Saturday, January 24, 1997
Anderson deserves to be in Hall

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ken Anderson
Ken Anderson has done the sitting by the phone bit, but he knows better now. When the Pro Football Hall of Fame selects its new members this afternoon in San Diego, Anderson will be on the opposite coast chasing golf balls.

He has a 10:30 tee time this morning in Florida, and no great desire to finish fast. Bad news can usually wait.

''I think it would be great to get in, but I'm not overly optimistic,'' the Cincinnati Bengals' most accomplished quarterback said. ''I don't think anything's changed since last time.''

Though he won four passing titles in the National Football League, and was its Most Valuable Player in 1981, Anderson has yet to approach consensus for the football shrine in Canton. His numbers suggest a strong argument, but his name has yet to excite the electorate.

Anderson made the Hall of Fame cut to 15 candidates in '96 and '98, but the first Bengal player to be enshrined will surely be his blind-side blocker, Anthony Munoz.

Overshadowed by Munoz

Munoz is an immortal lock in his first year on the ballot. Anderson is a decided longshot. Perception is a powerful force in subjective decisions, and it would not seem to favor No. 14. Recognizing the political realities of his two candidates, Bengals President Mike Brown has written the members of the selection committee pleading that Anderson not be penalized for Munoz' success.

''Whatever the acclaim for Anthony,'' Brown wrote, ''I'd like to ask all Selectors to not let his candidacy overshadow that of (Anderson). Ken stands in my estimation as the most important player in the history of our franchise - as the player who should have, years ago, taken away the Hall of Fame ''goose egg'' from a team which stands among the 15 to have reached two Super Bowls.''

Brown has written such letters before, and Cincinnati selector Pat Harmon has carried the ball with conviction in the Hall of Fame meetings. Yet the voters have remained curiously lukewarm to Anderson's candidacy, unswayed by statistics, untouched by tributes.

Some of this owes to Anderson's style rather than his substance. He was known for his remarkable accuracy rather than his rifle arm; his quiet demeanor rather than his dynamic personality.

He was the antithesis of Broadway Joe Namath. He was also, on balance, a whole lot better.

Namath, who has been in the Hall of Fame since 1985, threw fewer touchdown passes than Ken Anderson, and more interceptions. His career completion percentage was 50.1, compared to Anderson's 59.3. Namath's best year - as measured by the NFL's arcane passing ratings - was not nearly as good as Anderson's average season.

No Super Bowl ring

The most striking difference between the two quarterbacks is that Namath had the guts to guarantee a Super Bowl once, and delivered on his promise. Ken Anderson was never so bold, and not quite so fortunate.

His lone Super Bowl experience was a loss, and that 1982 game still colors his Hall of Fame candidacy. Had he been able to produce one more touchdown at the right time, Anderson might have been inducted years ago.

Super Bowl success is not enough to secure a spot in Canton, but the failure to win the big game counts heavily against quarterbacks. Since 1987, Dan Fouts is the only quarterback who has reached the Hall of Fame without a Super Bowl ring.

''A lot of good things happened in my career, but the final piece was never there,'' Anderson said. ''And that's how a quarterback is judged. You think Terry Bradshaw is in the Hall of Fame without four Super Bowls?''

That's hard to say. But it is easy to imagine Ken Anderson winning several Super Bowls had he played for Pittsburgh in the 1970s. That fate left him with lesser teams should not disqualify him from Canton.

If the phone doesn't ring, it's not his fault.