Top 10 Quarterbacks Not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame
These guys put up nice numbers and were able to lead their teams to victory, but have yet to be honored with a gold jacket. Today I rank the top 10 quarterbacks not in the Hall of Fame.
10. Dave Krieg
He's one of the most underrated quarterbacks ever.
After going undrafted, Dave Krieg signed with Seattle in 1980. When starter Jim Zorn went down with an injury, Krieg stepped up to lead the team. His consistent play complemented the considerable talents of Steve Largent and Curt Warner allowed the Seahawks to make the playoffs for the first time in the team's history.
After Curt Warner was lost for the 1984 season, Krieg stepped up and threw for 3,671 yards and 32 touchdowns, leading his team to a 12-4 record and another wild card playoff appearance. Krieg spent his final seasons with five other teams before retiring in 1998. He was a three-time pro bowler and holds the NFL record for most seasons in a career having played every play at quarterback in a year.
A few things keep Dave Krieg from Hall of Fame consideration.
- His teams never won a championship.
- At the time of his retirement, he had the most career lost fumbles by a quarterback.
- He gets lost in history thanks to the quarterback play of both Matt Hasselbeck and Russell Wilson.
9. Don Meredith
"Dandy Don" was one of the first great players in team history.
A third-round pick in 1960, Don Meredith was one of the first players picked up by the expansion Cowboys. After spending time as a backup, he showed he deserved the starting job due to his grit and toughness and was one of the most productive players for the team when their record was below .500.
Meredith led the Cowboys to two NFL Championship games in 1966 and 1967 but loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay. In the 1968 playoff loss to Cleveland, He played with a broken rib, a punctured lung, and pneumonia. Meredith retired after 1968 after throwing for over 17,000 yards and 135 touchdowns in his nine seasons in Dallas. He was a three-time pro bowler, two-time All-Pro, and the 1966 NFL MVP.
Meredith isn't in Canton because he played with Dallas before they were "America's Team." He only played on three winning teams with the Cowboys and was 0-2 in championship games. If he would have played longer, he might have built up more of a resume.
8. Jim Hart
He is one of the most underappreciated quarterbacks ever to play.
When you think of the most prolific passers in NFL history, Jim Hart isn't exactly a name that comes to mind. However, while piloting the Cardinals through the late 60s and 70s, Hart was just that. When he retired in 1984, he was third on the all-time yardage list, trailing only Fran Tarkenton and Johnny Unitas. Hart also led the Cardinals to three straight 10-win seasons from 1974 to 1976 and was the first quarterback to take the Cardinals to the postseason since 1948. In his 19 NFL seasons, he threw for over 34,000 yards and 209 touchdowns. Hart spent his final season in Washington before retiring in 1984. He was a four-time pro bowler, a 1974 All-Pro, and the 1974 NFC offensive player of the year.
Hart isn't in Canton thanks to the team he played for. Playing for the team he did, the Cardinals were almost always a middle of the pack team. And of his 18 seasons with the Cardinals, he only threw more touchdowns than interceptions in four of them.
7. Bernie Kosar
He made Cleveland relevant in the '80s.
Bernie Kosar was a first-round pick in the 1985 supplemental draft. With an unorthodox sidearm throwing style that wasn’t always pretty to watch, Kosar wasn’t your prototype NFL quarterback. However, what he lacked in style, he made up for in substance. He was a hard-nosed competitor and a great team leader. He perfectly personified the workmanlike style of the Browns of the 1980s.
During most of his time in Cleveland, the Browns had a balanced offensive attack, so Kosar wasn’t expected to carry the entire offensive load. However, he did post some outstanding statistical seasons. In just his second NFL season, he passed for 3,854 yards and 17 touchdowns to lead Cleveland to a 12-4 record and their first trip to a conference championship game in 17 years. He spent nine seasons with the Browns before finally earning a Super Bowl ring as the backup quarterback for the Cowboys in 1993.
The big reason he's not in Canton is his team's late-game collapses. If "The Drive" or "The Fumble" never happened, we'd be looking at Kosar in history very differently. If he was able to win over Bill Belichick, he might have spent his whole career in Cleveland.
6. Roman Gabriel
He was one of the best quarterbacks in football during the late '60s and early '70s.
Roman Gabriel was a first-round pick in 1962. When George Allen became head coach in 1966, Gabriel was named the full-time starter and he led the Rams to their first winning season in almost a decade. His consistency and decision making gave the Rams a valuable offense to go along with their fierce defense. He spent his final years in Philadelphia before retiring in 1977. During his 16 year career, he was a four-time pro bowler, a 1969 All-Pro, the 1973 comeback player of the year, and the 1969 NFL MVP.
There are two factors likely damaging Gabriel’s chances at Hall of Fame immortality.
- The team could never get over the top and win a championship.
- The explosion of quarterback statistics over the last three decades. When you consider the era he played in, he was as good as any quarterback in that time.
5. John Hadl
He was one of the best quarterbacks in the AFL.
A third-round pick in 1962, John Hadl brought the high octane passing game to San Diego. He shared quarterbacking duties until 1966 when he became the starting quarterback, and averaged over 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns per season for the next four years. In 1965 and 1968, Hadl led the AFL in passing.
The passing combination of Hadl to Lance Alworth is still one of the best in league history. He holds the NFL record for the most tied games by a starting quarterback and is the last quarterback to wear a jersey number higher than #19. He was traded to Los Angeles in 1973 for several players. Hadl spent his final seasons in Green Bay and Houston before retiring in 1977. He was a four-time AFL All-Star, two-time All-AFL, two-time pro bowler, 1973 All-Pro, and AFL champion.
The problem when seeing Hadl as a Hall of Famer, only in six of his 16 seasons did he have more touchdowns than interceptions. And his win-loss record as a starter is almost even. People question if he didn't have Lance Alworth as a wide receiver, would he have been a successful quarterback at all.
4. Phil Simms
If he had played with any other franchise, he would have been more appreciated than he was.
A first-round pick in 1979, Phil Simms gained a lot of early criticism in New York despite playing with inferior talent around him. By 1985, Simms molded into a pro bowl talent and in the next season, he helped the team to their first Super Bowl victory. In Super Bowl XXI, he set a game record for highest completion percentage by going 22 of 25 for 268 yards and three touchdowns with two of his three incompletions being dropped passes.
After Simms was named the game's MVP, he is credited for being the first to use the phrase, "I'm going to Disney World!" following a championship victory. Simms retired after the 1993 season. He was a two-time pro bowler, one-time All-Pro, and two-time Super Bowl champion.
As people remember the Giants' defense and running game, many people don't see Simms as a Hall of Famer. Also, his touchdown to interception ratio isn't ideally what it should have been in his era. He also has the misfortune of playing in the same conferences of some of the greatest dynasties in history such as the 49ers and Redskins.
3. Boomer Esiason
He was the first quarterback to execute the no-huddle offense throughout a game.
A second-round pick in 1984, Boomer Esiason was brought in to be Ken Anderson's successor. In his first start, he led the Bengals to a 13–3 win over Houston and scored the game's only touchdown on a three-yard run. At 6'-5" and 224 pounds and far larger than his predecessor and with a much more powerful arm, Esiason was the signal-caller on one of the most potent offenses of the '80s.
In 1988, he was named the NFL MVP after throwing for over 3,500 yards and 28 touchdowns and helped the team to their second Super Bowl appearance. After spending time with the Jets and Cardinals, Esiason came back to Cincinnati for one final season in 1997. was surprisingly effective after replacing Jeff Blake midway through the 1997 season throwing for 13 touchdowns and with only two interceptions and gaining a passer rating of over 106 for the season.
The final play of his 14-year career was a 77-yard touchdown pass. Esiason was a four-time pro bowler, a 1988 All-Pro, the 1988 NFL MVP, and holds many team passing records as well as passing records by a left-handed quarterback.
The big thing keeping him out of the Hall of Fame is the loss to San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIII. After that, his career is very forgettable as he left Cincinnati after 1992 and played mediocre football for the Jets and Cardinals.
2. Randall Cunningham
He was one of the most electric running quarterbacks in league history.
A second-round pick in 1985, Randall Cunningham made a big splash with his uncanny scrambling ability. When Buddy Ryan became the team's head coach, he put Cunningham in as the starter because he believed his scrambling would put the defense on its heels. His best season as a quarterback in Philadelphia came in 1988 when he threw for over 3,800 yards and 24 touchdowns and became the first black quarterback to start in a pro bowl.
One of his most famous plays came in a 1990 game against the Bills, where Cunningham throwing from his end zone and was about to be sacked by Bruce Smith from his blind side, but he ducked and threw a pass 60 yards to wide receiver Fred Barnett resulting in a 95-yard touchdown. That same year he finished with 942 rushing yards, third all-time by a quarterback.
Cunningham spent his final years in Minnesota, Dallas, and Baltimore before retiring in 2001. He was a four-time pro bowler and All-Pro, and the 1992 comeback player of the year.
The main thing keeping him from getting in Canton is Buddy Ryan. If he would have been the passer he was in Minnesota while he was an Eagle, Philadelphia would have won a couple of Super Bowls. But Buddy Ryan rather he'd run with the ball so aloe of his production as a passer gets lost.
1. Ken Anderson
A third-round draft pick in 1971, quarterback Ken Anderson was named the starter for the Cincinnati Bengals in his second year.
Anderson became the first quarterback to implement Bill Walsh's west coast offense and have success with it. He was praised for being one of the most consistent quarterbacks to come out of the 70s and 80s. Anderson set the bar for completion percentage in the decades he played as well as being underrated for his play. Anderson finished his career with four pro bowl, two seasons leading the league in passing, and the 1981 NFL MVP.
The big glare on his career was the Super Bowl loss to San Francisco in the 1981 season. Although he played well, he never did enough to get past the other teams in the division in Pittsburgh and Houston in the 70s.
With Anderson's stats speaking for themselves, he deserves to be recognized as a Hall of Famer. His touchdown to interception ratio alone is better than a lot of quarterbacks that are already in Canton.
Which quarterback belongs in the Hall of Fame?
Questions & Answers
Did you forget to put Jim Plunkett on your list of top 10 quarterbacks?
No. Jim Plunkett’s story is something out of a movie and he has his place in history, but he’s not a Hall of Fame quarterback. Never made a Pro Bowl or All-Pro team, and everything pre -raiders tenure is very bad. He had some great moments in the Silver and Black, but that won’t be enough to put him in the Hall.Helpful 7
Why not include Mark Brunell on this list of the greatest quarterbacks not in the pro-football hall of fame?
Of his 19 seasons, he was a starter for just 8 of them. He had some great years in Jacksonville, but he’s hurt because of the market he played in and that the Jaguars came up short in those AFC Championship Games.Helpful 3
Why did you place Dave Krieg over Ken “The Snake” Stabler in your top 10 quarterbacks who aren't in the hall of fame?
Ken Stabler was recently inducted into that Hall of Fame. I removed Stabler from the list once he was inducted and added KriegHelpful 3