Cincinnati Bengals: Making Ken Anderson’s case for Canton

The Cincinnati Bengals are starting to make a public push for Ken Anderson and Ken Riley to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Cincinnati Bengals posted a graphic to social media last Friday in an effort to reignite Hall of Fame talk around two of the franchise’s all-time greats, Ken Anderson and Ken Riley.

Organizations and their potential Hall of Famers often campaign to have their names considered for Canton in cases where they’re on the edge of earning the honor. This is part of the reason most franchises have a “ring of honor”, or something similar to it and it’s why so many are pushing the Bengals to establish one as well.

Regardless, it’s nice to see Cincinnati drawing more attention to two of the best players in the club’s history.

Both Ken and Riley have legitimate Hall of Fame candidacies and belong alongside the all-time greats in the minds of many. For now, we will only focus on the first quarterback to lead the Bengals to a Super Bowl appearance. Let’s start with a big part of the reason that Anderson hasn’t gotten the call yet.

The numbers are not Ken Anderson’s friend

Anderson was one of the best quarterbacks of his era, but the NFL was much more run-heavy in the 70s and 80s. Thus, even quarterbacks thought of as average in the modern era, without a shot to make the Hall of Fame, have some better statistics than Anderson. For example, Joe Flacco has more yards and touchdowns, along with a higher completion percentage and quarterback rating.

Anderson obviously did not get a gold jacket right after his playing days ended. Moreover, there really isn’t a great or simple way to adjust quarterback statistics for the era. So, it is hard to overlook a comparison like the one in the last paragraph.

Philip Rivers helps make Ken Anderson’s case

Right or wrong, there is plenty of wisdom out there that says Philip Rivers is a Hall of Famer. Enough of it exists that Rivers will get in one day, even if he has to wait for a while.

His career is one that anyone would be proud of. He is still writing his Hall of Fame resume and outpaces Anderson in most statistical areas. However, Anderson does have three All-Pro designations. Rivers has none.

Rivers has also never sniffed an MVP trophy or gotten reasonably close to leading his team to a Super Bowl. He and the Chargers lost his only AFC Championship Game appearance by nine points. Anderson, on the other hand, was the league MVP in 1981 and lost a Super Bowl by one possession.

Yes, football is a team game, and wins and losses don’t fall on the quarterback alone. Still, the team with worse quarterback play rarely loses. So, a quarterback’s ability to at least get close to Super Bowl wins should carry some weight as far as the Hall of Fame, especially for guys like Anderson and Rivers who aren’t slam dunk inductees. All-Pro designations and MVPs should matter too.

Those things sort of transcend eras. Statistics like passing yards don’t. Anderson’s 32,000+ passing yards looked like a great number when he retired, but the game has changed and it no longer does. He shouldn’t be punished for that.

Anderson and Rivers also have a similar career winning percentage as starters. In the most meaningful areas, Anderson compares pretty favorably with Rivers. If Rivers is getting the call one day, Anderson should as well.

Next: Geno Atkins has solidified his Hall of Fame career