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No Hall call for Bledsoe

Evaluating QB's career; debating Carr vs. Harrington

Posted: Friday April 13, 2007 1:32PM; Updated: Saturday April 14, 2007 11:15AM
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Drew Bledsoe retired on Thursday after 14 years in the NFL.
Drew Bledsoe retired on Thursday after 14 years in the NFL.
Darren Carroll/SI
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Living in Boston, where Drew Bledsoe made his NFL name, I shouldn't have been surprised to hear the notion tossed out there almost reflexively, even before the news of the former Patriots quarterback's retirement had sunk in.

Now that his 14-year NFL career is over, the debate on Bledsoe's Hall of Fame candidacy has begun. But is there anything to really buttress the case that Bledsoe deserves enshrinement among the greats of the game? Not from this vantage point. Not even close.

Before we delve into the statistical analysis that always accompanies the issue of Hall of Fame worthiness, consider this overview nugget that in my mind clearly defines Bledsoe's legacy: As a starting quarterback, Bledsoe saw three organizations give up on him: New England, Buffalo and Dallas. That's nearly unparalleled among Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

Twenty-six-year NFL veteran George Blanda lost starting jobs in Chicago and Houston, but his memorable stint in Oakland was primarily as a kicker and backup quarterback. The newly enshrined Warren Moon -- himself a borderline Hall of Fame candidate in the eyes of many -- saw Houston, Minnesota and Seattle replace him as a starter, but his Hall candidacy was aided immeasurably by both his six record-setting seasons in the CFL and his pioneering role as the game's first star black quarterback.

Bledsoe has no such historical niche to hang his Hall candidacy on. His claim to (Hall of) Fame are statistics that speak to him having thrown a ton of passes in the most pass-happy era in NFL history. He's fifth all-time in completions (3,839), seventh in passing yards (44,611) and 13th in touchdown passes (251). On the surface, that looks impressive. But when you dig deeper, you realize that Bledsoe's numbers reveal more about his longevity than about his excellence.

Bledsoe's career 57.2 completion percentage ranks behind all but one of the recent Hall of Fame quarterbacks who competed in his era, among them Steve Young (64.3), Joe Montana (63.2), Troy Aikman (61.5), Jim Kelly (60.1), Dan Marino (59.4), and Moon (58.4). Bledsoe is ahead of only John Elway (56.9). He's last in that group in quarterback rating (77.1), yards per pass attempt (6.64), and second-to-last in touchdown percentage (his 3.74 beats only Aikman's 3.50).

Bledsoe is also near the back of the pack of his peers when it comes to winning. His 98-96 career record as a starter is about as middle of the road as you can get. He went to just one Super Bowl as a starter, throwing four interceptions in New England's loss to Green Bay in that championship game a decade ago, and led a team to the playoffs as its No. 1 quarterback just four times in 14 years (going 3-4 in those games). That pales next to the postseason exploits of QBs such as Montana, Aikman, Elway, Young, Kelly and Marino.

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