Aaron Rodgers is headed to the Super Bowl thanks to the Green Bay Packers’ 21-14 victory over Chicago Bears on Sunday. He clearly has showed he is the best quarterback to come out of Cal during the nine-year Jeff Tedford era.
But where does he rank among the graduates of the Tedford School of Quarterbacking?
Tedford has gained a reputation as a college quarterback guru for more than 20 years. He is known for churning out prototypical NFL quarterbacks, poised with great mechanics. However, few of his QB grads have performed well in the pros and most have been disappointing.
Let’s take a closer look at the Tedford quarterback class, from worst to first, with the team that drafted them and their college:
8. Akili Smith, Cincinnati Bengals via Oregon
It is surprising that the third overall pick of the 1999 draft is not mentioned more often as one of the biggest NFL draft busts ever. He was so bad he finished with a 52.3 quarterback rating in the NFL. He had four seasons and 17 starts with Bengals and some mop up time with the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was even a washout in the Canadian Football League.
7. Joey Harrington, Detroit Lions via Oregon
Harrington had all the tools to be a great quarterback, but he was the victim of a declining Lions roster after he was drafted third overall in 2002. He wasn’t much better than Smith with a 69.4 quarterback rating, though he was hurt by a porous offensive line. He played four years for the Lions and was benched midway through the third season, finishing with an 18-37 record. He was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2006 and his career ended two seasons later as a backup with the New Orleans Saints.
6. A.J. Feeley, Philadelphia Eagles via Oregon
A fifth-round draft pick in 2001, Feeley has had a solid career as an NFL backup with five different teams. He has a 69.6 quarterback rating and is currently with the St. Louis Rams. There is nothing flashy about Feeley; he has been a dependable quarterback. He is best remembered for taking Philadelphia to a playoff berth in 2002.
5. Kyle Boller, Baltimore Ravens via Cal
Now a backup with the Oakland Raiders, the Ravens had high hopes for Boller when they drafted him 19th overall in 2003. Baltimore stuck with him through five seasons. He continually faced competition from the likes of Steve McNair and Troy Smith, and finally succumbed to Joe Flacco. He has a 71.4 quarterback rating, but his days as a starter are numbered even as bad as the Raiders are at that position.
4. David Carr, Houston Texans via Fresno State
The first overall selection of the 2002 draft may have suffered the worst of any Tedford protégé and fell the furthest. His career started as the first quarterback of the Texans with an opening-game upset of the Dallas Cowboys. Carr and the Texans improved during his first three seasons, but they went down from there. He will go down as the single-season record-holder for sacks in a season (76). After five seasons with the Texans, he bounced around to the New York Giants, Carolina Panthers and now is a backup with the San Francisco 49ers. His 58.9 career completion percentage shows he has been much better than his 74.9 quarterback rating.
3. Billy Volek, Tennessee Titans via Fresno State
Volek is one of the better backup quarterbacks in the history of the game. He was signed by the Tennessee Titans in 2000 after he went undrafted. His 84.9 quarterback rating is indicative of his clutch performances throughout his career. He became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw for consecutive 400-yard games after replacing an injured Steve McNair. He has been with the San Diego Chargers for the past five seasons. His highlight there has been replacing an injured Phillip Rivers in the 2008 AFC Divisional playoff and winning at Indianapolis. By all rights, Volek should have taken over for McNair in Tennessee and he could have been a successful starter in this league.
2. Trent Dilfer, Tampa Bay Buccaneers via Fresno State
The only reason Dilfer ranks ahead of Volek is because of his Super Bowl ring. He was the sixth overall pick for the Bucs, who were criticized by ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper for taking Dilfer that high. He gained a reputation as an unflashy quarterback who didn’t make mistakes. Though he finished his career with a 70.2 quarterback rating, he managed to be a starter for five different NFL teams – including parts of his last two seasons for the 49ers – until he retired in 2007. His pinnacle was in 2000 when he quietly quarterbacked the Ravens to a Super Bowl XXXV victory. He has been called the worst winning quarterback in Super Bowl history. The irony is that he and Kiper now work together at ESPN.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers via Cal
He has come a long way from the college player out of Chico who was supposed to be the No. 1 draft pick of the 49ers – and then fell 24 picks. Rodgers native can relate to Hall of Famer Steve Young, a skilled quarterback who had to wait his turn behind a legend like Joe Montana. In Rodgers’ case, he spent three years holding the clipboard behind Brett Favre after the Packers picked him 24th overall. Three seasons after taking over the starting spot for the now retired (we think) Favre, Rodgers has proven he is a championship-caliber quarterback with a 98.4 career quarterback rating and 12,723 passing yards. He has a 3-1 playoffs record and a chance to equal Dilfer with a Super Bowl ring. Although Rodgers may not be an elite quarterback yet – Tom Brady and Peyton Manning played in many championship games before reaching that status – he is well on his way.
That’s clinches it. Rodgers is the best quarterback produced by Tedford – by a landslide. Who knows? Rodgers’ Super Bowl run may even resurrect Tedford’s reputation as a QB guru.
Copyright 2011/Bill Bradley
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