Quietly Spectacular: Why Ken Anderson Should Be in the Hall of Fame

Bryn Swartz@eaglescentralSenior Writer IIIMarch 1, 2010

You know those players who are just always overshadowed by some other player throughout their whole career and they never really generate the attention they should? 

That perfectly describes former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson, a man who not only should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but a player who is arguably one of the twenty greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.

I have three simple arguments for Anderson's case for the Hall of Fame:

1) He was a winner.

Ken Anderson was scouted by Cincinnati Bengals quarterbacks coach Bill Walsh after a solid career at Augustana College. Walsh drafted Anderson in the third round of the 1971 draft. 

Under Walsh's tutelage, Anderson, with his precise accuracy, became the first quarterback to successfully run the West Coast offense. 

Anderson led the Bengals to seven winning records and three double-digit win seasons.

He led the Bengals to the postseason in 1973, 1975, 1981, and 1982, including the franchise's first Super Bowl berth in 1981.

Anderson won 91 games out of 172 starts in his career, despite never playing with a Hall of Fame receiver. His defenses were often below average, including the league's worst in 1979. 

He also played two games a year against the greatest defense in NFL history, the Steel Curtain, yet still found time to shine, including a record-setting 20-of-22 passing day in 1974. 

2) He was one of the greatest regular-season quarterbacks to ever play the game.

Anderson turned in some of the greatest individual seasons by a quarterback in NFL history.

In 1974, Anderson led the league in five different statistical categories, including a 64.3 completion percentage and 95.7 passer rating. He tossed 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. When projected to current standards, Anderson's completion percentage is 73. His passer rating? 111.3.

In 1975, Anderson tossed 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, led the league in yards per attempt, and posted a sensational 93.9 passer rating, which would equal 105.3 by today's standards. 

Anderson earned Most Valuable Player honors for his 1981 campaign. He hurled 29 touchdowns, threw just 10 picks, and posted a 97.4 passer rating. He became just the third AFC quarterback to win the MVP and lead his team to a Super Bowl berth.

In 1982, Anderson shattered the NFL single-season record for completion percentage by completing 70.6 percent of his passes. His record stood for 27 seasons until it was broken by Saints' quarterback Drew Brees, although when compared to the league average, Brees' mark comes nowhere near Ken Anderson's.

According to a study conducted at Pro Football Reference, the six greatest seasons of Ken Anderson's career are better than the six greatest seasons of every other quarterback in NFL history. 

Anderson produced an average of 1,894 "yards above average" in his peak seasons.

His 1975 season is the ninth-best season in NFL history. His 1974 season is the twelfth-best season. And his record-setting 1982 season ranks 25th. 

He is the only quarterback with three of the top 25 seasons in NFL history.

According to a study conducted by New QB Rating, Anderson's average season throughout his career was approximately 1.03 standard deviations above average . Only Steve Young and Joe Montana posted better marks than the former Bengals great.

Simply put, Anderson's passing ability puts most Hall of Fame quarterbacks to shame.

Throughout his career, Anderson led the league in passer rating four times, more than any quarterback in history except for Sammy Baugh and Steve Young. 

Anderson topped the league in completion percentage and interception percentage three times, completions, yards per attempt, and passing yards twice, and touchdown percentage once. 

When he retired, Anderson's 81.5 passer rating trailed just four quarterbacks in the sixty year history of the NFL. 

When adjusted to the league, only eight of the 25 quarterbacks currently in the Hall of Fame have posted a better passer rating.

He is one of the least-intercepted quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, ranking 12th out of the 158 quarterbacks with at least 1500 career pass attempts.

I haven't even mentioned Anderson's scrambling ability. 

Only two quarterbacks in the history of the NFL (Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick) rushed for more yards with a higher yards-per-carry average. When he retired, Anderson's 2,220 rushing yards were the eleventh highest total for a quarterback.

3) He was even better in the postseason.

Anderson's first postseason victory came against the Buffalo Bills in 1981, as he tossed a touchdown and averaged over nine yards per attempt. 

He led the Bengals to Super Bowl XVI with a victory over the San Diego Chargers in the "Freezer Bowl," in which the wind chill was -59 degrees below zero.

In the Super Bowl, he completed 25 of 34 passes for 300 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also rushed for a touchdown. 

Anderson led the Bengals from a 20-0 halftime deficit to within five, losing 26-21, and if not for a fourth-down goal-line stand by the 49ers' defense in the third quarter, the Bengals would have probably won the game. 

His 95.2 passer rating is the fourth-highest mark in Super Bowl history for a losing quarterback.

His 93.5 career passer rating is the fifth-highest postseason passer rating in history, trailing just Bart Starr, Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, and Joe Montana. 


Ken Anderson was one of the best statistical quarterbacks in the history of the National Football League. 

He was the league's best quarterback in 1974, 1975, 1981, and 1982, earning the Most Valuable Player award in 1981.

He made the Bengals relevant in the NFL, taking the franchise to its first Super Bowl in 1981. He played extremely well in the postseason, and accounted for three touchdowns in the biggest game of his life.

And his ability to pass and run has been surpassed by only two or three quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. 

Not only should former Bengals' quarterback Ken Anderson be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he should be on everybody's list of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.


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