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Who Is The Greatest College Quarterback of All Time?

Updated on February 19, 2014

The Greatest Quarterback Ever

Jonny Manziel is not only one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game of college football, but the very best. It isn't even close. Manziel will be remembered for his late game heroics, his dazzling display of athleticism, and cocky swagger. Whether he was throwing the ball or running it, Manziel always found a way to pick up yards in bunches. Some of the older readers might think that I'm crazy for calling the partying, gunslinging, loudmouth quarterback the greatest ever, but stats don't lie. Below is a table of career statistics for Johnny Manziel, Vince Young, Matt Leinart, and Tim Tebow. The latter men are considered the greatest of all time in college football for quarterback, yet Manziel clearly sets himself apart in more ways than one. He threw for over 7,000 yards in two seasons, rushed for over 2,000 yards, and had 93 total touchdowns. These are career numbers for some players. All only TWO seasons! C'mon! To not call him the best is a joke, because he consistently proved he ways in so many ways it is impossible to not consider him the greatest at this point. He never won anything... yeah he also had a terrible defense that proved to be a double edge sword for his career. What makes him the greatest?

Manziel beat teams with his legs and arm
Manziel beat teams with his legs and arm

The Gazelle

All of these quarterbacks could run, except for Matt Leinart of course who preferred to throw the ball from the pocket. I did not include him because his rushing numbers were so low it was not worth even considering him in this particular part of the discussion. If you have ever seen Manziel run, you know he is special. His ability to do a spin move, and even a double spin move, to get out of pressure was impeccable. When he takes off, he has the ability to accelerate to his top speed quickly, and doesn't need to slow down when making cuts or jukes. This allows Manziel to run with the grade of a gazelle as he weaves through and around defenders for extra yards. Indeed, few can take off and gather yards on the ground like this player (that includes some running backs too).

How does he stack up with his competitors though? Well, he currently sits at the bottom of these other running quarterbacks with less rushing yards. However, he only played in two seasons as a starter for the Texas A&M Aggies. This point is very important when talking about Manziel as one of the greatest and is one I will bring up many times throughout this piece. He has the second best yards-per-carry (YPC), yet is last in both rushing yards and touchdowns. While a very skilled runner, Manziel preferred to throw the ball which is why he has less rushing yards, though he has more passing (more on that later). What happens when we adjust his stats to three years of being a starter? This would tie him with the others in total number of years starting. Going off his averages of two years starting would give Manziel the most yards as well as the second most touchdowns. Once again, Manziel prefers to throw the ball so to have him with more rushing yards than Vince Young, whom was primarily a runner, is nothing to scoff at. His rushing touchdowns are also quite high considering he is a player that likes to throw, whereas Tebow was used as a goal line back because of his size. Manziel is much smaller and is careful about running. I do think that Manziel's rushing numbers would have been slightly lower because in his sophomore year he began to run less and throw the ball more. His adjusted stats are going off of his averages, however.

Career Rushing Stats

Years Starting
Total Rushing Yards
Yards Per Carry (YPC)
Manziel (adjusted)

Golden Arm

Throwing the ball is where Manziel really specializes. Despite being only 6'1" Manziel uses his football intangibles to find tight windows. He also has a cannon of an arm and is able to zip the ball downfield with force and accuracy to his open receivers. Manziel had some speedy receivers which means that he had to be able to throw the ball downfield to be successful. Texas A&M also runs a primarily air-raid type offense where they spread the defense out with multiple receivers and allow Manziel to have many different looks. He uses his legs to escape the pocket and find open players downfield that he can throw to. He is also elite when throwing on the run, able to deliver the ball on point with velocity and accuracy. This ability to find receivers deep and get the ball to them is not only vital, but one of the reasons Manziel is able to pick up so many yards through the air. Instead of throwing multiple 10-yard passes like most quarterbacks (including those on this list) Manziel gets large amounts of yards quick via 50 and 70 yard passes. How does he compare to the other members of quarterback Rushmore though?

Except for Vince Young, whom was primarily a runner, all of these quarterbacks amassed massive amounts of yardage through the air. Chief among them is Matt Leinart, who was a pure pocket passer and relied only on his arm for big plays. More on him later though. First we will look at Vince Young. His completion percentage (which I rounded) is a bit low for the college football stars at 62% and his touchdown to interception ratio of 1.5 is paltry compared to the other quarterbacks. His passer rating is also the lowest. As far as passing statistics go, Vince Young is not on the same level as these other players. Matt Leinart on the other hand has a better completion percentage of 65% with an astounding 99 touchdowns to only 23 interceptions. This gives him a TD/Int of 4.3 which is very good. He has a better passer rating and threw for more yards than any of the other quarterbacks on this list. Manziel in only two years has almost 8,000 yards which would put him close to Tebow and surpasses Vince Young. His TD/Int ratio of 2.8 is better than Young but still behind Leinart and Tebow. His completion percentage of 69% is the best of the group which helped him to achieve a passer rating of 164, second best of anyone on this list. A higher completion percentage has lead Manziel to a much higher rating than his peers. Finally though, is Tim Tebow. Tebow threw for the second most amount of yards (9,285), completed 66% of his passes, had the second highest number of TD's and the fewest interceptions for a TD/Int ratio of 5.5 which is astounding. No wonder he has the highest passer rating. Tebow was different from these players though in his offense. He threw jump passes in the endzone and would get large amounts of yards off of screens to the likes of Percy Harvin. He was a very safe player overall that would rarely turn the ball over which makes him the best passer amongst these men... right? Wrong. Manziel once again comes in hot on his adjusted stats. Just like I thought the rushing stats would be lower, I believe his passer numbers would be greater. Just going off of averages though Manziel has the more yards than Leinart (a whopping 1,037 more), five less touchdowns (95), and the second highest passer rating as well as completion percentage. He also possesses the most interceptions though. Based off raw numbers alone Manziel scores a lot on high amounts of yardage at a still fairly efficient rating.

Career Passing Statistics

Years Starting
Total Passing Yards
Completion Percentage
Passer Rating
Manziel (Adjusted)

Signature Moment

Who is The Greatest College Quarterback of All Time?

See results

Every great player has a signature moment, or multiple. For Johnny Manziel it was beating Alabama in 2012. Against the team that allowed only 250 yards of total offense, Manziel went off for 345 yards just by himself. This is against what was considered one of the best defenses in college football at the time. A team that was considered the very best overall, reigning national champions, and considered for the most part unbeatable. For Tim Tebow it was winning his BCS National Championship. Many great quarterbacks have won the BCS, many others have also won, yet only a handful have won two or more. By winning his second championship in 2009, Tebow solidified his status as one of the best ever. Vince Young single-handedly won the 2005 BCS national championship for the Longhorns by running for a touchdown on 4 & 5. Had he been tackled he would have cost them the game, yet through his determined attitude to win, he made his way to the endzone to seal the victory for Texas with only 26 seconds left. Matt Leinart won a championship of his own as well as losing another one to Vince Young. Despite only winning a single BCS national championship, he was able to least get to two and left the field up by some points. Had his defense stopped Young, he would have two championships.

Crowning Achievements

Great players win great awards. The four greatest of all time have each won the Heisman trophy. Manziel was the first to win it in only his freshman year, setting the trend for other freshmen such as Jameis Winston to win the award. He also holds the record freshman total offensive and rushing yards, first freshman to win multiple best-quarterback awards, and record for first player in the daunting SEC to have two 500+ yard games in a single season. Tim Tebow won multiple quarterback awards, retired with many SEC records (later broken by Manziel), and was a two-time BCS national champion. Vince Young and Matt Leinart were also BCS national champions who won multiple awards in their great rivalry.


After going over all the statistics and achievements that make these players, the greatest of all time is none other than.... Johnny Manziel. Whether you think he is a playmaker or a loudmouth partier, there is no denying the guy's skill on the field. His regular stats were impressive enough but once combined with his adjusted stats, he blows the competition away as the most dominant two-way athlete on the field (running and passing). Vince Young was not an efficient passer, Matt Leinart was the same but as a runner, which leaves only Tim Tebow as a competitor to Manziel's greatness. Once Manziel's stats are adjusted, however, he boasts an insane 14,984 yards, while Tebow only has 12,232. Tebow is more of a winner, but let's remember that Manziel's teams were terrible on defense. While this attributed to his huge numbers, it is also amazing he was able to even put up those numbers. He was required to put up 300, 400, even 500+ yards to win games because his team would give up that much on defense, and he did so. Tebow had way better teams that featured prime talent such as Brandon Spikes and Percy Harvin to help pave the way to his wins. Manziel was tasked with creating huge numbers to get wins, and he did just that. Had he been on a better team, there's no telling what would have happened, but I think it is safe to say Manziel would be boasting at least one national championship to his name. His ability to win on the ground, through the air, and make plays where none were present is why I'm naming Johnny Manziel the best college quarterback ever.


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    • profile image


      8 months ago

      I voted for Tebow but believe it's between him and Young. And to say Young wasn't an efficient passer is to ignore reality in favor of pro scouts analyzing mechanics. He led the nation in passing efficiency. Author of article is retarded.

      And manziel didn't play 3 years. Don't tell me about "adjusted" stats. Tell me what really happened. It's not who probably would've done best. It's who did the best. Young and Tebow performed at highest level in highest game. Manziel slipped past Bama game and then underperformed in meaningful games later in season.

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      Kellen Moore watched him play all 4 years no doubt greatest most accurate college qb ever

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      I think Danny Warful (Florida), dominated the SEC teams with passing alone. Often shut down the offense in the second half, because they were so far ahead. Best fade passer of all time.

    • profile image


      21 months ago

      Kellen Moore. 50-3. Best College QB ever, no one will ever top that win percentage as a 4 year starter.

    • Mike Nolan profile image

      Michael Nolan 

      4 years ago from Sarasota, FL

      Say what you want about Jameis Winston, but he won the Heisman, the National Championship, and went undefeated in the same year, and he will most likely be the number one draft pick. Manzel had one good play inbthe NFL this year and it got called back (and this is coming from a Cleveland fan).

    • Ty Tayzlor profile image


      4 years ago from Anywhere

      Marcus Mariota should be considered for playing smart and efficient while being a dual threat in the offense.

    • Fran Michaels profile image

      William Gibstat 

      4 years ago from NY

      Good article, but it's a little shortsighted for "All Time". Another person commented about Joe Namath, and I would throw in Archie Manning... although I am far from an expert on college football.

    • profile image

      timothy lott 

      4 years ago from north carolina

      This is a good article. But its way to early to call him the "greatest college quarterback". I would have to say the greatest college quarterback would be someone who has won a national title, someone who is a leader on and off the field, someone who has class. That's just my opinion though.

    • profile image

      timothy lott 

      4 years ago from north carolina

      This is a good article. But its way to early to call him the "greatest college quarterback". I would have to say the greatest college quarterback would be someone who has won a national title, someone who is a leader on and off the field, someone who has class. That's just my opinion though.

    • Ronin Wilson profile image

      Nathan Fernekes 

      4 years ago from Birmingham, Alabama

      I can get behind the idea of Johnny Manziel being in the conversation for the best college quarterback of all time but I hardly think the case is cut and dry. As long as we're taking liberties with "adjusted stats" you don't have to go back to far into the past to find comparable numbers to Mr. Football. Cam Newton had one year as a starter at Auburn with similar SEC competition and without the benefit of a pass happy air raid offense. If you project Newton's numbers over his senior year had he returned to the plains he would have around 5,708 yards passing, 60 touchdown passes, much less interceptions, 180 QB rating, 3,000 yards rushing and close to 40 TD's on the ground. All of those numbers stack up with Maziel's but unfortunately for us stats can't be assumed, but we can still wish. Great article and good argument.

    • profile image

      Langhorne fan 

      4 years ago

      I'm a fan of Texas more so than any individual. I can appreciate the great accomplishments all these young men have attained. The one true goal of any team wants and any individual stat pails in comparison are championships. All but Manziel has attained that holy grail.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      You must not be old enough to remember Joe Namath. A quarterback should run only when necessary; running is not their job. Their job is to lead their team to victory, and Namath did that. But the true test is how well they do in the NFL, where they're playing with MEN, not boys. We'll see.

    • profile image

      VY is best 

      4 years ago

      Young, Tebow, and Leinart have championships. Manziel couldn't even win his conference. No way he is best ever.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Kaepernick had better stats than all of them


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