Warren Moon

Harold Warren Moon (born November 18, 1956) is an American former gridiron football quarterback who played professionally for 23 seasons. He spent the majority of his career with the Houston Oilers of the National Football League (NFL) and the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League (CFL). In the NFL, Moon also played for the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, and Kansas City Chiefs.

Warren Moon
Moon in 2010
No. 1
Personal information
Born: (1956-11-18) November 18, 1956
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight:221 lb (100 kg)
Career information
High school:Los Angeles (CA) Hamilton
Career history
Career highlights and awards
  • NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1990)
  • Second-team All-Pro (1990)
  • 9× Pro Bowl (1988–1995, 1997)
  • NFL Most Valuable Player – NEA (1990)
  • AFC Player of the Year (1990)
  • Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year (1989)
  • 2× NFL passing yards leader (1990, 1991)
  • NFL passing touchdowns leader (1990)
  • Tennessee Titans No. 1 retired
  • Titans/Oilers Ring of Honor
  • Bart Starr Award (1994)
  • Pac-8 Co-Player of the Year (1977)
Career NFL statistics
Passing yards:49,325
Completion percentage:58.4
Passer rating:80.9
Rushing touchdowns:22
Career CFL statistics
Passing yards:21,228
Completion percentage:57.5
Passer rating:93.8
Rushing touchdowns:14
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR · CFL.ca (archive)

Moon began his professional career with the Eskimos in 1978 due to not generating interest from NFL teams during that year's draft, where he would go unselected. His success during his six CFL seasons, five of which ended in Grey Cup victories, resulted in him being signed by the Oilers for 1984.[1] Over his 17 NFL seasons, Moon was named to nine Pro Bowls, received first-team All-Pro honors in 1990, and made seven playoff appearances. He spent ten seasons with the Oilers and had brief stints with the Vikings, Seahawks, and Chiefs before retiring in 2000.

At the time of his retirement, Moon held several all-time professional gridiron football passing records. Although relatively unsuccessful in the NFL postseason, his five consecutive Grey Cups from 1978 to 1982 remains a CFL record and he was twice named Grey Cup MVP. Moon was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, becoming the first African-American quarterback and the first undrafted quarterback to receive the honor. He is also the only player inducted to both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

Early years

Born in Los Angeles, California, Moon was the middle child amongst six sisters. His father, Harold, was a laborer and died of liver disease when Moon was seven years old. His mother, Pat, was a nurse, and Warren learned to cook, sew, iron and housekeep to help take care of the family. He decided early on that he could play only one sport in high school because he had to work the rest of the year to help the family. He chose to play football as a quarterback since he found that he could throw a football longer, harder, and straighter than anyone he knew.[2][3][4][5][6][7]

He enrolled at Alexander Hamilton High School, using the address of one of his mother's friends to gain the advantages of a better academic and athletic reputation than his neighborhood high school could offer. He had little playing time until his junior year, when he took over as varsity starting quarterback. In his senior season in 1973, they reached the city playoffs, and Moon was named to the all-city team.[2][6]

College career

Moon attended two-year West Los Angeles College, and was a record-setting quarterback as a freshman in 1974, but only a handful of four-year colleges showed interest in signing him. Offensive coordinator Dick Scesniak of the University of Washington in Seattle, however, was eager to sign the rifle-armed Moon. Adamant that he play quarterback, Moon considered himself to be perhaps a slightly above-average athlete who lacked either the size, speed, or strength to play other positions.[8]

Under new head coach Don James, Washington was 11–11 in Moon's first two seasons as a starter, but as a senior in 1977, he led the Huskies to the Pac-8 title and a 27–20 upset win in the Rose Bowl over Michigan.[9][10] Moon was named the game's Most Valuable Player on the strength of two short touchdown runs and a third-quarter 28-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Robert "Spider" Gaines.[11]

College statistics

1974West Los Angeles N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
1975Washington 4812239.358722
1976Washington 8117541.71,10668
1977Washington 12522356.31,772129

Professional career

Canadian Football League

Despite his collegiate success, Moon was led to believe he would only be a late-round NFL pick and was fearful that would lead to a limited opportunity to make it in the NFL. Six weeks before the NFL draft, Moon signed with the Edmonton Eskimos, where he and Tom Wilkinson shared signal-calling duties and helped lead the Eskimos to a record five consecutive Grey Cup victories in 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1982.[12] Moon won the offensive Grey Cup Most Valuable Player award in the 1980 and 1982 games, and 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, he threw for a league-record 5,648 yards and won the CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award. The season was not as successful for the Eskimos however, as they finished 8-8. Having barely made the playoffs (which they would have missed altogether if not for a loss by the Calgary Stampeders to the last place Saskatchewan Roughriders in the last week of the regular season), Moon's Eskimos were throttled in Winnipeg by the Blue Bombers in the West Semi-final.

In his six years in the CFL, 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 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.

National Football League

Moon (left) playing with teammate Mike Rozier for the Houston Oilers in 1987.

Moon's decision to enter the NFL touched off a bidding war for his services, won by the Houston Oilers, led by Hugh Campbell, his head coach for his first five seasons in Edmonton.[1] Gifford Nielsen—the starting quarterback in 1983—retired after Moon joined the team, stating that Moon becoming the starter was inevitable.[13] Moon had a difficult adjustment period, but threw for a franchise-record 3,338 yards in his first season in 1984, but Campbell was just 8–22 (.267) at the helm and did not finish the 1985 season.[14] When new head coach Jerry Glanville found ways to best use Moon's strong arm in 1986, the team began having success. In the strike-marred 1987 season, the Oilers posted a 9–6 record, their first winning season since 1980. In his first postseason game in the NFL, Moon passed for 237 yards and a touchdown in the Oilers' 23–20 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks in the wildcard round of the playoffs.

Prior to the 1989 season, Moon signed a five-year, $10-million contract extension, which made him the highest-paid player in the NFL at that time.[15] 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.[16] 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 1992, Moon played only 11 games due to injuries, but the Oilers still managed to achieve a 10–6 record, including a victory over the Buffalo Bills, in the final game of the season. Two weeks later, the Oilers faced the Bills again in the first round of the AFC playoffs. Aided by Moon's 222 passing yards and four touchdowns in the first half, Houston built up a 28–3 halftime lead and increased it to 35–3 when Buffalo quarterback Frank Reich's first pass of the third quarter was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The Bills stormed back with five 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 tie the game at 38 and force overtime, but threw an interception in the extra period that set up Buffalo kicker Steve Christie's game-winning field goal. The Bills' rally from a 32-point deficit[17] 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 four touchdowns, with two interceptions. His 36 completions was an NFL postseason record.

The 1993 season was the Oilers' best with Moon, but was his last with the team. Despite a drama-filled 1–4 start and early struggles from Moon, Houston 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.[18]

Moon set a franchise record with Houston for wins with 70, which stood until Steve McNair broke it in 2004, long after the team had become the Tennessee Titans. He also left the Oilers as the franchise leader in passing touchdowns, passing yards, pass attempts, and pass completions, all of which still stand today.

Moon 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.[19] Moon then signed with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent, made the Pro Bowl, and was named Pro Bowl MVP. 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.[20] He played in only three games in two years with the Chiefs and announced his retirement at age 44 in January 2001. His 291st (308th, including postseason play) and final touchdown pass was an 8-yard pass to Troy Drayton against the Rams on October 22, 2000, a game in which the Chiefs defeated the defending champs, 54–34.[21]

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 Football League statistics are discounted, Moon's NFL career numbers are still exceptional: 3,988 completions for 49,325 yards, 291 touchdown passes, 1,736 yards rushing, and 22 rushing touchdowns.[22] 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.[23] Moon was in the top five all-time when he retired for passing yards, passing touchdowns, pass attempts, and pass completions.[24]

Moon was named to 9 Pro Bowl games (1988–1995, 1997). He worked as a broadcaster for the Seattle Seahawks on both TV and radio until 2017. He was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, becoming both the first Canadian Football Hall of Fame player, first undrafted quarterback, and first African-American quarterback honored; he was elected in his first year of eligibility. The Tennessee Titans retired his number at halftime on October 1, 2006 vs the Dallas Cowboys.[25] Moon won his first Super Bowl ring in 2014 as a broadcaster for the Seattle Seahawks.[26][27]

Moon has mentored Cam Newton, the first overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, alluding to their common experiences as prominent African-American quarterbacks.[28][29][30] He was suspended indefinitely from his sportscaster position after he was sued, in December 2017, for sexual harassment.[31]

Career statistics

Moon in 2007.

CFL statistics

Year Team Games Passing Rushing
1978Edmonton Eskimos 158917351.41,1126.45764.5301143.81
1979Edmonton Eskimos 1614927454.42,3828.7201289.7561562.72
1980Edmonton Eskimos 1618133154.73,1279.4251198.3553526.41
1981Edmonton Eskimos 1523737862.73,95910.52712108.6502986.03
1982Edmonton Eskimos 161633356259.25,0008.9361698.0542594.84
1983Edmonton Eskimos 161638066457.25,6488.5311988.9955276.23
CFL Career94321,3692,38257.521,2288.91447793.83401,7065.014

NFL statistics

Led the league
AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year
Bold Career high

Regular season

Year Team Games Passing Rushing
1984HOU 161625945057.63,3387.4121476.9582113.61
1985HOU 141420037753.12,7097.2151968.5391303.30
1986HOU 151525648852.53,4897.1132662.3421573.72
1987HOU 121218436850.02,8067.6211874.2341123.33
1988HOU 111116029454.42,3277.917888.433883.65
1989HOU 161628046460.33,6317.8231488.9702683.84
1990HOU 151536258462.04,6898.0331396.8552153.92
1991HOU 161640465561.74,6907.2232181.733682.12
1992HOU 111022434664.72,5217.3181289.3271475.41
1993HOU 151430352058.33,4856.7212175.2481453.01
1994MIN 151537160161.74,2647.1181979.927552.00
1995MIN 161637760662.24,2287.0331491.533822.50
1996MIN 8813424754.31,6106.57968.7960.70
1997SEA 151431352859.33,6787.0251683.717402.41
1998SEA 101014525856.21,6326.311876.616100.60
1999KC 101333.3206.70057.6000.00
2000KC 21153444.12086.11161.9122.00
NFL Career2082033,9886,82358.449,3257.229123380.95431,7363.222


Year Team Games Passing Rushing
1987HOU 22457560.05377.22374.19131.40
1988HOU 22335955.94537.71458.111272.50
1989HOU 11294860.43156.62093.73124.00
1990HOU 00DNP
1991HOU 22557672.45967.852106.05244.80
1992HOU 11365072.03717.442103.0273.50
1993HOU 11324374.43067.11191.83227.30
1994MIN 11295255.82925.62268.7294.50
NFL Career101025940364.32,8707.1171484.9351143.30

Franchise records

Moon remains statistically one of the best players ever for the Oilers/Titans franchise. As of 2019's NFL off-season, Moon still held at least 37 Titans franchise records, including:

  • Most Completions (career): 2,632[32]
  • Most Completions (season): 404 (1991)
  • Most Completions (game): 41 (1991-11-10 DAL)
  • Most Completions (playoff career): 230
  • Most Completions (playoff game): 36 (1993-01-03 @BUF)
  • Most Completions (rookie season): 259 (1984) [33]
  • Most Pass Attempts (career): 4,546[32]
  • Most Pass Attempts (season): 655 (1991)
  • Most Pass Attempts (playoff career): 351
  • Most Pass Attempts (playoff game): 50 (1993-01-03 @BUF)
  • Most Pass Attempts (rookie season): 450 (1984)[33]
  • Most Passing Yards (career): 33,685[32]
  • Most Passing Yards (season): 4,690 (1991)
  • Most Passing Yards (game): 527 (1990-12-16 @KAN)
  • Most Passing Yards (playoff career): 2,578
  • Most Passing Yards (playoff game): 371 (1993-01-03 @BUF)
  • Most Passing Yards (rookie season): 3,338 (1984)[33]
  • Most Passing TDs (career): 196[32]
  • Most Passing TDs (playoff career): 15
  • Most Passing TDs (playoff season): 5 (1991)
  • Most Passing TDs (playoff game): 4 (1993-01-03 @BUF)
  • Most Pass Yds/Game (career): 238.9[32]
  • Most Pass Yds/Game (season): 312.6 (1990)
  • Most Pass Yds/Game (playoff career): 286.4
  • Most Pass Yds/Game (playoff season): 371 (1992)
  • Most 300+ yard passing games (career): 42
  • Most 300+ yard passing games (season): 9 (1990)
  • Most 300+ yard passing games (playoffs): 4
  • Most 300+ yard passing games (rookie season): 4
  • Most 4,000+ passing yard seasons: 2
  • Most Intercepted (playoff career): 12
  • Most Sacked (career): 315
  • Most Sacked (season): 47 (1984)
  • Most Sacked (game): 12 (1985-09-29 DAL)
  • Most Sacked (playoff career): 22
  • Most Sacked (playoff game): 9 (1994-01-16 KAN)
  • Most Sacked (rookie season): 47 (1984)


  • 9× Pro Bowl selection (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997)
  • All-Pro selection (1990)
  • Grey Cup champion (66th, 67th, 68th, 69th, 70th)
  • 2001 Enshrined on Eskimos' Wall of Fame
  • 1990 NEA NFL MVP
  • 1990 NFL Offensive Player of the Year
  • 1990 UPI AFL-AFC Player of the Year
  • 1989 Man of the Year
  • 1997 Pro Bowl MVP
  • 1982 Grey Cup MVP
  • 1980 Grey Cup MVP
  • 1983 CFL Most Outstanding Player
  • 1983 Jeff Nicklin Memorial Trophy
  • 1978 Rose Bowl MVP
  • 1977 Pac-8 Player of the Year
  • Oilers/Titans Career Passing Yards Leader with 32,685
  • Tennessee Titans #1 Retired
  • Hall of Fame (inducted in 2006)
  • University of Washington Ring of Honor (Inaugural Member in 2013)[34]

Personal life

Moon married Felicia Hendricks, whom he had known since they were 16 years old, in 1981. They divorced in 2001.[35]

See also

  • List of 500-yard passing games in the National Football League
  • List of National Football League career quarterback wins leaders


  1. "Moon and Oilers agree to terms". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). February 5, 1984. p. D4.
  2. "Warren Moon". Contemporary Black Biography. The Gale Group, Inc. 2006. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  3. Plaschke, Bill (July 30, 2006). "Moon Made His Position Clear From Start". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  4. Bishop, Greg (July 30, 2006). "The man that is Moon". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  5. George, Thomas (October 21, 1990). "Moon: He Wears No. 1, And He's Playing Like It". The New York Times. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  6. "Warren Moon Biography". sports.jrank.org. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  7. "Warren Moon's enshrinement speech transcript". Pro Football Hall of Fame. August 5, 2006. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  8. "How Warren Moon Improved His Athleticism In High School". Retrieved January 19, 2007.
  9. Missildine, Harry (January 3, 1978). "Jackson rescues Washington". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). p. 19.
  10. "Huskies go from rags to roses". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. January 3, 1978. p. 1C.
  11. Dodds, Tracy (January 3, 1978). "Bo's rare gamble backfires in Rose Bowl". Milwaukee Journal. p. 8, part 2.
  12. "CFL Legends >> Warren Moon". Retrieved January 22, 2007.
  13. Blackburn, Jess (May 15, 1984). "Quarterback Gifford Nielsen, a six-year veteran with the Houston..." UPI. UPI. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  14. "Oilers fire Campbell as". Spokane Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. December 9, 1985. p. C1.
  15. "Moon Says New Pact Is Richest in N.F.L." New York Times. April 8, 1989. Retrieved January 19, 2007.
  16. "Individual Records: Passing". NFL Records. Archived from the original on May 13, 2008.
  17. "Bills and Eagles Turn Mountains Into Molehill; Buffalo Erases 32-Point Deficit". New York Times. January 4, 1993. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  18. "Houston '93". A Football Life. Season 3. Episode 15. December 10, 2013. NFL Network.
  19. "Vikings Release Moon". The New York Times. February 22, 1997. Retrieved January 19, 2007.
  20. "Moon Joins Chiefs". The New York Times. April 27, 1999. Retrieved January 19, 2007.
  21. "St. Louis Rams at Kansas City Chiefs - October 22nd, 2000". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
  22. "NFL Passing Yards Single-Season Leaders". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
  23. "History". Nfl.com. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  24. "NFL Leaders, Football Records, NFL Leaderboards". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
  25. "Retired Jersey Numbers". Tennessee Titans Official Website. Archived from the original on July 8, 2017. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  26. "Warren Moon". www.facebook.com.
  27. "Warren Moon on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  28. Sports, Nate Davis, USA TODAY. "Is criticism of Cam Newton racially motivated? Warren Moon thinks so". USA TODAY.
  29. "From The Mag: How Newton's joy made (great) football fun". ESPN.com. January 13, 2016.
  30. ET, 2016 at 11:00a (February 1, 2016). "Is race really a factor in how Cam Newton is perceived?". FOX Sports.
  31. "Seahawks broadcaster and former Husky star Warren Moon sued for alleged sexual harassment". Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  32. "Titans Career Passing Leaders". pro-football-reference.com.
  33. "Oilers/Titans Rookie Passing Records". pro-football-reference.com. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  34. "Husky Legends Come Alive in New Stadium". University of Washington. Archived from the original on February 2, 2014. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  35. Hanson, Eric; Chronicle, Copyright 2001 Houston (February 14, 2001). "Moons file for divorce". Houston Chronicle.
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