Defending Keith Price as an All-Time Husky Great

People love lists and they love rankings. In fact, I have been known to create lists of all-time greats just for fun when hanging out with my friends at a bar. There is a reason girls don’t talk to us (suckers! I’m married!).

The top five Husky series is no different. While some argue with rankings among the running backs and wide receivers, no list has created more debate than the top five Husky quarterbacks. And no quarterback caused more uproar than the inclusion of the current Washington signal caller Keith Price. Due to the disappointing season Price put up last year, readers feel that he shouldn’t even be close to the top five. Others feel that we need to wait and see how his season goes in 2013 before including him. Thus, I need to explain further my rationale for making Keith Price the second best quarterback in Husky history.

First, I am not considering the professional career of any Husky quarterback. Whether you agree with that or not is not the point. I am ranking these quarterbacks based upon their years at Washington. If I included professional stats and success, Warren Moon would be #1. It wouldn’t even be close. Chris Chandler would probably make the list. And I am not looking at their “talent” either although it obviously is part of the whole package. If we considered talent alone, Jake Locker even would get consideration as he was drafted in the top 10. The criteria for the top five is career stats (including ranks nationally), accolades, and winning.

Let’s start by looking at a comparison of Husky quarterbacks in consideration for the top spots. In comparing the players, those competing with Price fall short either statistically or in the win column. While statistics can be used in a variety of ways to build a case, the staggeringly awesome stats of Keith Price (and additionally Cody Pickett) cannot be ignored.

In making the argument that Price is the second-best QB in Husky history, I will compare him to the other candidates in categories. For the sake of your reading pleasure, I am taking Bob Schloredt out of the conversation. Schloredt (and Don Heinrich) played in an era too far removed from Price’s for a comparison. I chose Schloredt because I liked his story and the Dawgs can claim a National Championship with B.S. (great initials) at QB. In retrospect, Heinrich is probably a better pick statistically but Schloredt could only see out of one eye! C’mon!

Marques Tuiasosopo will also be left out of the conversation. While his passing numbers compare remarkably close to Steve Pelluer, only Jake Locker can come close to his rushing ability. On teams who lacked solid defenses (giving up 25.2 ppg and 22.5 ppg in consecutive seasons), Tuiasosopo absolutely dominated defenses with his land and air attack.

This leaves us with a list including Tom Flick, Sonny Sixkiller, Cody Pickett, Billy Joe Hobert, Steve Pelleur, Mark Brunell, and Keith Price. By examining these quarterbacks in comparison to Price, it will be clear why I chose Price to be the second best in Husky history.

Keith Price

14 wins overall, 5953 career passing yards, 54 TD, 24 INT,
63.1% completion rate

The Winless and Lacking Stats

Player A

15 wins overall, 3465 career passing yards, 20 TD, 19 INT, 48.9% completion rate

Can you believe this is Warren Moon? For as glorious as people remember Warren Moon to be as a player at UW, the results don’t support it. He had two and a half years of starts and nearly the same amount of wins (although did get to a Rose Bowl and win the MVP which is a big plus for Moon) and nowhere near the same stats. Even if one considers the passing era currently, Moon still lacks the TD/INT rate and completion percentage to be on the same level as Price.

Lack of Numbers

Player A

22 wins overall, 5496 career passing yards, 35 TD, 51 INT, never a season with more TD than INT, 47.5% completion rate

Player B

18 wins overall, 3510 career passing yards, 25 TD, 23 INT, 59.7% completion rate

Player A is Sonny Sixkiller and Player B is Tom Flick. While Flick doesn’t get mentioned among the Husky greats very often, he did lead the team to back-to-back 9-3 seasons in 1979 and 1980. Flick also has the second best completion percentage for a career in Washington history. Yet his TD/INT numbers and career yards don’t stand out. His wins aren’t as impressive either when you consider the great defense in 1979 that only allowed 12.8 points per game (pretty good at 16.5 ppg allowed in 1980 also). Sixkiller belongs in the “Husky legend” category with Moon. His popularity in later years added more to his legend than his actual numbers. Consider the fact that Sixkiller never posted a season with more touchdowns than interceptions, has the most career interceptions in Husky history and finished his career with a sub 50% completion percentage. With a seven win season in 2013 (which would be a disappointment to most Husky fans), Price is right in line with Sixkiller when it comes to wins. There really is no argument here.

The Stat Similar

Player A

21 wins overall, 10220 career passing yards, 55 TD, 44 INT, 57.5% completion rate

Have you guessed who it is yet? Cody Pickett holds a lot of Husky records including career passing yards and touchdowns. His career completion percentage is fourth all-time, but Pickett also threw a fair amount of interceptions (second most ever) and didn’t get a ton of wins. Well, neither did Price right? That is where the stats tell a better story for Price. KP17 is first all time in passing efficiency (the best stat for QBs), third in completions per game, second in TDs (only one behind Pickett in one less season), first in completion percentage, second in interception percentage (meaning he throws a lot but doesn’t throw it to the other team as much as others), and third in touchdowns per game. Pickett can’t match the efficiency and production of Price despite the gaudy overall passing yards.

The Winners

Player A

28 wins overall, 4917 career passing yards, 30 TD, 27 INT, 57.1% completion rate

Player B

31 wins overall, 4008 career passing yards, 28 TD, 17 INT, 53.5% completion rate

Player C

27 wins overall, 3220 career passing yards, 29 TD, 16 INT, 57.3% completion rate

Player A is Steve Pelleur, Player B is are Mark Brunell and Billy Joe Hobert. While Pelleur put up good numbers, Price dwarfs him in comparison. Price’s 54 TDs, 63.1% completion rate, and 5953 yards were done in one less season than Pelleur. But of course Pelleur put up 28 wins, posting two 10-2 seasons and one 8-4 season. While wins are the mark that quarterbacks are usually evaluated, they have to be considered in the whole context of the team and season. Consider the defenses that UW fielded under Pelleur. In 1981, the Husky defense gave up 14.3 points per game. In 1982, they gave up 16.1 points per game and in 1983 they gave up 14.8 points per game. Pelleur didn’t need to do much to get those wins (and with 30 TDs to 27 INT he didn’t in terms of scoring). As a comparison, Price had to be exceptional to win in 2011 and 2012. The Husky defense gave up 35.9 points per game in 2011 and Price led the Dawgs to seven wins. With Pelleur’s defense, the Dawgs put up nine or 10 wins in 2011. In 2012, the Huskies improved greatly on D and still gave up 24.2 points per game.

The best Husky teams of all time in 1990-1992 were led by a dynamic offense and fantastic defense, thus Brunell and Hobert benefited in the same way as Pelleur. The 1990 defense gave up 15.3 points per game while the 1991 team gave up only 9.6 points per game. In 1992, the Dawgs yielded only 15.5 points per game. Now the difference between Pelleur and Brunell/Hobert is that the Huskies offense was also insanely good under the two-headed early 90s monster. In some ways if Brunell and Hobert didn’t split time, there would be no debate. And we can’t question Don James for doing it as both were great QBs and both led the Dawgs to their best season ever. But they benefited greatly from the talent around them that Price didn’t have.

In 1991, the Dawgs had All-Americans on defense in Dave Hoffman (LB) and Steve Emtman (DT). Chico Fraley (LB), Donald Jones (LB) and Dana Hall (CB) were first team All-Pac 10 (as well as Hoffman and Emtman). So the Dawgs featured five of eleven starters as the best in the conference on defense. Compare that to Price’s 2011 team that featured only Cort Dennison (LB) as a second-team performer. Of course Brunell and Hobert had more wins. Can we blame that on Price?

Statistically there really isn’t a comparison. Brunell is 12th in career passing yards and Hobert isn’t in the top 15. Hobert is 5th in completion percentage and Brunell isn’t in the top 10. Hobert is 6th in TD passes/game and Brunell isn’t in the top 10. In terms of passing efficiency, Hobert is 5th and Brunell is 7th (Pickett is 6th by the way) for a career. Price simply stands above both players and only in two seasons. The challenge for Price this season is to prove he belongs at number two and even make a case for number one. In order to do that without question, he needs another 2011 season and nine or ten wins. If that happens, we no longer have a debate at all.