Pat Forde suggests that Jim Plunkett couldn't hold the jock of most Heisman winners of the modern era. In the vacuum wash of the season leading up to actual events, we're totally game for this vein of time-warp speculation, especially since the rain refuses to let up in Atlantabad, or whatever alternative Indian/Atlantan universe we've been transported to. (Our dog needs Prozac-the monsoon conditions have turned her into a depressed, 130 pound black rug of misery.)
In this quantum leap edition of EDSBS, we attack this question with all the wisdom that someone watching hour upon hour of college classics and reading "Greats of the Old Southwest Conference" can acquire. Who could fit into today's game? And which modern svengali would make the best mentor for them?
Don Strock, Virginia Tech: Strock couldn't outrun plate tectonics. The Hokie legend could wing the ball around like a spread ace, though, setting a Va. Tech record in 1972 by throwing for 3243 yards and 16 touchdowns in a season. To give you an idea of what an aberration Strock was-both in his own era and at his own school-Brian Randall finally broke Strock's all-time school passing record last year.
Need another resume line? He nearly outdueled Dan Fouts in the 1982 playoff shootout between the Dolphins and the go-go Don Coryell Chargers, often mentioned as the greatest game ever in the NFL.
Ideal modern coach pairing: Mike Leach, since Strock was happy throwing 'till his arm fell off.
Sammy Baugh, TCU. As close to a complete freak as you can find in the pre-modern era. Old film of Baugh shows all you need to see: elegant, gliding footwork, a straight, fluid over-the-top delivery, and a touch that set short passes whistling past defenders and fades fluttering into receivers' hands. The numbers help, too: 3,471 yds and 39 touchdowns in an era of paleolithic offenses and a brutal, knucklebreaking style of play. He also was considered the greatest punter of his time and picked off two passes playing both ways in the 1936 Sugar Bowl. Oh, and he was also fluent in eight languages and made love to women with such passion they often converted to Christianity at the mere sight of his loins.
Ideal modern coach pairing: Bobby Petrino.
Baugh would rock in any kind of helmet.
Steve Spurrier, Florida: Displayed the proper temperament of a successful modern athlete by ignoring coaches' calls in the huddle and making up his own on the spot. Spurrier was an accurate leadfoot passer with a panache for drama, throwing for a whopping 352 yards and two TDs in the 1966 Sugar Bowl against Missouri and icing his Heisman season in 1966 with the winning FG kick against Auburn. (Our father-in-law, who was at the game, swears it was the ugliest kick to ever pass over the crossbar at Florida Field. ) A pass-first, pass-deep qb who became the premier pass-first, pass-deep coach of his era, his style would be a perfect match for a certain funny-hat wearing, one-liner dropping coach in Columbia.
Ideal modern coach pairing: Steve Spurrier, though we're not sure they'd get along.
Would he audible out of his own plays? Of course he would
Jack Mildren, Oklahoma: Stats do not back this one up, and we'll own up to it now. Mildren ran the Fairbanks-era wishbone at Oklahoma to perfection, which meant scads of line reads and subpar passing numbers. In fact, Mildren only passed over a thousand yards in a season once in a season.
What makes us pick Mildren for this list is the footage we've seen of the 1971 Oklahoma-Nebraska game on ESPN Classic, where Mildren goes postal on Bob Devaney's Blackshirts. Mildren, more so than any of the other qbs mentioned here, fits the profile of the cliched "field general," functioning with airtight efficiency in a system dependent on a brainy but brawny qb. Judging from some of the great passes he throws in that game- Mildren threw for two and ran for two more in the "Game of the Century"-he would have been a competent passer, as well, if given the chance.
Most importantly, Mildren's got some serious "Jay Barker" mojo; the team with him on it tends to win when he takes the field for them. A spread option system would be a snug fit for a great D-scanner with the ability to take a hit like Mildren.
Ideal modern coach pairing: Urban Meyer.
We miss cheesy action shots.