NFL Legends – Player Profile: Warren Moon

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The 1978 NFL Draft was a disappointment for Warren Moon and he wasn’t granted his opportunity to be the “No. 1 guy”.

Despite a successful career and stand out season prior to the draft, winning the 1978 Rose Bowl over the favoured Michigan Wolverines whilst becoming the game’s MVP; Warren Moon was considered by NFL scouts to be a mid-round pick (Moon ranked as the 10th best quarterback in the 1978 draft).

No other African American quarterback, with the exception of James Harris had never achieved notable success in the NFL. Moon, determined to be a quarterback, refused to play any other position, considering himself an athlete who lacked the speed and strength to play any other position.

“The stereotype was that he was a black quarterback and he was going to run around like a madman, but he wouldn’t be able to throw very well,”

-Former Edmonton Eskimos and Houston Oilers coach Hugh Campbell, talking to the Los Angeles Times.

Instead, Moon signed with the Canadian Football League (CFL). During his five year tenure with the Edmonton Eskimos, Moon firmly established himself as a solid player capable of being in the NFL.

WARREN MOON’S CFL STATISTICS:
PASSING YARDS21 228
TOUCHDOWNS144

In 1984 Warren Moon, at this point a free agent, seven NFL teams sought to sign him. The Houston Oilers, under the management of Moon’s former college coach Hugh Campbell, won the bidding war for his services, with a 5-year, $5.5 million contract which at the time made him the highest paid player in the NFL, before he had even snapped a ball.

In his first season as an Oiler, Moon set a franchise record with 3,338. Despite this the Oilers finished with a losing 3-13 season.

Despite individual success, as the only starting African American quarterback at the time, Moon faced enormous pressure from fans. More than once Moon’s family were abused in the stands during games by spectators who hurled racial slurs and complained about Moon’s performance.

Warren Moon did begin to win over fans. Between 1987 and 1993 the team made the playoffs every year and twice he started in the Pro Bowl.

He told the Los Angeles Times:

“The stereotypes are there, “As I improved, you started not to hear the word black put in front of quarterback all the time. And now I’m pretty much recognised as just another quarterback in the league.”

By 1990, Warren Moon was considered by all one of the best to play the quarterback position. Throwing for 4,689 yards in 1990, the fifth-highest total ever in the NFL at that time. 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.

The Oilers seemed capable of Super Bowl glory in 1990 until Moon was towards the end of the season. He could only look on from the side lines during the playoffs as the Oilers lost to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Playoff victories continuously failed to materialize in 1992 and 1993 as Moon, now aged 37, creeped closer towards retirement.

In 1993, Warren Moon was traded to the Minnesota Vikings and made a promising start with 4,264 season passing yards and a playoff berth for his new team. They missed out once again in a defeat against the Chicago Bears.

Despite consistent decent performances, the Vikings never made it to the playoffs again with Moon at quarterback.

Electing to not resign with the Vikings, Moon became a free agent in 1997 where he signed as a backup for the Seattle Seahawks.

 

Between 1997- 2001 Moon bounced from team to team before eventually retiring as a Kansas City Chief in 2001.

Despite never reaching the pinnacle of the Super Bowl and playing for six years in the CFL, Moon still gained almost 50,000 passing yards in 17 NFL seasons, making him the 10th in all-time passing yards at the time of writing.

In 2006 Warren Moon became the NFL’s first African American quarterback inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I started wearing number one in college because I always wanted to the No. 1 guy”

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