Top 5 Small-School Quarterbacks of All Time
By: Lead Columnist Arun Morace
5. Dave Krieg
Teams: Seattle Seahawks (1980-91), Kansas City Chiefs (1992-93), Detroit Lions (1994), Arizona Cardinals (1995), Chicago Bears (1996), Tennessee Oilers (1997-98)
Stats: 38,147 passing yards, 261 passing touchdowns
Would you believe that Dave Krieg, from little-known and now defunct Milton College, actually threw for the 14th most passing yards in NFL history? Yeah, that puts him ahead of such greats as Steve Young, Boomer Esiason and Jim Kelly. The Seahawks’ franchise quarterback after Jim Zorn, Krieg was a three-time Pro Bowler in Seattle. Alas, he never had much success winning football games, posting only eight winning records in fourteen seasons as the starting quarterback on five different teams. His best seasons came in 1983 and 1984, when he led the Seahawks to a berth in the AFC Championship Game in ‘83 (yeah, remember when Seattle was a part of the AFC? Good times….), where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Raiders, and in 1984 he led Seattle to a 12-4 record while earning himself a Pro Bowl nod.
4. Steve McNair
College: Alcorn State
Teams: Houston Oilers/Tennessee Oilers/ Tennessee Titans (1995-2005), Baltimore Ravens (2006-07)
Stats: 31,304 passing yards, 174 passing touchdowns, 3590 rushing yards, 37 rushing touchdowns
The third overall pick in the 1995 draft, Steve McNair became the franchise quarterback Houston needed after Warren Moon left. He was a very mobile quarterback with a good arm, and could beat teams with his passing or his rushing. He was selected to three Pro Bowls, and led the Tennessee Titans to one Super Bowl berth and another AFC Championship berth. “Air McNair” ended his playing days in 2008 as the 33rd leading passer in NFL history, and with the fifth-most rushing yards by a quarterback in a career.
3. Randall Cunningham
College: University of Nevada at Las Vegas
Teams: Philadelphia Eagles (1985-95), Minnesota Vikings (1997-99), Dallas Cowboys (2000), Baltimore Ravens (2001)
Stats: 29,979 passing yards, 207 passing touchdowns, 4,928 rushing yards, 35 rushing touchdowns
One of the great dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL history, Randall Cunningham could threaten teams with both his passing skills as well as his running ability. He led both the Eagles and the Vikings to NFC Championship games, and was selected to four Pro Bowls. He set the single-season rushing mark for quarterbacks in 1990 with 942 yards on the ground, a record that stood for sixteen years before it was broken by Michael Vick in 2006. He finished his career with the most rushing yards ever by a quarterback (a record that would again be broken by Vick), and is 35th on the list of all-time passing yards.
2. Phil Simms
College: Morehead State
Teams: New York Giants (1979-93)
Stats: 33,462 passing yards, 199 passing touchdowns
The seventh overall pick in the 1979 draft, Phil Simms from Morehead State University became a legend for the New York Giants. He led them to the first two Super Bowl championships in team history in 1986 and 1990 (though he sat out the 1990 Super Bowl against the Bills with an injury). A true franchise quarterback, he played all fourteen years of his NFL career with the Giants, making two Pro Bowls and finishing with the 23rd most passing yards in NFL history.
1. Kurt Warner
College: Northern Iowa
Teams: St. Louis Rams (1998-2003), New York Giants (2004), Arizona Cardinals (2005-09)
Stats: 32,344 passing yards, 208 passing touchdowns
Kurt Warner, hailing from the small University of Northern Iowa, is one of the great stories in NFL history. Warner was an Arena Football League quarterback with the Iowa Barnstormers and a grocery store bag boy before he made it into the NFL with the St. Louis Rams in 1998. After spending one year on the Rams’ bench, Warner took advantage of a Trent Green injury to gain hold of the starting job. The rest is history. He led the Rams to a Super Bowl championship in 1999, and another Super Bowl appearance in 2001. After being cut by both the Rams and the Giants, Warner found a home in Arizona, again coming off the bench to lead the Cardinals to a miraculous Super Bowl berth in 2008. A four-time Pro Bowler, Warner is the only quarterback to ever lead two different teams to the Super Bowl. He also owns the three highest single-game passing yard totals in Super Bowl history, and is 28th on the all-time list of passing yard leaders.