Ken Anderson is still waiting at the Pro Football Hall of Fame door. But his many supporters believe there is now a crack after his first turn as a senior candidate.
On Wednesday the-five man senior committee of the Hall’s board of selectors went all the way back to the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1950s to tap cornerback Jack Butler and guard Dick Stanfel.
Those two join 15 modern-era candidates on the list of finalists from which the 2012 class is chosen the day before the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. The 44 selectors, made up of a media member from each NFL city as well as at-large voters, can select as many as seven and no fewer than four with 80 percent of the vote.
It was a bittersweet day for David Kubicki, the Cincinnati developer who spearheaded a meteoric campaign that gave Anderson’s candidacy its greatest exposure since he retired in 1986 as one of four men to win four NFL passing titles. He didn’t make it, but the message did.
With his college student daughter manning the computer, Kubicki spent the spring and summer drenching media and senior committee members with compelling statistics and eloquent endorsements from former teammates and coaches.
“I think we’re there. It’s no longer a matter of if, but when,” Kubicki said. “I’ve received some tremendous feedback from those on the committee and they’ve told me he’s got a great case but they can’t right every wrong overnight and that it’s a process.”
Kubicki has heard from some voters that it’s the most extensive campaign they’ve seen and it’s believed that Anderson was one of the 20 candidates discussed Wednesday in Canton, a feat in itself for a first-year candidate.
“The more I get into it, the more it amazes me what a great career he had,” said Kubicki, whose argument that Anderson pioneered the West Coast offense with former Bengals assistant coach Bill Walsh caught fire with some national media.
“The response from his teammates was stunning and overwhelming,” Kubicki said. “Anthony Muñoz, Cris Collinsworth, Dave Lapham just to name a few. The Bengals called. Augustana College called. The fact we were able to use old Paul Brown and Bill Walsh quotes to offer testimony I think was helpful.”
Anderson is the only retired quarterback with at least three NFL passing titles not in the Hall and when he retired he held the records for the highest completion percentage in a game, season and postseason career. Kubicki thinks that neatly refutes the naysayers that argue Anderson never won a Super Bowl.
“But he won more passing titles than only one guy (Sammy Baugh) before him,” Kubicki said. “He set records in the regular season, on Monday night, the Super Bowl. And he won more games for the Bengals than any other quarterback before or since.”
Anderson’s only enemy seems to be time.
Butler, who retired from the Steelers in 1959 after four Pro Bowl seasons and 52 career interceptions, had never come up for discussion until Wednesday. Stanfel played on the Lions’ back-to-back NFL championship teams in 1952 and 1953 during a career he went to five Pro Bowls.
Yet the conventional wisdom is that Anderson won’t have to wait the 12 years as a senior candidate it took his old boss in Cincinnati, Dick LeBeau, before he got in last year.
Kubicki plans to keep the effort going next year, although he says it won’t be as exhaustive.
“It will be more of a reminder,” he said. “But I think that means we’ve made great progress.”