It’s the summer, and the offseason for the Alabama Crimson Tide and for the rest of college football seems to be dragging on forever. There’s been little to report from the Capstone, other than roster attrition, so it’s time to start a new series before beginning previews for the 2011 season.
This is the first of many 10 best of all time in Alabama Football history. We’ll start with the quarterback position. Through this series, I will give you the 10 best quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, offensive lineman, defensive lineman, linebackers, and defensive backs.
If we still have time before the start of the season, then I might move on to special teams performers, all purpose backs, and coaches. We’ll see how it goes.
The QB position at Alabama hasn’t always been glamorous. It wasn’t until recently that the Crimson Tide started airing the ball out a lot more, so just because a player like John Parker Wilson holds most of the significant passing records in the Crimson Tide record book doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to be ranked higher than the QB’s that played during the days of Bear Bryant or before.
I’m not putting a whole lot of stock into numbers, because playing the QB position at Alabama has never been about the numbers you put up. More times than not, these guys have been game managers that relied on the running game and defense to win games for them.
The Crimson Tide has had a lot of outstanding field generals over the years, and narrowing it down to 10 was not easy. A list like this is sure to have many different opinions, and I’d be more than happy to hear yours in the comments.
But, nonetheless I present to you my top 10 QB’s in Alabama history.
#10 Brodie Croyle (2002-2005)
Brodie Croyle certainly wasn’t the most popular Alabama quarterback during his days donning the Crimson & White or in the days that followed. In my opinion, Croyle gets a pretty unfair shake when it comes to his legacy in Tuscaloosa.
He was one of the toughest QB’s I’ve had the pleasure of watching in my days as a Tide fan, and he overcame injuries ranging from torn ACL’s to separated shoulders. He dealt with a plethora of injuries throughout his Alabama career, and injuries are really what prevented him from owning pretty much every record in the book.
If the injuries weren’t big enough hurdles in Croyle’s career, he also had to deal with three different coaches in three years at one point in his career. He started his days in Tuscaloosa under Dennis Franchione, then learning Mike Price’s offense during the spring of 2003, only for Price to be fired for off the field conduct, and then finishing his career with Mike Shula at the helm.
Over his career as the starting QB for the Crimson Tide, he led Alabama to a 17-11 record. In 2005, he guided Alabama to its best season since 1999 with a 10-2 record, a #8 national ranking, and a victory over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl.
In his senior season, he was a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award for the Nation’s most outstanding senior QB with 2,499 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions.
He finished his career with 6,205 passing yards, which is 2nd in Alabama history, and 41 touchdowns, which is also 2nd in Tide history.
I feel he is unfairly judged based on the final regular season game of his college career when he was sacked 12 times against Auburn in the Iron Bowl. He played behind a subpar offensive line his entire career in Tuscaloosa, and he still went on to have a lot of success despite all the obstacles.
#9 Jeff Rutledge (1975-1978)
A lot of people forget about Jeff Rutledge when talking about the best QB’s in Alabama history, but they shouldn’t. Rutledge was a winner first and foremost, and ran Alabama’s wishbone offense to near perfection.
Rutledge was a three-year starter for Bear Bryant in the 70s, and led Alabama to an outstanding 33-5 record, three SEC Championships, and a National Championship in 1978. He was under center for the Crimson Tide when they beat Penn State in the 1979 Sugar Bowl, the game known for the Tide’s epic goal line stand to secure the National Title.
Coach Bryant loosened the reigns a bit with Rutledge under center, and allowed the QB to throw more than they had in the past. The wishbone was a run-oriented offense, but Rutledge capitalized on his opportunities to air the ball out.
He’s tied for 6th in Alabama history for most touchdown passes with 30, and he completed 55.6% of his passes, which ranks 11th in Alabama history. He once owned most of the Crimson Tide records, until others eventually surpassed him; including touchdown passes, and passes without an interception (100).
He was a 2nd team All-SEC performer in his junior and senior seasons in Tuscaloosa. Rutledge had an advantage of throwing to Ozzie Newsome, and a slew of talented running backs to take the weight off his shoulders.
But, Rutledge won games and he was a great leader during his days at the Capstone.
#8 John Parker Wilson (2005-2008)
I was never a big fan of John Parker Wilson, and I honestly hesitated putting him on this list. He choked in the big games, and was incredibly frustrating during his days in Tuscaloosa.
But, I can’t possibly ignore than JP owns almost all of the significant passing records in Alabama history, including the most yards, 7,924, and touchdowns, 47. He led Alabama to a 25-15 record in his three years as the starting QB under Mike Shula and Nick Saban.
I have to give JP credit for being the quarterback that changed the fortunes of the Crimson Tide. After suffering through years of mediocrity, John Parker led Alabama to an undefeated regular season in 2008.
The team went on to lose to Florida in the SEC Championship Game, and to Utah in the Sugar Bowl, but it was still the most successful season for the Tide in nearly a decade, and it paved the way for the team to ultimately win the National Championship the very next season.
Wilson’s numbers with Alabama suggest that he should be ranked higher on the list, but like I said earlier, I don’t put too much stock into numbers. It’s hard to compare against eras, and I’m not going to reward Wilson just because he threw a lot more than anyone that came before him.
He might have the most yardage in school history, but he also has the most passing attempts in school history. I think completion percentage shows the bigger picture, as Wilson completed 56.6% of his passes, which was just 9th in school history.
JP was a better QB than I like to remember, and personal feelings aside, he deserves to be among the 10 best in Alabama history.
#7 Steve Sloan (1963-1965)
Steve Sloan is generally forgotten, because he was the other QB in Tuscaloosa during the days of Joe Namath, and he came right before Kenny Stabler. Although he played during the same time as those two greats, Steve Sloan was pretty good in his own right.
Sloan had a part in two Alabama National Championships in 1964 and 1965. The majority of Tide fans remember Joe Namath leading the ’64 Tide team in the Orange Bowl against Texas, where he was named MVP of the game, despite Alabama’s 21-17 loss.
But, prior to that, Alabama was named the National Champions in large part because of Steve Sloan. Joe Namath was injured for a part of the 1964 season, and Steve Sloan guided the Tide to a 10-1 record, an SEC Championship, and National Championship.
Joe Namath did what he did in the Orange Bowl against Texas, because Sloan was knocked out with an injury. Sloan took the reigns for good in 1965 as the full-time starting QB, guiding the Crimson Tide to a 9-1-1 record, and a second straight National Championship.
Alabama went back to the Orange Bowl and this time defeated Nebraska 39-28. Sloan was named an All American in 1965, and was awarded the Sammy Baugh Trophy as the nation’s top college passer. To this date, Sloan is the only Tide quarterback to win that award.
Sloan was incredibly efficient during his time with Alabama, completing 60.7% of his passes, which is the 2nd highest percentage in school history.
#6 Harry Gilmer (1944-1947)
Harry Gilmer isn’t generally recognized as a QB, because he didn’t take the snaps in Alabama’s single-wing formation in the 40s. But, Gilmer was Alabama’s primary passer in the offense. He did everything for the Crimson Tide when he played. He passed, ran, returned kicks, played defense, and punted.
Gilmer led Alabama to a 30-9-2 record as a starter. He had a terrific sophomore season, leading the Crimson Tide to a 10-0 record. He led the nation in touchdown passes with 13 that season, and averaged 7.0 yards per carry. He was 2nd in the nation in total offense with 1,457 yards.
He led Alabama to the Rose Bowl that season, where the Crimson Tide defeated USC 34-14, and he was named MVP of the game. He was an All American, All SEC, and SEC Player of the Year that same season.
He finished in the top five of the Heisman voting twice in his career (1945, 1947). Gilmer finished his Alabama career with 29 passing touchdowns, which ranks in a tie for 8th with Walter Lewis in Tide history.
He also scored 24 touchdowns on the ground. He passed for 2,894 yards in his career, ran for 1,673 yards, averaged 36.4 yards per punt, and averaged 28.7 yards per kick return.
Gilmer was a different brand of football player, playing in the days where they didn’t have 70+ players on the team, and was a 60-minute guy.
If I end up doing all-purpose backs in Alabama history, Gilmer has a pretty good shot of being #1. He’s one of the best all-around football players in the history of Alabama football.
#5 Greg McElroy (2009-2011)
Greg McElroy is one of the best winners in Alabama history. He was the starting QB the last two years in Tuscaloosa, guiding the Crimson Tide to a 24-3 record in his time, highlighted by leading Alabama to the 2009 National Championship, the school’s first since 1992 in his first year as the starter.
He had his ups and downs during his junior season and his career as a whole. But, McElroy is another guy that I thought was unfairly criticized during his tenure as the starter.
He looked shaky on occasions, but in perhaps the best game of his career, he outplayed Tim Tebow in the 2009 SEC Championship Game, and was named MVP for his efforts. The Tide ultimately went on to defeat Texas in the BCS National Championship Game.
McElroy won his first 19 games as the starting QB, before Alabama was defeated in Columbia by South Carolina. Alabama lost two more games in 2010, but McElroy had a terrific senior season at the Capstone.
He completed over 70% of his passes, threw for 2,987 yards, and 20 touchdowns. He led the Tide to a 10-3 record and a win over Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl. McElroy’s efficiency is what sets him apart from those behind him on this list.
He had only 9 interceptions in his two years as the starter, and is #1 in the ‘Bama history book in completion percentage at 66.3%. His QB rating was one of the best in the nation in 2010 at 169.0.
Despite being the starter for only two years, McElroy finished with the 4th most passing yards, and 3rd most touchdown passes in team history. He was one of the smartest QB’s I’ve had the chance to watch, and he’s a guy that anybody would absolutely love going to battle with.
His tremendous leadership ability and his efficiency really stuck out to me over his career.
#4 Kenny “Snake” Stabler (1965-1967)
Kenny “Snake” Stabler is most recently known for his time spent as the color commentator alongside Eli Gold on the Alabama football radio broadcasts, but before that, Stabler was a great quarterback for the Crimson Tide.
Stabler was the backup to Steve Sloan during the 1965 season, that saw Alabama collect its second consecutive National Championship. He took as the starter in 1966, the season remembered by Alabama fans as the season the Crimson Tide was snubbed of their third consecutive National Championship.
Despite going 11-0, and finishing as the only undefeated or untied team in the nation, Alabama finished 3rd behind Notre Dame and Michigan State who tied in their bowl game. Led by Stabler, Alabama routed Nebraska 34-7 in the Sugar Bowl, and Snake was named the MVP of the game.
1967 was the best season of Stabler’s career in Tuscaloosa, although the team finished just 8-2-1. He was named an All American for his efforts to go along with being named the SEC’s most valuable back, and the SEC Player of the Year.
His senior season provided one of the great plays in Alabama history. In the 4th quarter of the Iron Bowl, Alabama trailed Auburn 3-0 on a rainy day at Legion Field. Snake took matters into his own hands with his famous “run in the mud” as he scampered 53 yards to the endzone to score the game winning touchdown as the Tide rolled on to a 7-3 win.
Alabama went 28-3-2 during Stabler’s days on campus, and he completed 59.4% of his passes, which ranks 4th in Crimson Tide history. He had 2,196 passing yards in his career, rushed for 838 yards, and reached paydirt 25 times through the air and on the ground.
#3 Jay Barker (1991-1994)
Jay Barker is the winningest QB in Alabama history. He led Alabama to a 35-2-1 record over three years as the starting QB, a .934% winning percentage.
In Barker’s first year as the Alabama starter in 1992, he broke Alabama’s 13-year drought without a National Title, leading the Tide to a 13-0 record and a 34-13 beatdown of Miami in the Sugar Bowl.
Barker was mainly used as a game manager during his sophomore season, as Alabama’s defense was the catalyst of the perfect season. But, he experienced a great deal of personal success on the gridiron in the two years that followed, specifically his senior season.
He was one of the top QB’s in the nation during the 1994 season, leading Alabama to a 12-1 record and nearly to a second National Title in three years. Alabama was 11-0 before losing to Florida 24-23 in the SEC Championship. Alabama rebounded by defeating Florida defeating Ohio State 24-17 in the Citrus Bowl.
Barker was a huge reason for Alabama’s success in 1994. He completed 61.5% of his passes for 1,996 yards, and 14 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions. His QB rating was 151.7.
Barker was named an All American for his efforts, as well as winning the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, and finishing 5th in the Heisman voting.
For his career, Jay Barker is 5th in Tide history in passing yards with 5,689 yards, and has the 6th best completion percentage in school history at 56.9%.
Barker is another QB that doesn’t have the stats that jump out at you, but he was an undisputed winner. A 35-2-1 career record is remarkable, and considering how many great teams this program has had in its history, it says a lot that he is the winningest QB in school history.
#2 Pat Trammell (1959-1961)
I had a hard time not putting Pat Trammell #1 on this list. I know I probably have him higher than a lot of you would, but I’m a bit biased toward Trammell. I never saw him play, but from the stories I’ve been told by my father and others that got the opportunity to watch him, he’s probably my favorite QB in Tide history.
If you look up the word “leader” in the dictionary, there’s a good chance Pat Trammell’s picture is next to it. He epitomized field general, and was an extension of Coach Bryant on the field.
Trammell was Bear’s first star player, and led the Crimson Tide to their first of six National Championships under Bryant in 1961. He was at one time the winningest QB’s in Alabama history with a 26-2-4 record as the QB, until Jay Barker broke the record in 1994.
Along with leading Alabama to an 11-0 record and a National Championship in 1961, Trammell raked in the individual accolades as well. He was an All SEC 1st teamer, the MVP of the SEC, and was named the AP Back of the Year. The Touchdown Club of Atlanta named him the College Player of the Year.
He also finished 5th in the 1961 Heisman voting. Trammell doesn’t hold any of the Alabama passing records, but he had all the intangibles that you wanted in a collegiate QB.
I’ve read someone say before that the only better leader of men than Pat Trammel was George Patton. That’s what sets Pat Trammell apart from most of the QB’s in Alabama history, and it’s why I came very close to putting him #1.
#1 Joe Namath (1962-1964)
Joe Namath followed Pat Trammell at the Capstone, and he’s the reason that I can’t quite propel Trammell as the best QB in Tide history. He was instrumental in helping the Tide win the 1964 National Championship, even though he battled through injuries for some of the season.
He was the MVP of the ’65 Orange Bowl, despite the Tide’s loss. He was 29-4 as the starting QB over his three year career. Namath was in the Bear Bryant doghouse on multiple occasions during his college career, but he was an incredible football player on the field.
Coach Bryant referred to Joe Namath as the greatest athlete he ever coached, and that’s saying a lot considering how many great players Bear coached in over 30 years as a head football coach.
Namath completed 64% of his passes in his senior season with the Crimson Tide, and was named an All American for his efforts. He was also a member of the All SEC team, and shared the honors of QB of the Decade in the 1960’s with Kenny Stabler.
Namath led Alabama to three bowl appearances in his three years with the team. He was a winner during his days at the Capstone, and winning matters a whole lot more than stats at Alabama.
There you have it, my 10 best QB’s in Alabama history. Let me know what you think.