CINCINNATI -- The Senior Finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be announced shortly. Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson could make the list.
If he does, it's a pretty safe track to getting in the Hall -- 76 percent of Senior Finalists have made it.
I don’t know if Anderson, No. 2 on the list of great Bengals, will be a finalist or not. But I do know this: He deserves to be in the Hall.
The Senior Finalists are selected by the Seniors Committee, which reviews the qualifications of those players whose careers ended at least 25 years ago. The Seniors Committee meets Thursday.
Anderson’s career ended in 1986. His credentials are obvious. He led the NFL in passer rating four times. He went to four Pro Bowls. He was the league's Most Valuable Player in 1981.
His biggest distinction might have been that he was the first effective practitioner of the West Coast offense -- legendary coach Bill Walsh's methodical system that most famously led the San Francisco 49ers to multiple Super Bowl wins.
“He was great quarterback here for many years,” Bengals owner Mike Brown said. “We counted on him for many years. He rarely disappointed. You look at the quarterbacks of his era and he stacks up well to the eye and with the statistics.
“He deserves to be in. People here have thought that for years.”
Anderson's statistics were largely a product of efficiency and passing accuracy.
“The numbers speak for themselves -- back-to-back passing titles in two different decades,” said Dave Lapham, Anderson’s teammate and current Bengal radio analyst. “In my mind, he was as accurate as anyone I’ve ever seen at the position.”
Anderson was a Hall finalist in 1996 and ’98, but did not get the required 80 percent of votes from the selection committee. You go to Seniors Committee after 15 years of retirement.
Anderson’s numbers compare favorably with the quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame.
He finished his career with an 81.9 quarterback rating. Kenny Stabler, who got in as a Senior Finalist, had a career rating of 75.3.
Anderson’s other numbers are better as well. He threw for 32,838 yards, compared to 27,938 for Stabler. Anderson had 197 touchdowns versus 160 interceptions. Stabler threw 194 TDs and 222 INTs.
The big thing with quarterbacks is winning a Super Bowl. Anderson got to one but did not win.
“I feel like a lot of guys feel, if we had won Super Bow XVI, it would have been a done deal a while ago,” Lapham said. “But we didn’t, and he’s bearing the brunt of that.”
Dan Fouts, who made the Hall in his second year of eligibility, did not win a Super Bowl either. Fouts put up gaudy numbers for the throw-happy San Diego Chargers -- 43,040 yards. But Anderson had a higher quarterback rating (81.9 to 80.2) and better TD-to-INT ratio (1.23 to 1.04).
John Maxymuk, author of the "Quarterback Abstract," told the New York Times this about Anderson:
“It’s not just people who look at statistics. Anderson was trained by Bill Walsh and was a wonderful quarterback to watch: fundamentally sound, very smart, an extremely accurate passer and a very underrated runner. In the book, I have several Top 10 lists; Anderson is at the top of the one I have for underrated quarterbacks. Yes, he belongs in Canton. He’s not a top-20 quarterback all-time but he’s close. I would take him over Warren Moon or Sonny Jurgensen, for example. He didn’t always have a great supporting cast in Cincinnati, but he did take the Bengals to the Super Bowl and played very well in a loss to the 49ers.”
Again, if that loss were a win, Anderson would be in. That’s not right, so hopefully he gets good news soon.
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org