Monday, December 21, 2009

All-Decade Series Part III: QB of the Decade

Now that we’ve covered the defensive side of the ball it’s time to shift focus to the offense. The biggest debate on this entire team—offense and defense—comes at the quarterback position. Frankly, it’s a tough enough decision that I’ve decided to devote an entire entry to it.

QB: #10 Brady Quinn (’03-’06) vs #7 Jimmy Clausen (’07-’09)

The case for Brady: He was a phenomenal leader who captained the two best seasons of the decade. Under Charlie Weis’ tutelage in 2005 he took the leap from mediocre quarterback to bonafide superstar. He had a penchant for coming up big in the clutch, engineering dramatic comebacks against Michigan State and UCLA in ’06 and finishing off the go ahead touchdown in the epic ’05 clash with Southern Cal with just two minutes left in the contest. He never missed a game as a four year starter—in spite of getting tossed around like a ragdoll in ’03…go look at his first start against Purdue—and ended his career as one of the most beloved players in school history.

Brady's Best Season – 2005: 158.40 PR, 3919 yds, 64.9% comp, 32 TD, 7 INT

The case for Jimmy: This past season he pieced together arguably the greatest season for a quarterback in Notre Dame history. He led fourth quarter comeback victories against Michigan State, Purdue, Washington, and Boston College. His gutsy performances while battling an injury against Michigan State and Purdue were ones worthy of their own chapter in Irish lore. He threw only four interceptions all season and it can be argued that only one of them (the bad pass deep over the middle to Floyd against Pitt) was really his fault. He was a deadly accurate passer, as clutch a performer in crunch time as Joe Montana, and a gritty competitor who answered the bell even when he was banged up.

Jimmy’s Best Season – 2009: 161.43 PR, 3722 yds, 68.0% comp, 28 TD, 4 INT

The Debate

Frankly I believe Jimmy Clausen was a better quarterback than Brady Quinn. In fact, I think Jimmy Clausen was the best quarterback in school history this past season. But Brady was a natural leader that people gravitated toward while you always got the impression that Jimmy’s act was at least a little contrived.

Dan Marino may have been a better quarterback than Joe Montana and posted video game level statistics over the course of the 1980’s, but the quarterback of the decade was Joe Cool. Why? Because of the success he led his team to on the field. The fact of the matter is Jimmy’s best season at the helm was a 7-6 campaign while Brady led the team to a pair of BCS bowls.

The main thing that tipped the scales though was their attitudes toward the school itself. From day one Jimmy made it clear he was at Notre Dame to learn under Charlie Weis and use Notre Dame as a stepping stone to the NFL. He never gave off the impression that he cared an iota about the school—he was out for Jimmy and only Jimmy. With Brady it was very apparent how much he loved and appreciate the school, loved the program, the traditions, and the fanfare. He embraced the spotlight that came with being the most recognizable face in college football and took on that responsibility with great pride and poise. Brady stayed around for four years—even though he was a sure-fire top pick had he left after his junior season. Jimmy chose to turn pro after his junior season, leaving behind an opportunity to cement his place as the greatest quarterback in the illustrious history of Notre Dame football for the chance to chase dollar bills.

Jimmy will be remembered as a great quarterback that could not deliver on the bold statements he made when he controversially cast a 100,000 watt spotlight on himself at his commitment ceremony at (of all places) the College Football Hall of Fame. Thirty years from now Brady will forever be remembered as a winner. That’s why he’s the quarterback of the decade.


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