The big agenda for the past few years for Pro Football Hall of Fame voters has centered on taking great care to make sure overlooked candidates from non-glory positions get their due. Quarterbacks, the thinking was, hogged too much of the hall’s space.
So the voters have inducted 24 players in the past four classes: five offensive linemen, five defensive backs, four wide receivers, three defensive linemen, three linebackers, three running backs and one tight end. Not a single quarterback.
What a grave injustice to the men who play by far the most important position on the field. Put — read the rest of this sentence in the melodramatic voice of the late, great voice of NFL films, John Facenda — one John Willard Hadl, hometown Lawrence, alma mater Kansas University, at the top of the list of the shafted.
It’s as if Hadl’s over-the-hill years with the Green Bay Packers count more than his extraordinary ones with the San Diego Chargers and Los Angeles Rams.
Anybody who doubts a quarterback influences his team far more than any other position hasn’t paid attention to the Big 12 in recent seasons. Texas, runner-up to Alabama in the national-title game, is in last place in the Big 12 South this year. Not coincidentally, it’s not the changing of the guards, rather the quarterback, that’s to blame for the Longhorns’ slide, though injuries to the offensive line haven’t helped.
In getting blown out by Kansas State, UT quarterback Garrett Gilbert threw more interceptions (five) than K-State surprise starter Collin Klein threw passes (four). Colt McCoy isn’t the only player missed by the Longhorns, but he’s the main one. Oklahoma was extraordinary with Sam Bradford at QB in 2008, ordinary when he missed most of 2009. Kansas gained national prominence with a healthy Todd Reesing standing in the shotgun and couldn’t beat anybody when Reesing played through a groin injury.
Don’t underestimate the role Quinn Mecham has played in the big strides KU made the past two weeks, during which time he has established himself as the unquestioned top quarterback on the team, ascending all the way from third string.
Not as impressive an athlete in practice as either Kale Pick, who has more speed, or Jordan Webb, who has a stronger arm, Mecham has brought out the best in teammates with his savvy, quick decision-making and throwing accuracy.
It stands to reason Mecham exhibits the most confidence of any quarterback on the roster considering he is the only one who had tasted success in a big-time way beyond high school. Webb had never played in a post-high-school game before this season and Pick primarily in garbage time. Mecham threw for 3,091 yards and 40 touchdowns as a sophomore at Snow Junior College in Ephraim, Utah.
Mecham’s winning personality also has helped him take the reins so smoothly.
“He’s a great guy,” senior receiver Johnathan Wilson said of Mecham. “You’ll never hear him complain, never hear him whine.”
Hadl was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994. Mecham will never get there, but the beauty of his game is he knows he doesn’t need to in order to help his team get better.