Embrace Debate
June 24, 2020

Who is the most-egregious omission from this ‘best college QB of the decade’ graphic?

As the pandemic has proven, people are starved for sports content of any kind. There is an absolute litany of lists, pick ‘ems and build your starting 5 with $15 garbage flooding Twitter feeds 24/7/365. We’re not above it, and we’re certainly not above getting triggered by it (which is exactly the point).

Back on May 6 (remember May 6?), we were thoroughly triggered by FOX’s “who is the best college football player to wear No. 5?” list, which omitted all-time greats like Darren McFadden and Michael Crabtree. This time, it’s a tweet from PFF College Football that has drawn our ire, though it’s not nearly as bad as leaving off Crabtree on a “best No. 5” list. This one is actually a fair question, but there are still some extremely egregious omissions:

Now, much like with the FOX tweet, the PFF College social media manager only has so much room to work with. But I’d counter that you could just as easily make a much longer list into one photo and just use that. But to achieve maximum #engagement and #madonline-ness from the masses, four photos of the QBs in question is the way to go. It gives those scrolling along an immediate visceral reaction, and leads to this:

Bang. Mission accomplished. Two of the four names trending, because people simply need something to argue about.

But, once again, the people have a point. Cam Newton and Joe Burrow had arguably the two best college football single seasons ever for a quarterback, but Newton only played that one year at Auburn, while Burrow played two at LSU but will only really be remembered for the one. Of the four, Marcus Mariota had the best overall career, which would seem to give him the “best of the decade” title. Of course, Johnny Manizel put up two electrifying seasons as well, but neither he nor Mariota won a National Title.

But what about the best of the rest? There are some serious snubs in this graphic. Let’s rank them from pretty snubby to snubbiest.

6.) Lamar Jackson

If you thought Manziel was electrifying, Lamar was Manziel on steroids at Louisville, and he played three seasons instead of just two. 2016 was his peak, when he threw for 30 touchdowns against nine picks, passed for over 3,500 yards and rushed for 1,571 and 21 touchdowns. He won the Heisman, Maxwell and Walter Camp that season. He didn’t win any of those awards the following year, but passed and ran for more yards, and earned a second straight ACC Player of the Year award. Above all, he made Bobby Petrino look like a competent football coach. That’s some serious QB-ing.

5.) Tua Tagovailoa

While Tua didn’t start his freshman year, he did appear in eight games, and one of them was a pretty important one: the 2018 National Championship game. All he did in that one was lead the Crimson Tide back from a 13-0 deficit against Georgia, winning 26-23 on on a walk-off dime of a touchdown pass on 2nd and 26 in overtime. He followed that up with two of the most efficient passing seasons in college football history and was (arguably) robbed of the Heisman as a sophomore. That’s one of the things holding him back from best of the decade, in addition to not winning another ring the last two seasons.

4.) Robert Griffin III

What’s particularly snubby about RG3 is that no one even mentioned him in the replies. It was mostly arguments for Lamar, Tua, and a few guys we will get to in a moment. As for the former Baylor Bear, there was not much blowback. The argument there might be that Griffin’s career started in 2008, but he put together his best two seasons in 2010 and 2011, which, last I checked, were part of this decade. His senior year alone (4,293 yards, 37 TDs, 6 INTs, 189.5 passer rating and 699 rushing yards and 10 TDs), which caused Joe Tessitore to have a heart attack on numerous Saturday nights, is enough to get him in this conversation.

3.) Jameis Winston

Famous Jameis’ time at Florida State ended about as poorly as you could imagine, both on and off the field, but my goodness his freshman year was the stuff of legend. Not only did he throw for over 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns and win the Heisman, he also led the Seminoles to a perfect season, culminating in a National Championship win over Auburn, who had been a team of destiny up to that point. And he beat them with a surgical two-minute drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin with just 13 seconds remaining. The next year, which featured the crab legs incident (among other off-field incidents) and the beatdown at the hands of Oregon in the inaugural College Football Playoff, was ugly, but statistically it wasn't all that bad.

2.) Baker Mayfield

The thing to remember about this whole discussion is that it’s best “college” quarterback of the decade. Their pro career has no relevance here. And Mayfield may very well have been the best college QB of the decade. Before hit lit the Big 12 on fire for three straight seasons at Oklahoma, he almost also did just that as a true freshman at Texas Tech. But an injury caused him to lose his starting job and eventually transfer, which worked out OK. He threw for 35-plus touchdowns, 3,700-plus yards and less than 10 picks in three straight years, and could have won back-to-back Heismans if not for Lamar’s 2016 season. The argument against Baker? No Natty Title.

1.) Deshaun Watson

Snub. Snub. SNUB. Watson is the most offensive snub of all on this list. Before suffering a number of injuries late in his freshman season at Clemson, Watson stole the job from Cole Stoudt and threw for nearly 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns against just two picks. The following year he threw for 4,100 and ran for another 1,100, and took an all-time great Alabama team to the brink in the title game. Finally, in his junior year, he slayed the dragon that was the Tide with an epic performance in the Championship game. For me, the first five guys I mentioned certainly belong in the conversation, but when it comes to Watson, he is the damn conversation.

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