Yesterday on Comcast Sports Northwest, Jordan Kent, Anthony Newman and Joey Harrington were talking about Marcus Mariota. Is it a concern he hasn’t played in a fourth quarter this year? Kent asked.
Harrington said it was, a little bit, but he went on to say that “I think that he’s the greatest quarterback to ever suit up for the Oregon Ducks.”
Quite a statement, considering that Harrington himself was 25-3 as an Oregon starter, 10-2 in fourth quarter comebacks. Two other Webfoot signal callers, Norm Van Brocklin and Dan Fouts, are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Another one, George Shaw, was an NFL #1 draft pick, first-team All-American in both football and baseball.
Harrington quarterbacked the Ducks to three bowl wins, the 1999 Sun Bowl, the 2000 Holiday Bowl over Texas, and the 2002 Fiesta Bowl over Colorado, their first BCS win. That team finished #2 in the country. Captain Comeback was a Heisman Trophy finalist as a senior.
Mariota’s 17-1 as a starter, named offensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl win versus Kansas State, a first team all-conference selection as a redshirt freshman.
Through the first 18 games of his career, The Flyin’ Hawaiian has thrown for 4035 yards, completing 65.1% of his passes, with 46 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He’s operated Oregon’s spread offense with smooth efficiency, adding 12 tds and 1090 yards on the ground. His career passer rating is 167, 176.3 so far this year, which would be a school record.
The Bellotti-coached, Harrington-led Ducks ran a pro set. Harrington threw deep more and ran only occasionallly. In his college career he passed for 6,289 yards, 53 tds, 21 interceptions, 54.3%.
A crucial part of the argument is how you define “best ever.” For one game or a career? To win a hypothetical matchup for championship of the free world, or based on his Oregon record and Oregon stats? The terms make a vital difference.
Few qbs in Oregon history have had a better single season statistically than Akili Smith did in 1998. Smith threw for 3,763 yards, 32 tds, with a passer rating of 167.3, the all-time UO record. He averaged an astounding 17.5 yards per completion. Bill Musgrave is the all-time Oregon passing leader for a career, with 8,343 yards, 60 tds in four seasons, 57.4% completions.
Dennis Dixon stands out to many people as Oregon’s most talented quarterback. Before he got hurt against Arizona late in 2007 he led the Ducks to a #1 ranking, passing for 20 tds with just four interceptions, cooly mixing deft runs and passes with handoffs to Jonathan Stewart. In all that season he threw for 2136 yards and ran for 583.
People forget that DD was a mediocre quarterback before coming under the tutelage of Chip Kelly. As a sophomore and junior he threw 18 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions.
Van Brocklin and Fouts accomplished the most as pros. Fouts threw for over 43,000 yards in his career with the San Diego Chargers, 254 tds. At Oregon, though, playing on some also-ran teams with limited depth, he’s the all-time career leader in interceptions with 54. The Flying Dutchman was 16-5 as a Duck, tieing for a conference title in 1948. He was a 9-time pro bowl selection and won an NFL Championship in 1960.
Bob Berry led the Ducks to three consecutive winning seasons in the 1960s, including a win in the 1963 Sun Bowl. Danny O’Neil is second all-time in yards with 8,301, second in career tds with 62.
The most underappreciated Oregon quarterback is probably Darron Thomas, the all-time leader in touchdowns with 66, a career 61.3% passer
Harrington said best ever to wear the uniform, which makes the terms of the argument fuzzy.
Let’s say Mariota is the best ever if he completes this season with a national title.