04 July 2010
There is no position on any football team, at any level, anywhere, that receives as much scrutiny as the quarterback. While there are a ton of factors that ultimately determine the success or failure of a quarterback - many of which are out of his control - they receive the lion's share of both the credit and the blame from the majority of fans. Play the position well, and you're a hero. Play it poorly, and folks will never forgive you. That's a lot to put onto the shoulders of a college kid, but we all do it every year. Thankfully, for Alabama fans, we have a guy who is capable of dealing with it.
Greg McElroy - #12 - 6-3 - 220 lbs. - Southlake, TX - Carrol High School
I went on a pretty big rant at the beginning of spring practice about how fans treat the quarterback situation. There is no more popular player on Alabama's campus than the backup quarterback. Right now that position is held down by redshirt freshman A.J. McCarron, and if you listen to talk radio or read message boards, you have probably heard that he's the next great quarterback at Alabama. It's certainly fine for folks to hope for that, but the problem is that the remark always seems to be qualified by saying, "the best since Joe Namath." Sometimes the name is Kenny Stabler, sometimes it's Jay Barker. Regardless, fans seem to be ignoring the fact that Alabama has a pretty damn good quarterback on its team right now - one that just led it to a national championship.
In that article that I wrote back in the spring I made a claim that Greg McElroy's 2009 season was the best ever for a quarterback at Alabama. I stand by that claim with a few more months of distance between me and the end of the 2009 season. Sure, he didn't do much in the BCS Championship Game against Texas. He wasn't asked to do very much, and he's was also playing the game with some pretty banged up ribs. He also had a couple of poor games during the middle part of the season. But the overall numbers don't lie, and the overall numbers agree with my above statement.
He threw just four interceptions in his 325 pass attempts – that’s one for every 80 attempts, or a percentage of 1.2%. The school record for lowest interception percentage had been 1.5%, set by Pat Trammell in 1961. Trammell was considered by Coach Bryant to be the best game manager that he ever coached. He lost one fumble on the season as well, meaning that he lost five turnovers in 379 passes and rush attempts combined. That's one for every 1.3% of his total plays. Bama was fourth in the nation in turnover margin, and the fact that Greg didn't turn the ball over very much was a big reason why.
He completed 60.9% of his passes, which ends up being fourth in school history with a minimum of 100 completions. He ended the year with 198 completions, and had he managed just two more, he would have actually set the school record for a minimum of 200 completions – 60.5% by Gary Hollingsworth in 1989. Bama had a tremendous number of passes dropped during the 2009 season, as I'm sure that Hollingsworth did in '89. You can "what if" things and give Greg the record, but you can say that Greg holds the school record for highest completion percentage with a minimum of 198 completions. Since there have been only five such seasons in school history, it's pretty impressive.
His 2,508 yards are the third most in school history, despite the fact that his 325 attempts are just the sixth most in history. To put that into perspective, the school record for yards is 2,846 by John Parker Wilson in 2007 when he also set the record for attempts with 462. It took
His 17 touchdowns tie for the second most in school history, just one behind John Parker Wilson’s 18 in 2007. Give Greg a few more possessions against foes like
Don’t zone into the idea of him just being a “game manager” either. When Bama needed him the most, he was at his best. Against LSU he was 19-34 for 276 yards. In the SEC Championship Game he was 12-18 for 239 yards and also had a couple of the most impressive runs we saw from anyone wearing Crimson in 2009. In what was arguably Bama's biggest game during 2009, he won the SEC Title Game MVP. He outplayed Heisman Trophy Winner Tim Tebow in every way possible for a quarterback. In what was probably the single most important offensive play of the season, Nick Saban called a timeout in order to call a pass play that resulted in Greg completing a touchdown to beat Auburn.
And then there's the most important number - 14-0. Jay Barker is a legend at Alabama because he was 35-2-1 in his career as the starter at Alabama. By the time he was a senior, he was putting up solid enough statistical numbers to win the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. His first three seasons were nothing spectacular on the stat sheet, but the fact that his team won the games is all that mattered. So even if we throw out all of Greg's statistical greatness, he is the first quarterback in school history to win 14 games in one season. Sure, he's also the second Alabama quarterback to play in 14 games, but that doesn't change the fact. No Alabama quarterback ever put up a better winning percentage than the one that Greg sported for the 2009 season.
Now add the statistical greatness back into the equation, and it's pretty clear that the 2009 season was the best ever for a quarterback at Alabama.
Alabama will be replacing just three starters on offense - Mike Johnson, Drew Davis, and Colin Peek. While Davis and Peek were major components in the offense, Johnson was a first team All-American, and will be the toughest to replace. But McElroy has all of his skill position players returning, and will add a few to the mix.
Whether or not he's able to lead his team to another 14-0 season is really beyond his control, but there is no reason to think he's anything but capable of doing his part.
Look for teams to stack the box against Bama to try to take away the run. With Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson in the backfield, team are going to try to force Greg to beat them. That was what teams did for the most part in 2009, as well, but I look for it to be even more pronounced in 2010. That means Greg should have ample opportunity to show off his skills as a quarterback.
By all accounts he has taken on an even greater leadership role on this team over the course of the summer. Don't expect that to change once practice begins, and it certainly won't once the season begins. We'll all hear the stories from early in fall camp of how good McCarron looks, or how great Phillip Sims looks. Enjoy those stories with the comfort of knowing that the future will be in good hands.
As for 2010, barring injury, that belong to Greg McElroy. Look for him to break the school record for both passing yards and touchdowns in a season. As for the wins... we'll have to wait and see on that.
Up next... a guy who has moved from offense to defense and back, and is looking for a strong close to his career - Brian Motley
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