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Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday…Warren Moon

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Despite his collegiate success, Warren Moon went undrafted in the National Football League. With no takers in the NFL, he turned to the Canadian Football League. Moon signed with the Edmonton Eskimos, where he and Tom Wilkinson shared signal-calling duties and helped lead the Eskimos to an unprecedented five consecutive Grey Cup victories in 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1982.[11] Moon won the offensive Grey Cup Most Valuable Player award in the 1980 and 1982 games. Moon became the first professional quarterback to pass for 5,000 yards in a season by reaching exactly 5,000 yards in 1982. In his final CFL season of 1983, Moon threw for a league record 5,648 yards, and won the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player Award. Throughout his CFL career, Moon amassed 1,369 completions on 2,382 attempts (57.4 completion percentage) for 21,228 yards and 144 touchdown passes. He also led his team to victory in 9 of 10 postseason games. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Edmonton Eskimos Wall of Honour. In 2006, he was ranked fifth on a list of the greatest 50 CFL players presented by Canadian sports network TSN.

Moon’s decision to enter the NFL touched off a bidding war for his services, won by the Houston Oilers (who were coached by Hugh Campbell, his former coach in Edmonton). However, Moon had a difficult adjustment period. Even so, he still threw for a franchise record 3,338 yards in his first season with Oilers in 1984. It was only in 1986 when Oilers head coach Jerry Glanville found ways to best utilize Moon’s strong arm that he began having success. In 1987, a season shortened by a players’ strike that eliminated the third week of the regular NFL season, the Oilers posted a 9–6 record. It was the Oilers’ first winning season since 1980, when Bum Phillips was the head coach and Ken “The Snake” Stabler was the quarterback. Moon then passed for 237 yards and a touchdown while leading the Oilers to a 23–20 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks in the wildcard round of the playoffs in his first NFL postseason game.

Before the start of the 1989 season, Moon was given a five-year, $10 million contract extension, which made him the highest paid player in the National Football League at that time.[12] In 1990, Moon led the league with 4,689 passing yards. He also led the league in attempts (584), completions (362), and touchdowns (33), and tied Dan Marino‘s record with nine 300-yard games in a season. That included throwing for 527 yards against Kansas City on December 16, 1990, the second most passing yards ever in a single game.[13] The following year, he again led the league in passing yards, with 4,690. At the same time, he joined Marino and Dan Fouts as the only quarterbacks to post back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons. Moon also established new NFL records that season with 655 attempts and 404 completions. In 1991, Moon threw for a career-high 655 passes.

In 1992, Moon played only 11 games due to injuries, but still managed to lead the Oilers to a 10–6 record, including a victory over the Buffalo Bills in the final game of the season. Moon and the Oilers then faced the Bills again in the first round of the AFC playoffs. Aided by Moon’s 222 passing yards and 4 touchdowns in the first half, Houston built up a 28–3 halftime lead, and then increased it to 35–3 when Buffalo quarterback Frank Reich‘s first pass of the third quarter was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. But the Bills managed to storm back with 5 unanswered second half touchdowns to take a 38–35 lead with time running out in the final period. Moon managed to lead the Oilers on a last second field goal drive to send the game into overtime, but threw an interception in the extra period that set-up Buffalo kicker Steve Christie‘s game winning field goal. It was the largest comeback victory in NFL history and is now known in NFL Lore simply as The Comeback. Moon finished the game with 36 completions for 371 yards and 4 touchdowns, with 2 interceptions. His 36 completions remain an NFL postseason record.

The 1993 season was the Houston Oilers’ best season with Warren Moon under center — and it would also be his last season with the team. The Oilers went 12–4 and won the AFC Central division crown, but lost to Joe Montana and the Kansas City Chiefs 28–20 in the divisional round of the playoffs.

As a Houston Oiler, Moon set a franchise record for wins with 70, which stood until Steve McNair broke it in 2004, long after the team had become the Tennessee Titans.

He was traded to the Minnesota Vikings after the season, where he passed for over 4,200 yards in each of his first two seasons, but missed half of the 1996 season with a broken collarbone. The Vikings’ starting quarterback job was given to Brad Johnson and Moon was released after he refused to take a $3.8 million pay cut to serve as Johnson’s backup.[14] Moon then signed with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent. After a two-year stint in the Pacific northwest, an aging Moon signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs as a backup in 1999.[15] He played in only three games in 2 years with the Chiefs before announcing his retirement in January 2001.

Combining his NFL and CFL stats, Moon’s numbers are nearly unmatched in professional football annals: 5,357 completions in 9,205 attempts for 70,553 yards and 435 touchdowns. Even if his Canadian League statistics are discounted, Warren Moon’s career is still exceptional: 3,988 completions for 49,325 yards, 291 touchdown passes, 1,736 yards rushing, and 22 rushing touchdowns.[16] Warren Moon also held individual NFL lifetime records for most fumbles recovered (56) and most fumbles made (162), but this was surpassed by Brett Favre in 2010.[17] Moon was in the top 5 all-time when he retired for passing yards, passing touchdowns, pass attempts, and pass completions.[18]

During his NFL career, Warren Moon was named to nine Pro Bowl games (1988–1995, 1997). Moon currently works as a broadcaster for the Seattle Seahawks on both TV and radio. On the radio, he is co play-by-play announcer with former Seattle Seahawks receiver Steve Raible, who is the lead play-by-play announcer and evening anchor/sports anchor for KIRO-TV in Seattle. He was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, becoming both the first Canadian Football Hall of Famer, first undrafted quarterback and the first African-American quarterback to be so honored. Moon was elected in his first year of eligibility. The Tennessee Titans retired his number at halftime on October 1 vs the Dallas Cowboys. Moon also holds the little-known record for being the oldest player to throw a touchdown pass in overtime (38 years, 359 days). Moon won his first Super Bowl ring as a broadcaster for the Seattle Seahawks.

Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes …Warren Moon.

Career history
Career highlights and awards
NCAA

CFL

NFL

Broadcaster
Career NFL statistics
TDINT 291–233
Passing yards 49,325
QB Rating 80.9
Stats at NFL.com
Career CFL statistics
TD–INT 144–77
Passing yards 21,228
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