Peyton Manning Retires: 5 Greatest SEC Quarterbacks

    Peyton Manning retires from football as one of the best quarterbacks of all-time. But where does he rank among the greatest SEC QBs?

    February 28, 2016


    Peyton Manning retires from football as one of the best quarterbacks of all-time. But where does he rank among the greatest SEC QBs?


    That’s not a bad pro career.

    Peyton Manning turned out to be even better than the hype and expectation coming out of Tennessee, completing 65% of his passes for 71,940 yards and 539 touchdowns with 14 Pro Bowl appearances, seven All-Pro nods, five MVP awards, and two Super Bowl victories with two different teams.

    Is he the greatest quarterback of all-time? At the very least he’s in the discussion, but 18 years after leaving Tennessee, where does he fit on the list of greatest SEC quarterbacks of all-time?

    Based strictly on college production and throwing the pro side out of the equation, here’s where Manning falls on the list of all-time SEC greats since 1970. Basically, if you knew then what you knew now, which quarterback’s career would you most like to have?

    5. Peyton Manning, Tennessee, 1994-1997

    The overall statistics were terrific, and obviously he was good enough to become a legend throwing for 11,201 yards and 89 touchdowns with 33 interceptions. But here’s the problem: he didn’t really win much of anything other than the 1997 SEC championship, and that was blown off after Nebraska and Scott Frost rolled the Vols in a 42-17 Orange Bowl win.

    Manning didn’t win a national title, didn’t win a Heisman, and he lost to Florida four times, but he set the gold standard for SEC passers while taking home the 1997 Maxwell, the Davey O’Brien, and the Johnny Unitas.

    He was special, but others who came after him had better careers.

    4. Danny Wuerffel, Florida, 1993-1996

    Peyton Manning threw for more passing yards, but Wuerffel threw more touchdown passes finishing his career with 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns with 42 interceptions.

    3-0 vs. Manning, the two-time SEC Player of the Year also won the 1996 Heisman, took the Gators to two national title games, winning one as a senior, and took home every major award in his final year earning the Maxwell, the Walter Camp and the Johnny Unitas.

    But beyond all the stats and all the greatness during a special era of Gator football, he was the one who truly got the Steve Spurrier offense and mastered it better than any other quarterback. He was the Heisman-winning Ball Coach’s passer and leader.

    3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, 2011-2013

    While he didn’t lead the Aggies to a national championship, or an SEC title, or even a division title, he destroyed the record book in one of the most electrifying two-year runs in college football history.

    The 2012 Heisman was his big moment after throwing for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns with 21 rushing scores, but he was even better as a passer in 2013 throwing for 4,114 yards and 37 touchdowns with nine rushing scores.

    He might not have looked the part of a high-powered passing quarterback, but he was unstoppable finishing his career as the SEC’s all-time leader in completion percentage – 68.9% – and yards per play averaging 8.3 yards per pop.

    Mr. Football finished his career throwing for 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns while running for 2,169 yards and 30 scores.

    2. Cam Newton, Florida, 2007-2008; Auburn 2010

    It would’ve been interesting to have seen what would’ve happened if Newton didn’t get in trouble at Florida, but everything turned out okay after getting booted off the team. He went the JUCO route on the way to Auburn – albeit in controversial fashion, as it turned out – coming up with the greatest all-around single season by any quarterback in college football history.

    The 2,854 passing yards and 30 touchdowns went along with 1,473 rushing yards and 20 scores in his magical 2010 campaign, but other quarterbacks have had great statistical seasons, too. From out of the blue, Newton won the Heisman on the way to an SEC championship, a national title, and a perfect season.

    But there’s only one real option for the greatest SEC quarterback of all-time.

    1. Tim Tebow, Florida, 2006-2009

    Tebow was the exact right prospect for the exact right coach for the exact right offense at the exact right time.

    Lost in history was that Chris Leak was the Florida quarterback in the national title-winning 2006 season, but Tebow did his part as a freshman with eight pounding rushing scores with five touchdown passes. And then the gig became all his.

    He’ll always be known as one of the toughest running quarterbacks ever, but he finished his career as one of the most efficient passers of all-time hitting 66% of his throws for 9.285 yards and 88 touchdowns with just 16 picks.

    The ground game, though, was what helped make Tebow, Tebow, with 2,947 rushing yards and 57 touchdowns were a large part of the picture, being the first player to ever rush for 20 touchdowns and throw for 20 in the same season, while being the first sophomore to take the Heisman.

    From the iconic look, the historic Promise Speech, and all that encompassed the Tim Tebow era – and a second national title, too – he wasn’t just the greatest SEC quarterback ever. He might be the greatest college quarterback of all-time.

    MORE: Peyton Manning, 1998 NFL Draft Quarterbacks

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