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The Best NFL Quarterbacks Not in the Hall of Fame

Dan BooneSenior Analyst IMarch 31, 2009

9 Dec 1979:  Quarterback Ken Stabler of the Oakland Raiders prepares to pass the ball during a game against the Cleveland Browns at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  The Raiders won the game 19-14. Mandatory Credit: Allsport  /A

Who are the best QBs not to make the final Hall of Fame cut? Besides the Hall men, what field general would a team want directing their team? Let's look at the old boys left at the Hall's door. The list only includes players who are Hall-eligible.

1. Charlie Conerly—New York Giants

Giants owner Wellington Mara once said Charlie Conerly was the best player not in the Hall Fame.

A marine combat veteran of World War II, Conerly was a football legend at Old Miss who played all 14 years of his NFL career with the Giants. The early Giants teams he played on were very bad—once the Philadelphia Eagles sacked him 17 times in a game. But he later led the Giants to three title games and one victory.

One loss was in the legendary 1958 Championship Game against the Baltimore Colts. Conerly was Rookie of the Year in 1948, League MVP in 1959, and a two time Pro Bowler. In the offseason he worked his Mississippi Cotton farm and was the Marlboro Man on television ads.

2. Ken Stabler—Oakland Raiders, Houston Oilers, New Orleans Saints

The Snake led the Raiders to a victory in Super Bowl XI against the Minnesota Vikings. Under his leadership the Raiders played in some of the most memorable games of the '70s and in numerous playoff and conference championship games.

Stabler was a four-time Pro Bowler and is a member of the NFL's All Decade Team of the '70s. He was the NFL MVP in 1974, the Bert Bell Award winner in 1976, and twice led the league in passing.

Among some sports writers controversy still swirls around the Snake, but it can be argued that Stabler was a better QB at crunch time than a few fellows already in the Hall of Fame.

And if All Decade and a Ring doesn't get a player in, what does?

3. Jim Plunkett—New England Patriots, San Francisco Forty Niners, and Oakland Raiders

Plunkett has the stats and threw for over 25,000 yards in his career. Most importantly, he has the big wins.  Also: Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, and Super Bowl MVP, plus two Super Bowl rings.

Plunkett will have a hard time making the Hall, but then the Big Ring is the thing.

4. Phil Simms—New York Giants

If Simms had started and won the Giants' second Super Bowl, he was injured late in the year, he would be a Hall of Fame QB.

Still, his big game stats are impressive. In Super Bowl XXI he won the MVP by completing 22 of 25 passes.

Injuries marred Simms' career, preventing a route to the Hall. But what if he had made a comeback with Bill Belichick and the Cleveland Browns like he almost did?

Cleveland was a nightmare for Belichick and Simms was aging so it might not have made a difference, but if it had wouldn't the league be different now?

5. Ken Anderson—Cincinnati Bengals

Anderson's awards are outstanding: NFL MVP, four-time Pro Bowler, led the league in passing twice, Comeback Player of the Year, and led the Bengals to a Super Bowl only to lose to Bill Walsh and the San Francisco Forty Niners.

Anderson seems stuck in Hall of Fame limbo between the Super '70s QB's Gang, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Fran Tarkenton, and Kenny Stabler, and the famous class of 1983 Crop of Dan Marino, John Elway, and Jim Kelly.

Joe Montana bridged that QB gap, but what if Bill Walsh had stayed in Cincinnati, and he felt Paul Brown hiring him was a sure thing—would Ken Anderson be wearing a few Super Bowl rings and be in Canton?

Four more...and four who would pile up a plethora of yards playing in the Don't Touch the QB or Bump the Receivers League of today.

Jim Hart—St Louis Cardinals—League MVP and Prolific Passer

If Don Coryell had not been canned by the Bidwells, who knows?

Billy Kilmer—San Francisco Forty Niners, New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins

Colorful Whiskey Kilmer loved the high-life and the highlight reel.

Roman Gabriel—LA Rams, Philadelphia Eagles

Big Roman had tremendous arm strength and accuracy but injuries hampered him. League MVP in 1969 and four Pro Bowls.

Archie Manning—New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings

His kids did okay.

Where's Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia Eagle fans might say? Spectacular plays but equally spectacularly inconsistent play plagued him and prevented his team from winning a playoff game.

And the Washington Redskins Joe Theismann? Super Bowl Win, Super Bowl loss screen pass, NFL MVP, horrible injury, and worse announcing...give me a healthy Jim McMahon any day.