Warren Moon Makes The Hall of Fame. Hopefully The “First” of Many and The Last of the Word

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: February 6, 2006

NORTH CAROLINA—49, 325 Total Career Yards, total yards in the NFL, 291 Total Touchdowns Most Total passing Yardage: 62,501 yds (CFL, NFL),was MVP of CFL with Edmonton in 1983, led Eskimos to 5 consecutive Grey Cup titles (1978-82) and was playoff MVP twice (1980,82), entered NFL in 1984 and played for four different teams and was picked for 9 Pro Bowls including a QB-record 8 straight (1988-95).

These are some of the more remarkable stats that the new member of the Hall of Fame Warren Moon accomplished in his allustrious 22 year career(including the CFL). As impressive as those numbers are for Moon, it seems that the new Hall of Famer’s career is over-shadowed by his position as the first and only black quarterback in the Hall of Fame, the same shadow that seem to follow Moon throughout his career including when he finished a great career at the University of Washington when he led the Huskies to the Rose Bowl in 1978 and was MVP of the game only to be forced to go to the CFL because no team in the NFL wanted to draft him as a quarterback.

I know obviously, Moon cannot escape the “TAG” of first black quarterback in the Hall of Fame, but I also know that society still feels the need to “classify” and “identify” “FIRST BLACK” situations not only in sports but the world rather than looking at the Merits that made the person the best at what he or she does. Make no mistake about it, it’s an honor to be “FIRST” at something or be the “PIONEER” paving the way for others to follow but it seems the “FIRST WORDS” in acknowleding someone for their great body of work is the word “FIRST” which seems to acknowledge their race more than their body of work.

And why is Warren Moon the first black quarterback to enter the hall of fame? Can you make a case for Randall Cunningham? The NFL MVP award is given out annually by three different entities. Cunningham won the award in 1988, 1990, and 1998-only Jim Brown, Y.A. Tittle, Johnny Unitas, and Brett Favre have been honored in as many years, and they’re all in Canton or headed there. Joe Montana won MVPs in only two seasons. Needless to say, Joe Cool didn’t have an eight-year gap between awards, nor has anyone else.

When Cunningham was drafted in 1985, black QBs were still a rarity. Doug Williams’ historic Super Bowl win was still two years away, and the idea that fast, athletic blacks could succeed at the position was anathema to head coaches around the league. It took Buddy Ryan, a defensive guru who understood the kind of pressure a game-breaker like Cunningham could put on a defense, to prove that a black scrambler could not just survive but thrive in a league increasingly based on speed. Nowadays, with Kordell Stewart, Donovan McNabb, and Michael Vick making a QB who can run or pass seem a necessary part of modern football, it’s easy to forget the Mesozoic Era when Randall was a curiosity. Yet it was only 15 years ago.

In a 4 year period, Cunningham averaged 3,000 yards and 24 TDs passing, but also lead the team in rushing, including a staggering 942 yards in 1990, the standing record for quarterbacks.

Cunningham’s stats match or beat the Hall of Fame quarterbacks of his era. Dan Marino and John Elway played in offenses geared to their passing ability and had almost double Randall’s passing attempts, so they racked up bigger numbers. Marino and Elway are ranked 1 and 2 in most all-time passing stats, but Randall is in the top 25, and there are 25 QBs in the hall-you do the math. The all-important yards-per-pass attempt stat is basically equal: Marino 7.3 per attempt, Elway 7.1, Cunningham 7.0. And Cunningham has a better TD-to-INT ratio than Elway, 1.54 to 1.33. So is Cunningham a NFL Hall of Famer? The obvious knock on Cunningham is his lack of leading a team to a Super Bowl.

So if a Super Bowl is the bar set for greatness, what about Donavan McNabb? McNabb has led his team to 4 consecutive NFC Championship games, 1 Super Bowl and he has gone to 5 probowls and became the first player in NFL history to finish a season with 30+ TD passes (31) and fewer than 10 INTs (8) not to mention his scrambling and elusiveness in and out of the pocket. Will he be going to Canton when he is eligible in 5 years or just another “oh by the way”, another black QB that is seen as a great athlete and not a great quarterback? More importantly, will he be known as a very good “black quarterback” rather than a Hall of Fame quarterback without the word “black” in front of it? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, Warren Moon, the “FIRST BLACK QUARTERBACK” to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Fortunately it’s called and honors the “Pro Football Hall of Fame” which includes other leagues and league players. Hopefully, Mr Moon will get rid of the the distinct title of “FIRST”, which is once again and honor as it makes him a pioneer of hopefully many african american quarterbacks following that same path but let’s also hope when the “SECOND BLACK QUARTERBACK” enters the Hall of Fame, Mr Moon not only gets rid of the word “FIRST” when it comes to black quarterbacks enshrined into the Hall of Fame but african americans get rid of the symbolism the word “FIRST” means in society terms and they are viewed as individuals that accomplish such great things rather than the color that they are in acheiving them.