The University of Washington has confronted some superb quarterbacks over the last half century. Six of them, most recently Troy Aikman (enshrined 2006) and John Elway (2004), are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Fourteen more are in the College Football Foundation Hall of Fame. Six won the Heisman Trophy. Nine went on to become No. 1 overall picks in the NFL draft.
Trying to answer the question, “Who is the best quarterback Washington has ever faced?” obviously isn’t easy, but if NFL scouts, blogs and the twitterverse are to be believed, the Huskies will meet him on Saturday in Palo Alto, CA.
Of course, Stanford senior Andrew Luck has yet to compile a complete resume, but there is a lot of consensus thinking about him that suggests that Luck can pretty much do everything except turn water into wine.
Consensus: He will win the 2011 Heisman Trophy in a landslide. In its college football midseason report, six of eight Sports Illustrated writers polled insisted Luck would be the winner. Said one SI scribe: “The preseason favorite has done nothing to hurt his standing and is on pace for more yards and touchdown passes than last year when he was runner-up. If he can dominate a Nov. 12 date with Oregon and put the Cardinal in line for a BCS bowl, the trophy may be his.”
Another SI scrivener wrote, “Despite having yet to play a big national game, Luck remains atop every online Heisman poll, which means it’s his trophy to lose.”
The University of Washington has faced a quarterback en route to the Heisman six times since 1962, and has defeated an impending Heisman winner just once — Terry Baker in 1962 — by one point. UW vs. Heisman quarterbacks:
|1962||Terry Baker||OSU||UW 14, OSU 13||144||2|
|1967||Gary Beban||UCLA||UCLA 48, UW 0||289||3|
|1970||Jim Plunkett||Stanford||Stanford 29, UW 22||268||4|
|2002||Carson Palmer||USC||USC 41, UW 21||348||4|
|2004||Matt Leinart||USC||USC 38, UW 0||217||2|
|2008||Sam Bradford||Oklahoma||Oklahoma 55, UW 14||304||5|
Consensus: It’s not only a “slam dunk,” according to an ESPN panel, that Luck will become the No. 1 overall pick in next spring’s NFL draft, but that Luck is such a franchise quarterback in-the-making that any team wishing to trade up to select him would have to part with three No. 1 picks.
The expenditure of three No. 1s is based on what the New York Giants were willing to spend to acquire Eli Manning (two first-round picks and a third rounder), the belief that Luck is better than Manning, and the importance of landing a franchise quarterback.
As one scout put it to SI: “Who was the last non-franchise quarterback to win the Super Bowl? You have to go back to Brad Johnson, who took the Buccaneers to the XXXVII title. Or Trent Dilfer and the Baltimore Ravens, who were NFL champions two years earlier. Otherwise, since then it has been: Tom Brady, Brady, Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Six of them were the game’s MVP.”
One college scout who works on behalf of the NFL told ESPN: “How special is Andrew Luck? When was the last time we knew in September who the No. 1 NFL draft choice was going to be the following April? Even the late, great Peyton Manning wasn’t a sure pick over Ryan Leaf in the 1998 draft.”
Another scout, who wished to remain anonymous, also told ESPN: “He would have been the No. 1 pick this year, too. That’s two years he’s been the slam dunk. I can’t think of anyone else in recent years you could say that about. Usually when something seems too good to be true, it isn’t. But Luck, by all accounts and virtually every measure, is. He has all the physical tools, the mental makeup, and all the intangibles. Most guys, you hear all these ludicrous superlatives and they turn out to be media creations, the Brady Quinns of the world. Not this guy.”
Consensus: It’s too early to say whether Luck will have a career to match Stanford predecessor John Elway, but not too soon to say that, as a college quarterback, he is in Elway’s league.
In January, when most supposed that Luck, son of former NFL journeyman QB Oliver Luck, would declare for the 2011 draft, Elway, now the Denver Broncos’ executive vice president, but then a Denver radio talk show host, said this: “I think Andrew Luck is the best football player in the draft — without a doubt.”
While there is no way objectively say that Luck is the best college quarterback the Huskies have faced, it can be said that he is just about the best college passer Washington has confronted, based on passing efficiency rating, a statistic that measures performance through attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns and interceptions. These are (or were) the most “efficient” passers to face Washington in the past 20 years (we kind of like the No. 4 guy on this list). The rating is for the season the listed quarterback played against the Huskies:
|2008||Sam Bradford||Oklahoma||180.8||L||Oklahoma 55-14|
|2005||Rudy Carpenter||ASU||175||L||ASU 44-20|
|1996||Steve Sarkisian||BYU||173.6||W||UW 29-17|
|1998||Akili Smith||Oregon||166.1||L||Oregon 27-22|
|1997||Cade McNown||UCLA||166||L||UCLA 52-28|
|1992||Elvis Grbac||Michigan||161.7||L||Michigan 38-31|
|2005||Drew Olson||UCLA||161.6||L||UCLA 21-17|
|2009||Jimmy Clausen||Notre Dame||161.4||L||Notre Dame 37-30|
|2007||Dennis Dixon||Oregon||161.2||L||Oregon 55-34|
|2007||Colt Brennan||Hawaii||159.8||L||Hawaii 35-28|
|1997||Ryan Leaf||WSU||158.7||L||WSU 41-35|
|2005||Brady Quinn||Notre Dame||158.4||L||Notre Dame 36-17|
|2005||Matt Leinart||USC||157.7||L||USC 51-24|
|2004||Aaron Rodgers||California||154.3||L||Cal 42-12|
|2005||Kellen Clemens||Oregon||152.9||L||Oregon 45-21|
Obviously, passing efficiency isn’t everything in measuring a quarterback’s skill or potential (and certainly no barometer of future NFL success). If it were, the list would not contain at least three future NFL busts ( Smith, Leaf, Leinart), all of whom had better passer ratings that Dan Fouts (109.0, 1970), John Elway (145.6, 1982), Boomer Esiason (130.2, 1982) and Drew Bledsoe (127.2, 1992) did in the years they faced the Huskies.