Saturday Down South's Top 20 SEC quarterbacks since 2000, Part II: 10-6
It’s a quarterback world. The rest of the us are just living in it. If you don’t have a QB, then you don’t have a football team.
The SEC has done well at the game’s most important position since the turn of the 21st century, producing a trio of Heisman Trophy winners and eight starters who will forever be national champions. None of the other conferences have done better.
Everybody loves a quality list — they can always be debated endlessly — although ranking the league’s Top 20 QBs from the last 17-plus seasons is no easy task. A few (Kentucky’s Jared Lorenzen) enjoyed individual success but failed to win enough games, while some others (Alabama’s Greg McElroy) captured titles but didn’t put up big numbers.
There’s no perfect system, of course. There wasn’t any sort of specific criteria that I adhered to, like the amount of games won or touchdowns thrown. Seasons with double-digit victories and sensational TD-to-INT ratios certainly help, though.
Without further ado, here’s Part II of my list counting down Nos. 10-6. Feel free to agree or (more likely) disagree as you see fit.
10. Connor Shaw, South Carolina (2010-13)
Prior to his arrival, the Gamecocks had won 10 games exactly once in program history, way back in 1984. But with Shaw as the starter from 2011-13, they won 11 three seasons in a row. It was the most successful run that the team had ever put together, including two victories in the Capital One Bowl and another in the Outback Bowl.
Even if Shaw was labeled as more of a game manager than a playmaker, he was a 65.5-percent passer for his career with a sparkling touchdown-to-interception ratio of 56-to-16. As a senior in 2013, he threw 24 TDs against only 1 INT.
While he wasn’t selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, Shaw started one game as a rookie for the Cleveland Browns and has also spent some time with the Chicago Bears.
9. Rex Grossman, Florida (2000-02)
It was another Gators signal caller, Tim Tebow in 2007, who became the first sophomore to be handed the Heisman Trophy. However, Grossman probably should’ve broken that barrier six years earlier. In 2001, he led the country in passer efficiency rating and was a consensus first-team All-American yet finished second in the race to Nebraska field general Eric Crouch.
He was less effective throughout his junior campaign, maybe due to the departure of coach Steve Spurrier, but Grossman is still tied for ninth all time in the SEC with 77 career touchdown passes. His rating of 170.8 in 2001 is 11th best in conference history.
Grossman left Gainesville a season early for the 2003 NFL Draft, was a first-round pick of the Chicago Bears and started Super Bowl XLI.
8. David Greene, Georgia (2001-04)
Although he never put up eye-popping numbers for the Bulldogs, Greene was a model of consistency during his tenure between the hedges. After redshirting out of high school, he was a four-year starter and averaged 2,882 yards passing per season. His 11,528 career yards through the air was an all-time SEC record at the time.
But what Greene did most of all was win, which he did better than any quarterback the game had ever seen. With 42 victories as a starter, he eclipsed Tennessee’s Peyton Manning and held the standard until Colt McCoy of Texas passed him in 2009.
A third-round choice of the Seattle Seahawks in the 2005 NFL Draft, Greene was also a member of the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts.
7. Eli Manning, Ole Miss (2000-03)
While older brother carved his own path with the Volunteers, younger brother followed in father’s footsteps with the Rebels and rewrote the record book. Manning has more passing attempts (1,363), completions (829), yards (10,119) and touchdowns (81) than any QB who ever suited up in Oxford. All four figures are Top 8 in SEC lore, too.
Following three straight 7-win seasons, Manning directed Mississippi to a 10-3 mark in 2003 that included a 31-0 shellacking of rival Mississippi State and a triumph over Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl. The Rebs hadn’t won double-digit games since 1971.
Taken No. 1 in the 2004 NFL Draft, Manning has two Super Bowls rings with the New York Giants and is a possible Hall of Famer.
6. Aaron Murray, Georgia (2010-13)
Statistically, he’s the most prolific passer to ever play in the SEC. Like the aforementioned Greene, he started for four seasons after redshirting his first year in Athens. For his career, Murray completed 921 passes, threw for 13,166 yards and fired 121 touchdowns. Each total is No. 1 in conference annals by a relatively wide margin.
Also like Greene, he was a steady performer. Murray never threw for less than 3,049 yards or 24 TDs, maxing out with 3,893 and 36 as a junior in 2012. That year, he was but a tipped pass away from upsetting eventual national champion Alabama for the league title.
A fifth-rounder of the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2014 NFL Draft, Murray also earned a paycheck from the Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams organizations.