Joe Namath has long been known as one of the most popular figures in the history of the National Football League. Be it his eccentric nature, fur coats, pantyhose, the first ever 4,000-yard passing season, or his guaranteed victory in Super Bowl III, there are a great many memories that come to mind when you think of "Broadway Joe."
And as we all know, Joe Namath was long ago inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But he shouldn't have been.
Before I go any further, I want the readers to first know that I do not dislike Joe Namath in any way shape or form. As a matter of fact, he is actually one of my favorite quarterbacks to have ever played the game.
I respect Namath, but not so much for his body of work on the field.
What Namath did for the sport of professional football is put it on the map, and then bring it into the limelight in a way that was never seen before.
Suddenly female fans were as attracted to the sport of football as they were to Namath himself.
He was a "larger than life" character who helped give the sport of professional football the same swagger he carried every Sunday.
But when it came down to what he actually did on the field on those great many Sundays, you have to sit back and ask yourself whether or not his performance was of a Hall of Fame caliber.
I do not raise this question out of any ill-will towards Joe Namath.
As I stated before, I happen to like the guy but at the same time that doesn't mean that I can turn a blind eye to the reality of his performance on the field.
When it comes to the Hall of Fame, everyone has their own reservations as to who they feel belongs in and who doesn't.
The issue is that there is no specific criteria which means that no amount of wins, yards, or touchdowns can guarantee anyone a spot.
The lone aspect that I feel most (if not all) people agree upon is the necessity for a Hall of Fame player to have both played at a high level and to have done so for an extended period of time.
So the next logical step would be to establish whether Namath did in-fact play at a very high level, then (if he did) determine how long he was able to do so.
Let’s now take a look at the career production of Joe Namath to get a basis for discussion.
Joe Namath (1965-1977)
1,886 of 3,762 (50.1 percent) for 27,663 yards, 173 touchdowns, and 220 interceptions.
Quarterback Rating: 65.5
*62-63-4 record as a starting quarterback.
*Threw more interceptions than touchdowns in 13 of his 15 seasons.
After viewing his performance over the course of his career, two things jumped out at me.
First of all, he actually had a losing record as a starting quarterback.
That, of course, is as much of a reflection of his entire team as it was of Namath himself so you have to ask yourself "what was Namath's contributions to his team’s chances of winning during that period of time?"
That is why I pointed out the touchdown to interception ratio.
While it is true that the 1960s and 1970s were a very different era from today, it was not acceptable for a quarterback to throw more interceptions than touchdowns on that regular a basis.
It was known to happen more frequently with starting quarterbacks back then in comparison to today but to have done so in 13 of his 15 seasons speaks volumes.
But, of course, to better understand Namath's career, you have to look at two chapters.
There was Joe Namath competing against AFL teams and Joe Namath playing in the merged NFL.
Some are of the belief that the AFL was inferior (yet still a financial threat), and there are others who feel that both leagues were equal.
The NFL has certainly done as much as they could to legitimize the AFL on account of the merger and have even gone as far as to count AFL statistics as equally as NFL statistics.
So if you are of the belief that the league's were of equal caliber (meaning that Namath was at no statistical advantage for having played five years in the AFL) than it would be logical to assume that his performance would not change after the merger.
But did it?
Joe Namath (1965-1969 in the AFL era)
1,026 of 2,043 (50.2 percent) for 15,487 yards, 97 touchdowns, and 104 interceptions.
Quarterback Rating: 70.1
*37-23-4 record as a starting quarterback.
*Threw more interceptions than touchdowns in three out of five seasons.
Joe Namath (1970-1977 after the NFL/AFL merger)
860 of 1,719 (50.0 percent) for 12,176 yards, 76 touchdowns, and 116 interceptions.
Quarterback Rating: 59.9
*25-40 record as a starting quarterback.
*Threw more interceptions than touchdowns in eight out of eight seasons.
While his production during his days in the AFL was short of spectacular, his performance after the merger was not only light-years away from great, it was well below average.
Many would argue that Namath was the victim of injuries during the latter half of his career but his seasons after the merger comprise over 60-percent of his entire career.
If his performance in the AFL wasn't that great to begin with, how exactly is it that when you look at the entire body of work that is his 13-year NFL career, the voters ended up with a player whom they felt to be Hall of Fame worthy?
The obvious answer is due to the contributions I reflected upon earlier in the article.
That combined of course with his victory in Super Bowl III over the Baltimore Colts.
A victory for which Namath was bold enough to guarantee in advance.
The Jets did win over the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts, but how "great" was Namath's performance during what was without question, the highlight of his career?
Joe Namath (Super Bowl III)
17 of 28 (60.7 percent) for 206 yards, zero touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
Quarterback Rating: 83.3
So while Namath did manage to not lose the game against a very tough opponent, was his performance really that "great?"
Or perhaps was the real MVP running-back Matt Snell who ran for 121-yards and one touchdown on 30 carries and also caught four passes for 40-yards?
It appears to me that the man who made the "guarantee" and played just well enough to win received the lion's share of the glory.
If it was Matt Snell who guaranteed victory before the game and performed as well as he did, do you really think Joe Namath would have been named the game's MVP?
The point is that it shouldn't make a difference because both Namath and Snell played the way they played on the field.
In any event, I'm sure that a number of readers might think that I'm being a bit hard on Namath and might feel that I'm simply not understanding that it was much more difficult to throw during Namath's era than it is these days.
So let's be fair.
Enter two words, Len Dawson.
If you are a devout NFL fan, you might have heard his name before.
But how many people would put Len Dawson in the same company as Joe Namath?
If it really was just the era that Namath was playing in that affected his performance to the extent illustrated, certainly the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame quarterback would have been the same victim of circumstance, right?
Len Dawson played from 1957 to 1975 but didn't see regular action until he became the starting quarterback of the Dallas Texans (soon to become the Kansas City Chiefs) in 1962 and continued to remain active until 1975.
So what we have is two Hall of Fame quarterbacks who played during the exact same era for the exact same leagues.
And what do we have?
Len Dawson (1957-1975)
2,136 of 3,741 (57.1 percent) for 28,711 yards, 239 touchdowns, and 183 interceptions.
Quarterback Rating: 82.6
*94-57-8 record as a starting quarterback.
So how does his career look in comparison to Namath’s?
Namath actually attempted 21 more passes (3,762 to Dawson's 3,741) but Dawson had a seven-point higher completion percentage, 1,048 more passing yards, 66 more touchdown passes, 37 fewer interceptions, and a quarterback rating 17.1 points higher than Namath’s.
Len Dawson also won 32 more games, and lost six fewer than Joe Namath.
So what we have is a quarterback far more accurate, moved his team up and down the field more, put many more points on the board, and turned the ball over far less often.
Now I want you to think about this for a moment.
The career quarterback rating differential between Namath and Dawson (82.6 to 65.5) is equal to the amount of difference between the career quarterback ratings of Tom Brady and Stan Humpheries (92.9 to 75.8).
But how many people would think that Humpheries is as close to Brady as they feel Namath is to Dawson?
Nobody would and as well they shouldn’t because they’re not even close.
While I'm sure that everyone's opinions will differ, I would imagine that most people wouldn't have thought there to be such a great differential between Namath and Dawson, right?
And how many people would have thought of Dawson to be that much better?
This brings forth an interesting scenario.
Either Joe Namath is a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback who played at a Hall of Fame level but Len Dawson just so happened to be light-years ahead of him.
Len Dawson is a good example of a Hall of Fame quarterback while Joe Namath, quite simply, is not.
Which one of the two appears to be more logical?
So now we come full circle to the title of my article.
"Joe Namath Should Be Removed From the Hall of Fame to Restore Order."
Now, why would I say something like that?
It certainly isn't because I don't like Joe Namath.
It's not because his Jets defeated my Colts 20-years before I was born.
It is because of the precedent that his induction has established.
There are a number of good quarterbacks whom many feel have been snubbed from their induction into the Hall of Fame.
Some might be worthy, others might not, but one thing that many of them have in common is the comparison to Joe Namath.
You could take a guy like Ken Stabler (who I do not feel belongs in the Hall of Fame) and substantiate a solid argument for his career being superior to Namath's, and you'd be right.
This is but one example of many but the issue is that if Joe Namath is worthy of being in the Hall of Fame, so are a great many other quarterbacks.
So long as he remains in the Hall of Fame (which he always will), there will always be people upset that other quarterbacks who played at a higher level for longer periods of time are left out, while Namath gets to don his yellow-jacket every August.
I realize that they cannot "remove" someone from the Hall of Fame and with all due fairness, it would be terrible thing to do to a person from an emotional standpoint.
But if you could imagine for a moment, Namath having to travel to Canton, OH to return his yellow-jacket and have his bust removed, you would all imagine that to be a great injustice, right?
While I agree that it would be a horrible thing to do to any player who had worked so hard to be a part of professional football, I think that it is just as bad for each and every year, quarterbacks who played better than Namath to not get inducted and then be forced to watch Namath enjoying himself in the company of other Hall of Famers.
Removing Namath would not be for the purpose of any ill-will towards him personally, it would be for the great many quarterbacks who played better than him but will never receive the same honor.
It would also help correct the precedent that has been established in the wake of his induction.
It's not that Joe Namath didn't play hard, he did.
It's not that he wasn't physically gifted; he had perhaps the greatest arm I've ever seen.
It's not that Joe Namath isn't a likable guy, he is.
It's just a matter of Joe Namath the quarterback on the field not being nearly as good as the image we have all created of him.
You shouldn't have players outside the Hall of Fame who played better than ones inside of it and that is an issue that will always exist so long as Joe Namath is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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