There will always be a debate over whether certain players are better than others. Each season, it happens on team’s two-deep depth charts, or in the determination of the Heisman Trophy and other post-season award winners. In addition, comparisons across sporting generations occur – between current and former college sports team legends, across conferences, and across a specific athletic event. For instance, will any college football player ever be as good as Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, who is the only two-time winner of the Heisman Trophy? Is Vince Young, Major Applewhite, or James Street the best Texas Longhorn quarterback? Is a non-BCS team quarterback better or worse than a BCS team quarterback? Are the D-I and D-II national championship teams on an equal playing field?
This week, in particular, USC’s head football coach Pete Carroll discussed his thoughts on Washington quarterback Jake Locker, who just led the Huskies to an upset of the now former #3 ranked Trojans, with a writer from the LA Times. Carroll’s conclusion – or at least the way it was portrayed in the article – was Locker was a better quarterback than former Texas quarterback Vince Young, who led the Longhorns to a national championship in 2005 over the vaunted Trojans and their star California trio of Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and Lendale White. Carroll’s justification: Locker is the best quarterback he has ever coached against, while Young played the best quarterback game he has ever seen. Sounds like a bit of spin to Eyes Of TX; well done, Pete – smoke and mirrors.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, and having watched Jake Locker grow up under center at Husky Stadium for the past three years, Eyes Of TX thought Carroll’s comparison was suspect – much to the chagrin of my U-Dub friends. Below, broken down to the best estimations, Eyes Of TX’s analysis to see who was/is the better passing quarterback.
Some clarifying points before reading on: 1) Analysis is based on Young’s three-year starting role, and Locker’s projections on his three-year starting role – estimating for lost time due to injuries in 2007 and 2008 and his 2009 projections; 2) Eliminated the “team” factor as much as possible (i.e. – what if Locker played for the current Florida Gators, would he be better because of the talent around him? What if Texas ran a more proficient passing offense, and Young didn’t rush as often in the offensive scheme?); 3) Focus on the passing game, since we’re under the solid assumption that Young was the best rushing quarterback of the two athletes, based on “escapability,” but not to take away from Locker’s obvious rushing prowess; and finally, 4) Young holds a two-game advantage in games played (13-12-13) to Locker’s estimated (12-12-12).
Vince Young, Texas Longhorns
3-year starter at quarterback
444-for-718 (completions to attempts) for a college career 62% completion rate
Total passing yards: 6,040
Total passing TDs: 44
Total INTs: 28
Jake Locker, Washington Huskies
3-year starter at quarterback
Freshman year (12 games; injured for one game):
Passing yards: 2,062
TD passes: 14
Sophomore Year (3.5 games; injured in game four):
Passing yards (actual): 512
Passing yards (estimation of full season, or 12 games, based on 3.5 game performance): 2,052
TD passes: 1
TD passes (realistic estimation of full season, or 12 games, based on 3.5 game performance): 6
INTs (realistic estimation of full season, or 12 games, based on 3.5 game performance): 5
Junior year (through three games):
Passing (actual): 811 yards
Passing yards (estimation of full season, or 12 games): 3,244
TD passes (actual): 5
TD passes (estimation of full season, or 12 games): 20
INTs (actual): 1
INTs (estimation of full season, or 12 games): 4
268-for-526 (completions to attempts), for a college career 51% completion rate
Total passing yards (actual): 3,385
Total passing yards (estimated, through 3 full seasons): 7,358
Total passing TDs (actual): 20
Total passing TDs (estimated, though 3 full seasons): 40
Total INTs (actual): 16
Total INTs (estimated, through 3 full seasons): 24
Net-net, Young and Locker net-out near equal in most every category. The clearest exception, however, is their actual completion percentage, which Young leads with the 62% to 51% advantage. Locker, however, would clearly win the career passing yards battle (7,358 to 6,040). When it comes to ball security and leading the team to points via the passing game, it’s a draw: Young is +4 in TDs thrown, and Locker is -4 in INTs thrown.
Who do you think is the better college quarterback? Eyes Of TX still says Young, but will whole-heartedly concede that it was much closer than initially imagined. Maybe the 2005 national championship ring is blinding the analysis of the data.