Tall Task: Does Height Matter For NFL Quarterbacks?

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Apr 05, 2013



By Scott Kacsmar
Cold Hard Football Facts’ Comeback King (@CaptainComeback)

The last time we experienced a live NFL game it was billed as the first Super Bowl between head coaches who were brothers. 

But it was also the biggest quarterback matchup in Super Bowl history. No, it was not a 1984 Dan Marino vs. Joe Montana type of big, but Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick were literally the biggest quarterbacks to ever compete on the big stage.

Flacco is 6’6” and Kaepernick is 6’5”, making them the first pair of quarterbacks at least 77 inches tall to meet in a Super Bowl. Flacco is the tallest quarterback to both start and win a Super Bowl.

With the 2013 draft around the corner, does this mean teams will only want to target the big signal callers?

Not exactly, but this questionable class is not welcoming any of the little guys anyway. Ryan Nassib and Tyler Wilson are 6’2”, Geno Smith and Matt Barkley are 6’3”, EJ Manuel is 6’5”, Tyler Bray is 6’6” and Mike Glennon is 6’7”.

There is no Russell Wilson to be found at the top of this draft, but it’s not like Wilson went at the top of last year’s draft either.

He was too short, which is about the laziest analysis you can give a player. But teams still apparently abide by it.

Not a single quarterback under 6’0” has been drafted in the first two rounds since the 5’10” Ted Marchibroda went No. 5 overall to Pittsburgh in 1953.

That was 60 years ago. That was back when the Steelers didn’t know what the hell they were doing in this league.

A quarterback can improve his accuracy and arm strength. He can increase his intellectual grasp of the game through study of film and his playbook. He can always become a better leader and field general.

But at this stage of life, a quarterback cannot improve his height. He’s stuck with that number.

Other physical attributes like his speed and arm strength will decrease over time, but he’s not getting any taller. Even Brett Favre left the game the same height he was when he entered it (unless you think his head got too big at the end).

Let’s look at how quarterback height has evolved and if bigger really is better.

 

Quarterback Stats vs. Height

We looked at the 214 quarterbacks with at least 1,000 career pass attempts in the regular season. Data on their height is available at Pro-Football-Reference. Stats are for only the regular season and are updated through the 2012 season. Obviously these numbers will continue to change with roughly 35 of these players set to be active in 2013.

NFL Quarterback Career Stats (Regular Season Only)

Height

No. QBs

Att.

Cmp.

Pct.

Yards

YPA

TD

INT

PR

Debut

6-6

5

10,229

5,754

56.25

69,885

6.83

414

357

76.4

1999

6-5

24

82,480

48,585

58.91

577,931

7.01

3,491

2,584

81.4

1994

6-4

39

112,226

63,951

56.98

778,979

6.94

4,713

4,023

77.6

1987

6-3

42

127,810

72,449

56.68

897,140

7.02

5,468

5,073

76.3

1982

6-2

47

129,159

73,924

57.23

905,491

7.01

5,761

5,216

77.0

1982

6-1

37

104,673

56,024

53.52

740,711

7.08

4,960

5,081

71.7

1967

6-0

13

39,173

22,101

56.42

283,530

7.24

2,028

1,750

77.9

1966

5-11

5

9,355

4,967

53.09

67,380

7.20

507

507

71.8

1955

5-10

1

2,151

1,177

54.72

14,715

6.84

86

68

76.3

1986

5-9

1

1,796

898

50.00

13,399

7.46

104

141

61.4

1952

For the quarterbacks at least 6’0”, five of the seven groups maintain a passer rating around 77.0. That would suggest height is not correlated much with success.

The outliers are 6’5” (81.4) and 6’1” (71.7). You will see why that is when you see the quarterbacks included. Note that the 6’0” quarterbacks, though only 13 of them, have the best YPA (7.24) of any group. If a shorter player hangs onto a job long enough, he usually turns out to be pretty good.

The average height of the 214 quarterbacks is 74.6 inches, or just over 6’2”.

When it gets under 6’0”, the sample size drops to just seven players. The only 5’10” player is Doug Flutie, while the only 5’9” player is Eddie LeBaron, who did make four Pro Bowls with the Redskins and Cowboys.

The “Debut” is the average year in which the quarterback made his NFL debut (AAFC does not count). Ignoring the two “groups” of one player, you can see the average debut increases as the height does. That is “bigger, faster, stronger” at work.

It can also help explain why the stats are down for 6’1” players, with an average debut around the time of Super Bowl II, and with a larger sample size (37) than the inadequate total for 6’0” players (13) who on average debuted a year earlier.

One could argue a sample of players with at least 1,000 attempts is skewed a bit towards “successful” careers, so we did do a quick correlation test of all quarterbacks with at least 500 passes during the 2008-12 and 1988-1992 seasons (five-year ranges set 20 years apart).

Correlation of Inches to QB Stats

Stat

1988-92

2008-12

Completion percentage

0.067

-0.187

Yards per attempt

-0.071

0.026

Touchdown percentage

-0.047

-0.006

Interception percentage

0.038

-0.184

Passer rating

-0.027

-0.012

Nothing was even close to being significantly correlated with height (inches), but at least completion percentage and interception percentage since 2008 were close to .200, and they were negatively correlated at that. Thanks, Derek Anderson.

If you do the correlation for all 214 players, you get these results:

Correlation of Inches to QB Stats

Stat

Correlation coeff.

Completion percentage

0.292

Yards per attempt

-0.151

Touchdown percentage

-0.350

Interception percentage

-0.435

Passer rating

0.234

Still nothing that screams bigger is better, but it is interesting how three of the values are negatively correlated with height. None are higher than interception percentage (-.435), which is a stat that has really decreased in recent seasons.

The best correlation actually belongs to the debut year (.498). It is true players are getting bigger and this table shows that increase in average quarterback height over time (for the 214 quarterbacks studied).

Years

Average Height (Inches)

1930-49

72.77

1950-59

72.96

1960-69

74.22

1970-79

74.45

1980-89

74.98

1990-99

75.19

2000-11

75.51

Will height continue to increase? Guess we need to see someone big like Mike Glennon succeed first, though Wilson is going to be there to balance that player out.

 

Under 6’0” Quarterbacks

This table shows the seven quarterbacks under 6’0”.

Quarterback

Height

Debut

Att.

Cmp.

Pct.

Yards

YPA

TD

INT

PR

Sonny Jurgensen

5-11

1957

4262

2433

57.09

32224

7.56

255

189

82.6

Bob Berry

5-11

1965

1173

661

56.35

9197

7.84

64

64

77.2

Pat Haden

5-11

1976

1363

731

53.63

9296

6.82

52

60

69.6

Jim Finks

5-11

1949

1382

661

47.83

8622

6.24

55

88

54.7

Arnie Herber

5-11

1930

1175

481

40.94

8041

6.84

81

106

50.1

Doug Flutie

5-10

1986

2151

1177

54.72

14715

6.84

86

68

76.3

Eddie LeBaron

5-9

1952

1796

898

50.00

13399

7.46

104

141

61.4

Jurgensen and Herber are in the Hall of Fame, but not much greatness here.

 

6’0 Quarterbacks

Quarterback

Debut

Att.

Cmp.

Pct.

Yards

YPA

TD

INT

PR

Drew Brees

2001

6149

4035

65.62

45919

7.47

324

165

94.3

Len Dawson

1957

3741

2136

57.10

28711

7.67

239

183

82.6

Michael Vick

2001

2889

1626

56.28

20274

7.02

123

82

80.6

Fran Tarkenton

1961

6467

3686

57.00

47003

7.27

342

266

80.4

Joe Theismann

1974

3602

2044

56.75

25206

7.00

160

138

77.4

Sid Luckman

1939

1744

904

51.83

14686

8.42

137

132

75.0

Y.A. Tittle

1950

3817

2118

55.49

28339

7.42

212

221

73.6

Rodney Peete

1989

2346

1344

57.29

16338

6.96

76

92

73.3

Billy Kilmer

1961

2984

1585

53.12

20485

6.86

152

146

71.5

Bill Nelsen

1963

1905

963

50.55

14165

7.44

98

101

70.2

Gary Cuozzo

1963

1182

584

49.41

7402

6.26

43

55

62.1

Paul Christman

1945

1140

504

44.21

7294

6.40

58

76

54.8

Al Dorow

1954

1207

572

47.39

7708

6.39

64

93

53.8

Assuming Brees makes it, this group of 13 includes five Hall of Fame quarterbacks along with solid players like Joe Theismann, Billy Kilmer and Michael Vick.

 

6’1 Quarterbacks

Quarterback

Debut

Att.

Cmp.

Pct.

Yards

YPA

TD

INT

PR

Jeff Garcia

1999

3676

2264

61.59

25537

6.95

161

83

87.5

David Garrard

2002

2281

1406

61.64

16003

7.02

89

54

85.8

Mark Brunell

1993

4640

2761

59.50

32072

6.91

184

108

84.0

Dave Krieg

1980

5311

3105

58.46

38147

7.18

261

199

81.5

Bart Starr

1956

3149

1808

57.42

24718

7.85

152

138

80.5

Johnny Unitas

1956

5186

2830

54.57

40239

7.76

290

253

78.2

Jim McMahon

1982

2573

1492

57.99

18148

7.05

100

90

78.2

Otto Graham

1950

1565

872

55.72

13499

8.63

88

94

78.2

Jeff Blake

1992

3241

1827

56.37

21711

6.70

134

99

78.0

Bob Griese

1967

3429

1926

56.17

25092

7.32

192

172

77.1

Erik Kramer

1987

2299

1317

57.29

15337

6.67

92

79

76.6

Norm Van Brocklin

1949

2895

1553

53.64

23611

8.16

173

178

75.1

Brian Sipe

1974

3439

1944

56.53

23713

6.90

154

149

74.8

Earl Morrall

1956

2689

1379

51.28

20809

7.74

161

148

74.1

John Brodie

1957

4491

2469

54.98

31548

7.02

214

224

72.3

Milt Plum

1957

2419

1306

53.99

17536

7.25

122

127

72.2

Rex Grossman

2003

1562

863

55.25

10232

6.55

56

60

71.4

Kordell Stewart

1995

2358

1316

55.81

14746

6.25

77

84

70.7

Charley Johnson

1961

3392

1737

51.21

24410

7.20

170

181

69.2

Mike Tomczak

1985

2337

1248

53.40

16079

6.88

88

106

68.9

Joe Ferguson

1973

4519

2369

52.42

29817

6.60

196

209

68.4

Charlie Conerly

1948

2833

1418

50.05

19488

6.88

173

167

68.2

Billy Joe Tolliver

1989

1707

891

52.20

10760

6.30

59

64

67.7

Tom Flores

1960

1715

838

48.86

11959

6.97

93

92

67.6

John Hadl

1962

4687

2363

50.42

33503

7.15

244

268

67.4

Rudy Bukich

1953

1190

626

52.61

8433

7.09

61

74

66.6

Jim Hart

1966

5076

2593

51.08

34665

6.83

209

247

66.6

Tommy Thompson

1940

1424

732

51.40

10385

7.29

91

103

66.5

Bobby Layne

1948

3700

1814

49.03

26768

7.23

196

243

63.4

Bobby Thomason

1949

1346

687

51.04

9480

7.04

68

90

62.9

Bob Waterfield

1945

1617

814

50.34

11849

7.33

97

128

61.6

Babe Parilli

1952

3330

1552

46.61

22681

6.81

178

220

59.6

Jack Kemp

1957

3073

1436

46.73

21218

6.90

114

183

57.3

Jim Ninowski

1958

1048

513

48.95

7133

6.81

34

67

55.4

Cotton Davidson

1954

1752

770

43.95

11760

6.71

73

108

54.9

Lamar McHan

1954

1442

610

42.30

9449

6.55

73

108

50.3

Pete Beathard

1964

1282

575

44.85

8176

6.38

43

84

49.9

There are seven Hall of Fame quarterbacks in this group, but since they are from an older era (Dave Krieg has the most attempts here), the overall stats are down. All of the Hall of Fame quarterbacks here debuted before 1970. There are also MVP winners in Brian Sipe and Earl Morrall.

If you adjusted the stats for era, this group would be one of the best, if not the best.

 

6’2” Quarterbacks

Quarterback

Debut

Att.

Cmp.

Pct.

Yards

YPA

TD

INT

PR

Aaron Rodgers

2005

2665

1752

65.74

21661

8.13

171

46

104.9

Steve Young

1985

4149

2667

64.28

33124

7.98

232

107

96.8

Tony Romo

2003

3240

2097

64.72

25737

7.94

177

91

95.6

Kurt Warner

1998

4070

2666

65.50

32344

7.95

208

128

93.7

Joe Montana

1979

5391

3409

63.24

40551

7.52

273

139

92.3

Brett Favre

1991

10169

6300

61.95

71838

7.06

508

336

86.0

Donovan McNabb

1999

5374

3170

58.99

37276

6.94

234

117

85.6

Andy Dalton

2011

1044

629

60.25

7067

6.77

47

29

83.9

Matthew Stafford

2009

1863

1114

59.80

12807

6.87

80

54

82.8

Steve McNair

1995

4544

2733

60.15

31304

6.89

174

119

82.8

Ken Anderson

1971

4475

2654

59.31

32838

7.34

197

160

81.9

Danny White

1976

2950

1761

59.69

21959

7.44

155

132

81.7

Jake Delhomme

1998

2932

1741

59.38

20975

7.15

126

101

81.3

Tarvaris Jackson

2006

1053

625

59.35

7075

6.72

38

35

77.7

Jon Kitna

1997

4442

2677

60.27

29745

6.70

169

165

77.4

Charlie Batch

1998

1604

908

56.61

11085

6.91

61

52

77.2

Jay Fiedler

1994

1717

1008

58.71

11844

6.90

69

66

77.1

Ryan Fitzpatrick

2005

2249

1338

59.49

14336

6.37

92

81

76.8

Gary Danielson

1976

1932

1105

57.19

13764

7.12

81

78

76.6

Stan Humphries

1989

2516

1431

56.88

17191

6.83

89

84

75.8

Jim Miller

1994

1046

610

58.32

6387

6.11

36

31

75.2

Chris Miller

1987

2892

1580

54.63

19320

6.68

123

102

74.9

Jake Plummer

1997

4350

2484

57.10

29253

6.72

161

161

74.6

Craig Erickson

1992

1092

591

54.12

7625

6.98

41

38

74.3

Don Majkowski

1987

1905

1056

55.43

12700

6.67

66

67

72.9

Ron Jaworski

1974

4117

2187

53.12

28190

6.85

179

164

72.8

Tommy Kramer

1977

3651

2012

55.11

24777

6.79

159

158

72.8

Sammy Baugh

1937

2995

1693

56.53

21886

7.31

187

203

72.2

Billy Wade

1954

2523

1370

54.30

18530

7.34

124

134

72.2

Mark Sanchez

2009

1867

1028

55.06

12092

6.48

68

69

71.7

Bill Munson

1964

1982

1070

53.99

12896

6.51

84

80

71.5

Eric Hipple

1980

1546

830

53.69

10711

6.93

55

70

68.7

Richard Todd

1976

2967

1610

54.26

20610

6.95

124

161

67.6

Jim Zorn

1976

3149

1669

53.00

21115

6.71

111

141

67.3

David Woodley

1980

1300

687

52.85

8558

6.58

48

63

65.7

Joe Namath

1965

3762

1886

50.13

27663

7.35

173

220

65.5

Mike Pagel

1982

1509

756

50.10

9414

6.24

49

63

63.3

Vince Evans

1977

1390

704

50.65

9485

6.82

52

74

63.0

Ed Brown

1954

1987

949

47.76

15600

7.85

102

138

62.8

Randy Wright

1984

1119

602

53.80

7106

6.35

31

57

61.4

George Blanda

1949

4007

1911

47.69

26920

6.72

236

277

60.6

Steve Spurrier

1967

1151

597

51.87

6878

5.98

40

60

60.1

Dan Pastorini

1971

3055

1556

50.93

18515

6.06

103

161

59.1

Bob Avellini

1975

1110

560

50.45

7111

6.41

33

69

54.8

Zeke Bratkowski

1954

1484

762

51.35

10345

6.97

65

122

54.3

Adrian Burk

1950

1079

500

46.34

7001

6.49

61

89

52.2

Frank Tripucka

1949

1745

879

50.37

10282

5.89

69

124

52.2

The 6’2” quarterbacks with their compact size and mobility (at least in several cases) bring a lot of MVP awards and great statistics at the top here.

Basically the average-sized quarterback, consider the role mobility has played for the success of Aaron Rodgers, Steve Young, Joe Montana, Ken Anderson, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair, and Tony Romo.

It’s early, but Robert Griffin III is another 6’2” quarterback with a rookie season that fits in well with the lofty company at the top.

Don’t forget the first great passer Sammy Baugh and the record-holding passer Brett Favre reside here. With all these young guns, the 6’2” quarterbacks should be the first to hit 1,000,000 passing yards combined.

 

6’3” Quarterbacks

Quarterback

Debut

Att.

Cmp.

Pct.

Yards

YPA

TD

INT

PR

Chad Pennington

2000

2471

1632

66.05

17823

7.21

102

64

90.1

Trent Green

1993

3740

2266

60.59

28475

7.61

162

114

86.0

Rich Gannon

1987

4206

2533

60.22

28743

6.83

180

104

84.7

Marc Bulger

2001

3171

1969

62.09

22814

7.19

122

93

84.4

Jim Kelly

1986

4779

2874

60.14

35467

7.42

237

175

84.4

Jay Cutler

2006

2955

1796

60.78

21316

7.21

136

100

84.0

Roger Staubach

1969

2958

1685

56.96

22700

7.67

153

109

83.4

Brian Griese

1998

2796

1752

62.66

19440

6.95

119

99

82.7

Neil Lomax

1981

3153

1817

57.63

22771

7.22

136

90

82.7

Neil O'Donnell

1990

3229

1865

57.76

21690

6.72

120

68

81.8

Warren Moon

1984

6823

3988

58.45

49325

7.23

291

233

80.9

Jeff Hostetler

1984

2338

1357

58.04

16430

7.03

94

71

80.5

Steve Beuerlein

1988

3328

1894

56.91

24046

7.23

147

112

80.3

Dan Fouts

1973

5604

3297

58.83

43040

7.68

254

242

80.2

John Elway

1983

7250

4123

56.87

51475

7.10

300

226

79.9

Phil Simms

1979

4647

2576

55.43

33462

7.20

199

157

78.5

Bert Jones

1973

2551

1430

56.06

18190

7.13

124

101

78.2

Frank Ryan

1958

2133

1090

51.10

16044

7.52

149

111

77.6

Jim Harbaugh

1987

3918

2305

58.83

26288

6.71

129

117

77.6

Wade Wilson

1981

2428

1391

57.29

17283

7.12

99

102

75.6

Ken Stabler

1970

3793

2270

59.85

27938

7.37

194

222

75.3

Chad Henne

2008

1373

812

59.14

9198

6.70

42

48

74.9

David Carr

2002

2267

1353

59.68

14452

6.37

65

71

74.9

Don Meredith

1960

2308

1170

50.69

17199

7.45

135

111

74.8

Gus Frerotte

1994

3106

1699

54.70

21291

6.85

114

106

74.2

Steve DeBerg

1977

5024

2874

57.21

34241

6.82

196

204

74.2

Daryle Lamonica

1963

2601

1288

49.52

19154

7.36

164

138

72.9

Bubby Brister

1986

2212

1207

54.57

14445

6.53

81

78

72.3

Lynn Dickey

1971

3125

1747

55.90

23322

7.46

141

179

70.9

Terry Bradshaw

1970

3901

2025

51.91

27989

7.17

212

210

70.9

Vince Ferragamo

1977

1615

902

55.85

11336

7.02

76

91

70.1

Kyle Boller

2003

1519

861

56.68

8931

5.88

48

54

69.5

Jim Plunkett

1971

3701

1943

52.50

25882

6.99

164

198

67.5

Archie Manning

1971

3642

2011

55.22

23911

6.57

125

173

67.1

Steve Walsh

1989

1317

713

54.14

7875

5.98

40

50

66.4

Dave Wilson

1981

1039

551

53.03

6987

6.72

36

55

63.8

Rick Mirer

1993

2043

1088

53.26

11969

5.86

50

76

63.5

Jack Trudeau

1986

1644

873

53.10

10243

6.23

42

69

63.3

Tobin Rote

1950

2907

1329

45.72

18850

6.48

148

191

56.8

Randy Johnson

1966

1286

647

50.31

8329

6.48

51

90

55.1

Jack Concannon

1964

1110

560

50.45

6270

5.65

36

63

54.8

Mike Phipps

1970

1799

886

49.25

10506

5.84

55

108

52.6

Highlighted by John Elway and Roger Staubach, there are plenty of good passers here, including a total of six Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

Though, there definitely are some of the worst quarterbacks to ever attempt 1,000 passes at 6’3”. Just look at several of the names at the bottom like Mike Phipps and Rick Mirer or a more recent bust like Kyle Boller.

 

6’4” Quarterbacks

Quarterback

Debut

Att.

Cmp.

Pct.

Yards

YPA

TD

INT

PR

Tom Brady

2000

5958

3798

63.75

44806

7.52

334

123

96.6

Daunte Culpepper

1999

3199

2016

63.02

24153

7.55

149

106

87.8

Dan Marino

1983

8358

4967

59.43

61361

7.34

420

252

86.4

Eli Manning

2004

4457

2612

58.60

31527

7.07

211

144

82.7

Matt Hasselbeck

1999

5018

3029

60.36

34517

6.88

201

147

82.2

Troy Aikman

1989

4715

2898

61.46

32942

6.99

165

141

81.6

Randall Cunningham

1985

4289

2429

56.63

29979

6.99

207

134

81.5

Ken O'Brien

1983

3602

2110

58.58

25094

6.97

128

98

80.4

Jeff George

1990

3967

2298

57.93

27602

6.96

154

113

80.4

Kyle Orton

2005

2214

1293

58.40

14621

6.60

81

57

79.7

Tony Eason

1983

1564

911

58.25

11142

7.12

61

51

79.7

Alex Smith

2005

2177

1290

59.26

14280

6.56

81

63

79.1

Chris Chandler

1988

4005

2328

58.13

28484

7.11

170

146

79.1

Mark Rypien

1987

2613

1466

56.10

18473

7.07

115

88

78.9

Aaron Brooks

1999

2963

1673

56.46

20261

6.84

123

92

78.5

Bobby Hebert

1985

3121

1839

58.92

21683

6.95

135

124

78.0

Sam Bradford

2010

1498

873

58.28

9378

6.26

45

34

77.3

Bill Kenney

1979

2430

1330

54.73

17277

7.11

105

86

77.0

Steve Bartkowski

1975

3456

1932

55.90

24124

6.98

156

144

75.4

Steve Bono

1985

1701

934

54.91

10439

6.14

62

42

75.3

Tim Couch

1999

1714

1025

59.80

11131

6.49

64

67

75.1

Craig Morton

1965

3786

2053

54.23

27908

7.37

183

187

73.5

Greg Landry

1968

2300

1276

55.48

16052

6.98

98

103

72.9

Tommy Maddox

1992

1200

686

57.17

8087

6.74

48

54

72.4

Tony Banks

1996

2356

1278

54.24

15315

6.50

77

73

72.4

John Friesz

1990

1364

745

54.62

8699

6.38

45

42

72.3

Gary Hogeboom

1980

1325

743

56.08

9436

7.12

49

60

71.9

Jay Schroeder

1984

2808

1426

50.78

20063

7.14

114

108

71.7

Josh McCown

2002

1113

645

57.95

6998

6.29

37

44

71.2

Trent Dilfer

1994

3172

1759

55.45

20518

6.47

113

129

70.2

Steve Fuller

1979

1066

605

56.75

7156

6.71

28

41

70.1

Steve Grogan

1975

3593

1879

52.30

26886

7.48

182

208

69.6

Doug Williams

1978

2507

1240

49.46

16998

6.78

100

93

69.4

Joey Harrington

2002

2538

1424

56.11

14693

5.79

79

85

69.4

James Harris

1969

1149

607

52.83

8136

7.08

45

59

67.3

Norm Snead

1961

4353

2276

52.29

30797

7.07

196

257

65.5

Mike Livingston

1968

1751

912

52.08

11295

6.45

56

83

63.3

Mark Malone

1980

1648

839

50.91

10175

6.17

60

81

61.9

Bobby Douglass

1969

1178

507

43.04

6493

5.51

36

64

48.5

This group is very top heavy with Tom Brady and Dan Marino, but you also have multiple Super Bowl winners in Troy Aikman and Eli Manning.

Speaking of Marino, interesting to note you also have two of the worst quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl in Trent Dilfer and Doug Williams. It also has two of the most random Super Bowl starters with Mark Rypien and Chris Chandler.

Andrew Luck is a 6’4” quarterback. He is also the eighth No. 1 pick at quarterback that is 6’4”. That is the most for any height.

 

6’5” Quarterbacks

Quarterback

Debut

Att.

Cmp.

Pct.

Yards

YPA

TD

INT

PR

Peyton Manning

1998

7793

5082

65.21

59487

7.63

436

209

95.7

Philip Rivers

2004

3564

2268

63.64

27891

7.83

189

93

94.5

Ben Roethlisberger

2004

3762

2374

63.10

29844

7.93

191

108

92.7

Matt Schaub

2004

2823

1816

64.33

21944

7.77

120

70

91.9

Matt Ryan

2008

2637

1654

62.72

18957

7.19

127

60

90.9

Carson Palmer

2003

4110

2568

62.48

29465

7.17

189

130

86.2

Cam Newton

2011

1002

590

58.88

7920

7.90

40

29

85.3

Jason Campbell

2005

2182

1328

60.86

14682

6.73

76

52

82.5

Brad Johnson

1992

4326

2668

61.67

29054

6.72

166

122

82.5

Bernie Kosar

1985

3365

1994

59.26

23301

6.92

124

87

81.8

Boomer Esiason

1984

5205

2969

57.04

37920

7.29

247

184

81.1

Matt Cassel

2005

2044

1203

58.86

13495

6.60

82

57

80.4

Elvis Grbac

1993

2445

1446

59.14

16769

6.86

99

81

79.6

Byron Leftwich

2003

1605

930

57.94

10532

6.56

58

42

78.9

Jim Everett

1986

4923

2841

57.71

34837

7.08

203

175

78.6

Drew Bledsoe

1993

6717

3839

57.15

44611

6.64

251

206

77.1

Vinny Testaverde

1987

6701

3787

56.51

46233

6.90

275

267

75.0

Vince Young

2006

1304

755

57.90

8964

6.87

46

51

74.4

Roman Gabriel

1962

4498

2366

52.60

29444

6.55

201

149

74.3

Kerry Collins

1995

6261

3487

55.69

40922

6.54

208

196

73.8

Kent Graham

1992

1339

694

51.83

7801

5.83

39

33

69.0

Dave Brown

1992

1634

892

54.59

10248

6.27

44

58

67.9

Scott Brunner

1980

1046

512

48.95

6457

6.17

29

54

56.3

Dick Wood

1962

1194

522

43.72

7153

5.99

51

71

52.9

Here is the group with the highest completion percentage (58.91 percent) and passer rating (81.4). It is easy to see why with so many active players driving up the numbers, including Peyton Manning. Even without Manning the group still has the best stats, though that’s still with four active players who have a rating of at least 90.0.

Though, this is a good collection of players. Jason Campbell is a bad quarterback, Elvis Grbac and Matt Cassel need to be in the right system to have any success, but the only true duds are the four players at the bottom.

The 6’5” quarterback is more of a recent trend, as only two of these players debuted before 1980. Only seven were before 1992.

As mentioned in the intro, Kaepernick is a 6’5” quarterback and one of the league’s rising stars.

 

6’6” Quarterbacks

Quarterback

Debut

Att.

Cmp.

Pct.

Yards

YPA

TD

INT

PR

Joe Flacco

2008

2489

1507

60.55

17633

7.08

102

56

86.3

Josh Freeman

2009

1873

1101

58.78

12963

6.92

78

63

79.8

Scott Mitchell

1991

2346

1301

55.46

15692

6.69

95

81

75.3

Derek Anderson

2005

1440

760

52.78

9206

6.39

53

55

69.1

Marc Wilson

1980

2081

1085

52.14

14391

6.92

86

102

67.7

It would be hard not to admit there is a certain sense of clumsiness and head-scratching inconsistency with this group of five players.

Joe Flacco may not be a top 50 quarterback of all time just yet, but he can lay claim to being the “best big quarterback in NFL history.”

 

So, the Biggest Is Yet to Come?

No quarterbacks with at least 1,000 attempts were taller than 6’6”. Only five quarterbacks in NFL history are listed at 6’7” or taller according to Pro-Football-Reference. Two of them are rather insignificant.

Sonny Gibbs (6’7”) went in the second round of the 1962 NFL Draft, but he only threw three passes in his career; one going to the opponent. Frank Patrick (6’7”) was a 10th-round pick by the Packers in 1970. He threw 23 passes in his career.

Then you have Dan McGwire (6’8”), who is the tallest quarterback in NFL history. Brother of baseball player Mark, he was the first-round pick (16th overall) by Seattle in 1991, but had a brief and dreadful career. Consider the Seahawks gave up on him in favor of Rick Mirer (No. 2 pick in 1993 draft). Yikes.

Finally, is this a preview of the future field general, or will Ryan Mallett and Brock Osweiler (both 6’7”) never even get a shot to follow in the footsteps of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning? The two greatest quarterbacks of our time each have a massive backup, though if the legends have their way, each player’s rookie contract will be up before they ever start for New England and Denver.

 

Will Wilson’s Success Change Future Drafts?

Of course short quarterbacks have not fared well in the NFL when so few are ever given much of an opportunity. Wilson’s one decent season away from indisputably being the third or fourth-best quarterback under 72 inches in NFL history. Remember, his main competition: Sonny Jurgensen (5’11”), Arnie Herber (5’11”) and Doug Flutie (5’10”).

The big boys Flacco and Kaepernick finished the season in the Super Bowl, but few teams were as hot heading into the playoffs as Seattle, thanks in part to that third-round shrimp, who had a 115.8 passer rating in his final 10 games.

Wilson was never expected to be this good this fast. He fell to Seattle in the third round (75th overall) as the sixth quarterback in the 2012 draft and was saddled behind Matt Flynn to start the preseason. Seattle drafting a 5’11” – let’s face it, that listed height is very generous to Wilson – quarterback with a mid-round pick? What is this, the second coming of Seneca Wallace?

But there is no comparison.

At Iowa State, Wallace threw 26 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. As a senior, Wilson threw 33 touchdowns against only four interceptions at Wisconsin. That came after three years at North Carolina State where Wilson had 76 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. He even ran for 23 touchdowns in his college career.

So what scared people off?

Was it the fact that he completed 57.8 percent of his passes at NC State before completing 72.8 percent at Wisconsin? A jump like that rarely happens, especially with Wilson in a new environment after his not-as-stellar junior season. Wilson won games, excelled in two programs and showed NFL talent with the vertical game and ability to get the ball to his receivers all over the field.

But he was short, so he falls to the third round, 18 picks after the 6’6” Osweiler.

Wilson instantly made a mockery of that perceived weakness with a rookie record-tying 26 touchdown passes in 2012. So close to a NFC Championship appearance and now with Percy Harvin in town, Seattle behind – or is that in front? – Wilson is one of the favorites to win it all in 2013.

If there was any sign of the height being an issue that fans should keep an eye on, it would be that Wilson attempted a league-high 26.7 percent of his passes outside of the pocket last season according to ESPN’s Mike Sando. That is more than double the league average.

Yet, Wilson’s success on plays inside the pocket and outside was nearly identical, so it’s not like he is struggling to stand in there and deliver. The NFL game is slowly changing with more play-action in the backfield and utilizing the quarterback’s mobility. Wilson picked a good time to come into the league.

Should Wilson continue his success, it may have an impact on how teams evaluate future prospects. While past African-American quarterbacks like James Harris, Doug Williams and Warren Moon are known for clearing a path for future stars, Wilson, also a minority, may help ease the discrimination against shorter passers.

Drew Brees may have already done it had he not taken so long to develop. Wilson’s success was instant.

There may not be a comparable situation until Heisman winner Johnny Manziel – the first freshman to win the award – is ready to declare for the draft. But even he is 6’1”, albeit another generous listing. Rex Grossman (2003) and Michael Vick (2001) are the only quarterbacks this century to be drafted in the first round at 6’1” or shorter.

The next time a NFL team is thinking about taking that 6’6” behemoth like JaMarcus Russell at the top of the draft, hopefully they think twice about overrating the physical tools rather than the skills that translate to success.

If the quarterback proves he is a great decision maker, throws an accurate ball at each depth level, throws his receivers open, has a great feel for the pocket, then why should it matter how tall he is? Why continue worrying about the one thing he cannot control?

Several teams who cared too much about height may have missed out on a franchise quarterback. When they watch Wilson now, we bet they feel pretty small.

 

Scott Kacsmar is a football writer/researcher who has contributed large quantities of data to Pro-Football-Reference.com, including the only standardized database of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. You can visit his blog for a complete writing archive. Please send any questions or comments to Scott at smk_42@yahoo.com, or you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.


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