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Good Bad LSU Quarterbacks

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The fallout of March Badness.

JAMIE HOWARD LSU

Billy did a remarkable job with the March Badness tournament, culminating in both a worthy victory and an Ole Miss player getting unreasonably mad about it. Win-win all around.

In the aftermath, we’re left with the question of: “What about LSU’s rich tradition of underachieving quarterbacks?” I mean, as fun as it was to talk about the best worst quarterback in the SEC record books, that’s the epitome of throwing rocks from a glass house. For as successful of a program as LSU is, it’s stunning how bad the quarterback play has been in Baton Rouge, historically.

Because I’m not nearly as nice or as fan friendly as Billy, I’m not taking your votes or input. Instead, I assembled the list of LSU’s worst good quarterbacks or best bad quarterbacks, whichever way you want it. We’ve pretty much cornered the market on this.

LSU’s all-time leading passer is Tommy Hodson, and he’s a good 2000 yards ahead of second place. But let’s put LSU’s historic QB play in perspective with this factoid: there are only four quarterbacks in LSU history with at least 2000 career passing yards and a completion percentage above 60 percent. Four.

The highest career completion percentage among starting quarterbacks at LSU is Alan Risher’s 62. There were 34 quarterbacks who bested that mark in the NCAA last year alone.

Instead of leaving this to opinion, I took every LSU quarterback with at least 2000 passing yards (21 in all) and ranked them in total yards, ATVSQBPI, completion percentage, and TD/INT ratio. I added together their rankings in each category (best to worst in yards and worst to best in the other three), to come up with a total rank. Lowest score wins!

So here we are, the Poseur Invitational Tournament to go with Billy’s March Badness… the PIT ratings for LSU quarterbacks!

10. Jordan Jefferson (45 points, 7th in yards, 58.6%, 34/20 TD/INT, 5.565 ATVSQBPI)

Dare I say it? Jordan Jefferson was a sneaky good quarterback. He passed for 4733 career yards on a respectable 7.0 yards/attempt. He also is the only quarterback in the group who rushed for over 1,000 career yards. He was a decent double threat, took care of the football fairly well, and helmed some of the best teams in school history. So why is his reputation so poor…

Crystal ball
LSU Freek

Oh, right. Got it.

9. Marcus Randall (45 points, 16th in yards, 56.1%, 18/12, 6.199)

Randall is essentially Jordan Jefferson with less playing time and no devoted band of pranksters devoted to making a meme out of his worst moments. Randall also has 617 rushing yards on a 3.8 average. The highest of any in our sample. Randall’s probably most famous now for losing his job to Matt Mauck in 2003 than anything else. He was a perfectly fine, serviceable quarterback.

8. Jarrett Lee (43 points, 11th in yards, 56.1%, 32/21, 5,820)

The biggest surprise is how well Jarrett Lee scored in TD/INT ratio. He’s remembered for being a turnover machine. He threw for 1,873 yards as freshman and only 3,949 on his career, a testament to how traumatic his freshman year was. He threw seven pick-sixes in 2008, and the nightmares of that freshman campaign haunted most of his career. He won the job back in 2011 when Jefferson got suspended, but then lost it again when he threw two interceptions against Alabama. Amazingly, Lee became a cult hero after being a pariah early in his career, thanks to not playing in the title game. Nothing has helped his reputation as a quarterback more than not getting in that game.

7. David Woodley (36 points, 21st in yards, 47.4%, 8/15, 5.056)

Yeah, those numbers are real. David Woodley threw 8 career touchdowns against 15 interceptions. He also had a sub-50 completion percentage. Oh, and he would not only play in the NFL, he would start in a Super Bowl. He was the final quarterback of the Cholly Mac era, and boy, did he sum up that era in one player. I’m a little mad at myself for not rigging the formula to make Woodley score higher because he’s exactly the kind of guy the concept of good-bad quarterback was invented to describe. He did rush for 829 career yards and 15 touchdowns, so he could make things happen with his legs. But Woodley was the starter for two consecutive seasons, and he didn’t throw for more than a thousand yards in either of them.

Glitch in the Matrix: Bert Jones (36 points, 13th in yards, 52.2%, 28/17, 4.841)

Something broke in the formula, so it rated Bert Jones as good-bad instead of completely freaking awesome. There’s a few things working against him here: he threw for an abysmal completion rate because the game was rigged against passing back then. He did average 7.6 yards/attempt, which would be good in today’s game, much less 1972. What also kills him is his atrocious ATVSQBPI. However, this is because Cholly Mac took the best pocket quarterback in LSU history and had him run the ball 231 times. He ranks fourth all-time in quarterback rushing attempts, which is a shocking misuse of Jones’ phenomenal talent, not to criticize McClendon from four decades in the future. But I refuse to rank Bert friggin’ Jones as good-bad. That’s just dumb.

6. Mike Hillman (35 points, 19th in yards, 54.1%, 13/18, 4.745)

The MVP of the 1968 Peach Bowl has been a bit lost to history, thanks to playing before Bert Jones. Hillman is also a bit of a victim to the era, but compare him to Jones: he has a negative TD/INT ratio and he only carried the ball 72 times, so it wasn’t rushing too much that drags down his ratings. He was a bit more accurate, but not enough to make up for the lack of big play ability. He barely crosses the 2,000 yard threshold, but he had 316 attempts in two years to 269 attempts in one as a starter for Danny Etling.

5. Chad Loup (34 points, 14th in yards, 57.1%, 15/19, 4.687)

Known in the annals of LSU history as the guy who lost his starting job to Jamie Howard. It’s a bit unfair, but if we want to follow the trajectory of the nadir of LSU football, it pretty much started when Tommy Hodson left campus and Loup took over the job… poorly, I may add. Loup never managed to seize the starting job for a full season, but he started at least one game in all four years. He is either the greatest backup quarterback in school history or the worst starter, depending on what mood you’re in. He never could seize control of the team, and things just kept getting worse during his tenure.

4. Steve Ensminger (32 points, 17th in yards, 45.2%, 16/18, 4.843)

His career overlapped with David Woodley and my God, was that a Sophie’s choice of a quarterback controversy. Ensminger could also run a little bit, adding in 504 yards and 10 TDs, so it really was like you had two guys with the same exact skill set: decent runners with inaccurate arms, but good news, they throw a ton of picks, too. And you thought Lee and Jefferson was a quiz with no right answer. Ensminger is of course now on staff, so let’s not make fun of his quarterback career too much. But I will point out that he coaches the tight ends, not the quarterbacks.

3. Jeff Wickersham (21 points, 2nd in yards, 58.4%, 25/39, 4.767)

Of the 21 LSU QB’s with 2,000 career passing yards, SEVEN have thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. Yet no one was more underwater than Jeff Wickersham, who threw 14 more interceptions than touchdowns over his career. What’s more remarkable is that he was an accurate passer: 58.4 percent puts him near the all-time school leaders. Wickersham threw for 6,921 yards, making him one of only four LSU QB’s to top 6000 career yards. The gap between Wickersham and Danny Etling is greater than Rohan Davey’s career 4,415 yard (ninth all-time). Wickersham threw for a lot of yards, and he was the QB on some damn good teams that came up just short. But good lord, the man threw a ton of picks. He also rushed for -216 yards on 176 attempts, in a great use of resources. Jeff Wickersham is still second all-time in career yards, and it’s still not even close. That’s terrifying.

2. Josh Booty (18 points, 10th in yards, 49.3%, 24/34, 4.169)

Booty spurned LSU to play pro baseball, until it turned out he couldn’t hit a curveball. Eligibility intact, he came back to LSU to show us exactly what we missed out on, and he almost tanked the Saban era in its infancy. The amazing thing is that Booty was on campus for just two years, didn’t even start for that entire time, and he’s tenth on our all-time passing list. He never completed more than 50 percent of his passes in a season, and his 1999 season is a monument to slinging and grinning: he threw for 1,830 yards on 48.6 percent and a 7/19 touchdown-interception ratio. That is not a misprint. Yet Saban came in and decided to keep the starter, and somehow LSU went 8-4 and Booty was a first-team All-SEC player in 2000 despite only completing 50 percent of his passes. But he did light up Bama.

1. Jamie Howard (11 points, 4th in yards, 49.1%, 34/47, 4.323)

Jamie Howard was the whole package. He had a big arm, throwing for more than 6,000 career yards. And he had big games. His comeback over Auburn as a freshman won him the job over Loup, and he would constantly tease the Tiger faithful with his talent, and let’s be honest, his resiliency. Howard is also responsible for one of the most spectacular meltdowns in college football history though, let’s be fair, he wasn’t the guy calling for all of those pass plays. But it does take a certain something to blow a 23-point lead by throwing six interceptions. Howard put up with more abuse than just about any player in LSU history, thanks to his high profile meltdowns, but give the guy credit: he always bounced back and no one could quite wrest the job away from him (SEE Loup, Chad). Howard never played for a winner, but he still dots the LSU record book thanks to the tantalizing promise of his talent that he never quite delivered on.