NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The travels of a pioneer often include trials and tribulations, but the journey becomes worth it once the reward is reaped.
Warren Moon’s contributions to football have yielded results for others, and he’s happy and proud to see that happen. Moon overcame significant hurdles — namely the underestimations that others placed on him — to have one of the most significant careers in franchise and pro football history.
Moon played 10 seasons with the Houston Oilers, setting numerous franchise records that still stand, and helped lead his teams to seven consecutive postseason berths (1987-93). He became the first African-American quarterback to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Moon is now a member of the Seattle Seahawks’ official broadcast team but was able to visit Nashville in December to be honored by his former franchise at a special luncheon and at Tennessee’s game against the New York Jets on Monday Night Football.
Additionally, Moon is President of Sports 1 Marketing, a successful sports and entertainment company based in California.
Moon said he’s grateful that broadcasting has enabled him to stay connected to the game he loves just as much as when he played.
“It’s really been good because even though I can’t play the game anymore, at least I get a chance to talk about it, talk about my experiences, talk about the knowledge that I have about the game, and I get a chance to be around these young guys and give them pointers on things that I learned throughout the game, whether it’s on the field or off the field,” Moon said. “I was a fan before I became an NFL player, I was a fan while I played, and I’m still a fan, so to be able to be around it, each and every day still at this stage of my life, it’s a great joy for me.”
Moon played quarterback at the University of Washington, but multiple members of NFL personnel departments tried to convince him to switch positions before the NFL Draft. Moon refused to make that compromise and signed a long-term contract to play quarterback for the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League.
Moon played his first six pro seasons in Edmonton and won five straight Grey Cup titles. He became a highly sought free agent in 1984, and announced on Feb. 3 of that year that he would join Houston when his contract with Edmonton expired.
Oilers founder and owner K.S. “Bud” Adams, Jr. won the multi-team, three-league bidding battle for Moon by making him the highest paid player in the NFL and making Edmonton coach Hugh Campbell head coach of the Oilers, but team success wasn’t imminent.
Moon set a franchise-best with 3,338 passing yards in his first season to break fellow Hall of Famer George Blanda’s mark (3,330 in 1961), but the Oilers lost their first 10 games of the 1984 season and finished 3-13. He persevered, however, through two more tough seasons, going 9-20 in that time before logging his first winning season as a starting quarterback in 1987 when the Oilers began implementing Run ’N Shoot offensive concepts under Jerry Glanville, who replaced Campbell in the final two games of the 1985 season.
Former Houston head coach Jack Pardee (1990-94) saw improvements in the system, and he and former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride shifted completely to the Run ’N Shoot in 1990. Moon led the NFL in completions (362 and 404), attempts (584 and 655) and yards (4,689 and 4,690) in each of the next two seasons. He also led the NFL with 33 touchdown passes in 1990 and threw for 527 yards on Dec. 16, 1990, at Kansas City. The number was only 27 yards shy of the NFL record set by Norm Van Brocklin in 1951, but Houston opted to run out the final 2:20 with three rushes by Allen Pinkett and a kneel down by Moon. Matt Schaub tied Moon’s single-game mark this past season in an overtime win against Jacksonville for second-most passing yards in a game in NFL history.
|Warren Moon, center, joins fellow Pro Football Hall of Famers Elvin Bethea, Mike Munchak, Ken Houston and Bruce Matthews before the Titans-Jets game on Dec. 17. Click here for a slideshow from Moon's time with the Houston Oilers.|
Moon’s 10 years with the Oilers placed him atop the franchise charts in career passing yards (33,685) touchdowns (196), single-season passing yards (4,690 in 1991), passing yards in a single game and career 300-yard passing games (38). Moon made six Pro Bowls in 10 seasons with the Oilers.
Moon said he’s enjoyed seeing the passing game increase in importance across the league in recent years. This past season had a record of 11 quarterbacks who threw for at least 4,000 yards.
“It’s something you feel proud of, something where you feel like you were part of that success,” Moon said. “You look at the way the offenses are playing today, a lot of the things they’re doing today with the spread offenses and the passing game are things we were doing when I played back in the 80s and 90s, so every time you see those games on television, you just have a smile on your face that you had something to do with that, and for me personally, the growth of the African-American quarterback, how much it’s grown since my days in the league from when I came into the league to where it is now.
“Those are things that make you feel really proud as a player, for myself, and then you look at the game in general. It just continues to grow in popularity,” Moon continued. “The players’ salaries are tremendous, the exposure they get on television, the endorsements and things, so the game has really taken off, and I’m happy for all these young players. I just want them to understand where the game came from, understand the history and what some of the guys went through to get the game to this point and never lose sight of the fact that there are a lot of guys that helped grow this game to what it is today.”