All-Time Top Notre Dame Quarterbacks, Part Two
Notre Dame's Second Five All-Time Quarterbacks
As expected, my slideshow last week of the Top Five Notre Dame All-Time Quarterbacks raised more questions than it answered. Thus, I will now set about naming numbers six through ten, in hopes that at least a few more of your favorites will now be featured.
If there is indeed a slight, but noticeable drop-off among the next five, it is because they were lacking in at least one key category. Either they were great passers and strong leaders, but never won "the big one" (which at Independent Notre Dame can only mean the National Championship) or won the title without being a great thrower, or played in an era where neither were part of the equation.
And then there is number ten, who was neither a great passer nor even (by Irish standards) much of a winner. But by accomplishing the unheard-of feat of winning a Heisman Trophy on a 2-8 team, this "Golden Boy" created a category all his own.
Ironically, I had more trouble with this list—who to include and who to leave off—than the first. Personally, I will always have a soft spot for Kevin McDougal, who (not unlike John Huarte) came within one play of championship glory. And what about Tom Clements, who, without a great arm, did lead the 1973 team to Ara Parseghian's second National Championship...but without the flair or charisma of choice number seven?
For that matter, what about the other undefeated QB's of the Rockne or Leahy eras who rarely had to throw, or the great passers of bad eras (Steve Beuerlein or Jimmy Clausen, anyone?) whose fault was more the coaching than their own?
I feel another list coming on...
# 10 Paul Hornung
Not only was the "Golden Boy" not a great passer (his Hall of Fame career at running back for the Green Bay Packers proved that was his best position) but he is the answer to a trivia question for Heisman Trophy winner with the worst won-loss record. Still, despite the Irish's 2-8 record the year Hornung won the trophy was remarkable, for not only did he account for an unheard of 45% of the Irish offense, he did it while playing the last half of the season with two dislocated thumbs. For his career, threw for 1,700 yards and rushed for over 1,000, not to mention catching ten interceptions and handling both the kicking and kick return chores as well.
#9 Brady Quinn
The all-time career Irish leader in passing yards with 11,742, his junior and senior seasons under Charlie Weis, in which he threw for a combined 7,345 yards 69 TDs and only 14 INTs, were overshadowed only by the fact he never beat USC (remember the "Bush-push" game?) or won a bowl game. Still, his 20-6 2005-2006 record with 2 BCS appearances (the last by a Notre Dame team) were nothing to sneeze at, and Weis, along with Brady Quinn's pinpoint passing, must be credited for bringing Notre Dame into the modern era of college offensive football.
#8 Gus Dorais
Speaking of statistics, Gus Dorais actually played before accurate passing stats were kept—for few coaches even dreamed then of throwing more than a couple times a game. Thus, the newspapers recorded Dorias' 14-17, 243 yd, 2 TD performance in Notre Dame's 1913 win over heavily-favored Army precisely because it would change the way football was played. Dorais' perfect 14-0 record in the 1912 and 1913 seasons were only overlooked because of the Eastern college prejudice against Midwestern teams, and the 1913 ND-35, Army-13 score helped to change that too.
#7 Tony Rice
No one, including Tony Rice himself, would argue that TR was a great passer. But Rice was a great runner (perhaps Notre Dame's best option quarterback), a great leader, and quite simply a winner. Rice not only led Lou Holtz' 1988 team to Notre Dame's last National Championship, but holds the record for Notre Dame's longest pure winning streak (no ties) at QB with twenty-three. Rice's 28-3 record is also second to only Johnny Lujack for best career mark as a starter. Finished his career with nearly 3,000 yards passing and 2,000 yards rushing.
#6 Joe Theisman
Perhaps the ONLY thing that kept Joe Theismann out of the top five (and from winning both the Heisman and a National Championship) was (again) a 38-28 loss to USC that spoiled a perfect 1970 Irish season. And yet, Theismann's 33-58, 526 yd performance in that contest was one of the best ever by a Notre Dame quarterback.
Blessed not with size, Joe made up for his lack with a quick release, a knack for scrambling, and supreme confidence. One of the most prolific passers of that era, Theismann with nearly 4,500 career yards passing and over a 1,000 rushing.