Kerry J. Byrne> COLD HARD FOOTBALL FACTS The tale of six college quarterbacks

The glittering genius of the Cold, Hard Football Facts is that we admire only numbers and productivity.

We put little stock in a player’s pedigree. And we put even less stock in the “pundits” and their outdated weapon of choice, the opinion.

So it is today that we dive into one of the biggest stories of the 2010 NFL Draft by looking at the college productivity of six legendary quarterbacks here in the modern pass-happy era.

Six Big-Name College Quarterbacks
Player   Comp.  Att.   Pct.   Yards   YPA TD INT Rating*
Player A 851 1,354 62.85 11,201 8.27 90 33 100.93
Player B 825 1,232 66.96 8,772 7.12 76 37 95.60
Player C 841 1,383 60.81 10,286 7.44 84 36 93.15
Player D 493 797 61.86 6,625 8.31 52 21 99.04
Player E 564 986 57.20 7,731 7.84 51 33 85.72
Player F 661 985 67.11 9,286 9.43 88 15 120.72

* Using the NFL formula for passer rating, not the NCAA formula

The numbers aren’t even close. One player dominates. One player leaps screaming off the list. That dominant individual, of course, is Player F. This quarterback:

• Was the most accurate of any of these six passers.

• Dominated the average per attempt category — our favorite number — by better than 1 yard per attempt over the No. 2 player on the list.

• Boasts a passer rating so sky high it defies description, nearly 20 full points better than the No. 2 player on the list.

Elsewhere, Player F was No. 2 in total TD passes — but easily No. 1 in TD pass percentage. Player F threw a TD on 8.9 percent of his pass attempts — easily outpacing Player A, who threw a touchdown on 6.6 percent of his pass attempts.

Finally, Player F protected the ball much better than any of the other quarterbacks on this list. Player F threw an interception on just 1.52 percent of attempts — easily outpacing Player C, who threw an interception on 2.60 percent of attempts. And you know what we’ve always told you: quarterbacks who throw picks lose games. Quarterbacks who don’t throw picks win games.

Dying to know who they are, aren’t ya? Well, the numbers represent the college career stats of six of the greatest quarterbacks in the modern history of the SEC. Here goes:

• Player A is Peyton Manning. He played for Tennessee in the SEC and was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1998 draft.

• Player B is Tim Couch. He played for Kentucky in the SEC and was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 draft.

• Player C is Eli Manning. He played for Ole Miss in the SEC and was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft.

• Player D is JaMarcus Russell. He played for LSU in the SEC and was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft.

• Player E is Matt Stafford. He played for Georgia in the SEC and was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft.

Tim Tebow has been downgraded by some teams for having poor throwing mechanics.
Bob Rosato/SI
• And, finally, Player F is Tim Tebow. He played for Florida in the SEC and will be far from the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft.

The list tells us many things.

First, it tells us the SEC has dominated the draft in recent years, as you probably already knew. But five guys at the most important position on the field taken No. 1 overall in a 12-year stretch is a remarkable accomplishment, even by the lofty standards of the dominant conference in college football.

Second, it tells us that NFL talent evaluators are out of their freaking minds.

Tebow, as you know, is the biggest question mark in the 2010 draft among the pigskin punditistas. He’s the highest rated passer in the history of SEC football. He was easily a better passer than Peyton Manning or Stafford or Couch or any of the guys whose ability to pass was never really questioned by NFL talent analysts.

And yet NFL evaluators, for some reason, aren’t sold on Tebow. Couch and Russell are two bona fide NFL busts, even though pro football talent evaluators couldn’t usher them into the league fast enough. Yet these same talent evaluators harbor grave doubts about the ability of the greatest and most efficient passer in SEC history to pass the ball at the next level.

Consider, Charley Casserly, the longtime NFL executive turned NFL Network analyst, who was on the air Thursday telling the world that Tebow will go no higher than the fourth round of the draft next month.

Other executives seem obsessed by the trivia over Tebow’s mechanics, while overlooking the rather irrefutable fact that he dominated college football like no player in memory and despite the fact that he was, by any objective measure, a much better passer than Couch, Russell, Stafford, and either of the Manning brothers.

Tebow didn’t just pass the ball far more effectively than any of these No. 1 overall picks. It pays to remember that, in his spare time, he set the SEC career record for rushing touchdowns. And he won a Heisman Trophy. And two national titles. Other than that, he didn’t do much.

The anti-Tebow crowd will argue, weakly, that he was surrounded by greater talent than those other passers. The anti-Tebow crowd, of course, is confused.

Let’s look at Peyton Manning. Last we remember, he played with not one, not two, but three receivers taken in the top two rounds of the draft: Joey Kent, Marcus Nash and Peerless Price. His team was so loaded with talent that it won the national title the year after he left.

JaMarcus Russell played with arguably the most talented teams of the past decade. They won national titles in 2003 and 2007 and he watched as 34 of his LSU teammates were grabbed in the NFL draft.

Stafford? Well, Georgia is a prolific pipeline of NFL talent. Stafford was one of three starting offensive players from the 2008 Bulldogs taken in the first 50 picks of the 2009 draft (Knowshon Moreno, Mohamed Massaquoi).

Ole Miss is hardly the SEC’s best hotbed of talent. But almost the entire offensive line that protected Eli Manning was good enough to earn a shot in the NFL, including not one but two of his centers: Ben Claxton (2003 draft) and Chris Spencer (2005), one of a small handful of centers ever taken in the first round of the NFL draft.

Couch? Sure, he didn’t have much around him. In fact, he’s one of just three first-round draft picks to come out of Kentucky in the last 25 years. But in any case, his passing numbers pale in comparison to those produced by Tebow.

The anti-Tebow crowd could also throw out the old David Klingler argument. You know, “anybody can put up big stats in the college game.” But Tebow didn’t just put up big stats … he put up supremely efficient stats. He was more accurate, and produced more big passing plays, and was more likely to put the ball in the end zone, and more likely to keep it out of the hands of opposing defenders, than any of the recent collection of No. 1 passing phenoms to come out of the SEC.

Tebow was, by any measure, a better player, a better quarterback and, yes, a better passer than any of these No. 1 picks.

We understand that college success does not translate to NFL success. The long history of Heisman winners turned NFL busts underscores that argument.

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2 Responses to “Kerry J. Byrne> COLD HARD FOOTBALL FACTS The tale of six college quarterbacks”

  1. Sage says:

    Control for bias through blind testing is the essence of rationality, reliability and fairness. Through the blind eyes of statistics, Tebow is the best of the best.

    His NFL stats compared to these same players during the first 16 starts are similarly compelling.

    Unfortunately, snotty delusion is rampant throughout the affairs of mankind, not simply the Tebow saga.

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