Why Warren Moon's Underrated Career Is One of the Greatest in NFL History

Ryan MichaelSenior Writer IIIFebruary 22, 2013

6 Sep 1998:  Quarterback Warren Moon #1 of the Seattle Seahawks runs with the ball during a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Seahawks defeated the Eagles 38-0. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart  /All
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Warren Moon is not only one of the most underrated quarterbacks in NFL history, but he's also one of the very best to ever play the game.

I was brainstorming a more subtle introduction but decided to scrap it and simply get to the point.

Seven years removed from his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Moon has continued to not receiver the proper recognition for a career that was beyond impressive.

When you talk about the greatest to ever play the game, Moon's name should be in the discussion. 

Career accomplishments

  • Nine-time Pro Bowl selection.
  • 1990 NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
  • 1997 Pro Bowl MVP.
  • Two-time NFL leader in passing yards (1990-91).
  • NFL leader in touchdown passes (1990).
  • Three-time leader in passing completions (1990-91, 1995).
  • Four 4,000-yard passing seasons.
  • Member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Did you know?

  • Moon is one of only nine Hall of Fame quarterbacks drafted since the merger.
  • Moon retired with the third most passing yards in NFL history.
  • Moon retired with the fourth most touchdown passes in NFL history.

To give a little bit of perspective, I have decided to compare Moon's career with a quarterback who has received much more recognition. They both played in the same era so it's a fair comparison to make.

The Moon vs. Elway comparison

Warren Moon (203 starts)

3,988-of-6,823 (58.4 percent) for 49,325 yards, 291 touchdowns and 233 interceptions.

25 fumbles lost.

Passer rating: 80.9

John Elway (231 starts)

4,123 of 7,250 (56.9) for 51,475 yards, 300 touchdowns and 226 interceptions.

34 fumbles lost.

Passer rating: 79.9

Warren Moon (per-start times 16 games-rounded)

314 of 538 (58.4) for 3,888 yards, 22.9 touchdowns and 18.4 interceptions.

John Elway (per-start times 16 games-rounded)

286 of 502 (56.9) for 3,565 yards, 20.8 touchdowns and 15.7 interceptions.


  • Moon had a higher YPA average (7.2 to 7.1)
  • Moon had a higher touchdown percentage (4.3 to 4.1).
  • Moon was more accurate (58.4 percent to 56.9 percent ).
  • Moon fumbled the football less (25 to 34).
  • Elway had a lower interception percentage (3.1 to 3.4).
  • Moon had the higher passer rating (80.9 to 79.9).

Conclusion: Both players performed similarly across the board with the edge going to Moon overall.

The only area in which Elway had even a slight edge in was interception percentage.

But when you factor in the fact that Elway lost more fumbles than Moon (though they only started tracking the statistic in 1991), their turnover rate begins to even out.

What's more impressive is the fact that Moon was able to outperform Elway across the board in spite of playing with far less team support.

A lot has been made of the caliber of Elway's teams prior to the Terrell Davis era, but he took the No. 1 scoring defense into Super Bowl XXIV. Bottom line being he had more help than you'd think.

Why make this comparison?

If Elway can be considered by many to be a top-five quarterback on the all-time list, why has Moon not received his proper recognition?

Elway's superior level of team support made it so that he was able to get to and lose his first three Super Bowls before riding Davis' coattails to two championships during the less impressive end of his career.

Don't believe me?

John Elway (Super Bowl XXXII)

12-of-22 (54.5 percent) for 123 yards, 0 touchdowns and 1 interception.

Passer rating: 51.9

Most remember Elway's famous helicopter spin and the NFL Films moment of him celebrating after the game. What most fail to remember is the poor performance he delivered on the grandest stage as Davis' 30 carries for 157 yards and three touchdowns (with a migraine headache) prevented Elway from losing his fourth consecutive Super Bowl.

Ironic: Elway was unable to compete in the following week's Pro Bowl due to injury. Moon was named to replace him and went on to win the game's MVP award.

I'm not picking on Elway.

What I'm saying is it's ridiculous to laud Elway's Super Bowl rings as a reason to value his less productive and less efficient career over Moon's.

Sometimes in order to emphasize a point, you need to put it into perspective the context of how well one player performed in comparison to his contemporaries. 

If Elway was less productive, less accurate and less efficient across the board, why is Moon's legacy treated as less impressive than Elway's?

Don't give me the whole "his intangibles willed his team to victory" speech.

I watched the way Elway won his first Super Bowl.

To credit him for "willing" his team to victory is both ridiculous and disrespectful to the real reason why they won Super Bowl XXXII—Davis.

Team success attained by players fortunate enough to be surrounded by championship talent has blinded the masses' ability to rationally evaluate the contributions of individual players.

Moon is the only quarterback in NFL history besides Peyton Manning to be selected to eight consecutive Pro Bowls. 

That's consistency.

More so than the likes of Elway, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Dan Marino or Johnny Unitas.

He's also the only quarterback in NFL history to be selected to the Pro Bowl with three different organizations (Oilers, Vikings and Seahawks).

His resume is both deep and underappreciated.

I stand by my proclamation of Moon being one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Greater than "just made it into the Hall of Fame" great—his career was on another level.

It's about time for people to wake up and recognize that.

This article is also featured on blindsidefootball.com.

Ryan Michael is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report. Any questions, comments or professional inquiries can be directed to his email at: bleacherreporter@yahoo.com.

Follow him on Twitter at: @theryanmichael


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