17 December 2009
Alabama had four different players attempt a pass and seven total guys take a snap as a defacto quarterback during the 2009 season. Thankfully, though, there was never a quarterback controversy. As far as this position is concerned, it was all Greg McElroy.
A look at the total team passing line says that Alabama attempted 334 passes, completing 206 of them - a very solid 61.7%. The Tide passers combined to throw for 2,573 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions.
The 206 completions are the 5th most in school history for a single season. With another game remaining, it's likely that we'll see the Tide move on up that list to the 2nd or 3rd most. The 2007 squad's 263 completions is probably safe, barring some type of ridiculous, Arena Football-like night for Bama.
An indication of how accurate the Bama passers were is the fact that the 334 attempts is just the 9th most in school history. If Bama throws the ball in the BCS Championship game the 26 times that the Tide has averaged this year, they'll close the season with 360 attempts - which would rank 6th.
The 61.7% is significantly higher than what we saw in 2007, when Bama set the record for most attempts (472) and completions (263). That is just a paltry 55.8%.
The 17 touchdowns are tied for the 4th most in a single season, and the record of 19 (1970) is in reach if Bama has a good night passing the ball in Pasadena.
The 4 interceptions are tied for the 5th fewest in Bama history.
The 2,573 yards rank 6th on the school's list. If Bama racks up their average of 198 (197.9 to be exact) in Pasadena, they'll move up to 2nd on the list.
All of that is there for comparison's sake. The reality is that there were several games where the Tide passing attack completely stopped near half time. When you combine that with the fact that an Alabama running back just won the Heisman Trophy, it's frankly quite staggering that Alabama was able to even approach school records for passing.
Of course, it's probably worth noting at this time that when you combine the 2,573 passing yards with the 2,806 rushing yards, you'll see that Bama combined for 5,379 yards of total offense in 2009. And that is a school record - bettering the 5,288 in 1973. The extra games helped in creating that total, but the 413.8 yards averaged still comes in at a very respectable 8th in school history.
Before we get to Greg McElroy, let's go ahead an talk about the other guys that took snaps.
Thomas Darrah, Trent Richardson, and Roy Upchurch each took at least one snap from the center this year without attempting a pass. So they won't factor into the discussion. Star Jackson, Mark Ingram, and P.J. Fitzgerald each attempted at least on pass, so they do.
Ingram threw an incomlete pass towards Julio Jones for his only attempt, and Fitzgerald hit Mark Barron for a 7 yard gain on his lone attempt.
Jackson played in 5 games and closed the season 13 of 18 for 116 yards. He did not throw either a touchdown or an interception. He carried the ball 6 times for a net of 3 rushing yards. That gives him a total offense of 119 yards on 24 touches. It's not great, but it's not bad either. The 72.2% completion rate is great, but also indicative of the type of passes that he was asked to throw. The fact that by season's end it was evident that A.J. McCarron would be the real replacement at quarterback if McElroy went down tells you what you really need to know.
So taking the numbers accumulated by those guys out of the equation, here's Greg McElroy's line:
192 of 314 (61.1%) - 2,450 yards - 17 touchdowns - 4 interceptions - 47 rushes - 110 yards - 1 touchdown
For a first year starter in the SEC, I'd say those numbers are pretty fantastic. In total he ends up with 2,560 yards of total offense, with 18 touchdowns and just 5 turnovers. He averaged 7.09 yards per play, which is pretty fantastic when you consider that he was sacked 17 times and had 122 incompletions.
His 2,560 yards of total offense is the 3rd most for a single season for any player in school history - trailing the 2006 and 2007 seasons when John Parker Wilson also obliterated the school record for plays run. The fact that Greg is anywhere in this neighborhood, despite not even approaching the total plays number is impressive. By comparison, when Wilson set the school record for total yards in 2007, he averaged just 5.4 yards per play.
His 18 total touchdowns match the number put up by Mark Ingram, and ties him for the 5th most in a single season in school history.
Shifting away from total offense, and into strictly passing numbers, here's where Greg's 2009 ranks on Bama's single season record book, as well as where he might finish up if he hits his season averages in the BCS Championship Game:
Attempts - 314 - 6th. The record is 462 by Wilson in 2007. If he hits his average of 24 per attempts, he'll finish the season in 6th.
Completions - 192 - 5th. The record is 255 by Wilson in 2007. If he hits his average of 15 completions, he'll finish the season in 3rd.
Completion Percentage - 61.1% - 4th. The school record is 62.2% by Walter Lewis in 1982. Of note here, this record is for a minimum of 100 completions. The record with a minimum of 200 completions is 60.5 set by Gary Hollingsworth in 1989. Greg needs 8 completions to qualify here. Greg would only need a percentage of 50% to go with those 8 completions in Pasadena to set this record.
Passing Yards - 2,450 - 4th. The record is 2,846 by Wilson in 2007. If he hits his average of 188 yards, he'll finish the season in 3rd.
Touchdowns - 17 - tied for 2nd. The record is 18 by Wilson in 2007. He averages 1.3 passing TDs per game. You obviously can't throw for 1.3 in one game... so if he rounds down and throws for 1, he'll tie the record. If he rounds up and throvws 2, he'll break the record.
Interception Percentage - 1.3% (4 in 314 attempts). The record is 1.5% by Pat Trammell in 1961 (2 in 133 attempts). Obviously Greg would need to avoid throwing one in the BCS Championship Game to hold this record, though if he throws 1 in his average 24 attempts, he would still set the record (1.4%).
I think that is the true measure of just how good Greg McElroy has been for Alabama this season. John Parker Wilsin threw 8 interceptions last season. Counting his one lost fumble on the season, Greg has turned the ball over just 5 times in 2009. Want to know why Bama ranks 5th in the nation and 1st in the SEC in turnover margin? There's your answer.
Greg also had no primary receiver. I know that seems odd to say on a team with Julio Jones, but he caught just 20.3% of the team's completions this year.
Looking at the top five passing yardage seasons coming into the season, all but one of those years saw a go-to receiver.
- 2007 - D.J. Hall - 67 receptions for 1,005 yards. The most receptions and 2nd most yards in school history.
- 2006 - D.J. Hall - 62 receptions for 1,056 yards. The most yards and 2nd most receptions in school history.
- 2005 - D.J. Hall - 48 receptions for 676 yards.
- 1989 - Lamonde Russell - 51 receptions for 622 yards.
- 2003 - Zach Fletcher - 21 receptions for 498 yards.
Only the 2003 season saw the team leader with less receptions or less yards that Jones had in 2009.
Instead, Bama saw four guys top 25 receptions - Jones (42), Marquis Maze (30), Mark Ingram (30), and Colin Peek (26). Those same four guys each topped 300 yards in receiving - Jones (573), Maze (519), Ingram (322), and Peek (313).Greg's ability (and willingness) to spread the ball around led to 17 different players catching passes for Bama (not all from McElroy, though). Seven different guys caught touchdowns, as well.
Stats for a quarterback are determined by two things - style of the offense and game situation. The reason that almost all of the school's single season records came from the 2007 season is that Bama was behind in a lot of games that year. John Parker Wilson had to continue to throw the ball into the 4th quarter in virtually every game during that season.
Bama rarely trailed in 2009, so Greg was not forced to throw the ball late in games very often. When he was? Well, I seem to remember seven consecutive completions in a 4th quarter drive to beat Auburn.
Even the number of touchdowns thrown by a quarterback is typically dictated by offensive philosophy in the red zone.
So you can't just look at raw numbers.
When you start talking about completion percentage... that translates. Interception percentage... that translates. Two categories that BSR's Glen55 likes to talk about are yards per attempt and yards per completion... mainly because they translate.
Bama doesn't keep overall records for that, but if you compare Greg's numbers to the other top 5 snigle season yardage totals in school history, you get good numbers again:
- 2007 - 2,846 yards - 6.16 per attempt and 11.6 per completion (Wilson)
- 2006 - 2,707 yards - 7.14 per attempt and 12.5 per completion (Wilson)
- 2005 - 2,499 yards - 7.37 per attempt and 12.3 per completion (Croyle)
- 1989 - 2,379 yards - 7.01 per attempt and 11.6 per completion (Hollingsworth)
- 2003 - 2,303 yards - 6.75 per attempt and 12.6 per completion (Croyle)
Greg's 2009 numbers - 2,450 yards - 7.80 per attempt and 12.76 per completion.So the question has to be asked:
Has Greg McElroy had the best season for a quarterback in Bama history?
He has a chance to set the school records for most touchdowns thrown, highest completion percentage, and lowest interception percentage. He also stands to have better averages in yards per attempt and yards per completion than any other significant passing season in Bama history.
In the end, though, quarterbacks are judged by wins. There have been 12 quarterbacks in Alabama history that have led their team to a national championship. The first four titles won by Bama were won prior to the use of what would be considered the modern quarter. In fact, Bama does not have statistical leaders for any category prior to 1937.
The first four titles:
- 1925 - No primary passer. Johnny Mack Brown, Pooley Hubert, and Grant Gillis all shared in the passing duties.
- 1926 - No primary passer. Ernie Barnes and Herschel Caldwell were the backs, who were the primary passers.
- 1930 - No primary passer. John Henry Suther an Johnny Cain were the backs, who were the primary passers.
- 1934 - No primary passer. Dixie Howell was the closest thing the Tide had, but his pass attempts were limited.
After the 1937 season, Bama has year by year leaders. I'll give you the leader in those years, as well as his numbers. It is important to note that in the 1970s, Bama ran the wishbone, so the quarterback's importance went well beyond passing stats. Also, during the 1960s and 1970s, Coach Bryant rarely used one primary quarterback.
- 1941 - Jimmy Nelson - 25-54 (46.3%) for 394 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs
- 1961 - Pat Trammell - 75-133 (56.4%) for 1,035 yards, 8 TDs, 2 INTs
- 1964 - Joe Namath - 64-100 (64%) for 757 yards, 6TDs, 4 INTs
- 1965 - Steve Sloan - 97-160 (60.6%) for 1,453 yards, 10 TDs, 3 INTs
- 1973 - Gary Rutledge - 33-57 (57.9%) for 897 yards, 8 TDs, 4 INTs
- 1978 - Jeff Rutledge - 73-140 (52.1%) for 1,078 yards, 13 TDs, 10 INTs
- 1979 - Steadman Shealy - 45-81 (55.6%) for 717 yards, 4 TDs, 5 INTs - he also led the team in rushing with 152 carries for 791 yards and 11 TDs
- 1992 - Jay Barker - 132-243 (54.3%) for 1,614 yards, 7 TDs, 9 INTs
For the sake of argument, I'll also include the 1966 and 1974 seasons, since many Bama fans regard those teams among the best in school history.
- 1966 - Kenny Stabler - 74-114 (64.9%) for 956 yards, 9 TDs, 5 INTs
- 1974 - Richard Todd - 36-67 (53.1%) for 656 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs
Obviously there are many things that impact the game that go beyond the stat page. But, again, Greg's numbers match up very favorably with these guys.
There is obviously a big game remaining, and Bama and Greg McElroy have to win that game for this to truly be a discussion. But much as the same with the "greatest team" conversation earlier in the week, it is something to discuss in the days leading up to the BCS Championship Game.
So... what say you? If Bama wins the title, is Greg McElroy's 2009 the best ever for a quarterback at Alabama?
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