David Kubicki had an idea, but once he met Ken Anderson it became a crusade.
About six months ago Kubicki, a commercial real estate developer who lives in the Cincinnati suburb of Mariemont, noodled on the idea of a charity event for college scholarships. He bumped into Anderson at that Northern Kentucky sports haven known as Dickman's Café and wondered what kind of expenses it would take to draw him back for such an evening.
"Nothing if it's for charity," Anderson told him. "I'll drive and stay with my in-laws."
And that's when Kubicki began to figure out why Anderson wasn't in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and why he should be.
"Very unassuming; very humble," Kubicki said. "He always gave somebody else the credit. He'd tell the writers to go interview the offensive line and you're talking about a guy that if he wasn't one of the best quarterbacks of his era, he was the best."
Which is what Kubicki found out in what he likes to call "his journey," and is now trying to convey to the nine members of the senior committee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is Anderson's first shot as a senior candidate after 20 years of coming up empty on the regular ballot. It's a mystery to his teammates, the Cincinnati media, and Bengals fans everywhere why he's the only man that has won four NFL passing titles not to make it.
But it horrified Kubicki so much that it inspired him to debunk all the naysayers in one exhaustive, colorful, riveting package that he's now sending to the committee in time for their votes in June. With the help of his computer-savvy daughter, Kubicki has given Anderson's 16-year career that careened through crisis and triumph coherence and theme.
He has unearthed Anderson's biography on 13 x 19 photographic paper on what he calls slides that are filled with numbers, photos and anecdotes. It is how the '60s Midwest kid next door came to sit next to the game's greats in a statistical buffet of the '70s and '80s using 21st century visuals.
Anderson is one of about 80 names on a ballot that the senior committee is going to pare down to 15 by the third weekend in August. At that time at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, five senior committee members sit down with two Hall of Famers acting as consultants as the group settles on two players that go into the final balloting the day before the Super Bowl.
The good news is that if a player passes the test of the senior committee, he most always makes it in that final vote. The bad news is that it takes time once they get into the queue and they have to wait their turn behind other snubbed seniors, like former Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau waited 12 years before getting the call in 2010 at age 72. That's when Broncos running back Floyd Little went in, 35 years after his last dash.
"I really believe," Kubicki says, "when the voters see this that he could get in this year. That's how good his numbers are. They say he's not a winner; he's got a better winning percentage than Warren Moon and Dan Fouts. He beat Fouts in the one game they played to go to the Super Bowl."
If it sounds like Kubicki is on a roll, he is. And he's not going to stop until Anderson gets to Canton. He doesn't want to hear that Kenneth Allan Anderson has to wait his turn and, he's right. The campaigns of John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama began by telling their elders they wouldn't wait.
Anderson is popular with teammates and fans because he's one of us. He may be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, but you would never know it because he would never let on. And so it's fitting that a regular guy on your street like the 46-year-old Kubicki is spearheading the campaign with the help of Elise, his daughter who is a junior finance major at Ohio State working magic with the computer.
"I'm computer illiterate," Kubicki says, "but I know more now."
He kept going because of what he kept finding out. It wasn't so much that Anderson had better numbers in 1974 and 1975 than league MVPs Ken Stabler and Fran Tarkenton, but it was how his teammates rallied to him as if it were the fourth quarter of what may have been the greatest game ever played by a quarterback when he threw two touchdowns in 59-below wind chill to get the Bengals to their first Super Bowl.
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When Kubicki called former tight end Bob Trumpy to get him to write a testimonial letter, he got back to him that day and told him he had enlightened Anderson's first center, Bob Johnson. Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Muñoz responded within 30 minutes of a forwarded email. "Dave, how can I help?" he asked. Cris Collinsworth wrote one this week, but he put it on his Web site footballpros.com with a banner headlined "Ken Anderson belongs in the Hall of Fame."
"When you compare quarterback numbers, Kenny Anderson is one of the greatest passers of all time. I knew it because I was on the receiving end of those perfectly thrown spirals," Collinsworth wrote. "Kenny could anticipate defenses to the point that if you were going to get hit he would throw you away from danger. His performance in the Freezer Bowl against the San Diego Chargers alone should put him in the Hall of Fame."
The hits just keep coming. Pete Johnson wrote, "The Hall of Fame, seems at times to me more about a popularity contest, or about the fame instead of football. Kenny Anderson was a football player. He didn't care about being famous. I think the Hall should reward individual people, not just teams. The 70s Steelers were a Hall of Fame team. Kenny Anderson was a Hall of Fame player. Kenny was a great football player that could do anything. He was smart, he could run, he could throw, and he was tough, and a heck of a teammate."
Kubicki has more charts than Columbus. Truth be told, he grew up in Indian Hill a Stabler fan. Isn't that always the way? Stabler is Anderson's biggest senior rival as quarterbacks from the same era and he's already been in the queue for two years. But in 1974, when Anderson won the first of his four passing titles, Kubicki shows he outrushed Stabler, 314 yards to minus-2 while throwing for more yards, more yards per attempt and a higher completion percentage.
Career? Anderson threw three more TD passes than Stabler while getting picked 160 times while Stabler threw 222 interceptions.
The hits keep coming like classic 70s rock. Along the way Kubicki has picked up a huge ally in Kerry Byrne of coldhardfootballfacts.com. Byrne, who has always called Anderson the most underrated quarterback of all time, is in the middle of writing a three-part series on the "injustice" of Anderson not being in the Hall.
Byrne goes after the QBs already in to make his point:
"Anderson twice led the NFL in passing yards – more often than Aikman, Bradshaw, Dawson, Elway, Griese, Kelly, Montana, Starr, Staubach, Tarkenton, Tittle, Van Brocklin, Waterfield and Young."
"The deadly accurate Anderson led the NFL in completion percentage three times – more often than Aikman, Blanda, Bradshaw, Elway, Fouts, Griese, Jurgensen, Kelly, Layne, Marino, Moon, Namath, Staubach, Tarkenton, Tittle, Unitas, Van Brocklin or Waterfield."
And the killer is yards per attempt. Byrne calls it the most important QB stat and it shatters the myth that the razor-accurate Anderson, who retired as the NFL career leader in game, season and postseason percentage, was a dinker and dunker:
Anderson twice led the NFL in passing yards per attempt, our preferred indicator – more often than Aikman, Blanda, Elway, Griese, Jurgensen, Kelly, Layne, Marino, Montana, Moon or Tarkenton," Byrne writes.
Byrne has a blast with Anderson. When he set the NFL record for game percentage with 20-of-22 against the Steelers in 1975, Byrne gives figures that show Anderson did it against the greatest pass defense of all time. Kubicki then appears with a letter of testimonial from Steelers safety Mike Wagner calling Anderson a "nightmare" for the fabled Steel Curtain.
The hits just keep coming. A good chunk of Byrne's argument is that Anderson became the template quarterback of the modern passing game as West Coast guru Bill Walsh's first success in his days as the Bengals quarterbacks coach in Paul Brown's system. Kubicki caught wind of the stories that Walsh showed all his quarterbacks, from Hall of Famer Joe Montana to Anderson backup Turk Schonert, tapes of Anderson while teaching the offense.
Voila'. Kubicki has letters from Schonert and Stanford's Steve Dils that back it up. Schonert's great line is that when he ended up in Cincinnati, he felt like he already knew Anderson from the tape.
Great stuff? Now you feel like Kubicki. He couldn't put this book down it is so interesting and now it is six months later.
You could read more.
But you have to be a member of the Hall of Fame senior committee.