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February 5, 2012

Cecil Hurt: Tide short on Super Bowl QBs

Tom Brady made one appearance against the University of Alabama as a collegian, and made it memorable. Eli Manning made four, with mixed results, although for an Ole Miss quarterback, mixed results against Alabama are actually notable as well.

And, as it has been for a generation, therein lies the quarterback rooting interest in the Super Bowl, as far as Alabama fans are concerned.

The early days of the Super Bowl belonged to Alabama quarterbacks - Starr, Namath, Stabler. After that, though, there has been little to Super-celebrate, although Jeff Rutledge did occupy roster spots for three different Super Bowl teams and did see action for the Giants in Super Bowl XXI. Alabama abandoned the wishbone formation in 1983, but for 30 years of more-or-less pro-style offense, there has not been a first-round UA quarterback in the draft, or one in the Super Bowl.

Statistically speaking, Super Bowl quarterbacks are a small sample that doesn't really reflect the stature of a college football program. Plenty of schools, including some in the Southeastern Conference, have never had a Super Bowl quarterback. It's a different column for a different day, but SEC quarterbacks in the NFL have been a mixed bag for quite some time now, excluding guys named Manning.

The fact Drew Brees led the Saints to a Super Bowl win a couple of years ago hasn't put Purdue in any Rose Bowls, and Alabama has managed to win five national titles since its last NFL first-rounder, Richard Todd.

It's odd, though, that the one thing that all of Alabama's success on the field and in recruiting has not produced is the uber-quarterback. Good quarterbacks, definitely: Walter Lewis and Jay Barker, Brodie Croyle and John Parker Wilson and Greg McElroy and the still-developing AJ McCarron. But no Brady, and no Eli, and scant sign of one - although Alec Morris may make this column look idiotic someday - in another No. 1 recruiting class.

The quick primer on Brady and Manning against the Crimson Tide goes back more than a decade. Brady, at Michigan, threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns in the 2000 Orange Bowl, in a classic offensive showdown between future NFL MVPs (Shaun Alexander was a beast for the Crimson Tide) that was settled by a missed extra point. He still wasn't a lofty draft choice after that, although anyone in Miami that night came away impressed.

Eli Manning came along the next season, and in four years, he went 2-2 against Alabama. He was the backup to Romaro Miller - no, really - in the lone shining moment of UA's train-wreck of a 2000 season, and came in long after that 45-7 blowout was over. He started the next three years, leading Ole Miss to wins in Oxford in 2001 and 2003 and losing in another blowout in Tuscaloosa in 2002. He never led the Ole Miss band - his older brother was more adept with the baton at Tennessee - but by his senior year, he shredded Alabama pretty efficiently, and in his four years against UA, he only threw one interception. (I will give away the trivia answer: Gerald Dixon picked off Eli in 2002.) And it is probably a measure of Eli's abilities that Ole Miss hasn't beaten Alabama since he left Oxford.

In the meantime, Alabama fans will pick a side, watch and wait on the next Namath or Stabler or Starr to appear. But the waiting won't be without consolation - such as championships.

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