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Berry Tramel: Sam Bradford can end all arguments about who's the best QB in Sooner history

by Berry Tramel Modified: August 30, 2009 at 11:06 am •  Published: August 30, 2009
NORMAN — The young among us, the crowd that thinks of stocks, not pitchouts, when you mention option, can debate between Josh Heupel and Jason White.

Us baby boomers will put up Jack Mildren, Jamelle Holieway and all the wishbone generals.

Old-timers won’t let Jack Mitchell, Eddie Crowder or Jimmy Harris be forgotten.

And when the generations mix, the fun really starts.

But if Sam Bradford quarterbacks in 2009 anything like he quarterbacked the previous two seasons, the arguments are over in Soonerville.

Slingin’ Sammy B. will be the greatest quarterback in Oklahoma history.

No other conclusion can be reached. Take your pick on who currently wears the crown — I’m staying with Mildren, but I wouldn’t argue against Heupel or White — doesn’t matter. Bradford will surpass them all with anything close to his established level of play.

Injury appears to be Bradford’s only potential landmine. Jamelle Holieway once was, like Bradford, an epic OU quarterback after spectacular freshman and sophomore years, but a torn knee ligament in 1987 ended Holieway’s days as an elite quarterback.

"It’s rare that a guy gets the opportunity to be on the field for three years,” said Heupel, now Bradford’s QB coach. "Rare for a young guy to perform like he did.

"His freshman season was obviously extremely special to play as smart as he did. Certainly last year, it was fabulous. He played at as high a level as any quarterback at any time.”

Some say Bradford already ranks No. 1, but that’s silly. Bradford vs. White alone ends that notion. Bradford has had two superb years; he won a Heisman in one of them. White had two superb years; he won a Heisman and placed third in the voting for another, plus quarterbacked a victory over Texas in an earlier season.

No, Bradford’s not there yet, but he almost surely will be. Let’s look at the five primary ways to historically judge quarterbacks:

Championships: Bradford still seeks a national title, but he’s got two Big 12 championships. If he gets a third, he joins Harris as the only Sooners to quarterback three outright league titles. Mitchell, Steve Davis and Thomas Lott also won three, but some were co-championships.

Davis and Harris each quarterbacked two national titles; Holieway, Heupel and Claude Arnold each quarterbacked one.

Numbers: Bradford’s stats are off the charts. He’s got a chance to break Graham Harrell’s NCAA record of 134 touchdown passes (Bradford needs 49; he had 50 last season).

But Bradford’s numbers can’t be compared to 20th-century quarterbacks. The game has changed. If you judge too much on numbers, you arrive at the conclusion that Colt Brennan was better than Roger Staubach.

Bradford’s numbers can be compared to contemporaries Heupel and White. Bradford’s are a little bit better, and they’re about to be a whole lot better.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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