As the NFL draft quickly approaches, there have been many questions about projected first round pick Johnny Manziel’s less than ideal height. As the linemen in front of them have grown to be the behemoths of the NFL, taller quarterbacks have been highly coveted draft targets of many NFL GMs. As the 2014 draft approaches, this infatuation with tall prototypical quarterbacks is being put to the test.
Johnny Manziel has the stats, game dominating play and enough winning pedigree to position himself as a high draft choice in the NFL, but his almost six foot stature might not be enough to please today’s picky GMs. In 2001, Drew Brees fell to the San Diego Chargers with a second round pick, while the Seattle Seahawks nabbed Russell Wilson in 2012 with a third round pick. Both quarterbacks have led their respective teams to NFL championships and continue to battle perceptions about their lack of height.
In the modern post-60s era, there have been many significant signal callers six feet tall or under. From the scrambling Fran Tarkenton to the prolific passer, Drew Brees, there have been many reasons to validate that quarterbacks who simply perform are never too short on height.
One of the most memorable plays in college football was a mighty 5’9″ Doug Flutie‘s miraclle heave for BC. Michael Vick (6’0″) and his 1,000 plus yard rushing season in 2006 was also quite a feat. Throw in the heroic season of 1969 by Len Dawson and the breakout year by Sonny Jurgensen in 1967, and you have enough evidence to support the achievements of players who don’t find it important to stand above six feet.
The following list is of the best quarterbacks in the NFL who are not over six feet tall. Two players, Pat Haden and Russell Wilson, might draw in incomplete on some people’s lists. However, at his current pace, Russell Wilson has a shot at competing with Drew Brees and Pat Haden was a proven winner who never seemed to get cleanly out of the gate.
10. Pat Haden (5’11”) 9,296 Yards, 52 TD, 60 INT
Pat Haden took the Rams to the playoffs and started the 1980 season that landed the Rams in Superbowl XIV with Vince Ferragamo at the helm. Pat was better known for his work at USC where he guided the Trojans to three Rose Bowl appearances and two national championships. His career in the NFL was quickly cut short by injury and he was hired by CBS to do commentary and join their broadcast team.
Pat completed just 53.6% of his passes and had a 69.6 lifetime QB Rating. He had his best season in 1978 when he passed for 2,995 yards. He was selected to the pro-bowl in 1977.
9. Doug Flutie (5’9″) 14,715 Yards, 86 TD, 68 INT
Doug Flutie was one of the few players to play in the NFL, CFL an USFL throughout his long professional career. He was just as well-know for his hail marry pass in college captured in a national televised game against the Miami Hurricanes. His last minute touchdown pass to flanker Gerrard Phelan catapulted BC to a 47-45 win and Doug’s place in college football lore.
Doug completed 54.7% of his passes and had a 76.3 lifetime QB Rating. He rushed for 1,634 yards in his career and had a season high of 476 yards in 1999. His two most productive 3,000 plus yard seasons in the NFL were as a Bill in 1999 and a Charger in 2001. In the 2001 season as a Charger, he passed for 3,464 yards.
8. Billy Kilmer (6’0″) 20,495 Yards, 152 TD, 146 INT
Billy Kilmer was a tough hard-nosed quarterback who started his career as a running back for the San Francisco 49ers. He rushed for 509 yards and 10 touchdowns in his rookie season (1961). He then transitioned to quarterback and led the Washington Redskins to a Super Bowl appearance in Superbowl VII where the Redskins were defeated by the Miami Dolphins 14-7. Billy’s best season was probably in 1975 where he passed for 2,440 yards with 23 touchdowns in 12 games as a Redskin.
Billy completed only 53.1% of his passes and had a 71.6 lifetime QB Rating. He rushed for 1,509 yards in his career and was selected to the pro bowl in 1972.
7. Michael Vick (6’0″) 21,489 Yards, 128 TD, 85 INT
Michael Vick came out of Virginia Tech with the promise and potential to top this best quarterbacks list. Injuries and poor decision making resulting in his suspension from football for his role in the 2007 dog fighting scandal, have sidelined Michael’s once promising NFL career. His best season was probably in 2010 where he passed for 3,108 yards, completed 62.65% of his passes and accounted for 30 touchdowns (21 passing, 9 rushing). Vick rushed for a NFL record 1,039 yards with an 8.4 yard per carry average in as a member of the Atlanta Falcons in 2006.
Michael has completed 56.2% of his passes and has a 80.9 lifetime QB Rating. He has been a four-time Pro Bowl selection and won the ESPN ESPY Award in 2013 for being the best player in the NFL.
6. Russell Wilson (5’11”) 6,475 Yards, 52 TD, 19 INT
Russell Wilson has played only two seasons in the NFL and already has established himself as one of the best short quarterbacks of all-time. His elusiveness, intelligence and decent arm have provided the Seattle Seahawks with stable, mistake-free play from the quarterback position that complements their nasty defense so well. Russell has already connected on 52 touchdown passes against only 19 interceptions with a sizzling 100.6 QB rating. He led the Seahawks to the playoffs in his rookie season (2012) and capped that off by directing the Seahawks to a 43-8 demolition of the Denver Broncos in Superbowl XLVIII earlier this year. In his rookie season (2012), he won the Seahawks’ coveted Steve Largent award for spirit and dedication as a Seahawk.
Russuell has completed 63.6% of his passes to go along with that 100.6 lifetime QB Rating. He has been selected to the pro bowl in both seasons he has so far played in the NFL. Russell also has 1,028 yards rushing with 5 touchdowns during this brief amount of time.
5. Joe Theismann (5’11”) 25,206 Yards, 160 TD, 138 INT
Joe Theismann was the NFL MVP in 1982, a year in which he was also honored as the Walter Payton Man of the Year for his success and contributions to charity. Unfortunately, Joe is probably even better known for being the recipient of a famous sack by Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson in a Monday Night Football telecast in 1985. Joe’s leg snapped in clear view, earning the event the title of the NFL’s most shocking moment in history (ESPN poll). Joe led the Redskins to a victory over the Miami Dolphins 27-17 in Super Bowl XVII in a moment of triumph.
Joe completed 56.7% of his passes and had a .77.4 lifetime QB Rating. He was selected to the pro bowl two times and was also a two-time CFL all-star.
4. Len Dawson (5’11”) 28,711 Yards, 239 TD, 183 INT
Len Dawson was a gritty quarterback who was best known for his time spend as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. In 1969, Len started the season by injuring his knee in game two. After coming back, following being out just five games, Len eventually led the Chiefs to road playoff victories over the defending champion New York Jets and divisional foe, Oakland Raiders, before capping the season off with a 23-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. Len was recognized as the game’s Superbowl MVP. He logged over 20 touchdown passes in six consecutive seasons (1962-1967) where running the football was the emphasis of the game.
Len completed 57.1% of his passes and had a 82.6 lifetime QB Rating. He was voted the NFL’s Man of the Year in 1973, and was also a six-time AFL all-star. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.
3. Fran Tarkenton (6’0″) 47,003 Yards, 342 TD, 266 INT
Fran Tarkenton certainly has some eye-popping stats. He passed for almost 50,000 yards in an era where rushing the football was still the primary method of attack. Fran was well known for his elusiveness and ability to get outside the pocket to extend plays. He was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and was even MVP of the 1964 Pro Bowl game. He led the Minnesota Vikings to three Super Bowls (1973, 1974, 1976), where the Vikings came up on the losing end each time. He was recognized as the NFL’s MVP in 1975 when he passed for 2,994 yards along with 23 touchdown passes.
Fran completed 57.0% of his passes and had a 80.4 lifetime QB Rating. He ended his career accounting for over 50,000 yards and 374 touchdowns, including his 3,674 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns on the ground. The way he played the game helped pave the way for many of today’s quarterbacks who can leave the pocket and still make a great play. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.
2. Sonny Jurgenson (5’11”) 32,224 Yards, 255 TD, 189 INT
Sonny Jurgenson was ahead of his time with a gunslinger’s approach to quarterbacking that you find in prolific NFL passers today. In a conservative NFL era, Sonny eclipsed 3,000 yards passing five times, leading the NFL in passing yardage five times (1961, 1962, 1966, 1967 and 1969). He passed for 3,747 yards to go along with 31 touchdowns in 1967 to lead the NFL in both categories. That same season, his 508 attempts and 288 completions set NFL records. Sonny was a member of the 1960 NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles and was selected to the Pro Bowl five times. Despite all his success, he only played in one postseason game, as a member of the Washington Redskins in a 19-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Sonny completed 57.1% of his passes and had a 82.6 lifetime QB Rating. He was recognized for his achievements in 1983, when he was inducted into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame.
1. Drew Brees (6’0″) 51,081 Yards, 363 TD, 177 INT
Drew Brees has been a model of consistency at the quarterback position shortly after entering the league as a San Diego Charger in 2001. Years later after joining the New Orleans Saints, Brees has topped 5,000 yards in passing five times (NFL record) and has topped 30 touchdowns passing six seasons in a row. As the Maxwell Award winner in 2000 (best college football player) while at Purdue, Brees has added his share of NFL records to his resume.
The MVP of Super Bowl XLIV for the winning Saints, Brees also has NFL records for best completion percentage in a season, 71.2% in 2011, fastest to reach 40,000 and 50,000 yards for a career, and for the most consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass (54).
Drew has completed 65.9% of his passes and so far has a lifetime QB rating of 95.3. Since becoming a starter in 2002, Drew has only missed appearing in only seven games. Drew has achieved all this success and makes the top of this list despite his below average size for a quarterback, lack of superior arm strength and less than swift speed.
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