As often happens, the idea for this piece started with a harmless Twitter post. Yesterday, I said simply that you could make an argument that Ryan Tannehill could start for an All-Time A&M team at both quarterback and wide receiver. At that point, the debate was on. Since it's mid-June, there's no time like the present to try to sort out the mess. So here we go, the first installment of "The Greats Debate." The idea is simple, rank A&M's quarterbacks all-time, and we'll compile the votes.
Jerrod Johnson's statline is unparalleled in A&M's history, but does that make him one of the all time greats?
Note: For the sake of brevity, I've listed A&M's recent quarterbacks and some notable quarterbacks in A&M's history, though there are certainly others to be considered as well. Quarterbacks are listed in alphabetical order.
Edd Hargett - Some of us younger folks need to dust off the history books for this conversation. Though he still holds the record for most passes intercepted in a career, Hargett is still among the A&M greats. His 1968 season with over 2,300 passing yards and 16 touchdowns stood as A&M records for almost 20 years.
Jerrod Johnson - From a pure stats standpoint, Johnson would seem to be a lock for the top five. He holds A&M's career passing records in almost every stat that matters. Yards, completions, attempts, touchdowns, he holds them all. The only record he doesn't hold is career completion percentage, where he ranks third behind Ryan Tannehill and Stephen McGee.
Randy McCown - The first of A&M's McQuarterbacks, he doesn't appear at the top of any lists statistically, but Aggie fans got a lot of bang for their buck with McCown. He was the quarterback in the legendary Bonfire Game in 1999, and in 1998 led the Aggies to their only Big 12 Championship.
Stephen McGee - McGee's place in history is tough to peg. Statistically, he's in the top five to ten. But quarterback, more than any other position, can't be read just by the numbers. If Mike Sherman would have been the coach when Stephen McGee was a freshman, there's a good chance that he would be the best statistical quarterback A&M's ever had. But we don't live in that universe. He was the victim of a coaching change, an offensive scheme that didn't fit his skills, and played opposite a defense that didn't exactly back him up. However, he'll always be remembered for some late game winning drive. None bigger than the almost quarter-long game winning drive at Texas in 2006.
Reggie McNeal - This is the kind of player that really gets these kind of debates going. There's very little doubt that McNeal is the best athlete to ever play quarterback at A&M, but where does he rank among A&M's greats? Missing for McNeal's resume, most notably, is wins. He fell victim to Dennis Franchione's option scheme at A&M. But McNeal's 2004 season is among the best single seasons that an A&M quarterback has ever put together.
Kevin Murray - Vegas would have Murray as the heavy favorite to take home the title of number one in this debate. Murray has a unique combination of impressive statistics in Aggieland, but was also able to pile up wins. Murray is in the top five of every meaningful career passing stat in A&M history. More than numbers and wins though, Murray has championships. He twice led the Aggies to the SWC crown, and in 1985 he led the Aggies to their highest final ranking since the Korean War.
Ryan Tannehill is easily A&M's most efficient passer of all time.
Corey Pullig - Without A&M's 1994 season under probation, Pullig may be the hands down winner because that undefeated A&M team might have had a chance to play for the national title. As it stands, Pullig has two legitimate conference championships to hang his hat on, as well as the fact that he's top three all time in career yards, touchdowns and completions. Most importantly, he was 33-6-1 as a starter at A&M.
Bucky Richardson - You can just go ahead and throw the stats out the window when talking about Richardson, because the only won that matters is wins. In 1991, Richardson led the Aggies to a 10-2 record, throwing for over 1,400 yards and rushing for over 440. He doesn't rank near the top in any major statistical category, but if you're talking about A&M quarterbacks, you can't leave him out of the discussion.
Ryan Tannehill - It's easy to forget that Tannehill only started 20 games at A&M, but he put up some big numbers in that year and a half. He's A&M's most accurate passer of all time, and it's not even close. The gap between Tannehill and second ranked Jerrod Johnson is the same as the gap between Johnson and ninth ranked Dustin Long. In addition, Tannehill did win games. The Aggies topped top ten Oklahoma and Nebraska under Tannehill's guidance (though against Nebraska his offense failed to score a touchdown.) But he'll also be remembered for the wins that didn't happen. Tannehill had chances to make late game-winning drives against Oklahoma State and Missouri in 2011, and failed both times.