Category Archives: NFL

Learning about all the legendary quarterbacks not in the Hall of Fame, thanks to a butthead Dave Krieg fan

Seahawks Raiders 1989
Dave Krieg

I once got into a huge argument with a Seahawks fan about a year ago about whether Dave Krieg belonged in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Well, this guy was definitely looking at Dave Krieg with Seahawk-coloured glasses and I honestly didn’t like this person and I was looking at his argument coloured by the fact I thought he was kind of an arrogant and ignorant jerk, so we made zero progress with each other.

So, I decided after the cooling of heads over time to take a less passionate view of his argument as sort of a follow up to Pepe’s heartfelt John Brodie post, just as an exercise in logic.

In giving it some thought and doing a bit of research, I decided after a while I didn’t really want to rip into everything wrong with Dave Krieg as a quarterback or Hall of Famer. That was honestly my original intent. Instead,  I’ll spend some energy on that, but not a lot, because I actually found something much more interesting to me — which is, not that many quarterbacks are actually in the Hall of Fame and you might find it amazing some of the very famous names in the history of the NFL and AFL that are not in the Hall of Fame.

The truth of it is, if you really parse Krieg’s stats, there actually is an argument there for him being in the Hall of Fame. Better than I thought before looking into it. However, I’m going to argue that he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, not anytime soon at least, for a much different reason than I initially planned.

John Hadl … in 1960s sepiatone!

Here’s the pro arguments in favour of Krieg being in the Hall of Fame. Krieg played a really long time in the NFL — he started 175 games at quarterback between 1983 and 1998, about half of which for the Seahawks and the other half for Kansas City, Chicago, Arizona and Detroit. Krieg was basically what you call in baseball a “compiler” — someone like Jim Kaat or Harold Baines — who is good enough to start for a long time and while perhaps never really being great, is able to compile a lot of stats by staying healthy and not missing many games.

Here’s the impressive stats about Krieg and why you can’t completely dismiss the idea of Krieg as a Hall of Famer. When Krieg retired, he was eighth all-time in passing yardage at 38,147 yards and seventh all-time in passing touchdowns at 261. Every single guy ahead of him in those two categories at the time of his retirement are in the Hall of Fame (Montana, Marino, Elway, Unitas, Fouts, Tarkenton and Moon). Krieg also won 98 games as a starting quarterback, which was also good for eighth all-time. (His overall record as a starter was 98-77, for a winning percentage of .560.)

Most impressively, I believe, at the time of his retirement, Krieg was 15th all-time in the history of the NFL with a quarterback rating of 81.5. With the wide-open passing offenses of today’s game in which a rating of 90 is basically average, he’s dropped quite a bit in this category, but 15th at the time of his retirement is nothing to scoff at. That’s higher than a bunch of Hall of Famer quarterbacks.

But, to the con side. The first flaw I see in the pro-Hall of Fame argument for Krieg is that football is somewhat different from baseball in that having big “moments” on the “big stage” matters more in football than in baseball. In baseball, a position player gets 2,000 to 3,000 games and a pitcher 500-600 starts in which to build a Hall of Fame resumé. In the NFL, players get 150-200 games to build their Hall of Fame cases if they’re lucky. In fact, a number of NFL Hall of Famers barely played 100 games total. (Otto Graham, considered one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, only ever started 114 games.)

So, “moments” count. Let’s compare Krieg’s career to Joe Montana’s. They played in virtually the same era in the 80s and 90s (Krieg even backed Montana up a couple of years in Kansas City) and started virtually the same number of games (164 for Montana, 175 for Krieg). Montana had 273 TDs, Krieg 261. Montana had 40,550 yards passing, Krieg 38,147. Pretty close in both categories. Montana did have far fewer interceptions (139 for Montana and 199 for Krieg.) Montana also had a much higher career passing rating — 92.3 versus 81.5 for Krieg.

However, here is the HUGE difference between them, and why you simply cannot really compare Krieg to Montana. Montana went 16-7 in the postseason and won four Super Bowls, and in fact, played great in all four of those Super Bowls, winning three Super Bowl MVPs. He also had of course, the other huge “moment” with “The Catch” to beat the Cowboys in the NFC championship in 1982.

Krieg simply doesn’t have anything even remotely like this on his resume. Krieg went 3-6 in the postseason with a passing rating of 72.3. Krieg actually won his first two postseason games, then went 1-6 over the rest of his career. His one big chance on the “big stage” so to speak, in the AFC championship game vs. the Raiders in 1983, he wilted — badly — going 3-for-9 with 3 interceptions. He was pulled at halftime for Jim Zorn. Krieg not only never won a Super Bowl, he never even played in one. So, he played totally under the radar.

Right or wrong, that matters when you talk about Hall of Fame time in the NFL. Guys like Terry Bradshaw and especially Bob Griese are in the Hall of Fame based primarily on their postseason success. Griese honestly wasn’t that great of a quarterback statistically, but he’s in the Hall of Fame because he played in three Super Bowls and won two of them (He threw a whopping 41 passes combined in those three Super Bowls). True, Dan Fouts never got to a Super Bowl and Dan Marino never won one, but Marino owned almost every single passing record there was when he retired and he did win an AFC title and he managed to go 6-5 in the postseason. Fouts was second all-time in passing yardage and fourth in TD passes when he retired.

Quarterback John Brodie (12) of the San Francisco 49ers hands off the ball, 1971.©James Flores/NFL Photos
Quarterback John Brodie (12) of the San Francisco 49ers hands off the ball, 1971.©James Flores/NFL Photos

Here is a bigger issue I believe with Krieg being in the Hall of Fame. This is something I really enjoyed researching. There are a number of quarterbacks in the NFL who were either MVPs or first-team All-Pros or who won Super Bowls or who were Super Bowl MVPs who are not in the Hall of Fame. Krieg made three Pro Bowls, but he was never a First-Team Pro Bowler. He never won an MVP nor was he ever an AP Offensive Player of the Year nor did he play in a Super Bowl. He never led the league in passing yardage or TDs or passer rating. He simply played reasonably well for a long time.

There have only been 27 quarterbacks named to the NFL Hall of Fame since World War II. It just took Ken Stabler 33 years after his retirement to make the Hall of Fame. That’s how hard it is to get in. Just 27 guys in 70 years.

Ken anderson
How is Ken Anderson not in the Hall of Fame?

Let me tick off a few of these guys who are not in the Hall of Fame:

* There’s John Brodie — MVP, First-team All-Pro, led the NFL in passing yardage three times and led in TD passes twice, third all-time in the NFL in passing yardage and fourth in TDs when he retired.

* Ken Anderson — Considered by some to be the best quarterback in the AFC in the 1970s. MVP award, Offensive Player of the Year award, First-team Pro Bowler, four Pro Bowls, led the league in passer rating four times, played well in a Super Bowl loss.

* Daryle Lamonica — 5-time AFL and NFL Pro Bowler, 2-time AFL First-Team Pro Bowler, twice won AFL Player of the Year, led the AFL in TD passes twice, passing yardage once, won an AFL Championship and played in a Super Bowl. Had an incredible won-loss record as a starter of 66-16-6.

Daryle Lamonica

* Jim Plunkett — Won two Super Bowls and a Super Bowl MVP. Had a postseason record as a starting quarterback of 8-2.

* Roman Gabriel — Won an NFL MVP, Bert Bell Player of the Year award, made four Pro Bowls, was named First-Team Pro Bowl once, was sixth in the NFL in passing yardage when he retired.

* Joe Theismann — Won a Bert Bell Player of the Year Award, won an MVP, won an Offensive Player of the Year award, was a First-Team Pro Bowler, played in two Super Bowls and won one.

* Don Meredith — Bert Bell Player of the Year award, three-time Pro Bowler, played in the famous “Ice Bowl.” And on top of that, was a well-known NFL broadcaster for decades.

* Frankie Albert — Perhaps the best quarterback from the AAFC other than Otto Graham. Twice led the AAFC in touchdown passes, and led the league one year in passer rating. Played in an AAFC championship, but lost to an almost unbeatable Graham team in Cleveland.

Frankie Albert … quarterbacks used to wear No. 63?

* John Hadl — Made six AFL and NFL Pro Bowls, led the AFL in passing yardage twice and passing TDs twice, led the NFL in passing yardage once and passing TDs once. Was in the top 10 for AFL/NFL passing yardage when he retired.

* Phil Simms — Made two Pro Bowls, threw for 33,000 yards, won a Super Bowl and won a Super Bowl MVP. Had a 95-64 record as a starter.

* Randall Cunningham — NFL MVP, Player of the Year (two separate seasons), Four Pro Bowls, and one First-Team Pro Bowler, and rushed for 4,900 yards and 35 rushing TDs, rushed for over 500 yards six times. I will talk more about Cunningham later.

* Boomer Esiason — NFL MVP, First-Team All-Pro, won a passer rating title, won an AFC championship, came within seconds of winning a Super Bowl. More on Esiason later.

* Vinny Testaverde — Believe it or not, he was actually sixth in passing yardage (46,223 yards) and seventh in passing touchdowns (275) when he retired, made two Pro Bowls, threw for 356 yards in an AFC Championship loss. I will talk more about Testaverde.

testaverde, esiason, cunningham
Vinny Testaverde, Boomer Esiason, Randall Cunningham and Dave Krieg have a lot in common

I might be missing some other guys, but I would argue that every single one of these guys with the possible exception of Testaverde should go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame before Krieg — especially Brodie, Lamonica, Theismann, Ken Anderson and Hadl. Meredith should go in as a broadcaster if nothing else.

Here’s comparisons of Krieg’s career to Esiason, Cunningham and Testaverde’s. Krieg’s career numbers are remarkably similar to Esiason’s — and they played in the same era. Krieg threw for 38,147 yards, Esiason 37,920. Krieg threw for 261 TDs, Esiason 247. Krieg’s career passer rating was 81.5, Esiason’s 81.1. However, I give Esiason the edge for winning an AFC championship, playing in a Super Bowl and coming within 39 seconds of winning (that the was the Montana-to-John Taylor Super Bowl win for the 49ers). Esiason was also an MVP and a first-team All-Pro one year and once led the NFL in passer rating. Krieg did none of these things.

Dave Krieg was a pretty good quarterback for a really long time, but so many other genuinely legendary quarterbacks are still not in the Hall of Fame.

Krieg and Randall Cunningham also had identical career passer ratings — they both ended up at 81.5, and again, they played in the same era, so it’s fair to compare them though they were different kinds of quarterbacks. Here’s the difference — Cunningham won an MVP and a Player of the Year award in two separate seasons, was a First-Team Pro Bowler and had 4,900 rushing yards, rushing for over 500 yards six times. He was the first quarterback who could both run and play effective QB and led the way for guys like Steve Young, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton. Based on those factors, I’d put Cunningham in before Krieg.

In many ways, other than Esiason, the player whose career best mirrored Krieg’s was Vinny Testaverde. I don’t think there’s a big hue and cry for Testaverde to be in the Hall of Fame, but as I mentioned earlier, he was sixth in passing yardage and seventh in TDs when he retired. He is still in the top 10 in passing yardage nine years after he retired. He turned into a pretty good quarterback the second half of his career, but for the most part he was like Krieg, a guy that was good enough to find a team to play for, a guy who never got seriously hurt, was a bit of a journeyman, played forever on mostly mediocre teams, had a period of success with the Jets and compiled a ton of passing stats. Honestly, if you put Krieg in the Hall of Fame, I believe you have to put Testaverde in, too.

So, while I started out wanting to slag Dave Krieg and prove some nitwit wrong and point out all of his interceptions and fumbles and sacks (three areas Krieg actually was pretty weak in), what I found out is that there’s a remarkable list of quarterbacks who have never made the Pro Football Hall of Fame and I enjoyed learning more about them; these are some truly legendary players and some of whom have been waiting decades to get in.

Steve Lardy’s pal Shaun Hill beats Peyton Manning

“Are you kidding me?”

This game gave me a smile.

Shaun Hill, from Parsons, Kansas, finally got to play again for the St. Louis Rams after getting hurt in Week One.

Coach Jeff Fisher threw Shaun to the lions (no, not his old team Detroit) in going up Peyton Manning and a 7-2 juggernaut in the Denver Broncos. Denver came into the game as 10-point favourites.

Hill not only went toe-to-toe with Hall of Famer Manning, he actually beat him … badly 22-7. OK, the St. Louis defence had a lot to do with it — but Hill had a GREAT game … he went 20-for-29 for 220 yards and a touchdown and zero interceptions, for a quarterback rating of 102.7. Meanwhile, Manning went 34-for-54 for 389 yards, but two interceptions — that was only good for a QB rating of 75.

It was maybe the biggest, highest-profile win of Shaun’s career. It reinforces my point that every time Shaun gets a chance to play, he seems to shine. I was so happy for him after he got hurt in the first week of the season (and then Austin Davis ended up playing pretty well at times for the Rams.).

Shaun Hill and his family celebrate beating the Denver Broncos.
Shaun Hill and his family celebrate beating the Denver Broncos.

Shaun is 34 and I don’t know if he will ever get a chance to start full-time at this point in his career. But, in 28 career starts, he is 14-14. No win bigger than this one.

As an aside, St. Louis is a weird team. They have beaten the Broncos, the Seahawks and the 49ers, but are only 4-6 and likely won’t make the playoffs. They seem to be the kind of team that can literally beat anybody, while at the same time they can literally lose to anyone, too.

Shaun Hill will get a chance to start for the Rams

The St. Louis Rams’ starting quarterback Sam Bradford tore his ACL in a preseason game last week, his third major injury in five years, and will be lost for the season.

This means that Steve Lardy’s friend Shaun Hilshaun hilll will be the starting quarterback for the Rams for the entire season. After 13 years in the league, it will be his first chance to go into a season as a starter and show what he can really do. I wrote about Shaun a couple of years ago.

Hill, from tiny Parsons, Kansas, has been a backup his entire career in San Francisco and Detroit, (with high priced high draft picks Alex Smith and Matthew Stafford ahead of him on the depth chart) but when he gets a chance, he puts up good numbers. He isn’t particularly big, nor has a particularly big arm, which is one of the reasons he has never been a full-time starter. He has started 26 games in his 13-year career and gone exactly 13-13 as a starter, with good stats — 41 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 85.9 (an average QB rating is about 83-85). In 2010, Hill started 10 games for the Detroit Lions.

Rumour is the Rams will try to get Mark Sanchez to replace Bradford, but his career QB rating is a paltry 71.7, way below the NFL average and way below Hill’s. Another rumour is that the Rams will try to get Kirk Cousins from Washington, which would make more sense, because in the limited amount he’s played, he has shown that he can be a good quarterback. Cousins will likely be a starter someday for some team.

But, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher immediately came out and said that Hill is his guy:

Shaun has a great feeling for the offense right now, and we’re gonna move forward with him,” Fisher said. “We’re not gonna change anything. He knows the system. Everybody knows, we’re gonna run the football first. And we’re gonna do that, and we gotta do that well, and we gotta do that to start the season. And then everything else will come off that.”

So, here is Shaun’s big chance at last, after 13 years in the league.

League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth

Mike Webster

Read this book and I guarantee you’ll never watch football the same way as you did before.

Mark Fainaru-Wada, who wrote about Barry Bonds’ steroids use, and Steve Fainaru, investigated the NFL longstanding cover-up and obfuscation over concussions in their sport. The result is a shocking expose of callousness and hypocrisy not only from NFL officials but from “jock sniffers” the NFL used to defend their product. The story is very similar to how the tobacco industry operated in the 1950s. The tobacco industry enlisted the help of a few scientists, several of whom were literally bought off, to create “junk science” to raise doubts that cigarette smoking was causing lung cancer. The industry did this well into the 1970s.

Junior Seau
Junior Seau

The NFL did almost the same thing. The league started up a committee, led by someone with zero experience or background in neurology, and reached a number of ridiculous conclusions that there was no risk of brain damage from playing NFL football — all while the league was quietly paying out thousands of dollars every year in disability payments to former players who had become brain damage from playing football.

Instead of taking the problem seriously and working to try to prevent brain damage, the NFL instead took the tack of trying to sweep the evidence under the carpet — and smearing and attacking the researchers and scientists digging up evidence that football was destroying men’s brains.

The book reads like a detective novel, as researchers try to get to the bottom of what’s causing a number of former players to behave erratically years after they retired. The book details the huge, and at times petty, fights between different researchers determined to get their hands on former players’ brains after they die so they could take credit for furthering the research into brain damage.

league of denialThe book focuses at length on the heartbreaking story of Mike Webster, a Hall of Fame centre who played on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl teams of the 1970s. After he retired, Webster — always a friendly, engaging guy — started acting strangely. He became a drifter, sleeping in bus stations, bunking at his son’s apartment. He became moody and had terrible tantrums. He would vanish periodically, he abandoned his family, etc. At times, he was lucid, and knew full well that something was wrong with him, other times he was lost, sometimes in a rage in which he would write long rambling letters attacking people with the Pittsburgh Steelers organisation. It was a very, long slow and painful journey into madness and despair and “League of Denial” pulls no punches detailing his harrowing descent. Finally, Webster died at the age of 50 in 2002.

Dave Duerson

The book shows how big ideas often start small. Knowing that Webster had suffered from erratic behaviour and mental illness, an assistant coroner in Pittsburgh — an immigrant from Nigeria named Bennet Omalu — did some tests on Webster’s brain and found damage similar to what was seen in boxers or people with Alzheimer’s. Omalu concluded that football caused this brain damage, the name given to it was Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Omalu became a central and controversial figure over the next decade as he blazed the trail into research of football and brain damage. He originally found the damage in Webster’s brain and his work led to a lot of the knowledge we have today about the brain damage caused by football, but his contributions were quickly overrun by forces out of his control — namely the NFL, which had a multi-billion dollar industry to protect.


The NFL around this time formed its concussion committee, and Fainaru-Wada and Fainaru explain in detail how, primarily by packing the committee full of “jock sniffers,” the NFL simply used this committee as a public relations tool to try and downplay the dangers of playing football. It was nearly 50 years after the tobacco industry established its “Council for Tobacco Research” to obfuscate and confuse the science around cigarettes, and the NFL stole heavily from the tobacco industry’s playbook. Fainaru-Wade and Fainaru make several references throughout “League of Denial” to the remarkable correlations between the NFL committee and the long-defunct and discredited tobacco industry front group. The NFL simply did not learn from the example of the tobacco industry that attempting to create fake science to cover up the real science will not work, especially in the long term. The football helmet industry also got involved, falsely promoting new helmet designs as “concussion proof.” The science behind what few studies had been done on these helmets turned out to be every bit as bad and half-baked as what the NFL concussion’s committee was putting forth.

cte stage 2Meanwhile, NFL players continued getting concussions and continued being put back in gamea while still suffering from the effects of their concussions — putting them at risk for even further brain injury. The billion-dollar NFL money-making machine just kept churning … as it became pretty obvious that the league’s concussion committee was all part of protecting that machine.

Several brain specialists, however, weren’t buying the outrageous and unscientific conclusions being reached by the NFL committee. This group became known as the “Dissenters.”

After Mike Webster’s death, there were a number of other high profile deaths by formers players — notably Dave Duerson and Junior Seau, both of whom committed suicide — and notably committed suicide by shooting themselves in the chest, because they both knew something was wrong with their brains and they wanted their brains studied after they died.

What the Dissenters found was that in case after case, a number of deceased NFL players had varying levels of CTE. (CTE explained). Some researchers wondered if perhaps every single player in the NFL had this condition from the repeated pounding of the game.

Even amongst the Dissenters, there were a number of battles and wars as researchers in this area literally scrambled in a disturbing race to gain possession of former NFL players’ brains after they died. Suddenly, players’ brains became a hot commodity. To a degree, and “League of Denial” is fairly sympathetic to Omalu, but none of the scientists involved, Omalu included, were really completely innocent in this unseemly battle over players’ brains.

In the end, these battles proved to be a sideshow, as the real story began when former players, many of whom had been struggling for years with depression, memory loss and Alzheimer’s, began banding together to sue the NFL.

In the end, the NFL disbanded its discredited committee, very much like the tobacco industry disbanded the Council for Tobacco Studies. The NFL imposed a number of new controversial rules trying to ban late hits and helmet to helmet contact.

Several thousand former players sued the league, winning a $765 million settlement against the league. Many people exclaimed that the NFL got off ridiculously easy with this settlement. A judge recently threw that settlement out as inadequate. The NFL will likely have to pay former players considerably more than $1 billion to settle the litigation.

League of Denial is definitely an engaging and fascinating read, and after you’ve read it, you’ll never watch football in quite the same way.

I don’t have the answers myself. Some people have speculated that the concussion litigation could bring the NFL down. The NFL is an awfully huge entertainment industry, and won’t go away easily. It’s too exciting and too popular.

I don’t buy the argument that the players knew what they were in for. They chose to play football. No, they didn’t chose to suffer from dementia and early onset Alzheimer’s and clinical depression in their 40s … and remember most football players don’t play for long — 5 years or less, and most football players really didn’t make that much money in the 70s and 80s. They didn’t choose to be lied to about how much damage was being done to their brains.

They’ll never totally get rid of the concussions; the game is too violent and the players too big and fast (I suspect the rise of concussions has something to do with the rise of PEDs in sports).

What the NFL needs to do is start taking the concussions seriously. Stop putting guys in games when they are obviously hurt, start taking the science seriously, ban hits to the head. Maybe a billion dollar settlement will be enough to wake up the NFL. Who knows?