Where Does A.J. McCarron Rank Among Alabama's 20 Best QBs Ever?

Randy ChambersAnalyst IJune 12, 2012

Where Does A.J. McCarron Rank Among Alabama's 20 Best QBs Ever?

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    We recently put together a list of the top 10 most important players for the Alabama Crimson Tide's 2012 season. Quarterback A.J. McCarron was ranked fairly high because he will be the leader of this offense and is expected to take another huge step in his career entering his junior season.

    But if we had to rank right now, where would McCarron sit among the top 20 greatest Alabama quarterbacks of all-time?

    The Crimson Tide are known for producing tons of NFL talent, but looking back, this school has had several star quarterbacks throughout its career. If McCarron is expected to become one of the greats, he has a lot of work to do in his final two seasons.

    Here is where the current star quarterback sits amongst the Alabama's greats.

20. Freddie Kitchens

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    Freddie Kitchens was a rather large quarterback for his day. He started three seasons for the Tide from 1995-1997 and played fairly well. Despite throwing 26 career interceptions to 30 touchdowns and driving Alabama fans nuts at times, he did help lead the team to a respectable 22-13 record. He threw for over 4,600 yards during his career, which was good for fourth in school history when he graduated.

19. Mike Shula

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    Mike Shula was not the most athletic quarterback you are ever going to see, nor did he have the strongest arm or the best of accuracy. But he had toughness and he had heart, and that is why he made this list. Shula started both the 1985 and 1986 seasons for the Tide, finishing with career numbers of 4,175 yards and 36 passing touchdowns.

    In 1985, Shula completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns, leading Alabama to a 9-2-1 record. He is best known for grinding out games and putting together comebacks against SEC rivals such as Auburn and Georgia.

18. Dixie Howell

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    Dixie Howell played three seasons for the Tide and served as a quadruple-threat back. In 1934, he helped lead Alabama to a perfect 10-0 record, including a Rose Bowl victory over previously unbeaten Stanford. Howell finished his career with 1,839 rushing yards and 997 passing yards. He was an All-American in 1994 and was also considered one of the top punters in all of college football. 

17. Walter Lewis

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    If Walter Lewis didn't spend three of his four seasons in the wishbone offense, his numbers could have been what you normally see today, but he played in the 1980s. His numbers were still solid, but when Paul Bryant retired and Ray Perkins took over, he had a season that will go down in Alabama history.

    During the 1983 season, Lewis rushed for 338 yards, threw for 1,991 yards and scored 19 total touchdowns. He finished ninth in the Heisman voting for that remarkable season. Alabama never really accomplished much as a team with Lewis running the show, but he was the Michael Vick of the world before he came along. 

16. Terry Davis

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    After a couple of sub-par seasons, head coach Paul Bryant decided to unveil the wishbone offense in 1971. The first quarterback that had the chance the run it was Terry Davis, who ran it to perfection and rushed for 448 yards the first season in the offense. In 1972, he ran for 281 yards and threw for 777 yards, scoring 15 touchdowns. He finished that season as the SEC player of the year and fifth in the Heisman voting. 

    Although Davis never managed to lead his team to a bowl victory, he was the first quarterback to run an offense that paid dividends for this program for years to come.  

15. Richard Todd

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    Richard Todd was the quarterback for three seasons from 1973 to 1975 for the Tide. Although playing under head coach Paul Bryant, he was used more of as running back in the wishbone offense. He finished his career with 1,254 rushing yards, 1,642 passing yards and 32 total touchdowns.

    During those three seasons, Alabama finished with a combined record of 33-3 and never lost an SEC matchup with Todd as the starting quarterback. That alone makes his worthy of being a top-15 quarterback in Alabama history.

14. Bart Starr

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    Bart Starr is an NFL legend, but didn't quite receive much playing time for Alabama. He started his sophomore year in 1953, throwing for 937 yards and eight touchdowns. He was also the starting punter, averaging 41 yards a kick, which was second in the country.

    But during his junior year, he suffered an injury punting the football, which forced him to miss majority of playing time during his junior year. He was never the same at the collegiate level and missed the majority of his senior season as well.

    Still, it is Starr, and he had to make the list somewhere.

13. A.J. McCarron

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    This may be a little too high because A.J. McCarron has only played one full season in at Alabama, but I'm assuming he plays well his junior year and returns as a senior. It took McCarron awhile to get going his sophomore season, but was improving as each game went on. Then, in the national championship game against one of the best defenses in the country, he threw for 234 yards and completed 67 percent of his passes.

    McCarron didn't play bad at all last season; we would just like to see the handcuffs taken off of him and given more control of the offense. It looks like this could be the season that he really takes that next step in his young career.

    With a national championship already under his belt, McCarron could quickly move up this list with two more great seasons and a few team accomplishments. Only time will tell, though.

12. Scott Hunter

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    Scott Hunter was the starting quarterback for Alabama from 1968-1970 and had a very productive career, throwing for 4,899 yards and 27 touchdowns. He broke a total of 15 Alabama records, including most passing yards in a season, most yards in a career and most completions in a game. This, of course, was right before head coach Paul Bryant decided to install the wishbone offense and the quarterback become more of a game manager.

11. Steadman S. Shealy, Jr.

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    Much like many players on this list, Shealy's stats won't impress you much, but he was the quarterback that led the Tide to the 1978 national championship. In 1979, he had his best season of his career, throwing for 717 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 791 yards and an extra 11 touchdowns. That season, he finished 10th in the Heisman voting.

    Shealy wasn't much of a passer in the wishbone offense, but he was one of the more effective players back in the 70s and led his team to a championship victory. 

10. Jeff Rutledge

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    Jeff Rutledge did not throw the ball very often, but he didn't need to. He ran the wishbone offense better than anybody in the 70s under head coach Paul Bryant. So well, in fact, that he led the Crimson Tide to a 33-5 record, a national championship in 1978 and three SEC titles.

    But although Rutledge was used more for setting up the running game, he did take advantage of his opportunities to throw the football. He completed 55 percent of his passes and threw for 3,351 yards and 30 touchdowns.

9. John Parker Wilson

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    John Parker Wilson owns nearly every Alabama passing record, including most passing yards and passing touchdowns. He finished his career with a 25-15 record and was really the first Alabama quarterback to bring success to the program after a fairly long drought.

    So what is the reason he isn't a little bit higher on the list?

    Simple, Wilson choked in the big games, losing to Florida in the SEC Championship game in 2008 and lost to Utah in the Sugar Bowl. Regardless, we have to respect his accomplishments and include him in the top 10 of all-time quarterbacks.

8. Brodie Croyle

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    Brodie Croyle could have had one of the best careers in the history of college football if it wasn't for injuries he suffered. Croyle suffered separated shoulders, broken ribs and, in 2004, he suffered a knee injury that forced him to miss majority of his junior year. Not to mention he also had to deal with three different head coaches throughout his four-year career at Alabama.

    Even with all of that said, Croyle threw for 6,382 yards and 41 touchdowns. Both are numbers that have him second in the record books in Tide history. Sure, his 17-11 record as a starter isn't exactly great, but when you factor in everything, you realize that Croyle was one of the greatest to play the position for this program.

7. Harry Gilmer

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    Harry Gilmer did a little bit of everything for the Crimson Tide from 1944-1947. He was the quarterback, ran the football, played special teams and also played the defensive side of the ball. He was 30-9-2 as a starter and led the Tide to a Rose Bowl victory in 1946 over USC.

    During his sophomore year in 1945, Gilmer led the country with 13 touchdown passes and also ran for nine on top of that while finishing second in the country with 1,457 total yards.

    Back then, the football rosters weren't as big as they are today, so players often had more than one role. Gilmer is the definition of all-purpose player, and he deserves to be on this list, even if he only threw the ball 412 times in four years.

6. Steve Sloan

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    Steve Sloan doesn't get the credit he deserves because he was on the roster with some guy named Joe Namath at the time. But what people need to remember is that it was Sloan who helped lead the Crimson Tide to a 10-1 record, SEC title and national championship in 1864 because Namath was injured for a portion of the season.

    He then became the full-time starter in 1965 when Namath left for the NFL, and once again led Alabama to an SEC title and national championship. Sloan was named an All-American that season, and his 60.7 completion percentage is second all-time in school history.

5. Kenny Stabler

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    You may know Kenny Stabler for his NFL career or broadcasting, but he was a solid quarterback for Alabama way before all of that. Stabler had to sit out his freshman season due to NCAA regulations and only threw 11 pass attempts in 1965 due to Steve Sloan being the starting quarterback. In 1996, he took over and led the Crimson Tide to an 11-0 record, including a victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Orange Bowl.

    His senior season did not go so well, as Alabama finished with a 8-2-1 record, but he did provide one of the greatest plays in Alabama football history. The Crimson Tide were trailing the whole game 3-0 against Auburn in a muddy game. Stabler later called his own number and rushed for a 53-yard touchdown to give Alabama the victory. (You can see the video here.)

    Stabler finished his Alabama career with a 28-3-2 record as a starter.

4. Greg McElroy

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    Greg McElroy only started two seasons in his four-year career, and was shaky throughout his junior season. Still, he finished with a combined 24-3 record and helped lead the Crimson Tide to the 2009 national championship victory. Did I forget to mention that he outplayed Tim Tebow in the 2009 SEC Championship just to reach the big game against Texas?

    McElroy is one of the smartest quarterbacks on this list and was an unquestionable leader on and off the field. His 66.3 completion percentage is the best in Alabama history, and he is third all-time with 39 career touchdown passes. He is also first all-time, averaging 228.8 yards per game during the 2010 season. 

3. Pat Trammell

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    Pat Trammell was the first big-name player that head coach Paul Bryant ever coached, and he helped lead the Crimson Tide to a national championship in 1961. It was the first of six that Bryant earned at Alabama. Trammell did not have all of the fancy stats, but he was a leader on and off the field for this football team.

    He finished fifth in the Heisman voting in 1961, made the first-team All-SEC and was the winningest quarterback at one point for Alabama with a 26-2-4 overall record.

2. Jay Barker

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    If you judge quarterbacks off of wins, Jay Barker is your man. He put together a 35-2-1 record in his four years as the quarterback for Alabama. He also ended a championship drought, leading the Tide to an undefeated record and Sugar Bowl victory over the Miami Hurricanes in 1992.

    He finished his career with over 5,600 passing yards and 26 touchdowns while completing 57.8 percent of his passes.

    His stats don't exactly jump off the charts, but you can't argue with the winningest quarterback in Alabama history.

1. Joe Namath

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    Before becoming "Broadway Joe" and way before the guarantee, Joe Namath was a starting quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide. He led the Crimson Tide to a 29-4 record in three seasons, including a national championship in 1964.

    Namath did not have the best numbers in the world (2,713 career passing yards, 54 percent completion percentage and 25 touchdowns), but he simply got the job done and won football games. In his senior season, Namath completed 64 percent of his passes and was named to the All-American team.

    Head coach Paul Bryant later said Namath was the best athlete he had ever coached.