Canton conundrum: Boomer Esiason

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jul 11, 2007



Does Norman Julius Esiason 
deserve a spot in Canton?
 
By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts grand inquisitor
 
The rumor mill was churning Wednesday with talk that Boomer Esiason will replace Don Imus on the WFAN morning shift in New York. (You might remember that Imus was canned for calling some chicks, and we quote, "nappy-headed hos," a common CHFF troll pick-up line.) 
 
This radio news got us to thinking about the pigskin personality who's been in front of football fans for more than two decades.
 
There certainly doesn't appear to be a place in Canton for the man whose momma named him Norman Julius, but perhaps there should be.
 
Maybe a separate wing, for men who have a Hall of Very Good career and follow it with more football-related deeds.
 
Boomer's résumé is pretty impressive.
 
He would likely have been a top-10 pick in the 1984 draft, had it not been for a late injury to his throwing shoulder while an All-American senior at Maryland. That draft was considered an incredibly weak one by draftniks, and it surely was.
 
Of the 28 men picked in the 1984 NFL draft's first round, at least 20 were outright busts, and none will even sniff the Hall of Fame. There were some real chumps on the list, too, including Bill Maas, a man "crafted by the Pigskin Detention Gods" who was busted with every drug in the book the other day. The prize of the draft went to Cincinnati, which took Esiason in the second round with the No. 38 pick overall.
 
Esiason would play nine seasons with the Bengals and make it to three Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl before finishing out his career with the Jets, Cardinals and a swan song in Cincy.
 
Check out his career stats, courtesy of the indispensable www.pro-football-reference.com:
 
2,969 for 5,205 (57.0%), 37,920 yards, 7.3 YPA, 247 TD, 184 INT, 81.1 passer rating
 
When his career ended, he ranked in the Top 10 all time in completions, attempts, yards and TD passes. A decade after he last played, he still ranks No. 11 in attempts, No. 12 in completions, No. 12 in passing yards and No. 14 in passing TDs. His passer rating of 81.0 ranks him 33rd all-time.
 
It was better than a good career, one that if it were paired with Super Bowl rings would probably be a slam dunk for the Hall of Fame. His relevant career numbers are on par with Warren Moon and Jim Kelly, who were both first-ballot HOFers:
 
Quarterback
Passer Rating
Playoff Rating
TD/INT
YPA
Super Bowls
Pro Bowls
Boomer Esiason
81.0
80.6
247/184
7.3
1
4
Jim Kelly
84.3
71.7
237/175
7.4
4
4
Warren Moon
80.9
84.5
291/233
7.2
0
9
 
So the numbers against QBs from the same era are quite comparable. And none of them won a Super Bowl.
 
But was Esiason as good as Kelly or Moon?
 
Probably not.
 
Kelly and Moon were better in the eye of the beholder and, in many respects, on the stat sheet. Esiason was a .500 QB over his career, while Moon and Kelly won a lot of games, at least in the regular season. And while the NFL stats are similar, both Kelly and Moon had incredible non-NFL success on their résumés as well – Kelly as a USFL MVP, Moon as a CFL MVP.
 
So it's understandable that Boomer is a third wheel on the Moon-Kelly-Esiason love-in.
 
But if his Bengals had beaten the 49ers in the Joe Montana "Hey, Is That John Candy?" Super Bowl back in 1989 – when Esiason was hitting his prime – who knows where Esiason's career would have gone?
 
For sure, his career has gone nowhere but up since his 1997 retirement.
 
If the Hall ever considered changing its policy so a man's entire football résumé could be considered for induction, Esiason would have a chance in a decade or so.
 
He's already had some of the best jobs in the NFL media market – Monday Night Football announcer, CBS pregame analyst, Westwood One lead radio analyst. That's pretty much the trifecta, and he's done it all in a decade. He's also hosted his very own show on the powerful New York-based MSG Network.
 
All this while establishing and working tirelessly for the incredibly successful Boomer Esiason Foundation to fight Cystic Fibrosis.
 
His son Gunnar, who has the condition, is now 16 and a high school athlete despite the lung problems that are at the core of the illness.
 
Esiason doesn't always get it right as an NFL analyst, but he always seems to "keep it real" and doesn't have the Hollywood sheen of slime that so many former pro suck-ups develop. (Hellooooo, Sean Salisbury.)
 
If Esiason stays closely involved with the NFL for another decade, he'll have contributed an awful lot to the game over 35-plus years of service. Unfortunately for him, the Pro Football Hall of Fame doesn't mix post-retirement career with on-field exploits.
 
But there is a bit of wiggle room there. John Madden recently made the Hall, and although it was largely due to his 103-32-7 won-loss record, we're sure that his broadcasting career didn't hurt.
 
So maybe there could be hope of a Canton trip for Boomer.
 
More likely, he'll have to settle for a career that 99.5 percent of players would kill for.
 
Not a bad deal at all, especially for a guy named Norman Julius.

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