Aikman was a great quarterback.
The following slides will showcase the ten quarterbacks I would replace Aikman with; they are based on how many years they have been eligible, their statistics, winning percentage, league accolades, and how important they were for their team/teams.
10. Rich Gannon
Yes, I dare.
This is Gannon's first year of eligibility and that's good enough for me.
Gannon was named first team All-Pro twice to Aikman's zero and won League MVP in 2002.
His career statistics don't jump out, but in the 132 starts he made, he was able to win 76 games and put up 180 TDs (to Aikman's 165 in 165 starts) to only 104 INTs (Aikman had 141).
What's more is Gannon's mobility.
521 times he opted to run out of the pocket, gaining a total of 2,449 yards and breaking the endzone 21 times for a TD.
Even more impressive is how he attained 529 rushing yards in the 2000 season at the age of 35.
He lead his team to the playoffs seven times, posting a playoff record of 5-5.
Note one of those losses came in the Tuck Rule game.
Now why would I put Gannon in place of Aikman?
It's a close call, don't get me wrong...but Gannon, in his 30 games shorter career, was a more prolific pass and rush threat than Aikman.
He usually did not have as great of an O-Line as Troy, getting sacked an average of 2.28 times a game, to Aikman's 1.56
And keep in mind Aikman had Emmitt to hand off the ball.
Aikman had a slower release than Gannon, and if you want any proof of how fragile Aikman was—look at Super Bowl XXX, the one the Boys won on Neil O'Donnell's INT bug (almost giving up a 20-7 fourth quarter lead).
9. Boomer Esiason
Ah yes, the essential career totals QB.
Love him or hate him, Esiason had a long and pretty fruitful career. Even with his stat totals, he would not be on here were it not for what he did aside from stats in terms of wins and accolades.
Boomer won the league MVP in 1988 and led the Bengals to the Super Bowl where Montana led The Drive and won the game with under a minute to go.
I honestly believe, had Esiason won that Super Bowl he'd be a Hall of Famer simply because, had the Bengals won it all, maybe they would not have receded as they did.
Esiason would have scored more playoff points.
In reality, he went 3-2 in the playoffs.
However, he did revive the New York Jets his first season there, making the Pro Bowl.
The Jets were 4-12 but improved to 8-8 with Esiason.
The good times could not last, but he did try his best.
In his 173 starts, Boomer compiled almost 38,000 yards and 247 TDs with 184 TDs, a better ratio than Aikman, and Esiason seldom had a reliable rush threat from his backs.
He passed for over 3,400 yards in a season five times because he had to.
Although his 93 losses in his 173 starts might make him look worse than Aikman, I assure you Aikman would get destroyed had he played on the teams Esiason played.
Half of his career was wasted, sadly.
He's been eligible for seven years.
8. Joe Theismann
Theismann is a legend, and rightfully so, in his Warner like story.
Theismann assumed the starter role for the Redskins in 1978 at the age of 29. He became a formidable offensive threat soon enough, both in the run and pass.
Theismann won 77 games in his 124 starts, leading the Skins to a Super Bowl victory in 1982 and back to the big game in 1983.
He won every big award in that 1983 season including League MVP and Offensive Player of the year (despite Riggin's 24 TDs).
He also won the Bert Bell Award in 1982.
Theismann's career totals are similar to Aikman's in 160 TDs (to Aikman's 165) and 138 INTs (to Aikman's 141).
However, the 160 TDs came in over 40 games less, and the somewhat heavy INT total came in a different era than Aikman's, see Bradshaw.
But, don't forget the rush stats.
Theismann ran 355 times for 1,815 yards and 17 TDs, not forgetting he became full starter at 29. Aikman, in comparison, had Emmitt Smith to do the running.
Both players had a great offensive line, but I give the edge to Theismann for greatness because the career stats are similar despite more play time on Aikman's part, and the age factor cannot be ignored.
When AIkman was suffering concussions that led him to retire at age 34, Theismann was hitting his prime.
Eligible for almost 20 years.
7. Dave Krieg
This may surprise you, but I believe Krieg is the most underrated QB in the history of the game.
Now true, I did not see much of the guy play, but I have talked to my share of older folks and they agree Krieg was one of those QBs who played under the radar, but good.
He didn't lose you games, and it shows by his career stat line.
In 175 starts Krieg won 98 regular season games, four more than Aikman.
Krieg rarely had the luxury of playing on a top team, and still in 16 seasons of starting, four more than Aikman.
Krieg only had three losing seasons, including one where he went 0-2 and another where he went 4-5. The only full season that he ended with more losses than wins was on the Cardinals in 1995.
He finished 4-12 and still managed to only throw 21 INTs in the face of the worst offensive line that season as he led the league in taking sacks, 53.
Krieg had nine seasons of taking 30 or more sacks...talk about getting yourself back on your feet.
Even so, Krieg ended his career with one of the best TD/INT ratios ever for QBs having thrown 200+ TDs as he threw 261 TDs to 199 INTs.
Krieg led the league in TD percentage three times, and furthermore on wins and losses he managed to only lose 77 games, noting the Seahawks and Cardinals teams he played for.
In the playoffs Dave was 5-7.
Some other things to note is how he led the Chiefs to a 10-6 record in 1991 before they got Montana, who only got them one more win.
Krieg was shortchanged in 1994 as a member of the Lions, you know, the Barry Sanders Lions?
Scott Mitchell was playing in his fourth season in the NFL, and first as the Lions starter.
He went 4-5 and threw 10 TDs to 11 INTs. He was injured for the rest of the season in Game Nine.
Krieg came in and did his job, going 5-2 and impressively throwing 14 TDs in seven starts to only three INTs for a QB rating of 101.7.
Krieg's Lions ended up losing in the Wild Card round 16-12 in a defensive struggle to the Packers. And Dave Krieg was let go to Free Agency as Lions management decided to stick with Scott Mitchell.
And thus was the career of one Dave Krieg.
Take from it what you will, but I feel he would have won those Super Bowls with the Cowboys the same as Aikman.
He did not, instead he showed his leadership skills with three different teams and his toughness.
Eligible for over a decade now.
6. Roman Gabriel
You may not remember him, well who am I kidding, probably less than 10 percent of people reading this will remember who Roman Gabriel was.
The fact is, he was a great QB with one of the most powerful arms in NFL history if you look at the film footage anyway.
His career spanned from 1962-1976 as a starter.
The most important aspects of his career you must know are the following:
League MVP 1969.
Lead league in TDs twice.
And the most impressive...he never threw more than 16 INTs in a season and finished with only 149 in 157 starts, simply unheard of for that era—see Bradshaw, Hadl, and Tarkenton.
His 86 wins to 64 losses also looks good.
He won Comeback Player of the Year award in 1973.
In the playoffs, Gabriel went 0-2, sad to say, but back in those days the playoffs were not as extensive as today.
In 1968, for example, Gabriel's Rams finished 10-3-1, but only the top two teams in the league played for the Championship, those being the 13-1 Colts and 12-2 Cowboys.
How does this compare to Aikman?
Well, Aikman never won League MVP and threw just eight less picks in an era where QBs like Steve Young finished with only 107 INTs.
Okay, okay, Young is a bad example.
But you understand that 149 INTs in a career that spanned the 60s and 70s where it was common for QBs to finish with more INTs than TDs is quite an incredible feat.
John Hadl, for example, finished with 268 INTs to 244 TDs.
Gabriel has been eligible for almost three decades.
5. Ken Anderson
So now we get into efficiency, that's one of the arguments Aikman supporters give to his Hall of Fame legitimacy, but let's analyze.
Aikman led the league in completion percentage only once and in INT percentage also only once.
Ken Anderson, meanwhile, led the league in those categories three times and in total passing yards twice as well.
Anderson won every major award in 1982, including League MVP, and led his Bengals to the Super Bowl where he lost to Joe Montana as part of the greatest goal line stand ever.
Anderson won 91 regular season games in 172 starts, threw for 197 TDs to 160 INTs and ran for 2,220 yards, and 20 TDs.
To understand Anderson's greatness, you would have to understand what he meant for the Cincinnati Bengals organization.
The team did regroup with Esiason, but Anderson was a great leader and precision passer for his time.
Eligible for nearly 20 years.
4. Phil Simms
So you want a winner right? Aikman fans point to him being a perennial winner, but so was SImms. In a career that saw 159 starts, Simms won 95 games and lost 64, with Aikman winning 94 and losing 71.
The stat line favors Simms in that he threw 34 TDs, albeit 16 more INTs as well, but also over 1,500 more yards passing.
Now the clincher is the man's playoff record.
Simms was a good playoff performer.
In his career he went 6-4 with two of those losses coming on the heels of, in my opinion, the two greatest teams of all time—the 1984 San Francisco 49ers and the 1985 Chicago Bears.
Both teams finished 18-1 and dominated their seasons.
Simms won a Super Bowl MVP as Aikman did, but unlike Aikman who beat a Bills team that lost its starting QB, Simms beat a Broncos team led by Elway and went 22 of 25 for 268 yards and three TDs.
Now, the main reasons I'd put Simms over Aikman is Simms retired seven seasons before Aikman with pretty much the same quality career, except again noting Aikman's superior offensive line.
Aikman was sacked 30+ times in a season thrice, while Simms was sacked ten times, including three seasons of 50+ sacks.
The man was much tougher than Aikman ever was, and probably would have won a second Super Bowl as starter had he not been injured n the 1990 season.
3. Daryle Lamonica
Aikman was not the ultimate winner as some people have put him.
Yes, aside from Brady and guys like Montana, the greatest winning QB of all time was none other than Otto Graham.
However, Lamonica in his day was not far off.
First off, the only reason the guy isn't in the Hall of Fame is because the Pro Football Hall of Fame is owned by the NFL, and they are too stubborn to change the name to the NFL Hall of Fame because that's what it is.
The committee simply does not acknowledge what players did in the CFL or the AFL back when it existed. Lamonica's greatest days were in the AFL, but he should not be faulted for that.
He won 66 games and only lost 16.
Yes, that is correct. The most games he ever lost in a season was four in 1970 and 1971.
He was named League MVP twice, and led his team to the AFL Championship three times. He led the league in TDs twice and in yards once.
To showcase how much better the guy was than Aikman, he threw just one less TD pass than Aikman, having played HALF as many games.
He was 6-6 in the playoffs at a time when the playoffs were the Championship game. Eligible for over 30 years, how does a guy like this have to wait five years longer than Aikman is beyond me, let alone 30.
2. Randall Cunningham
Not many will agree with me, but I truly believe Cunningham to be one of the greatest NFL athletes of all time and the most gifted quarterback of all time.
Cunningham not only led his team in rushing yards as a Quarterback, he was also a deadly pass threat as well.
Playing most of his career behind a faulty offensive line, he led the league in sacks five times.
Yet in all but one of those seasons, he finished with a winning starter record.
In total, the man compiled nearly 5,000 yards rushing and 35 TDs, and in 30 less starts playing around the time of Aikman, threw for over 40 more TDs while throwing less picks as well.
His win-loss record?
82-52-1, the man was a winner much the same.
His playoff record stood at 5-7, but that should be explained.
One of those losses came against the powerhouse 91 Red Skins while two came to the Aikman led Cowboys.
What is that you say?
Aikman beat Cunningham in the playoffs twice?
Yes he did, on a far superior team with the all time rushing yards leader Emmitt bloody Smith.
Who did Cunningham have?
But I digress, the greatest season in Cunningham's career came arguably in 1998 when, after leaving Philadelphia after a few injury plagued seasons and getting benched as an aging veteran to Brad Johnson, he destroyed the league.
Cunningham, in 14 starts, passed for 34 TDs with offensive weapons in Cris Carter, Randy Moss, and finally with a solid offensive line.
Cunningham was named first team all-pro and finished second in MVP voting to one Terrell Davis, the guy who happened to break the 2,000 yard mark that season.
The saddest crap I have ever had to witness as an NFL fan came later that season in the NFC Championship game.
The Vikings' defense went easy on the upstart Falcons, who are to date the luckiest 14-2 team in league history.
The Vikings were up by seven late in the fourth quarter with a chance to go up by 10 and effectively win the game.
Then Gary Anderson, who had not missed a kick in two years and who was 14 of 14 from 40+ yards that season, missed a 37 yarder...indoors...at home.
Choke job of a lifetime.
Falcons managed to somehow win the game, and Cunningham never won the Super Bowl that surely would have sent him to the Hall of Fame.
Now, he's a questionable induction after three years of eligibility coming to a fourth.
What I call bull crap.
The man was a weapon, the likes of which we may never see (Michael Vick was not the passing threat Cunningham was) and won three Bert Bell Awards.
Aikman did what with Emmitt Smith and one of the greatest offensive lines ever built?
Oh yes, manage games and win three Super Bowls.
Did anyone ever see Super Bowl XXVIII or Super Bowl XXX against the Bills and Steelers?
I don't recall Aikman leading his team to victory; I recall the defense stepping it up and capitalizing on turnovers in both those games in a pretty close finish in XXX, by the way.
Cunningham over Aikman with all the reasons stated above, good day.
1. Ken Stabler
So, now we're down to No. 1...the No. 1 quarterback I would replace Aikman with.
Kenny "The Snake" Stabler.
Well, this is a guy who won more games than Aikman in the regular season, 96 to 94, and lost 49 games to Aikman's 71.
And in the playoffs?
7-6, with three of those losses to the eventual Super Bowl Champions, and only three that were over one score in margin of defeat.
It gets better though let me assure you, Stabler won League MVP in 1974, Offensive Player of the Year, and the Bert Bell Award in 1976.
He led the league in TDs and completion percentage twice and was, by NFL Network, touted as the sixth greatest player not to be in the Hall of Fame.
Consider though that after the NFL Network ran that Top 10 episode, two players above Stabler made induction in Derrick Thomas and Bob Hayes, along with Cris Carter—a virtual lock this year or at the most next, making Stabler in essence the third most deserving player not yet in the Hall.
He's waited 20 years now, and I can't wrap my brain around the fact that Aikman got in first ballot, FIRST!
Although the NFL will never put all the quarterbacks mentioned in Canton, I believe they were all better than Aikman ever was.
At least three, Cunningham, Stabler, and Simms, will make it in one day...or maybe I'm giving the committee way too much credit.
Once again, how does a player like Aikman get into Canton first ballot?
I smell bribery afoot.