Which Pac-10 school is the conference's QBU?

PaulSF's Top 10 All-Time Pac-10 QBs
Rank Player School
1 John Elway Stanford
2 Troy Aikman UCLA
3 Dan Fouts
Oregon
4
Carson Palmer
USC
5 Drew Bledsoe Wazzu
6 Jim Plunkett
Stanford
7 Steve Bartikowski Cal
8 Warren Moon UW
9 Norm Van Brocklin
Oregon
10 Matt Leinart USC

Two weeks ago, I tried to explain why Justin Roper and Chris Harper, who both opted to transfer in May, were simply collateral damage in the process of finding the next great Oregon quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli. Masoli, the Ducks' clear-cut No. 1 heading into the 2009 season, joins a very prestigious list of signal callers who have lined up under center in Eugene.

But how prestigious? While researching Oregon's QB history, I became curious about how the Ducks' list stacks up against the rest of the conference. The Pac-10 has produced some of the greatest QBs to ever play the game. But which Pac-10 school deserves the conference's title of Quarterback U?

It's obviously not an easy question to answer. It's almost impossible to settle on a method for measuring a quarterback's success. Do we base it on statistics? Individual success? Team success? Awards and accolades? Collegiate or professional career?

Every pundit has his method, and I won't claim mine is superior. But after digging through the expanse of statistics and data warehouses scattered throughout the depths of the Internets, I feel learned enough on the subject to rank each Pac-10 team's all-time quarterback list. Check out the rankings after the jump.

After spending some time researching each team's list, I developed what I believe is a fair method for ranking the Pac-10's quarterback alumni lists. In general, part of my evaluation was based on how impressive the list looked at first glance. For instance, if a team has 10 NFL QBs but I hadn't heard of nine of them, that, to me, didn't make it any more impressive than a team that's produced four NFL quarterbacks with three having had long, successful careers. I also tried to keep it balanced between professional and collegiate success. Some teams have had All-American quarterbacks flop in the NFL, while other teams have had back-up college QBs go on to have solid NFL careers. I tried to balance it out.

Keep in mind, this is very subjective and based solely on my own opinions and research. But, without further ado, here are my rankings:

Rank School The Best The Rest The Breakdown

10

Courtesy of the Helmet Project Willie Tuitama Fred Enke, Eddie Wilson Arizona isn't exactly known for its quarterbacks, so there aren't a lot of guys to choose from. Tuitama, at least statistically, is the best. He set Arizona career records in passing yards, passing touchdowns, attempts and completions and led the Wildcats to their first bowl game (a 31-21 win over BYU in last year's Las Vegas Bowl) since Dick Tomey's 12-1 team in 1998.

9

Courtesy of the Helmet Project Terry Baker Derek Anderson, Erik Wilhelm, Howard Maple, Joe Francis, Matt Moore With an NCAA record 28-straight losing seasons from 1971 through 1998, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the Beavers don't have a long list of great quarterbacks. But they do have a great one at the top: Terry Baker. After passing for 1,738 yards and rushing for another 538 (Remember, this is the 1960s!), Baker won the 1962 Heisman Trophy, becoming the first individual from the West Coast and the only player from either D-I Oregon school to win the award. But here's the most impressive part: He also led the OSU basketball team to the Final Four in 1963, becoming the only individual ever to win the Heisman and appear in the Final Four. (And no, Charlie Ward didn't accomplish this feat...I checked.) He was named Sports Illustrated's coveted Sportsman of the Year in 1963. Not bad...for a Beaver.

8

Courtesy of the Helmet Project Jake Plummer Danny White, Mark Malone, Mike Pagel, Paul Justin, Rudy Carpenter, Andrew Walter Like its in-state rival, ASU hasn't historically been known for producing great quarterbacks. But the last decade has seen a few additions to the list, namely Andrew Walter and Rudy Carpenter. The obvious choice, however, is Jake Plummer. Jake "The Snake " led the Sun Devils to their last 11-win season in 1996, earning first-team All-American honors, as well as being named the Pac-10's Offensive Player of the Year, the only Sun Devil to ever receive the award. Plummer is also the only former ASU starting QB to be selected to the Pro Bowl more than once.

7

Courtesy of the Helmet Project Drew Bledsoe Mark Rypien, Ryan Leaf, Timm Rosenbach, Jason Gesser, Jack Thompson, Jack Elway The Cougars list is relatively brief (almost as brief as Ryan Leaf's NFL career...I'm here all week), but it's very solid. Mark Rypien had arguably the best NFL career of the bunch, but Bledsoe gets the nod as Wazzu's best. Despite leaving for the NFL after his junior season, Bledsoe still managed to break a number of the school's passing records, including single-game passing yards (476), single-season pass completions (241), and single-season passing yards (3,246). He was named the Pac-10 Player of the Year as a junior before being selected No. 1 overall in the 1993 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. Although he's had quite a few critics (all Boston-area sports fans are critics), the 4-time Pro Bowler led the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXI, losing to the Green Bay Packers 35-21, and was integral in the Patriots' Super Bowl title run in 2001, which is mostly remembered for Tom Brady's rise to prominence filling in for the injured Bledsoe. So, I guess, in some sense, we should credit Bledsoe for Brady, adding another accomplishment to his list.

6

Courtesy of the Helmet Project Steve Bartkowski Aaron Rodgers, Craig Morton, Mike Pawlawski, Joe Roth, Joe Kapp, Kyle Boller, Troy Taylor, Rich Campbell, Bob Celeri, Gale Gilbert, Pat Barnes Right now, Cal is knocking on the door of the top-five. And I think the longer Jeff Tedford stays at Cal, the higher the Bears can climb this latter. Sure, some will argue Tedford's mentees are just products of a system. And there's some truth to that, as few have seen much success at the next level. But no coach has had more products start for an NFL team in the last decade than Tedford. And when it's all said and done, we might be calling Aaron Rodgers the best Golden Bear signal caller. But as of now, it's Steve Bartkowski. Bartkowski became an All-American in 1974 after leading the Golden Bears to a 7-3-1 season. After being selected No. 1 overall in the 1975 NFL Draft, Bartkowski won the Rookie of the Year award, was selected to the Pro Bowl twice, led the NFL in TD passes in 1980, and still holds the Atlanta Falcons' career passing yards record with 23,470.

5

Courtesy of the Helmet Project Troy Aikman Bob Waterfield, Gary Beban, Billy Kilmer, Steve Bono, Drew Olson, Cade McNoun, Tommy Maddox, Tom Ramsey, Rick Neuheisel, Jay Schroeder Glancing at the list of great UCLA quarterbacks is a lot like walking down Sunset Strip and seeing a bunch of B-level celebrities you recognize but can't seem to place. Steve Bono, Cade McNoun, Tommy Maddox, Tom Ramsey: All familiar names, but might take a Wikipedia search to shed some light. Of course, this notion excludes Troy Aikman, arguably the best the Pac-10's had to offer. After transferring from Oklahoma in 1986, the consensus All-American and 1988 Davey O'Brien Award winner led the Bruins to a 20-4 record in two seasons before being selected No. 1 overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1989 NFL Draft. Aikman led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles and was selected to the Pro Bowl six times. He is one of the few quarterbacks in history to do as much at the collegiate level as he did in the pros, and, as a result, has been inducted to both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.

4

Courtesy of the Helmet Project Warren Moon Mark Brunell, Chris Chandler, Marques Tuiasosopo, Sonny Sixkiller, Brock Huard, Damon Huard, Cody Pickett, Hugh Millen, Billy Joe Hobert, Cary Conklin, Bob Schloredt, Don Heinrich, Isaiah Stanback, Tom Flick The Huskies have a long and impressive list of great quarterbacks, but none holds a more prominent place in football history than Warren Moon. The 9-time Pro Bowl selection was not only an outstanding college and NFL QB, but broke barriers as the first African-American to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's also the only player to be elected to both the Pro and Canadian Football Halls of Fame. Although his college stats don't jump off the page, he got results, earning the 1978 Rose Bowl MVP while leading the Huskies over Michigan, 27-20.

3

Courtesy of the Helmet Project Dan Fouts Norm Van Brocklin, Chris Miller, Bill Musgrave, Bob Berry, George Shaw, Dennis Dixon, Joey Harrington, Akili Smith, Danny O'Neil, Tony Graziani, Kellen Clemens, A.J. Feeley Compared to every other team on this list, the Ducks are probably the most consistent at producing top-notch quarterback talent. Ever since Fouts donned the bright yellow helmet in the early 70s, the Ducks have strung together a series of great quarterbacks. It's hard to argue with Joey Harrington's collegiate career. He finished his Oregon career with a 25-3 record, including an 11-1 finish in 2001 when the Ducks finished the season ranked No. 2 nationally, and fourth in the Heisman voting in 2001. And anyone over the age of 75 would make a strong case for Norm Van Brocklin. But Fouts has something Joey hasn't even sniffed: An NFL career. And not just any career, but a Hall of Fame career. Sure, Fouts finished his college career a mediocre 15-17-1 for the Ducks, including a 4-7 finish his final year, but considering all of his post-college accomplishments and the fact that a guy named Steve Prefontaine was taking the running world by storm just down the foot path to Autzen the same years, Fouts is Oregon's best.

2

Courtesy of the Helmet Project Carson Palmer Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassell, John David Booty, Vince Evans, Rodney Peete, Pat Haden, Paul McDonald, Todd Marinovich, Brad Otton, Sean Salisbury, Rob Johnson, Cotton Warburton, Morley Drury Ten years ago, USC wouldn't have even been in the QBU conversation. But when your quarterbacks take home two Heisman Trophies and your team wins two national titles, as well as seven straight shared or outright conference titles, all while putting up ungodly offensive numbers, you're probably a bit more relevant. USC has certainly had some solid QBs, but historically, it was known more as Running Back U. Enter Pete Carroll, who, with the help of Norm Chow, has turned USC into a QB factory. And although Matt Leinart broke nearly all of his records, it is Carson Palmer that should be considered the flag-bearer. He set the bar very high for USC QBs in 2002, breaking numerous conference passing records and becoming the first Trojan to win the Heisman Trophy. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft and has had a very respectable NFL career so far, including two Pro Bowl selections. Plus, he's not as much of a douchebag as Leinart, which, let's be honest, has to count for something.

1

Courtesy of the Helmet Project John Elway Jim Plunkett, Frankie Albert, Trent Edwards, John Brodie, Bobby Garrett, Mike Boryla, Steve Stenstrom, Gary Kerkorian, Steve Dils, Don Bunce, Guy Benjamin, Todd Husak, John Paye, Dick Norman, Turk Schonert, Chad Hutchinson, Mark Butterfield Aside from John Elway and Jim Plunkett, most of the guys on Stanford's list won't ring many bells. But they should. Like Elway and Plunkett, John Brodie and Frankie Albert are College Football Hall of Famers, giving the Cardinal more than any other Pac-10 team. In fact, Albert is credited with inventing the bootleg play, whom we Oregon fans should thank, because without it, the Spread wouldn't exist. You'll find a contingent of Cardinal fans who would make the case for Jim Plunkett as the program's best. And he certainly had an impressive college career, shattering Pac-10 passing records en route to earning the 1970 Heisman Trophy and the No. 1 overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft. He even had a fantastic 15-year NFL career, leading the Raiders to two Super Bowl titles and collecting numerous awards and accolades. But aside from finishing second to future Celebrity Apprentice star Herschel Walker for the 1982 Heisman, John Elway did everything Jim Plunkett did and then some. After shattering nearly every Pac-10 passing record at Stanford, Elway was chosen No. 1 overall in the 1983 NFL Draft. The nine-time Pro Bowl selection and Pro Football Hall of Famer led the Broncos to four Super Bowls, including one win in Super Bowl XXXIII, and is widely considered the greatest QB of all time.

There are, of course, other factors than just looking at the big names on each team's list. Here are a few interesting tidbits I found:

  • Stanford has the most College Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks (Elway, Plunkett, Brodie and Albert)
  • Oregon and UCLA have the most Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks (UCLA: Aikman and Waterfield; Oregon: Fouts and Van Brocklin)
  • Stanford has had the most quarterbacks taken in the NFL Draft (19).
  • Oregon's list leads all Pac-10 schools' in total Pro-Bowl appearances (17).
  • Nine Pac-10 QBs have been selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft: Bobby Garrett (Stanford, 1954), George Shaw (Oregon, 1955), Baker (OSU, 1963), Plunkett (Stanford, 1971), Bartkowski (Cal, 1975), Elway (Stanford, 1983), Aikman (UCLA, 1989), Bledsoe (Wazzu, 1993) and Palmer (USC, 2003).

Okay, so now that you have all the facts and have seen my breakdown, it's your turn to chime in. Which Pac-10 school really is the conference's Quarterback U?

The above helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. For an extensive team-by-team history of college football helmets, visit NationalChamps.net/Helmet_Project.

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