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June 17, 2014

Analyst: Michigan QB tradition among college football's best

The Michigan football team ranks among the best programs in the country at producing NFL quarterbacks, NFL.com's Bryan Fischer writes, slotting the Wolverines No. 2 overall.

You can follow Fischer on twitter @BryanDFischer.

The list considers the production of QBs over the last 25 years, and ranks Michigan second after producing seven signal-callers that went on to the NFL - Elvis Grbac, Todd Collins, Brian Griese, Tom Brady, Drew Henson, John Navarre and Chad Henne.

Brady and Henne remain active players, though Henne is an unrestricted free agent.

USC ranks No. 1 on Fischer's list with fellow Big Ten foe, Michigan State, pulling in at ninth.

"Thanks mostly to Tom Brady, the Wolverines might have one of the better hit rates on sending QBs to the NFL in recent years," Fischer writes. "All seven quarterbacks drafted in the past 25 years started at least one game in the NFL and four of them have thrown for more than 10,000 yards as a pro.

"While it's unclear if head coach Brady Hoke will keep his job much longer, it's doubtful Michigan moves away from a pro-style offense after the failed Rich Rodriguez experiment.

"With a big brand name and the ability to get signal-callers from any part of the country, this is one area where Michigan wins a head-to-head with its rival, Ohio State."

The seven Michigan QBs listed have combined to play 64 seasons heading into 2014, accumulating 418 starting assignments. They have completed 61.6 percent of their attempts for 102,834 yards with 657 touchdowns and 406 interceptions.

Quarterback
Years (Seasons)
GP
GS
Comp.
Att.
Pct.
Yards
TDs
INTs
Elvis Grbac
1993-2001 (9)
105
70
1,446
2,445
59.1
16,774
99
81
Todd Collins
1995-2010 (16)
49
21
391
701
55.8
4,547
22
24
Brian Griese
1998-2008 (11)
93
84
1,752
2,796
62.7
19,440
119
99
Tom Brady
2000-13 (14)
193
191
4,178
6,586
63.4
49,194
359
134
Drew Henson
2004-08 (5)
9
1
11
20
55.0
98
1
1
John Navarre
2004-06 (3)
2
1
32
64
50.0
342
2
5
Chad Henne
2008-13 (6)
61
50
1,117
1,876
59.5
12,439
55
62
Totals
64 seasons
512
418
8,927
14,488
61.6
102,834
657
406


While Brady has certainly been the star of Michigan's quarterback cache, he alone is not the reason the Maize and Blue were ranked second, Fischer told TheWolverine.com today.

"If you look at any of those lists, he's one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and certainly to send him to the League counts a lot in Michigan's favor, but it wasn't the only criteria for me coming up with my ranking," Fischer said. "Certainly volume was a huge factor, and that is one of the biggest reasons USC came out on top for their success in the last 25 years.

"Michigan has had a lot of other successful guys as well - Brian Griese, Elvis Grbac, and Chad Henne, who should end up being a starter for someone this year. They've had some very solid quarterbacks play in the NFL over the years but no question Tom Brady was a huge factor in them ending up at No. 2 ahead of Florida State."

One of the interesting dynamics of Fischer's list is the general void of great players. Though USC, Florida State, Stanford and others have produced multiple NFL quarterbacks, the success rate for a long, sustained, Hall of Fame-worthy career is relatively low.

"You look at the NFL and how many quarterbacks they cycle through on a yearly basis and it's really almost rare nowadays to be a franchise that has the same quarterback for 5-8 years in a row," he said. "There is the reason the Bradys and Mannings are so impressive, and more so going forward as we embrace more of the dual-threat quarterbacks.

"The careers of these QBs, like Michael Vick, you expect he will be the exception and that a lot of these guys will only play a few years because of the beating they will take.

"I think Michigan sticking with their pro-style offense, as ingrained in their culture, bodes well going forward in terms of attracting recruits and putting quarterbacks in the NFL."

That next U-M signal-caller could be fifth-year senior Devin Gardner. Fischer covers college football and does some NFL Draft scouting for the NFL.com and he thinks Gardner has a chance, but is far from a guaranteed sure thing.

"It all kind of depends on his development this year under [offensive coordinator] Doug Nussmeier, who I think is a great addition to that staff," Fisher said. "He really did a nice job with that Alabama offense and got [QB] AJ McCarron to play up to his potential.

"It all comes down to how Gardner develops this year as a passer. Does he make better decisions? Is he accurate? Can he make every throw consistently? Does he prove to be a good leader in the huddle? He has all the measurable, the right height and size going back to when I saw him out on the West Coast in the Elite 11, and we've seen some really great performances, but not the consistency."


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