Daily Roundtable - Is Tebow The Best QB Ever?
Florida QB Tim Tebow
Florida QB Tim Tebow
Posted May 21, 2009

If Tim Tebow leads Florida to another national title, and/or wins another Heisman, will he be the greatest college quarterback of all-time? It'll be a debate that rages on throughout the season, and we tackle it in the CFN Daily Roundtable Discussion.

CFN Daily Roundtables

May 21

If Tebow Wins The Heisman/National Title, Is He The Greatest QB Ever?

- May 18 No BCS, No Weis?
- May 19 Does 2008 Utah have a beef?
- May 20 When should preseason polls come out?

Over the next several weeks, as part of the CFN 2009 Preview, we'll examine some of the key questions going into the year with a daily discussion of the big topics.

Pete Fiutak, CFN   

Q: If Tim Tebow wins the Heisman and/or another national title, is he the greatest college quarterback of all-time?

A: If Tebow leads the Gators to the national title, and/or if he wins a second Heisman, the question won't be whether or not he's the greatest college quarterback of all-time; the question will be how wide the gap is between him and the No. 2 guy on the list.

This isn't about who's the most talented quarterback to ever play college football, that's John Elway, but he didn't even lead Stanford to a bowl game (although a certain band play against Cal had something to do with that). This is about who has the greatest résumé.

If you were recruiting a quarterback and were told that one player was going to win two national titles, be a major factor in a third, and would win a Heisman, possibly two (and deserved a third, last year's), and you were told that another player, say, Peyton Manning, wouldn't win a national title or a Heisman, but looked the part, whose career would you want for your program?

Now, there is a difference between being a great quarterback and a very good quarterback who was along for the ride. There's Ken Dorsey, who might have finished his career as the greatest winner in college football history, but how many above-average quarterbacks would've rocked with those all-star Miami teams? And then there's Tommie Frazier, who was one of the main reasons Nebraska won two national titles and came within a wide left of a third.

Talent-wise and as far as being a pioneer, TCU's Sammy Baugh is in the debate, while Roger Staubach, Archie Manning, Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Danny Wuerffel, and a handful of others, can throw their hats into the ring. The point is that there aren't that many quarterbacks in the history of college football who instantly come to mind in the Greatest Of All-Time argument.

College football has always been about the running backs, and the whole notion of the superstar quarterback is relatively recent. So it's not just that Tebow, at the moment, is among the greatest ever, it's that there isn't that much in the way of competition.

Yeah, Tebow's annoying, and yeah, the whole leadership thing has been way overblown, but he (and I'm writing this through clenched teeth since I know I'm adding another cliché to the lovefest) willed the Gators through the fourth quarter of the win over Alabama in the SEC Championship, and he pounded away to keep the offense on an even keel in the win over Oklahoma. Throw in the awards, the titles, and the way he has become a Paul Bunyan-like folk hero, it's hard to say anyone else,    other than Frazier, deserves the unofficial title of the G.O.A.T. no matter what happens this year. The debate is over if Tebow has one more huge season.

Richard Cirminiello, CFN

Q: If Tim Tebow wins the Heisman and/or another national title, is he the greatest college quarterback of all-time?

A: Comparing athletes from different eras is one of my least favorite things to do because it’s an impossible chore, and unless you’re 100 years old and lucid, based on a ton of conjecture. The honest answer is that I’m not exactly sure how Tebow stacks up versus, say, Sammy Baugh and Davey O’Brien of the 1930s, Roger Staubach of the 1960s, or Tommie Frazier of the 1990s. What I do know for certain, however, is that he absolutely belongs in the discussion.

When sizing up a quarterback, you look at three things: Wins, production, and the intangibles, such as leadership ability. Let’s say Florida wins another title this season, as the question suggests. That would be a third national championship team in four years that Tebow would have been a member. His numbers are beyond criticism, already accounting for 110 touchdowns in a little over two seasons of action. And in terms of the intangibles, you could argue that he’s meant more to his team than any individual in recent memory. Yeah, his delivery doesn’t work for everyone, but the results are indisputable and his place as one of the great ambassadors of the sport is cemented in bedrock.

With another banner year flush with individual honors, Tim Tebow will be a consensus top 5 selection as one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all-time. That’s a given. No. 1 overall? I’m not sure, but he’s making an awfully compelling case for that honor.

Matthew Zemek, CFN

Q: If Tim Tebow wins the Heisman and/or another national title, is he the greatest college quarterback of all-time?

Unless the national title is won the way LSU won the 2007 crown (with two losses), or unless the latest BCS controversy (it's been known to crop up, in case you missed last season's screwy Big 12 tiebreaker) sabotages the postseason, yes.
Another Tebow title, or a season so dominant that the Heisman couldn't possibly go to anyone else, would make the son of a missionary the greatest college quarterback of all time. Tommie Frazier has long held the distinction in my mind, and Matt Leinart made a run at the honor in recent years, but if Tebow pulls a back-to-back out of his hat, while adding on a title run in his freshman year and a legitimate, well-deserved Heisman in his sophomore season, one couldn't find a more accomplished signal caller in the sport's 140-year history. While it's true that some collegiate quarterbacks lost fewer games in a four-year career (Ken Dorsey being just one example out of several), Tebow's body of work--compiled in an age when teams play more games than they used to, and under far greater media scrutiny--would stand the test of time. To put Tebow's career into perspective, Danny Wuerffel--an elite college quarterback at Florida and a once-a-decade kind of gem--has seen his awesome career matched by No. 15 in roughly three seasons. If Tebow were to win a second national title as a starter (and a third crown as a contributor), PLUS the Archie Griffin-tying Heisman, the facts would speak for themselves: An all-time great quarterback--Wuerffel--would pale in comparison to his Gainesville successor. One could then see why Tim Tebow--if 2009 breaks right for him and the Gators--would deserve the weighty title of "best D-I college quarterback ever."
But now that the speculation and opining are spilling out of keyboards, let's wait to see what the season will actually bring. 

Jon Miller, Publisher, HawkeyeNation.com

Q: If Tim Tebow wins the Heisman and/or another national title, is he the greatest college quarterback of all-time?

I am not yet certain if it has to be an 'and'.  'The greatest ANYTHING of all time' has to be great, all of the time.  Tebow has been that for all of his college career, dating back to the first national title team he was a part of as 'He who runs left and occasionally throws a jump pass.'  That year, he accounted for 13 touchdowns and he nearly ran for 500 yards.  He was more than just the water boy; he was a part of the championship.  He was the first player to win the Heisman as a sophomore, he won another title as a junior, plus he gave a speech that is already on a plaque in Gainesville, which is just mildly creepy.  If he should lead the Gators to another championship this year, that would be three consensus titles in his four years.  How many other quarterbacks can say that?  How many other football players can say that?  Notre Dame won three titles in four years between 1946-1949, but freshmen were not eligible then.  Nebraska won consensus titles in 1994 & 1995, but had a split title in 1997.  Tebow would be on a level by himself.  So in my book, if the Gators win it all again this year, and they are the odds on favorites to do just that, Tebow goes down in history, running an offense that was pulled out of the history books and tweaked for modern day purposes.  Come on, didn't a lot of you run the veer in high school, just under center?