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.
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.
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.
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.
* 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.
* 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.
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.
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.