Could Marcus Mariota Be The All-Time Greatest QB?

    My first thought when this was asked was, “you’ve GOT to be kidding.” Mariota is a legend because he’s a Heisman winner, but the best college quarterback

    January 6, 2015

    My first thought when this was asked was, “you’ve GOT to be kidding.” Mariota is a legend because he’s a Heisman winner, but the best college quarterback of all-time? It’s actually not quite as crazy as it seems on the surface. 

    Talent-wise, he might turn out to be a Hall of Fame NFL star, but he doesn’t project to be more than a very, very good pro, making him not even the best quarterback in his own conference – or his own program – in terms of skill. Dan Fouts – pretty good. John Elway, Troy Aikman, Warren Moon, Jim Plunkett, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Drew Bledsoe – and that’s just getting warmed up. However, when debating the greatness of college players, the NFL doesn’t exist. 

    Elway never even played in a bowl game. Rodgers never won a Heisman or a national title, and neither did most of the other of the Pac-12, Pac-10 and Pac-8 all-time greats. On sheer statistics, it’s hard to beat Mariota’s 67% career completion percentage for 10,463 yards, 103 touchdowns and 13 – 13! – in 1,130 attempts to go along with 2,198 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns and two catches for two scores. Throw in a Heisman, thrown in a win in the first ever College Football Playoff game, throw in a national championship, and all of a sudden, the resume becomes worthy of being in the all-time college quarterback team photo. 

    I always go by this question when it comes to all-time rankings – if we all knew what we know now and could take a player’s career over again, what would we want? 

    Remember, the idea of the superstar college football quarterback from a statistical standpoint is relatively new. College football was mainly a running back sport up until about 15 years ago, with the proliferation of the spread offense turning quarterbacks into Greatest of All-Time stat guys at various schools. But in terms of careers for quarterbacks, like him or not, Tim Tebow probably has to be No. 1 with two national titles, one ground-breaking Heisman, another he should’ve won, and all the attention and all the pub and all the hype and all the Promise speeches and all the things that went along with being Tebow. 

    Matt Leinart has to be up there with a Heisman, a national title, and another national title appearance, and Nebraska’s Tommie Frazier deserves consideration with two national titles and a missed kick away from a third. 

    Considering how he put the team on his back and with the records he set, Cam Newton probably had the greatest single season of any quarterback ever, but with a win, Mariota might be able to challenge that. 

    However, while he’ll be a far, far better pro, as a collegian, if Oregon wins the national title I’d probably put Mariota more in the Danny Wuerffel category as a great winner and tremendous player in the right system. If Oregon loses, Mariota might be seen as more like a Sam Bradford, with a Heisman and a ton of big-time stats, but without the national title. 

    But it’s not as crazy a question as it might seem. 


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