Readers respond on quarterbacks
The emails are quarterbackcentric this week. Fans weighing in on Jack Mildren’s place in history and my listing of the top 10 wishbone quarterbacks of all time. Plus other assorted topics, including the weekly appearance from a Seattle psycho. Let the correspondence commence.
Jeff writes about the Mildren/Jason White/Josh Heupel debate. “After some thought, if OU’s D was better, Jack would win this category hands down. If only freshmen were eligible. Shoate and Hughes would have been difference makers on a mediocre OU defense in ’71. I guess that shows how great Jack was. Never even won a conference title (titles seem to be the way people measure how great pro QBs are) but possibly the best ever at OU, where they have won 41 conference championships. I can’t argue with the list. Especially the omission of Holieway. Pretty good grouping of honorable mentions (Davis, Warmack, Calame and Holieway). Interesting, to me at least, that the greatest quarterback to ever play at OU would not be in OU’s top 20. Aikman.”
Actually, I think OU’s 1971 defense gets a bad rap. It shut out SMU and held Missouri to three points. OU held Colorado to 17 points, and the Buffs finished No. 3 in the polls. OU led USC 33-13 until the last minute and got up 40-6 on Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. The Sooners gave up 35 to Nebraska, but one touchdown was Johnny Rodgers’ punt return. That’s not bad defense.
Don wanted to debate my selection of Nolan Cromwell over Jack Mildren as the greatest wishbone quarterback ever. “Your selection of Cromwell was courageous; especially in the light of Jack’s recent demise. Perhaps it is motivated by Nolan’s finest hour, the 23-3 win over Oklahoma in 1975. That was a game that may have resulted more from KU’s defense and OU’s offensive ineptitude. But chalk one up for Cromwell. However, Nolan was actually a defensive back as a sophomore and didn’t play offense until Bear Bryant protege’ Bud Moore came from Alabama and took the reins in ‘75. Nolan’s 1975 season was his only productive year. He gained 1,128 yards rushing and was named Offensive Player of the Year in the Big Eight. KU then lost to Pitt in the Sun Bowl, 33-19. He was injured most of the 1976 season, the Jayhawks finished 1-9, and Moore was gone shortly thereafter. Dave Topiker of the Lawrence Journal World recently listed John Hadl and Gayle Sayers contemporary Bobby Douglas as the best QBs in Jayhawk history. Could Cromwell have quarterbacked OU’s ’71 team to the heights it achieved? Probably yes. Could Mildren have quarterback KU as well as Cromwell? Yes again. So, it comes down to multi-year performance and physical toughness, both of which were Mildren attributes.”
Nobody’s a bigger fan of Jack than I am. But Kansas in 1976 went 6-5, beating Washington State, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Oregon State, Missouri and Kansas State. KU, with Cromwell, led OU at halftime. Bud Moore lost his job in 1978 after going 1-10, primarily because someone other than Nolan Cromwell was his quarterback.
Joe also wanted to comment on wishbone quarterbacks. “A couple of comments. Some I never heard of, but that is OK. Didn’tAlabama have some better than what you list? I don’t remember who, but I don’t recall (Steadman) Shealy. You list Holieway as having some problems, but he probably had the most natural talent for the position. If you combine his skill, with Street’s leadership, you have the ultimate wishbone QB. Street was 20-0 as a starter. Two guys you don’t have on there that were really good: OU’s Steve Davis and
Texas’ Marty Akins.
Davis was OU’s version of Street — maybe not eye-popping talent, but win-lost record was tremendous! Akins would qualify as the toughest one of the bunch. He played against some of he best defenses ever fielded at OU and really took some shots but never complained and just kept on getting up. I never even thought of Cromwell. I remember he was a great athlete, but don’t remember him really as a top wishbone QB. The way you structured it I will still have to say that Mildren is No. 1.”
The deal on Alabama is that no one from Bama can figure out who is its best wishbone QB. Shealy? Jeff Rutledge? Terry Davis? I asked two people from Alabama, and a friend of mine from Alabama emailed three people he considers well-versed, and I got all kinds of responses.Texas is the same way, though most people list Street because of his unbeaten status. I don’t have Steve Davis on my list of top-10 quarterbacks in OU history; I’m not going to put him on the top-10 wishbone QBs.
Jasen argues that “Thomas Lott was better than any of the OU quarterbacks you mentioned other than Mildren, who I was to young to see play. Had Lott’s teams won a national championship he would have been lauded as the best. If J.C. Watts was better, how come J.C. had to sit behind Lott for so long? I remember they redshirted him for what would have been his junior year. If he was better why not play him and give themselves a better chance to win.”
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