Previous to the 2013 season, Nick Saban had coached an All-American player at every position minus three: Tight end, punter and, believe it or not, quarterback.
That ended when the University of Alabama’s AJ McCarron was named a first-team selection by both the Walter Camp Foundation and the American Football Coaches Association, two of the services the National Collegiate Athletic Association uses to determine consensus and unanimous status.
Obviously, Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston of Florida State ended up the consensus first-team selection, but McCarron ended his career with two national championship rings as a starter (three overall), the Maxwell Award as college football’s most outstanding player and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award for best quarterback
Along the way he set numerous program records including for career passing yards, touchdown passes and wins despite being labeled as primarily being a game manager.
“To me, you can't be a good quarterback unless you're a good game manager, because you've got the ball in your hands every time and you're making some kind of choice and decision of what to do with it, whether you hand it off, what play you hand it off on, where you throw it in the passing game,” Saban said during last season. “You've got to process a lot of information quickly and make quick decisions. I don't think it's fair to AJ that because I said he's a really good game manager for us that it's like that means he doesn't do anything. He does everything.”
That included breaking Tim Tebow’s Southeastern Conference record for interceptions per pass attempt (62.2, 2006-09), but with two pickoffs during his final game finished at 68.4 to fall short of the national record held by Fresno State’s Billy Volek (77.8, 1997-99).
To help put that into perspective, consider that during his collegiate career in the 1960s, Joe Namath completed 203 of 374 passes (54.3 percent), for 2,713 yards, 24 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Even in the 1990s, Jay Barker was 402 of 706 (56.9 percent), for 5,689 yards, 26 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. Their career ratios were one every 18.7 attempts, and 29.4, respectively.
With 77 touchdown passes compared to 15 interceptions, McCarron’s touchdown-to-interception ratio of 5.13 to 1 was the best in Crimson Tide history, although Alabama doesn’t include it in the record book. The key was the 2012 season when he posted an outstanding 10.3 to 1 ratio:
No Alabama starting quarterback has had more interceptions than touchdowns since Saban's arrival in 2007:
Quarterbacks ,TD/Int, ratio
2013 AJ McCarron 28/7; 4 to 1
2012 AJ McCarron 31/3; 10.3 to 1
2011 AJ McCarron 16/5; 3.2 to 1
2010 Greg McElroy 20/5; 4 to 1
2009 Greg McElroy 17/4; 4.25 to 1
2008 John Parker Wilson 10/8; 1.25 to 1
2007 John Parker Wilson 18/12; 1.5 to 1
Here’s how that compares to some other Alabama quarterbacks since 1940:
2005 Brodie Croyle 14/4; 3.5 to 1
2001 Tyler Watts 10/3, 3.3 to 1
1997 Freddie Kitchens 11/4; 2.75 to 1
1994 Jay Barker 14/5; 2.8 to 1
1985 Mike Shula 16/8; 2.0 to 1
1975 Richard Todd 7/3; 2.3 to 1
1973 Gary Rutledge 8/4; 2.0 to 1
1966 Kenny Stabler 9/5; 1.8 to 1
1965 Steve Sloan 10/3; 3.3 to 1
1962 Joe Namath 13/8; 1.6 to 1
1961 Pat Trammell 8/2; 4 to 1
1953 Bart Starr 8/6; 1.3 to 1
1945 Harry Gilmer 13/3; 4.3 to 1
With that in mind, the following's the top 10 quarterbacks to play for Saban, based primarily on what they accomplished while under the direction of the coach at Toledo (1990), Michigan State (1995-99), LSU (2000-04) and Alabama (2007-13):