ASK CFN - The Greatest QB Ever (2/11)
Notre Dame QB Joe Montana
Notre Dame QB Joe Montana
Posted Feb 12, 2010

Who's the greatest quarterback of all-time combining college and pro resumes? What college teams have had four players taken in the first round of the draft, but ended up stinking? Why does CFN run a Pre-Preseason Poll? This and much more in part one of a super-sized ASK CFN.


Feb. 11

Fire over your questions, comments, and baskets of mini-muffins to

- ASK CFNs 1/22 - Bowl Matchups | 1/29 - Being Boise State 
2/11 Part One - Greatest QB Ever | 2/11 - Comparing soccer and college football 

I might not be able to answer them all, but I promise they're all read. Any e-mails sent to this address may be published or edited unless requested otherwise. (Please put ASK CFN in the subject line, and PLEASE keep the questions short ... it makes my life easier.)

By Pete Fiutak

Q: Considering the Colts lost the Super Bowl, where does Peyton Manning rank on the list of all-time greatest quarterbacks combining both college AND pro careers?
- DB

A: So basically you're asking who's the Greatest Quarterback Of All-Time, Period. John Elway is the greatest NFL quarterback ever, and it's not really debatable. Forget about the two Super Bowl wins, his Super Bowl losses were even more impressive because he carried mediocre teams on his back just to get there. Talent-wise, he's the ultimate all-time prospect with smarts, arm, mobility, accuracy … the total package. Throw in the game-winning drives, the big moments (like The Drive), and the wins, and no one did more in the NFL and no one was as talented. However, he never went to a bowl game at Stanford.

When looking at the all-time debates you have to go by résumé and not just talent. The question is always this: If you could have the career of Player A, who did this, or Player B, who did that, which player's career would you rather have? Jeff George might have been among the most talented quarterbacks of all-time, but would you put him on any list of the greatest players? Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl and Dan Marino didn't, but obviously there's no discussion there.

In my world, the five greatest NFL quarterbacks of all-time based on a combination of résumé and talent would be 1) John Elway, 2) Troy Aikman, 3) Tom Brady, 4) Joe Montana, 5) Peyton Manning. Where's Brett Favre? I have a problem with a quarterback who buckled in as many big moments as he has. Where's Dan Marino? For the same reason I praise Elway for carrying teams on his back is why I dog Marino. Miami didn't go to more Super Bowls partly because Marino didn't come up big in the biggest games, and when we're splitting hairs with a top five, yeah, it's an exclusive club and getting to the Super Bowl more than once when you're the main man does matter. If you're a top five quarterback, you're the reason the team is or isn't a champion.

If you're going to base it purely on talent, the five most talented NFL quarterbacks ever (confirmed by the scouting reports coming out of college), forgetting about Super Bowl wins, are probably Elway, Marino, Peyton Manning, Aikman, and Terry Bradshaw. If you want to argue for Bert Jones, Jeff George, Jim Plunkett, or Archie Manning, you're probably right.

College-wise, my top five of all-time are 1) Tim Tebow, 2) Tommie Frazier, 3) Sammy Baugh, 4) Vince Young, 5) Roger Staubach. Remember, pro talent means nothing when ranking college players, Peyton Manning and Elway won a fat load of squat (you can't put Manning ahead of Danny Wuerffel), and college football is historically a running back sport.

Now if you combine both college and pro quarterbacks based on careers, résumé, and talent, the results are probably a little more interesting than you might think. (I wanted to put Doug Flutie on here and include the CFL world, but I couldn't pull the trigger.)

1. Joe Montana – He's one of only three quarterbacks (Joe Namath and Ken Stabler the others) to win a national title and a Super Bowl. Throw in the Chicken Soup win over Houston in the 1979 Cotton Bowl along with the four Super Bowls and he has the best résumé of any quarterback.
2. Roger Staubach – Considered by many experts as one of the greatest college players of all-time, he won the 1963 Heisman at Navy and won two Super Bowls.
3. Jim Plunkett – The 1970 Heisman winner, he engineered one of the biggest Rose Bowl shockers of all-time leading Stanford to a win over a powerhouse Ohio State team in the 1971 game. A tremendous talent, he was beaten down quickly behind a bad line at New England. He resurrected his career and won two Super Bowls with the Raiders.
4. Steve Young – He set the NCAA record for completion percentage in a season hitting 71.3% of his throws in 1983, was the most accurate passer in college football history, and is in the College Football Hall of Fame. His NFL career passer rating of 96.8 is the gold standard, he won a Super Bowl, and he's in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
5. Bob Griese – I know. I don't like it either and forget about it stat-wise. He did a lot of handing off for those great Miami teams, but he's in both the college and the pro football halls of fame, he won two Super Bowls, and was tremendous at Purdue earning All-America honors two years in a row and a Rose Bowl.

Q: I thought it was the policy of CFN to speak out against preseason polls? Why the preseason rankings at all let alone in February? - JJ

A: I think that's a Matt Zemek classic rant. I'm all for preseason polls. The polls being put out in the preseason aren't the problem; the lack of change in them during the season is the issue. The polls are fun, we put them out to try to show which teams appear to be the best going into the spring, and they're great at getting us all through the 784 inches of snow that half the world is getting bombed by. However, if they're wrong, they're wrong, and if a team turns out to be worse than originally expected (Illinois of last year) or turns out to be far better (Idaho), then we adapt and adjust. The problem with the Coaches' Poll and the Harris is that if two teams are 1-2, they don't move no matter what else happens. The preconceived notions of the preseason polls often don't change.

Q: 35-28. That is the score from the 2009 New Mexico Bowl. Do you need me to remind you who won? Hint: It rhymes with High-roaming. Why do you guys insist on giving more "props" to Fresno State than Wyoming? I don't know what we have to do to get some respect from you over Fresno, a team, which by your admission, is a perennial under-achiever. - AB

A: It's not really a Fresno State vs. Wyoming thing; it's more about your Cowboys. You're right in that we expect more out of an athletic FSU team that's always able to gear it up for anyone with a decent name from a BCS conference, but it goes through the motions against the riff-raff. When it comes to Wyoming, yeah, last year was a terrific season going 7-6 with a bowl win, but there was only one win over a bowl team, Fresno State, with the other six wins coming against Weber State, UNLV, Florida Atlantic, New Mexico, San Diego State, and Colorado State … zzzzzz. The offense was among the worst in America scoring ten points or fewer in six games, the defense wasn't anything special, and the team got whacked by the big boys in the Mountain West (TCU, BYU, Utah and Air Force) by a combined score of 129 to 20. That's not to say UW can't and won't get better, but the talent level isn't there compared to the top Mountain West teams, the defensive line needs work after losing the stars, and the offense has miles to go before its merely average.

Q: The Sooners may have 4 first round draft picks - but finished 8-5. Granted, Gresham (did not play at all) and Bradford (did not play much) are unusual situations....but my question is: Has a team with a worse record ever had 4 first round picks (Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams)? - LW

A: How many teams besides Miami have had four players taken in the first round? Before doing any research I guessed it wasn't even close (and was stunned to find out I was wrong), but like you alluded to it's sort of not being fair to the Sooners here since they'd have won at least two more games with Bradford and Gresham and possibly would've turned the close losses to BYU, Texas, Miami, and Texas into wins. North Carolina will likely have four first rounders in the 2011 NFL Draft, but looking back, what teams have sent four players into the first round in the following draft and how did they do? (The years are the teams and not the drafts.)

2007 USC 11-2 (Sedrick Ellis, Keith Rivers, Sam Baker, Lawrence Jackson).
2006 LSU 11-2 (JaMarcus Russell, LaRon Landry, Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis).
2005 Florida State 8-5 (Ernie Sims, Kamerion Wimbley, Brodrick Bunkley, Antonio Cromartie).
2005 Ohio State 10-2 (A.J. Hawk, Donte Whitner, Bobby Carpenter, Santonio Holmes, Nick Mangold).
2004 Auburn 13-0 (Ronnie Brown, Carnell Williams, Jason Campbell, Carnell Rogers)
2003 Miami 11-2 (Sean Taylor, Kellen Winslow, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams, Vernon Carey, Vince Wilfork).
2002 Miami 12-1 (Andre Johnson, Jerome McDougle, Willis McGahee, William Joseph)
2002 Penn State 9-4 (Jimmy Kennedy, Michael Haynes, Bryant Johnson, Larry Johnson)
2001 Miami 12-0 (Bryant McKinnie, Jeremy Shockey, Phillip Buchanon, Ed Reed, Mike Rumph).
2000 Miami 11-1 (Dan Morgan, Damione Lewis, Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne). 2004 Auburn 13-0 (Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams, Carlos Rogers, Jason Campbell).
1996 Florida State 11-1 (Peter Boulware, Walter Jones, Warrick Dunn, Reinard Wilson).
1992 Notre Dame 10-1-1 (Rick Mirer, Jerome Bettis, Tom Carter, Irv Smith).
1970 Ohio State 9-1 (John Brockington, Jack Tatum, Tim Anderson, Leo Hayden)
1967 USC 10-1 (Ron Yary, Mike Taylor, Tim Rossovich, Mike Hull, Earl McCullouch) 1966 Michigan State 9-0-1 (Bubba Smith, Clint Jones, George Webster, Gene Washington).

Q: Does Urban Meyer, or any college coach, have an obligation to teach players the fundamentals for the next level or only be concerned with teaching their system? Would Tim Tebow be a better NFL prospect if he had spent five years at Oregon State with Mike Riley and staff in a pro-set offense? - KD

A: No college coach has any obligation to make a player into an NFL prospect unless that's what he promises during the recruiting process. However, it's in the coach's best interest to crank out as many pro players as possible to get the reputation as a developer so more top talents will want to sign on. You do that (like USC and Texas have done in recent years and Wisconsin has quietly been able to do) and recruits will be more and more interested.

There are the coaches who bring in the talent that will go to the next level no matter what, and then there are others who create NFL players going through the system. To answer your question, I'm not sure about Tebow being better at Oregon State because the running element was such a big part of his game. If that would've made the Beavers better, then that's what he would've done. If you remember, there was supposed to be a concerted effort to turn him into more of a pro prospect after his sophomore year, Florida lost to Ole Miss, Tebow gave his speechy thing, and then he went back to being Teeee-BOWWWWWWW. It's up to Meyer to win games and worry about his team first. That Tebow turned into a pro prospect was part of the deal.

Q: I'm just wondering how much the tone of the article ( had to do with Tebow's performance and how much had to do with his personal Christian beliefs. Just a thought. - RH

A: Haven't I always said that Tebow had the greatest career of any college quarterback in the history of the game? Yeah, I'm tired of the act and all that matters on the field is if he can actually play, regardless of anyone's belief on the abortion debate. I'm one of the few who believe he can be an NFL quarterback with a few years to develop, and it has nothing to do with him as a person. So no, there's no negative tone whatsoever just because I don't like how he represents his causes.

Q: I was just wondering if you were willing to admit yet that your proposed playoff idea totally sucks. (NOTE: The CFN Playoff Plan has always been an eight-team playoff with the six BCS champions, top-ranked non-BCS champion, and a wild-card being the highest-ranked team left on the board).) Granted, this year's hypothetical field wasn't as bad as last year's when you had to choose between Texas, Alabama and Boise for one wild card spot while including two completely mediocre teams from the Big East and ACC. This year you only leave out Boise State with a casual, "oh well, it sucks to be Boise" attitude. The big question is why why why why why why would you insist on perpetuating that most hated and corrupt part of the BCS, the automatic qualifying conferences? Are you unaware that this is the reason for all the anti-trust hearings in congress? Are you just kow-towing to the powers that be, figuring that they would never go along with your plan otherwise, or are you just trying to promote controversy by virtually insuring that every year at least one deserving team will get left out and at least one who doesn't deserve it will be included. - Scott

A: You're sort of right about the idea that the CFN Playoff System is set up with a realistic thought in mind; the BCS conferences will never relinquish power. However, if this system really was in place, the voters would've likely have wanted to see Boise State in a playoff over Florida and would've voted accordingly. If not, then yes, it wouldn't have been fair and we would've been screaming about it, but would you really be that upset about Alabama vs. Georgia Tech, Texas vs. Ohio State, Cincinnati vs. Oregon, and TCU vs. Florida as the first round of a playoff? I'd rather see Boise State in over Florida, since the Gators couldn't even win their own conference and shouldn't, theoretically, be allowed to play for the national title, but you can't have a 16-team playoff without diminishing the regular season, and this really would be a whale of a tournament.

2/11 - Comparing soccer and college football