OK. Let the piling on begin.
We’re picking the top five quarterbacks from over 130 years of Alabama football. That’s not a difficult task at all, and certainly won’t tick anyone off or cause a maelstrom of backlash.
Someone deserving is going to be left off the list. But who?
Jay Barker won a national title in 1992, was the Crimson Tide’s all-time winningest QB for quite some time, and finished fifth in the Heisman voting in 1994. His stats were pretty good too, but does he belong?
How about Bart Starr? He’s a legend. But he’s remembered for his NFL accomplishments instead of what he did at Alabama. It’s the same with Ken Stabler. A top five QB list without the Snake? He was great, for sure. But his time at Alabama doesn’t reflect that the way it does in his NFL Hall of Fame career.
Then you have Jalen Hurts. The guy was a warrior, doing it all with his arm and legs to lead Alabama to back-to-back national title games. It’s a tough call, but a line has to be drawn somewhere.
There are so many factors to consider – stats, championships, as well as eras. The game and the athletes have has changed so much over the years.
Anyway, on with the selection.
5. Pat Trammell
He’s not even in the top 20 for career passing yards at Alabama but that doesn’t matter. Trammell helped Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant elevate Alabama out of the doldrums from the Ears Whitworth era, leading the 1961 Crimson Tide to an 11-0 record and a national championship.
Trammell was a three-year starter, but the athletic and versatile QB is remembered for that magical 1961 season. He was the SEC Most Valuable Player, SEC Player of the Year, Back of Year (AP, UPI), and was voted Collegiate Player of the year by the Touchdown Club of Atlanta, and was 5th in the Heisman Trophy voting.
His 1,314 total yards and 1,035 passing yards was a then school record. He was 26–2–4 as a starter also a school record at the time.
4. Mac Jones
This guy did more in two seasons (17 starts) than most did in an entire four-year career at Alabama. In his one full season as the starter in 2020, Jones set a school single-season record for passing (4,500 yards) and completion percentage (77.4%) and threw 41 touchdowns, two behind the school record.
It’s hard to argue the stats, but Jones also made the list because of his ability to see the field, make adjustments, and make the right decisions. He rarely made mistakes and put the ball on target, as evidenced by his high completion percentage and his seven interceptions in 556 career attempts.
Jones, winner of the Davey O'Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm awards, had more 400-yard games (5) in school history – no other Crimson Tide QB has more than one. He was a first-team All-American and was third in the Heisman voting. And, of course, he is a national champion.
Jones is also fifth on the Alabama list in career passing (6,126) and second all-time in average yards-per-catch (12.5).
3. AJ McCarron
Winning a national title is a pretty good criteria for making this list. Winning back-to-back national titles definitely gets you on the list. McCarron was the first quarterback to do so in the BCS era, leading Alabama to championships in 2011 and 12. There might have been a third had it not been for the infamous ‘Kick Six’ against Auburn...well, let’s forget about that.
McCarron is Alabama’s all-time leading passer (9,919 yards) and second on the list for passing touchdowns (77). The all-time winningest Crimson Tide QB (36-4), McCarron won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm and Maxwell awards in 2013.
McCarron was also good at leading Alabama to comeback wins. He led the charge against LSU in the game's final minute in 2012 to deliver a win in Death Valley. He led another comeback effort against Georgia in the SEC title game to secure a spot in the national championship game. That season (2012), McCarron had a then school record of 30 touchdowns.
2. Joe Namath
Like Trammell, you won’t find Namath’s name near the top of Alabama’s career records list. But when Bear Bryant calls Namath, “the greatest athlete I ever coached,” that carries some weight.
Namath had something about him that transcended stats. He had the ‘It’ factor. He was a winner and that’s just what he did during his career in Tuscaloosa.
Namath led the Crimson Tide to the 1964 national title and was 29-4 as a three-year starter. In his career he passed for 24 touchdowns and rushed for 15, finishing with 2,713 career passing yards and 563 rushing yards.
Namath was taken No. 1 overall in the 1965 AFL draft by the New York Jets. And we all know the rest of that story.
1. Tua Tagovailoa
You couldn’t talk college football from 2017-19 without Tagovailoa’s name being mentioned. The guy was a star the minute he stepped foot on campus. After 2nd-and-26, he was a legend.
Tagovailoa was the most dominant QB in his two years as a starter, and lived up to the hype, throwing for 7,442 career yards (third in Alabama history) in just 684 attempts. He might have jumped a spot on Alabama’s list had he not missed the part of the season with an injury.
First on the Alabama touchdown list (87), Tagovailoa seemed to do something more mesmerizing every week he set foot on the field, whether throwing for a school-record six touchdowns in a game or five (three times).
In 2018 Tagovailoa was a consensus All-American, won the Maxwell Award, was SEC Offensive Player of the Year and won the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award.