Warren Moon, come on down. The former University of Washington quarterback gained induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006...
Warren Moon, come on down.
The former University of Washington quarterback gained induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, and has always been recognized as among the best at his position in Huskies history.
As of today, we’re calling him the best.
To explain: The rise of UW sophomore Jake Locker got us to thinking at The Times. Could he become, someday, the best quarterback in the school’s history? And just whom is he shooting at for that distinction?
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So we went about compiling a blue-ribbon panel of people who should know, all of them having seen, played in or coached scores of Washington football games. The group of 13 includes ex-coaches Don James and Jim Lambright, some former players, a few media members.
It was anything but easy for them.
Rick Redman, the All-American guard/linebacker from 1962 to 1964, called it “a much tougher endeavor than I thought it would be.”
“Tough list!” wrote James on his ballot, which we agreed to keep confidential, along with Lambright’s.
In a competitive race, Moon, who piloted the Huskies to the Rose Bowl in 1977 at a watershed time in the program’s history, won out over Bob Schloredt and Marques Tuiasosopo.
Schloredt is the only UW two-time most valuable player in the Rose Bowl. Hugh Millen, himself a decorated former UW quarterback, rightly calls Schloredt the “MVP of the Jim Owens era,” and his impact was felt far beyond the program, as Washington’s back-to-back Rose Bowl wins after the 1959-60 seasons reversed a long period of Big Ten domination of the game.
Tuiasosopo was third and could easily have emerged as the winner, but for a couple of surprisingly low eighth- and 10th-place scores. Three panelists named him No. 1, on the strength of feats like the Huskies’ 2000 Rose Bowl season and his record-setting day in 1999 of 302 yards passing and 207 rushing against Stanford.
Wrote Millen, who gave Tuiasosopo the nod at No. 1, “He’s the only UW quarterback I have seen who could beat you three ways: passing, scrambling from called pass plays and option … I would love to have seen the 1991 (national-championship) team with him and his option abilities.”
But Moon overcame, much as he prevailed at the UW in ’77 after two lackluster seasons. He helped take James to the first of his six Rose Bowls, and it came at a time when the Seahawks, born in 1976, were gaining a foothold on Seattle’s sporting psyche.
In addition, noted UW associate athletic director Chip Lydum, “His racial breakthrough as a black quarterback is historically significant.”
How competitive is this list? Well, consider who didn’t make the top 10. That includes the Huard brothers, Damon and Brock; Cody Pickett, the school’s career passing-yardage leader with 10,220; and Millen, who carved out a lengthy career in the NFL.
Speaking of pro careers, that introduced a fly to the ointment. Do you limit this debate to a player’s college accomplishments or broaden the scope to include his pro days?
We wrestled with that question, and instructed panelists to consider pro careers, but only in a limited way — no more than 20 percent of the reckoning — as a way of providing some validation for college achievements.
Even without that element, the process is hard. Several panelists said they put a big emphasis on whether the team won championships under that quarterback, which probably explains why Pickett didn’t compute; the Huskies were only 21-16 in his three years of starting.
And then there’s that dilemma in reverse: Billy Joe Hobert, who finished sixth, spearheaded the 1991 national-championship team, but he could have been hurt on this ballot by what Millen called “the overwhelming team strength” of that outfit. (And who knows whether Hobert’s infamous $50,000 NCAA-improper loan could have impacted voters.)
Mea culpa: This is highly unscientific. We asked voters to take into account factors like talent, leadership, success of the team and even whether the quarterback led at a pivotal time in the program’s history. But mostly, we let them rely on their gut.
A couple of panelists put Locker 10th. He’s got a lot of time to move up.
But a lot of heavyweights to move past.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org