Schwartz: Revisiting Top Iowa Football QBs of the Kirk Ferentz Era

June 14, 2020

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

Eighty-three days until the start of Hawkeye football season. About 14 weeks. It’s OK if we let our imaginations take over for a bit, right?

Soon the Hawkeyes will throw out a quarterback other than Nate Stanley for the first time since the end of the 2016 season. But before we look forward, let’s do a little reminiscing by revisiting a list we tend to from time to time.

As the Hawkeyes prepare to debut a new quarterback, it’s time to update a list we’ve considered periodically over the last several years: The top 10 quarterbacks of the Kirk Ferentz era, ranked from 10 to 1.

10. Scott Mullen. The original Ferentz quarterback. Poor guy, but someone had to go first. He made the best of it, throwing for 1400 yards in Ferentz’s first season in 1999. A Hayden Fry recruit, Mullen helped his team make the transition to a new head coach.

9. Kyle McCann. McCann had a nontraditional career trajectory, throwing for 1200 yards in just eight games as a freshman in 1998, Fry’s last season, and then resurfacing as the primary starter in 2001. He led the Hawkeyes to their first bowl game – an Alamo Bowl win – under Ferentz.

8. James Vandenberg. Oh, what could have been. In his first year as a full-time starter, Vandenberg threw for 25 touchdowns compared with just seven interceptions. That was his junior year. Then new offensive coordinator Greg Davis arrived, and in 12 games Vandenberg went for seven touchdowns, eight picks, and just 5.8 yards per passing attempt.

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7. Nathan Chandler. In 2003 he had the unenviable task of having to follow Brad Banks as the starter, but he more than held his own. He provided a steady hand, throwing for 2000 yards and 18 touchdowns in his only year as a starting quarterback. The Hawkeyes went 10-3 and finished the season ranked eighth in the country.

6. Jake Rudock. Iowa went just 15-11 overall and 0-2 in bowl games with Rudock in charge. Then he transferred to Michigan, an Iowa rival. So why is Rudock so high on this list? Because the guy threw for 34 touchdowns and nearly 5000 yards in just two seasons during the “The Dark Years,” aka the Ferentz-Greg Davis collaboration. That alone makes him praise-worthy.

5. Drew Tate. He’s given us some of our best Hawkeye moments – Tate to Holloway, obviously. He had a cannon for an arm, and he put together a solid CFL career with nearly 60 combined passing and rushing touchdowns. And the man knows how to podcast.

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4. C.J. Beathard. 5500 yards and 40 touchdowns plus Ferentz’s only Rose Bowl appearance put Beathard in the Ferentz Pantheon. He was also on his way to becoming the most successful Ferentz-era NFL QB before the 49ers went and landed Jimmy Garoppolo.

3. Ricky Stanzi. The starting quarterback on the second most iconic team of the Ferentz era – the 2009 squad – Stanzi endeared himself to Hawkeye Nation in so many ways. Love it or leave it. The “Rick Six.” An Orange Bowl victory. Survey 100 Hawkeye fans about their favorite QB of the last 20 years, and my money is on Stanzi finishing first. Some quarterbacks are forever because of their stats; some are forever because of something more.

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2. Brad Banks. He might by No. 1 in many of our hearts – as he should be – and he probably would have been No. 1 overall had we had the privilege of watching him play for a few years in a Hawkeye uniform. Unfortunately for us, we had Banks for just 23 games, and only 13 of those with Banks in the pole position. He’s higher on the list than the last time I ranked quarterbacks, but thanks to the new guy at No. 1, No. 2 is the highest Banks will ever climb.

1. Nate Stanley. Really, could there be any other choice? Stanley led the Hawkeyes to three bowl-game wins and finished in the top five of numerous Hawkeye passing records. Of all Ferentz-era QBs, Stanley climbed the highest. Whomever gets the job this season will have tough shoes to fill.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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