Do you need a 5-star QB to win a championship?

In recent days I’ve been asked two very interesting questions related to the NFL Draft and the SEC. I was being interviewed for a radio show in Arkansas and the host, Bo Mattingly, noted that there had been very few five-star quarterbacks signed by SEC schools in the past five years. He wondered if this was going to eventually be a problem for the league.

Another person asked me that if Tim Tebow falls out of the first round and goes late in the second or early third, will that be/should that be a problem for Urban Meyer and his staff at Florida? Will it be said that Florida’s staff had somehow let Tebow down?

The answers are no and emphatically no. Let’s take them one at a time.

First of all, I’m not a big believer in player ratings—too many variables. I’ve seen too many players who allegedly had five-star talent but a one-star work ethic. And I’ve seen WAY too many players who were assigned five-star skill but had only a half-star at best when it came to competitive fire and heart. I am a big believer in talent and that the team with the best players usually wins. But when it comes to winning championships, I am also a big believer in the intangibles. Look at Kentucky’s basketball team. Look at Duke’s basketball team. Yesterday five Kentucky players (four freshmen) said they would enter the NBA Draft and all will do well. But Duke cut down the nets in Indianapolis. Duke has really good players but not five NBA draft picks. The intangibles matter when it comes to winning championships.

I don’t believe the absence of highly-rated quarterbacks is that big a deal because history has shown us that you don’t need a five-star quarterback to win a national championship or an SEC championship.

Below are the last 10 national champions, their starting quarterbacks and where they went in the NFL Draft. I have no idea how many of these guys were five-star quarterbacks coming out of high school but I’m sure some of you can name them off the top of your head.  But I’m pretty sure most of them weren’t five-star recruits.

Year—–Nat. Champ——QB—————-Draft

2000—Oklahoma—–Josh Heupel————6th

2001—Miami———Ken Dorsey—————7th

2002—Ohio State—Craig Krenzel————–5th

2003—LSU————-Matt Mauck—————7th

2004—USC————Matt Leinart—————1st

2005—Texas———-Vince Young—————-1st

2006—Florida——–Chris Leak——————undrafted

2007—LSU————Matt Flynn——————7th

2008—Florida——–Tim Tebow——————?????

2009—Alabama——Greg McElory—————???

 

Everybody on planet Earth wanted Matt Leinart (USC 2004), Vince Young (Texas 2005), and Tim Tebow (Florida 2008). That’s a no brainer.

But look at some of the rest. Josh Heupel (Oklahoma 2000) was a junior college transfer. Craig Krenzel (Ohio State 2002) had an average arm at best but could manage a game. Matt Mauck (LSU 2003) was a minor league baseball player and was chosen in the seventh round. Chris Leak (Florida 2006) was not selected in the draft at all.  Greg McElroy (Alabama 2009) doesn’t have the strongest arm in the world but the guy is 29-0 as a starting quarterback in high school and college.

The point is that what’s required of a college quarterback is a completely different than an NFL quarterback. The NFL places a premium on the physical characteristics of a potential quarterback:  Height, weight, and arm strength. But to win a championship in college football, the quarterback has to be more of a manager of the game and a distributor of the ball. I believe that in college football a championship quarterback is not defined by what he does. He is defined by what he DOESN’T do (turn the ball over).  Both games are great. College football is just different. You can win a national championship with a less talented quarterback who makes good decisions.

That’s why I found the Tebow debate so interesting. First of all, it is the job of the college coach to take the talent on hand and develop it in the best way to win games for his team. His first loyalty is to the institution and to the rest of the players on that roster. Getting a player ready for the NFL is nice if you can do it, but it can’t be more important than the success of the team.

Florida and its coaching staff made every effort to help Tebow with his throwing motion, which we all knew was too loopy for the NFL boys, who tend to obsess over those kinds of things. That’s one reason Meyer brought in Scot Loeffler, who had coached five quarterbacks taken in the draft during his time at Michigan.

But if Tim Tebow is not a first round pick on April 22, you can’t say that anybody failed. Tebow walked away from Florida with two national championships, two SEC championships, a Heisman Trophy and enough awards and good will to fill up Ben Hill Griffin Stadium many times. He will be remembered as one of the greatest players and ambassadors in the history of college football.

Ain’t no failure in that.

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119 comments Add your comment

John Q.Public

April 8th, 2010
1:12 pm

What I find so amusing about the names on that list is that while All were great in college they all suck in the pros!!! Next one to suck Tebow!!

Ugaclassof2004

April 8th, 2010
1:12 pm

5IML,

You clearly didn’t read my entire post. There are medications out there for ADD you know.

I didn’t say that teams can’t win without a great QB. Obviously they do as Alabama just did. But when teams win a championship, they will receive everyone’s best shot the next year( just ask Florida). And if they don’t want to be upset then they need to work on their weaknesses. Last year Alabama was able to go 14-0, mainly do to the strength of their running game and defense. But eventually teams will be able to move the ball on the defense and when they do the offense, and especially the QB, has to step up. Let me ask you this: if Alabama were down 20-0 to an opponent going into the 4th quarter( and don’t think that it can’t happen), do you really have confidence in McElroy to put the team on his back ala John Elway and lead a comeback?

The other point I was trying to make in my previous post, is that Alabama has one of the best possession receivers in the game in Julio Jones. And with teams looking to stop Ingram next season, Saban has got to find a way to get him more involved. Maybe one of these new QB’s can get the ball to Julio better.

Larry

April 8th, 2010
1:13 pm

A talented line is equally important, if not more so than a 5-star quarterback. Look what walk-on Kerwin Bell did behind Florida’s Great Wall. Does he have that kind of success with a middling line? FSU had 5-star QB’s throughout the oughts but no kind of line at all, and look what happened to those guys.

killcasualfan

April 8th, 2010
1:15 pm

Poor QB play has been rampant throughout the SEC the past couple of years. For example, in 2008, besides Tebow, it was the worst collection of QB’s in SEC history, which makes the league’s defensive stats a mirage. This is especially shown by games OUT OF CONFERENCE against mostly below average teams. Thus the counter-argument that its “simply great SEC defense” causing their QB’s to look bad is nonsense.

Remember the bizarre Auburn v. Miss. St. game where both teams combined to score 5 points. SEC fan blithely claimed that was just great defense… Then weeks later, reality set in when the Auburn defense got blasted by West Virginia and the Miss. St. defense got blasted by Georgia Tech, who also put up 45 pts. in their win over Georgia.

Georgia’s Stafford, the leagues #2 rated QB, would have ranked #7 in the Big12.

2008….

Tennessee – Phil Fulmer fired over debacle at QB spot. Scored 13 pts. on
Northern-Illinois and 7pts. in a loss at home to Wyoming.

Auburn – Offensive Coordinator fired in Sept. due to failed transition to the Spread. Head Coach Tubberville resigned.

South Carolina – Scored 23 pts. on Wofford and 26 pts. on UAB.

LSU – Scored 3 pts. in 1st half v. Troy

Kentucky – Scored 20 pts. on Middle Tennesse State

Miss.St. – Head Coach fired. Scored 14 pts. in loss to LA Tech and 7 pts. in loss to GA Tech.

Arkansas – Scored 28 pts. on Louisiana-Monroe and Western Illinois.

Vanderbilt- Scored 7 pts. in loss to Duke

Ole Miss – 0 TD’s & 2 Int’s v. Samford.

Bama – Scored 6 offensive pts. v. Tulane. Tulane had a 2 to 1 yardage advantage

Georgia – Preseason #1 has been most disappointing team this season. Stafford, the SEC’s #2 rated QB, would rank #7 in the Big12.

Cracker Jacket

April 8th, 2010
1:16 pm

To win basketball championships…have a few white boys who can shoot the 3’s and defend to go with those backboard slammers! Wish Hewitt could figure that out!!

termigator

April 8th, 2010
1:21 pm

killcasualfan, agreed with most of your post except the last about Stafford ranking #7 in the Big 12. the Big 12 doesn’t play defense, example Sam Bradford against UF in Championship.

daniel

April 8th, 2010
1:23 pm

Ok Tony I completely agree with your philosiphy here in this article. Anyone who has followed college sports for many years would to. College football is all about working as a team to achieve an ultimate goal. the best quarterbacks are Managers of the game. they don’t make mistakes. Its more in important for quarterbacks in college to not lose the game than to win the game. I don’t believe that 18 to 22 year old kids are capable of handling the responsibilty of trying to win the game. it becomes to much and they always seem to break under that pressure.

Ugaclassof2004

April 8th, 2010
1:23 pm

bamaguy

Jay Barker wasn’t that bad. I thought he was a pretty good QB for ya’ll actually.

Not Disappointed!

April 8th, 2010
1:24 pm

Great articles!

killcasualfan

April 8th, 2010
1:24 pm

termigator, you must have meant to say the SEC doesn’t play defense, example Tebow against OU in the Championship being held to their lowest scoring output all season.

termigator

April 8th, 2010
1:29 pm

No kill not at all, both teams had great defenses, but Big 12 teams except for Tx and Ok have poor offenses.

Bama man

April 8th, 2010
1:34 pm

Please let me say Greg McElroy lost one game as a starter in high school and college combined. The kid know how to win and is a winner in like. His parents taught him some moral. Saben will not tolerate thugs,

Bama man

April 8th, 2010
1:35 pm

I forgot to proof read. Careless me, I’m old. Ha

Ugaclassof2004

April 8th, 2010
1:36 pm

I really think everyone is underestimating what a great QB can do for a team. Yes Tee Martin won the National Championship for the Vols( with a lot of luck along the way might I add). But if you ask me who’d I rather have as my QB for 3-4 seasons, I’ll take Peyton Manning anyday of the week! It’s not Peyton’s fault that Danny Wurrfel and Co. were consistently hanging over 30 points on the Vols and everyone else in the mid 90’s. The Vols didn’t lose because Peyton choked; they lost because the Gators were really freakin good!

SOGADOG

April 8th, 2010
1:41 pm

Well said. My only problem with Tebow is the media gave him too much of the credit and lime light at the expense of his teamates. Florida has been on a roll because they play great defense and they have rockets like Percy Harvin running the ball. Tebow is a great person and player, but he and his coach are drama queens. I also think Meyer focuses too much on Tebow and too little on his other players. I agree that a player who is team oriented, with a good heart, mind, and work ethic (Tebow) is much more likely to win a college championship than one who is auditioning for the NFL (Stafford).

5IML

April 8th, 2010
1:49 pm

UGAclass,

Regarding your first post, I did read it thoroughly. And it still makes no sense. The main reason is because you assume, for any team, last year’s team is the same as this year’s team. Which, in almost all instances, is not true. Let me point out the error of your reasoning using Florida’s 2008 and 2009 teams. Florida’s 2009 team returned most to the same personnel but without Harvin, Murphy, and, most importantly, Mullen. So, while the 2009 team appeared almost identical on paper, it was vastly different. You saw that in the 2009 SECCG and throughout the 2009 season. BAMA got better but Florida got worse. BAMA’s win last year was no reflection on the 2008 Gators. A team’s weaknesses would have to be exploited during the same season to be considered “exposed.”

Regarding your second post, if BAMA is down by 20 in the fourth quarter, we lose regardless of who the QB is. And that goes for Elway when he was at Stanford or McElroy at Bama.

termigator

April 8th, 2010
1:50 pm

agree with both UGA class of 04 and SOGADOG. I am ready for the next chapter in the Gator book, time to move on.

Ugaclassof2004

April 8th, 2010
1:52 pm

daniel

“I don’t believe that 18 to 22 year old kids are capable of handling the responsibilty of trying to win the game. it becomes to much and they always seem to break under that pressure.”

I’m not sure I agree with that. I’ve seen plenty of 18-22 year kids handle the pressure of putting a team on their back and winning if they’re talented enough and are comfortable in the offense. Some guys shy away from that responsibility while others thrive. It’s the same way in the pros, some guys excel in the 2 min. drill situations while others don’t. It’s not a maturity thing. Some guys can just handle that pressure better than others.

Otto

April 8th, 2010
1:52 pm

I wouldn’t say Barker was a no name. He just came up to the top in 1 year. QBs are usually recruited their Jr and schools have their targets set going into the Sr year. McElroy ws undervalued as he only started his Sr year.

SEC FANATIC

April 8th, 2010
1:53 pm

Tony, While I do believe that an SEC QB has to have physical ability yes, it is so hard for anybody to evaluate the mental part and future leadership qualities of a high school kid. That is why rankings are so many times off the mark. Obviously, with a guy like Tim Tebow, it is kind of a no brainer, but Tim is one of those rare exceptions to the rule.You think of the Bama QB who no one was really talking about and yet he guides his team to a NC, who fit the system perfect, had good coaching and plenty of talent around him.. Fitting the system as well as having a coach who can develop the player and instill confidence are just as big of a factor. It will be interesting to see how things shake out for John Brantley of Florida because here is a guy with the big arm and unbelievable potential. But will he have the leadership skills in the foxhole when things go bad and when the real bullets fly and things get intense in a big game? There will be a time when he will have to take the reigns and lead that team down the field in that big game.Of course, like the Bama QB, he will also have the advantage of tremendous talent around him but his ceiling will be still be determined on the question…can he lead? And therein lies the burden and where he will be compared most to the mighty Tim.

Delbert D.

April 8th, 2010
1:53 pm

Nope. Buck Belue and Shawn Jones, cases in point.

Big XII

April 8th, 2010
1:54 pm

Young was a 5 star; Leak a 4 star; Flynn a 4 star; Tebow a 5 star; and EcElroy a 3 star.

Otto

April 8th, 2010
1:55 pm

Correct Barker in the beginning of the psot should be McElroy

Otto

April 8th, 2010
1:56 pm

urgh Correction. Beginning should read McElroy not Barker

Delbert D.

April 8th, 2010
2:01 pm

“If they stayed around for a couple more years so they had the same level of experience as most of Duke’s primary players, UK would have taken Duke and everyone else to pieces. I’m not a fan of Duke or UK, but that’s just a fact.”

Facts are things that have already happened, simplifying it for you a bit. Did you make it through college without knowing that?

help, I live in Ga

April 8th, 2010
2:03 pm

I thought McElroy and his undefeated record through HS and college was a bunch of crap because he sucked for so long. But you know, when they really needed him in the big game, (SEC Championship–The Nat Champ was not as big) he stepped up like a winner is supposed to. Part of that credit goes to Saban, the coach of the decade–and I’m not a bama fan–and part of it goes to a winning mentality. Hate to say it, but Tebow had that too. And Butler. Go Bulldogs.

Dennis

April 8th, 2010
2:04 pm

Defense wins championships. Example = Trent Dilfer/Baltimore Ravens.

Delbert D.

April 8th, 2010
2:05 pm

Otto – Do you mean John Parker Wilson?

ReptilesRule

April 8th, 2010
2:11 pm

Tony, you hit the nail on the head…the head coaches job is to WIN games and insure the success of THE program for the SCHOOL, not to be a developmental coach for the pros. I’m sure that when Jeremy Foley hired Urban Meyer back in 2005, he wasn’t thinking “now there’s a guy who can put our players in the NFL and get them big contracts!” No, all of that is simply a by-product of having a successful program. That is why UF will have so many players drafted this year, not because they were coached to play in the New England or Dallas system but because they had such a lhigh evel of success. Whether Tim or Joe Haden are ultimately successful in the league will be up to Tim and Joe Haden, not Urban Meyer. After Florida’s spring practice, a reporter jokedly asked Urban Meyer what he thought about the new QB John Brantley’s “mechanics”. Urban lightheartedly shot back, “I have no idea, I just know about winning”

killerJ

April 8th, 2010
2:14 pm

Its a team effort, no . Proven, big is not always better, just look at that little trade school on north avenue. THWG!!!!

joe taxpayer

April 8th, 2010
2:16 pm

Easy schdule, good o-line and a good defense.

killcasualfan

April 8th, 2010
2:31 pm

termigator, but again the reverse is true. you can’t have it both ways. SEC teams have weak offenses, except for Florida and whichever other SEC team has an offense that year. This was shown by the numerous examples I provided from 2008 against weak out of conference opponents. It’s easy to look good on defense when you are playing below average QB’s

termigator

April 8th, 2010
2:36 pm

How have your top 2 Qb’s played against the top 2 SEC defenses the last 2 years killfan?

Joe

April 8th, 2010
2:50 pm

Couple of things here….first, its a no brainer….UGA has won championships with a “good” QB that protected the football and a great running game. UGA has had what would be considered 2 “great” QBs and could not even win the SEC East. Stafford was a wasted recruiting pick- we should have gone after others.
Second, when will the articles about Florida and Teblow stop. it’s history…you sportswriters are going to have to find some other player at UF to fall in love with….

Bluto

April 8th, 2010
2:55 pm

Here is the big difference:

NFL : You win the championship by being the last team to win
NCAA: You can win the championship by being the first ranked team to lose, and then have someone vote you the champ. Even if another team had never lost a game all season long….

ga gator

April 8th, 2010
2:56 pm

Joe, agreed ready to move on.

Old Guy

April 8th, 2010
2:56 pm

Think about this for a minute. My observations are that it is dead on. Pepper Rogers once said that to win in college football the proper order of importance is 1) recruiting 2) officiating 3) coaching.

Later all.

DeafGary

April 8th, 2010
3:01 pm

I agree.
In 1980, when UGA won it all, their quarterback was Buck Belue, who went on to play semi-pro baseball.
It was their halfback, Herschel Walker, who went on to pro football success.

ga gator

April 8th, 2010
3:06 pm

DeafGary and we were sure glad Hershel left early, one of the best RB’s of all time.

SAL

April 8th, 2010
3:08 pm

You don’t need a five star quarterback to win the National Championship. However, you must have a quarterback who is smart, manages the game well, and doesn’t make too many mistakes. Since you have featured Greg McElroy (Alabama), let’s analyze him as a QB. He was not the best by any stretch of the imagination, but, he threw 17 touchdown passes with only 4 interceptions. He also had the Heisman trophy winning running back to balance him out, not to mention the best defense in the nation. So no, you don’t need a perfect quarterback, but you do need a smart quarterback, a good running game, and a defense that can keep you in the game.

#1 BAMA FAN

April 8th, 2010
3:15 pm

Hey killcasualfan….as long as the SEC Champ plays a Big 12 Champ for the National Championship, our trophy cases will continue to grow. RTR

C. Leak

April 8th, 2010
3:28 pm

Tebow is overrated, but don’t tell coach Meyer I said so.

B. Belue

April 8th, 2010
3:30 pm

I also went on to play in the USFL, as did Herschel. Just to set the record straight.

Bulldog59

April 8th, 2010
4:29 pm

TB, love your column, but couldn’t disagree more on this one. Did the UF staff let Tebow down? No question they did! If they HAD developed Tebow properly, scouts would not be talking about fixing his mechanics, release point, etc. If they HAD developed Tebow properly, Jeremy Fowler’s column would have never been written. If they HAD developed Tebow properly, and Fowler’s still writes his article, Meyer would not explode publicly proving the underlying message in the article; Meyer and Co. used Tebow for all they could get. In the end, it wasn’t too bad for either side. Tebow got a Heisman, UF got a couple of BCS Championships, but it cost Tebow millions, Stafford type money ($42M and counting) over the next 4-6 years. Great kid, and he will be successful, but he will have to work to NOT be compared to Heath Shuler, when, with the right instruction, he could have come close to be mentioned with Peyton Manning.

Dubious

April 8th, 2010
4:47 pm

Barker was the QB for Bama when they won something like 28 games in a row from 91 to 93. He qbed one of the greatest upsets in college football when Bama throttled Canes 34-13, though he only completed a couple of passes. He was 5th in the Heisman , won the Unitas Award, and was drafted in the NFL and was a back up in the NFL for 2 -3 years. Hardly a no name.

Charlie Bama

April 8th, 2010
6:04 pm

Tony — You’re right; a superstar QB is not a requirement for winning in general, and not even for winning a National Championship. In a sense, most teams can overcome any mediocre levels of talent in any position by identifying and developing respectably-talented players who are willing to work their fingers to the bone until the last daily practice exercise has ended and until the last play of every single game. Bama’s Jay Barker, JP Wilson, and (now) G. McElroy are great examples, QB-wise. Now, what’s really cool is when the super talented guys are ALSO exhaustingly hard workers. Tim Tebow is a great example of that deadly combo. You gotta love the guy–self-driven works well for him. On the flip side, laziness or a ‘good ‘nuf’ attitude will land you in sub-par programs with sketchy records, like . . . . the Orange Killbillies.

Tide Rising

April 8th, 2010
6:12 pm

Why stop in the 2000s. Go back and look at the 80s and 90s and you’ll see boatloads of qbs that won national titles that never made it in the pros.

90s- Barker at Bama in 92, Tee Martin at UT in 98, Gino Torretta at Miami in 91, Tommie Frazier at Nebraska in 94 and 95, Eric Crouch or Scott Frost at Nebraska in 97 never made it in the pros, Danny Wuerful was great at UF but never made it as a pro, Shawn Jones at GT in 90, Charlie Ward at FSU never even played pro ball, the 99 qb Chris Weinke played shortly I think in the pros but was never a great starter. Brian Griese of co champion Michigan in 1997 was ok in the pros but that’s about it for the 90s qbs who won national titles in college. Can anyone else think of a great qb in the 90s that went on to become a good pro qb who won a national title in college?

80s- Buck Belue, the Clemson qb in 81, the BYU qb in 1984( Robbie Bosco I think) never made it big time in the pros, Penn State’s qbs in 82(Todd Blackledge may have made it briefly in the NFL) and 86(John no name was the 86 qb for Penn State), Steve Walsh at Miami never made it big in the pros(Maimi qb in either 87 or 89 I think), The Notre Dame qb in 88 never made it in the pros.

Bernie Kosar of Miami in 83 is the only national title winning qb I can think of that had a great pro career. Jim Kelly also but he never won a national title or really even came close. Maybe one other great Miami qb I’m leaving out.

Other than Kosar in 83 I can’t think of one qb who won the national title in college who also had a decent pro career. Brian Griese has had a lengthy but not great career so maybe you could put griese in there too. If I remember correctly Kosar wasn’t even a highly recruited qb because he had a good but not great arm and awkward throwing motion. He was certainly no 5 star qb, more likely a 3 star.

Can anyone think of any other qb who was a 5 star qb in high school that won a national title and then had a good pro career?

ReptilesRule

April 8th, 2010
6:28 pm

Wow, what a post Bulldog59!!…At the next Gator Booster meeting, I am personally gonna ask the coaches if they could please put a stop to these championships and start developing our players for the NFL instead?! I’m sure that will draw alot of applause…Your post is about the dumbest thing I’ve read in a long time…basically the heck with the program, go get these guys a big fat contract! And believe me, Tim will get his chance to make plenty of $$$$ as will about 6 or 7 other Gators this year…

Lord of the Lizards

April 8th, 2010
6:34 pm

You know, I hear all of this Ga and some other national criticism of how Meyer and UF didn’t do Tebow right by not properly preparing him for the NFL, but I dont hear any praise or conversation here on how the UF coaches took a high school QB…Joe Haden…converted him a shutdown college DB and into a top 10 pick with a multi million dollar contract.

Tide Rising

April 8th, 2010
6:41 pm

I would have to concur that bulldog59s post is one of the dumbest I’ve ever seen. Some folks will criticize for the pure sake of it. The idea that the university of Florida is there solely for Tim Tebow and to prepare him for a fat NFL contract is ludicrous. And as the lord of lizards comments the criticism is unwarranted given the gator’s success in not just making Haden the top cb in the draft but in developing several other players like Dunlap, etc for the NFL.