There is a feeling among AFL fans that the American Football League players are consistently overlooked for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In truth there are many players, the bulk of whose careers were spent in the AFL, that deserve serious consideration, if not outright induction. In an effort to spark some discussion regarding their hall of fame worthiness, I will occasionally compare AFL players to their NFL (and Hall of Fame) counterparts. The short biographies on the NFL players have been taken directly from the Pro Football Hall of Fame website.
Today’s comparison is between John Hadl of the San Diego Chargers and two HoF quarterbacks, Sonny Jurgensen and Fran Tarkenton.
John Willard Hadl – Drafted by the Chargers in the 3rd round of the 1962 AFL Draft… Won three league passing titles… Six-time All-Star/Pro Bowl member… Retired with 2,363 completions, 33,503 passing yards and 244 passing touchdowns… Surpassed 3,000 yards in three seasons, 300 yards in 16 games… 1971 NFL Man of the Year… AFL champion in 1963.
Christian Adolph “Sonny” Jurgensen, III – Exceptional passer, superb team leader, intelligent, determined, competitive, poised against pass rush. . .Career 82.625 passing rating. . .Won three NFL individual passing titles. . .Surpassed 3,000 yards in five seasons, 300 yards in 25 games, 400 yards in five games. . .Career totals: 2,433 completions, 32,224 yards, 255 touchdowns. . .Excelled in spite of numerous injuries.
Francis Asbury “Fran” Tarkenton – Almost instant star with four TD passes, first game, 1961. . .Moved to New York (1967), back to Vikings (1972) in stunning trades. . .At retirement led lifetime passers in attempts (6,467), completions (3,686), yards (47,003), touchdowns (342). . .Exciting, elusive scrambler. . . Rushed for 3,674 yards, 32 TDs. . .Led Vikings to three Super Bowls. . .Two-time All-NFL. . .Pro Bowl selection nine times.
John Hadl is an interesting candidate for HoF consideration. He had a long career, and excelled in both pre- and post-merger eras. As the main implementer of Sid Gillman’s famed passing attack, Hadl led state-of-the-art offenses during the majority of his career, and was the starting point for the majority of Lance Alworth’s receptions. Taking a look at total offensive production by team in the 1960s, the Chargers led all teams (AFL & NFL) in total offensive yards, and finished third (again, AFL & NFL) in scoring for the entire decade. Lastly, consider the following quotes about Hadl.
“I wouldn’t trade Hadl for any other quarterback in pro football.” – Sid Gillman, 1968.
“When Hadl is on his game, there is no better passer in football.” – Lou Saban, 1968
“[Hadl’s] the best passer in the league.” – Joe Namath, 1969