TOFN "5 Games" podcast: QB Ken Anderson revisits his 1982 shootout with HOFer Dan Fouts

Rick Gosselin

Ken Anderson achieved something in 1982 that no Hall of Fame quarterback was able to achieve before him. He completed an NFL record 70.6 percent of his passes, becoming the first quarterback of the modern era to complete at least 70 percent of his passes in a single season.

Anderson visited with the Talk of Fame Network “5 Games podcast” and that season – and a Monday night game against the Chargers that year – are the feature attraction of this the final installment of the his series. He talked NFL debuts, AFC title games and Super Bowls in the previous installments.

Anderson completed 218 of his 309 passes in the strike-shortened 1982 season to set the record – a record that would stand for 27 years before Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints would complete 70.6 percent of his passes in 2009.

“I remember talking to Drew Brees about it one time and they had a long list of quarterback records up in their quarterback room in New Orleans,” Anderson said. “That was one of them. Then he breaks the record and I had to get on him a little bit because he didn’t play in the last game. He kinda took that one off. Maybe if he had played I might still have it.”

Cincinnati won the AFC in 1981 and followed that up with a 7-2 record in 1981, giving the Bengals a share of the best record in the AFC with the Miami Dolphins. That season gave Anderson his fourth and final NFL passing title. He won twice in the 19070s and twice more in the 1980s.

Anderson was quick to point out that he may have set the record but it wasn’t without help.

“It’s having a good team, a good offensive line that gives you protection and if you look at the group of receivers that we had… Coming off a the Super Bowl year we knew we were going to be a good football team again. You don’t do that unless you have good players around you.”

The best day of Anderson’s 1982 season occurred at night – a Monday Night game against the San Diego Chargers – a rematch of the 1981 AFC title game. The Bengals won that title game but lost in the rematch in one of the best offensive shootouts the Monday Night audience has ever witnessed. Anderson passed for 416 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another and Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts threw for 435 yards and a touchdown as the Chargers prevailed, 50-34.

“That game was a lot of fun,” Anderson said. “I didn’t know how the game was going to start and there had been talk about Air Coryell but (Bengals offensive coordinator) Lindy Infante’s philosophy was let’s go out and show them how we can throw the football. I don’t know if it was 12, 15 or 20 but we threw the ball a lot coming out of the gate. Dan had a little bit better night than we had but it was kind of fun to get into those shootouts once in a while.”

Anderson also talked about coaching Ben Roethlisberger and winning his only Super Bowl ring as an assistant coach with the Steelers. He talks about the most important trait he looks for in a quarterback, playing with – and against – Hall of Fame wide receiver Charlie Joiner and how the rules changes in the 1970s triggered the NFL’s passing explosion.

You can listen to this podcast – as well as “5 Games” podcasts with Hall of Famers Jerry Kramer, as Charles Haley, Jam Ham, Mike Haynes, Willie Lanier and more – at or by subscribing to our podcasts at iTunes. Click the links below.


Comments (2)
No. 1-2

As usual Ken's modesty diminishes his accomplishment, esp. when he says Fouts had a "little better night." Kenny arguably out-passed Fouts, hitting on 40 of 56 while Dan hit on 25 of 40, totaling just 19 yds more than Anderson (416 yds). But besides a passing game, Dan benefited from 105 yds rushing by James Brooks and 128 yds rushing AND passing from Chuck Muncie for a total of 233 yds. By contrast, the Bengals totaled 37 yds rushing from Pete Johnson and Ken himself. Despite their one dimensional passing game, the Bengals easily won the first half but unfortunately lost ace defender Louis Breeden when he sprained his ankle while intercepting Dan at the end of the half. Still, the Bengals were only 6 points behind going into the 4th quarter. -- As far as the season, Anderson arguably had a 2nd straight MVP season, leading in 4 critical passing statistics (Montana led in none during his 2nd consecutive MVP season). And following the '81 Superbowl, the Niners, unlike the Bengals, had a losing season in '82, not making the play-offs. As for the first play-off game of the '82 season, Kenny staked the Bengals to a 2 TD lead in the 1st quarter, after which Freeman McNeil simply passed and ran all over them--recalling the performance of Muncie and Brooks in this regular season game.

The Bengals had a good, straight ahead "steamroller" in Pete Johnson, but using the Bill Walsh/Don Shula system successfully requires a couple of speedy and elusive receivers who are breakaway running threats. Kenny once had such a back in Essex Johnson, and the Bengals would soon have another when they traded Pete for James Brooks--who arrived in time to benefit Boomer. It's been noted that the Bengals could have drafted Kellen Winslow but were more impressed by Dan Ross, who had an exceptional Superbowl and played well in a short career. Yet, after seeing Anderson connect with Winslow in the '81 all-star game, you have to wonder "what if..."


It should have been noted that in 1981 the Bengals beat the Chargers in both of their games--the play-offs and in San Diego, so the Chargers were due to win at home against the Bengals. Of course, this defense on behalf of Ken Anderson is fueled by the seemingly staunch refusal of the Hall of Fame committee to admit this particular QB, the Bengals only "franchise QB" to date, to the Hall in Canton, where he belongs alongside Dan Fouts, Bradshaw, Moon, Marino, Montana, Tarkenton, Namath, and a more recent QB whose NFL time is minimized by Anderson's 16-year-career. Ken was not alone in failing to win a Super Bowl (while setting a new passing record for the ultimate game--and withstanding everything that Bill Walsh could throw at him, from multiple stub kick-offs fumbled by Bengal players to stopping the Bengals with 1st and goal from the Niners 2-yd. line (replays show that, twice, the crowd noise in the Detroit Dome drowned out Ken's audibles for changing blocking and slot assignments). -- The fact that Anderson suffered through 2 abysmal seasons of only 4 wins in each is testimony to the limitations of a single player and the importance of balanced play (incl. the running game). But after 6 winning seasons (incl. 2 following B. Walsh's bitter departure), then injury, multiple coaches, and a team-wide collapse, what other QB has come all the way back, placing first in practically every category for 2 straight years.

In 1983 the team slid back to mediocrity--thanks to defections to the new league and, above all, to the gut-wrenching facemark tackle of Ken Anderson by an unchecked Steeler lineman who grabbed Ken's facemark bar and threw him to the ground like a steer while twisting this neck like a pretzel. But just as the triple-teaming and roughing up of Isaac Curtis in the early '70s led to the rule protecting wide receivers, the neck-wringing suffered by Anderson would bring about many more new rules protecting the QB's head, face, neck and view--both of these major changes coming at the behest of Paul Brown in defense of his team's most valuable player. But the effect on the game itself was incalculable, removing football from the "dead ball" era to stay and leading to a more entertaining, offensive game overall.

In 1984 Ken would encounter his 5th or 6th head coach (depending on how you choose to count), who happened to be the same QB (Wyche) that he had replaced in 1971, a close friend of Bill Walsh. Thanks to starting the last 2 games of the season (both of which he. handily won), Anderson "qualified" as a starter in all categories despite being platooned for much of the '84 season. In '85 he was given 2 starts and then benched, for good. This had happened before, when the Bengals' drafted the most sought-after QB in the nation (J. Thompson). As in '79 and '80, Ken was in agreement with whatever decision seemed to benefit the team.

NFL Stories