In the last year of the 20th century, quarterback play in college football seemed to be making a quantum leap. Virginia Tech's Michael Vick was showing us a combination of rushing and passing prowess that we didn't realize was possible, while Georgia Tech's Joe Hamilton was combining 3,000-yard passing with 700-yard rushing. Mike Leach was, through Oklahoma's Josh Heupel, introducing the Air Raid offense to its eventual home, the Big 12. Purdue's Drew Brees was, through Joe Tiller's Basketball-on-Grass spread, throwing 70-plus times in Big Ten games.
Everything we thought was evolving at the turn of the century did so, and then some. Quarterback play in the 2000s has evolved to include numbers we never thought imaginable: 3,500/1,000 seasons, 200 passer ratings, completion rates nearing 80%.
As we wait to see where the position will go in the 2020s, let's step back and take stock in what we've seen so far by ranking the best quarterbacks of the century to date.
This was, to be honest, an even more difficult task than I imagined. We've seen single-season explosions from the Cam Newtons of the world, and we've seen controlled, four- or five-year fires from Case Keenums and Baker Mayfields that produced seemingly untouchable career totals. How do you compare a Keenum or Kellen Moore to a Newton or Joe Burrow? Very carefully! I'm sure you will not disagree with a single one of the picks below!
Let's get started.
60. Kevin Kolb, Houston
Stats: 12,964 passing yards, 62% completion rate, 85 TD, 31 INT, 21 rushing TD
Art Briles' first muse at the college level, Kolb improved steadily through his four years, and as a senior led the Coogs to their first 10-win season in 16 years.
59. Andy Dalton, TCU
Stats: 10,314 passing yards, 62% completion rate, 71 TD, 30 INT, 1,611 rushing yards, 22 rushing TD
Both Dalton and the Horned Frogs improved incrementally throughout his career, going 11-2, then 12-1 then 13-0, with the program's lone Rose Bowl win, in his last three seasons.