Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Case for the Hall of Fame

I know a losing battle when I take it on. I write to raise awareness regarding Genarlow Wilson - check here for the update on what's going on with Wilson - and now I'm starting a campaign for Drew Bledsoe's induction to the Hall of Fame, knowing full-well that for whatever reason, sports columnists around the country are down on him in spite of a body of work that rivals most of the quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame.

Let's start with Sports Illustrated columnist and Massachusetts resident Don Banks (with whom I often find myself in agreement) and his recent column in which he says Bledsoe is "not even close" to a Hall of Famer...

Banks primarily argues the following

consider this overview nugget that in my mind clearly defines Bledsoe's legacy: As a starting quarterback, Bledsoe saw three organizations give up on him: New England, Buffalo and Dallas. That's nearly unparalleled among Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

Twenty-six-year NFL veteran George Blanda lost starting jobs in Chicago and Houston, but his memorable stint in Oakland was primarily as a kicker and backup quarterback. The newly enshrined Warren Moon -- himself a borderline Hall of Fame candidate in the eyes of many -- saw Houston, Minnesota and Seattle replace him as a starter, but his Hall candidacy was aided immeasurably by both his six record-setting seasons in the CFL and his pioneering role as the game's first star black quarterback.

Bledsoe has no such historical niche to hang his Hall candidacy on.
So, in his own argument he points out two other HoF QB's who lost jobs to other quarterbacks. Only one of the two others, however, could be considered a casualty of the salary cap era as Bledsoe was. When Bledsoe was released from the Bills he hadn't been beaten out by JP Losman, he was more expensive and the Bills felt that Losman's scrambling ability behind their suspect offensive line gave them a better chance in spite of the fact that he was unable to outplay Bledsoe for the starter's roll. Additionally, when in New England, Belichick opted to stay with the hot-hand in Brady when Bledsoe came back from a devastating injury.

With the time missed and the nature of the injury, a coach would have to wonder about the ability of his quarterback to take a full 60 minute beating. Also not the first time in history that a future HoF QB languished on the bench behind the hot-handed back-up.

Banks other major arguments -

Bledsoe's career 57.2 completion percentage ranks behind all but one of the recent Hall of Fame quarterbacks who competed in his era, among them Steve Young (64.3), Joe Montana (63.2), Troy Aikman (61.5), Jim Kelly (60.1), Dan Marino (59.4), and Moon (58.4). Bledsoe is ahead of only John Elway (56.9). He's last in that group in quarterback rating (77.1), yards per pass attempt (6.64), and second-to-last in touchdown percentage (his 3.74 beats only Aikman's 3.50).

Bledsoe is also near the back of the pack of his peers when it comes to winning. His 98-96 career record as a starter is about as middle of the road as you can get. He went to just one Super Bowl as a starter, throwing four interceptions in New England's loss to Green Bay in that championship game a decade ago, and led a team to the playoffs as its No. 1 quarterback just four times in 14 years (going 3-4 in those games). That pales next to the postseason exploits of QBs such as Montana, Aikman, Elway, Young, Kelly and Marino.

So, he's behind in a couple of the statistical categories that Banks chooses to list, but even so is still ahead of Elway and Aikman in two of those listed. He cites the starting record of 98-96 (and a playoff record of 3-4, but is 4-4 if you count the relief appearance in 2001), but if win-loss is so relevant, then why is Joe Namath in? Namath had a losing a lot, and less than pedestrian statistics. Here's the comparison -

Namath - 77-108-3 27,663 yds.140 games.173 TD/220 INTs. 50.1 % cmplt. 65.6 rating

Bledsoe - 98-96 44,611 yds.194 games.251 TD/206 INTs. 57.2% cmplt. 77.1 rating

Sure, Namath played in a different era, but even then throwing more interceptions than touchdowns and having a losing record I can't imagine was considered a good thing.

Don't tell me that a Super Bowl ring is a prerequisite, or is playing big in the big games otherwise Warren Moon, Jim Kelly, Dan Fouts, and Fran Tarkenton wouldn't be in. Hell, Fouts and Moon never even made it to the Super Bowl - so what got them in? Impressive statistics.

What's are the major statistics that are supposed to be the tell-all for great QB's? Completion percentage and TD/INT ratio.

And yes, most of the above have better completion percentages, but Bledsoe is better than several in regards to the TD to INT ratio - including better than Aikman who seems to be universally hailed as the best QB of the 1990's. Bledsoe tossed 1.22 touchdowns for every interception. Aikman? 1.17 (165/141 in 165 games). Additionally, Bledsoe threw for more per game than Aikman (1.3 per game as opposed to 1) with what most would consider lesser talent for most of his career. Who was Bledsoe's Michael Irvin?

For all of the knocks on Bledsoe in regards to bad decision making, proportionately he gave the ball to the opponent less than Aikman. Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, who thrived in the same Ernie Zampese developed system that Bledsoe did early in his career also has a poorer ratio of TDs to INTs - 254 TD/242 INTs, or 1.05 TD's for every interception thrown.

Also, consider the following - Bledsoe is one of only five quarterbacks in the history of the NFL to throw for more than 3,000 yards in at least nine seasons (Warren Moon 9, Dan Marino 13, Brett Favre 15, and Peyton Manning 9)

Bledsoe is fifth all-time in completions. Three of the four quarterbacks ahead of him are already in the Hall, the other is Brett Favre. He's fifth in pass attempts, seventh in yards and thirteenth in TD's.

He had two defining moments - one the relief appearance in the playoff game in Pittsburgh, the other? Two come from behind wins with a quarter-inch pin sticking out of the index finger of his throwing hand to propel the Patriots into the post-season. Yes, he didn't have a great Super Bowl against the Packers in 1996, but who would have with the blocking he was (or wasn't) getting from Max Lane who was getting schooled by HoFer Reggie White?

The bottom line - either Bledsoe belongs in, or there are a whole lot of guys in the Hall who don't belong. Enjoy retirement big guy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

couldnt' agree more...