The Pro Football Hall of Fame Quarterback vs. Non-Hall of Fame Quarterback Challenge (Part 2)

We have arrived at part two of our statistical analysis comparing Hall of Fame quarterbacks with 33 of the best who played the game and have yet to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.  Here, we will look at a few graphs that reveal trends in both categories addressed in this investigation.

Please click on the link below to open part two of my project.  This segment, along with all others, will be posted as a .pdf for your convenience.

Hall of Fame QBs (part 2)

So, sit back, relax, and enjoy this week’s installment.  Remember, ask questions and add your point of view any time.

Cam Suarez-Bitar.


Unsung hero of the Miami Dolphins' undefeated season in 1972, Earl "The Pearl" Morrall, is not in the Hall of Fame.

    • Mat Masters
    • August 18th, 2010

    The research clearly illuminates the importance of being a championship quarterback in attaining hall of fame status. Those in the modern era who have been elected but where not champions (Marino, Moon, Fouts, Kelly, and Tarkenton) either made multiple championship game appearances (Kelly and Tarkenton with seven combined), or achieved high end statistical greatness (Marino, Moon, Fouts).

    With Regards to John Hadl, he shows up as a title winner in the study, but the fact is that he was the backup on the “63 AFL champion Chargers. In fact, he quarterbacked the team the previous season to a 4-10 record. Hadl never won a playoff game in his career as a starter. He never even threw a TD in a playoff game. His record, and his TD-INT ratio were identical: 0-3. While he was a 6-time pro bowler, and 1-time all-pro, 4 of those pro bowls came in the AFL. I think this may not carry the same weight with some voters on the veterans committee. Hadl put up big yardage and TD numbers in Sid Gillman’s offense in San Diego, but he was basically a .500 QB during his career.

    On to Earl Morrall…

    An interesting stat on Earl Morrall is that in 22 seasons, he threw for more than 7 TDs exactly 5 times. Think about that. Six represents the number of times Morrall was his teams starting QB for the majority of their games. That is less than a third of his seasons, and one of those came in 1972 after the injury to Bob Griese. I find it difficult to justify a hall of fame nomination for a man who spent over two-thirds of his career on the bench. Morrall’s hall of fame candidacy is basically built on two seasons: 1968 and 1972. By comparison, in his 15 year career Ken Stabler started the majority of his teams games in 10.

    On Stabler…

    He amassed over 27,000 yards and 194 TDs playing the prime of his career prior to the 1978 rules changes which increases passing stats league wide (in 1978 he was 33). He led the NFL in TD passes in ’74 and ’76, was named to four pro bowls in five years from ’73 to ’77 (demonstrating a prolonged era of high play) and was named the NFL MVP in 1974. None of these things, however, are what Ken Stabler is remembered for.

    He is remembered as a winner, and here’s why:

    Reached the playoffs six times as a starter, including five straight appearances from ’73-77. Compiled a 7-5 playoff record, with a 19-13 TD-INT ratio (better than his regular season percentages). Had a career record of 96-49 as a starter for a 66% winning percentage, one of the best of all-time. His record as the Raiders starting QB was an amazing 69-26 for a 73% winning percentage. And last, but not least, he was the starting QB on the Super Bowl XII champions. So why is he not in?

    • Dear Mat,

      Excellent points on Hadl, Morrall, and Stabler. Hall of Fame induction criteria is somewhat cryptic – Lawrence Taylor was inducted in spite of his off-field antics and the same “flaw” could be all that has delayed Stabler’s selection. Stabler’s case boggles the mind, and although sports fans criticize him for throwing many more interceptions than touchdowns (the numbers elude me at the moment), Joe Namath certainly did not post consistently superlative numbers. Nevertheless, there he is, mink coat and all. We know, however, that Namath is in the Hall partly due to his stats and mostly because of the intangibles that he brought to the game (see my article, “Why Joe Namath is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame”).

      Thank you also for pointing out some facts concerning John Hadl’s career. You helped support my argument that statistics like passing yards, touchdowns, and league titles are not sufficient to determine a quarterback’s Hall of Fame status. He posted impressive career numbers, but since most feel that Hall of Fame status depends mostly on career numbers, your point helps disabuse the public of the notion that such numbers alone will guarantee induction.

      Lastly, Morrall may have thrown more than 7 touchdowns in a season only five times, but he played a lead role in the league’s most formative years (late 60s and early 70s). We cannot look at numbers alone – this is the main thrust of my argument and you confirmed it in your critique of Hadl’s career. Morrall did well everywhere he played, but the 1972 Dolphins would have been either just another team that fell short of a title or won the Super Bowl in spite of a few losses here or there. Coach Don Shula recognized this in his Hall of Fame induction speech and credited Earl Morrall with playing the most important role in that team’s success in 1972. If we use your critique of Morrall as the standard for Hall of Fame induction, bear in mind that several great QBs would not be in simply because of a relative lack of TDs or starts in one year or another. Remember, also, that the game was much different back then and Morrall succeeded in fewer starts than other Hall of Fame greats and amassed numbers that eclipse those posted by some Hall of Fame QBs, such as number of league championships (about 75% of HOF QBs won at least one, as seen in this week’s segment) over a career.

      I hold that Earl Morrall is the greatest backup QB of all time and an excellent starter who redefined the role of the backup QB (a major intangible contribution to the game). He led two of the greatest offenses in NFL history. This alone merits serious consideration for induction. Remember, Hall of Fame induction depends more on intangible contributions to the game than numbers alone. Nevertheless, QBs like Fran Tarkenton relied mostly on numbers to enter the Hall and compensated for a smaller contribution of intangible qualities/features to the game. The inverse is logical and confirmed by Namath’s induction; Morrall redefined the role of the backup QB and was not merely an earlier version of a “game manager.” In Unitas’ and Griese’s absence, Morrall led the 1968 Colts and 1972 Dolphins to the Super Bowl, respectively. Besides, George Blanda played for a very long time, though his success was mostly in the AFL (Hadl benefits from that). As for Morrall, when we consider Blanda’s career, he cannot be written off without real consideration.

      Morrall’s absence from the Hall is unsubstantiated and unjust. Still, the Hall of Fame is not necessarily the “Hall of Greatness,” and if the latter existed, Morrall would merit induction.

      Cam Suarez-Bitar.

    • Dave Opperman
    • June 19th, 2012

    You guys make great points. As a viewer of professional football for 50 years, I believe Morrall and Stabler belong in the NFL Hall of Fame. Thank you.

    • Dear Dave,

      Thanks for your kind words. I must say that the Pro Football Hall of Fame project was the most challenging. When you deal with stats, there is no way to actually say something like, “with 100% confidence, I assert that ______.” Because stats depend on confidence intervals and other such measures of uncertainty, we have to feel comfortable enough with a “good” statistic. Furthermore, there is so much more to a football player than stats; Joe Namath is living proof and as you stated, so are Morrall and Stabler.

      I am glad you enjoyed reading my series on the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If you have ideas or subjects you would like to see covered on my blog, please feel free to email me or post your thoughts on this forum. As you can see from my most recent posts, I have meant to start discussions on a few topics. Instead, I have decided to leave the blog as an online database for the time being. A return to writing may be in the works, so if you have a topic you would like to see explored in further detail, I would be glad to take that on as my next assignment.

      Thanks for reading and posting your feedback.

      With kind regards,


  1. John Hadl had huge numbers for his day and really stood out in the late 60’s! He was the engine that drove Sid Gillman’s offensive machines! He’s also the reason Lance Alworth is in the HOF. Hadley should be there! You can’t compare him to the post 70’s era QB’s, the game was so much different but he was the forerunner to the likes of Fouts, Marino, Elway, Kelly and the stars of today; Brady, Rodgers, etc!!

  2. In reply to Matt masters; undoubtedly Mr. masters never saw a Hadl game in real time like those of us who were in the stands then. Just to paint the picture you could never be sure that he would just pull out a win fron a come from behind scenario with the bomb at any moment! It was his misfortune to be saddled with a team that never had a defense. Since football in terms of win pct is a team game you cannot fathom a players unique individual skill by that yardstick or by having a championship. An interesting stat would be to look at these QBs and multiply their yards by the reciprocal of the ratio of HOF members over the team members!

    • Dear Jerry,

      Thank you for your comments. I agree with you, that Hadl belongs. Stats are inexact and best guesses, at best… statistics as a discipline is an art and not a science. Had I the time – and financial backing – I would certainly dedicate more time to working out a deep qualitative/quantitative analysis of what it takes to become an HOF quarterback. Maybe such a study would finally explain why Hadl and Stabler have yet to be inducted.

      Lastly, please pardon me for not replying sooner. I stepped away from my blog for a while, but I think the time may be coming to bring it back to life.

      Thanks again for your feedback, Jerry. I hope you are well.

      With kind regards,


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