The NFL Hall of Fame veterans committee released its recommendations for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Former Cincinnati Bengal quarterback Ken Anderson was not on that list. Anderson, who retired after the 1986 season, is in his first year for consideration by the veterans group after failing to be selected in regular voting the previous 25 years. Anderson was a finalist for selection in both 1996 and 1998.
Ken Anderson was drafted by the Bengals in the third round of the 1971 NFL draft out of Augustana (IL) College. Under the tutelage of Bill Walsh, Anderson became one of the most prolific passers in NFL history. In many ways, Anderson was the prototype for Joe Montana.
During his career, Ken Anderson led the NFL in quarterback rating four times. Montana and Dan Marino combined for three such titles. Anderson threw for more yards than Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw, Bob Griese, and Joe Namath. He also has more career touchdown passes than Troy Aikman, Bart Starr, or Roger Staubach. Anderson was a four time Pro Bowl selection and was named first team All-Pro in 1981.
Known for his pinpoint accuracy, Anderson excelled in Walsh's West Coast offense before it was known as such. He led the NFL in completion percentage three times as well as lowest interception percentage despite also being in the top five in passes attempted. Pro Football Reference.com equates Anderson's career with that of Dan Fouts, Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Warren Moon, and Bob Griese.
What Anderson lacks, however, is a Super Bowl ring. Anderson had the misfortune of playing the majority of his career in the AFC Central division at the same as the dominant Pittsburgh Steeler teams of the seventies. While Anderson's numbers should be more meaningful having had to go against the "Steel Curtain" twice each season, it also meant his Bengal teams were usually behind the Steelers in the standings. While Anderson had some good weapons at his disposal in Isaac Curtis, Bob Trumpy, and Cris Collinsworth, his running backs were players like Essex Johnson and Charles Alexander, not Franco Harris. And it wasn't until 1979 that Anderson got Anthony Munoz to protect him. Because of some spotty offensive line play, Anderson suffered several injuries that curtailed his effectiveness. Anderson had only four seasons in his 16 in the league where he started every game for the Bengals.
Despite all that, Anderson recorded a 91-81 overall record as Bengals starter and led the team to Super Bowl XVI where Bill Walsh's 49'ers defeated Cincinnati 26-21. Anderson was 25-34 for 300 yards with two TDs and two INTs in that game. He appeared in six playoff games with the Bengals and was 2-4. Anderson completed 70% of his passes in those playoff games, throwing for 1,321 yards nine touchdowns against six interceptions.
Football is the ultimate team sport. Dan Marino has no Super Bowl ring, but Trent Dilfer does because Dilfer had the great fortune of playing alongside one of the greatest defenses in NFL history. Like Marino, Ken Anderson toiled his entire career under adverse circumstances beyond his control. He also toiled in small market Cincinnati instead of Miami. Even though Anderson played alongside only one other Hall of Famer (Anthony Munoz, however Ken Riley should be in Canton as well, but that's another story), he put up arguably the most impressive statistics of any quarterback of his era. The regular Hall of Fame selection group has glaringly omitted Ken Anderson for 25 years. The veterans group needs to right this wrong as soon as possible.
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