History of Oregon Ducks Quarterbacks in NFL

On Thursday April 23rd, Justin Herbert is going to become the 6th Oregon Ducks quarterback drafted in the first round and the 19th Oregon QB drafted overall (first since 2015 in both areas).

Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers are the two teams considered the favorites to draft Herbert.

Oregon first round picks have a combined record of 104-171-2 as starting quarterbacks.

A look at most notable Oregon Ducks quarterbacks in the NFL.

First round QBs

Marcus Mariota (#2, 2015) – Mariota is extremely accomplished college quarterback. In 2014, he won the Heisman Trophy and led Oregon to the first ever CFB Playoffs Championship Game (lost to Ohio State). Mariota won almost a dozen other awards during his historic 2014 season. But his skills never really translated to the NFL.

Mariota was 29-32 over 5 years as a starter for the Titans. They made the playoffs in 2017 and won in Kansas City, in a crazy comeback, before losing the next week to the Patriots. Mariota has 76 career TD passes and 44 INT. His 7.5 yards per pass attempt is low – that plus a 62% completion rate shows that Mariota was careful more than careless, but didn’t always take a ton of chances. Mariota played a couple years under Mike Mularkey, a conservative head coach who never maximized his potential.

In 2017, he ran for 5 TDs, but beyond that ran for 2 TDs in three seasons and 0 in a 2019 season that saw him get benched early on and never be seen again. Mariota left the Titans to sign with the Raiders as a backup for the 2020 season.

Joey Harrington (#3, 2002) – Unlike Mariota, Harrington did not win the Heisman Trophy, finishing 4th as one of the finalists. He was PAC-12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2001 and is a member of the Oregon Hall of Fame.

In 4 years as the Lions QB, Harrington went 18-37. He threw 60 TD and 62 INT, while completing just 54.7% of his passes.

Harrington never fit into coach Steve Mariucci’s west coast offensive system, and eventually he was benched for Jeff Garcia. In 2005, Harrington was traded to the Dolphins. He started 11 games for Miami in 2006 and started 10 games for the Falcons in 2007, filling in for Mike Vick the season he was arrested.

Akili Smith (#3, 1999) – In 1999, QBs went 1-2-3 in the draft, with Tim Couch going to the Browns #1, Donovan McNabb to the Eagles at #2, and Smith to the Bengals at #3. Smith won PAC-12 co-Offensive Player of the Year in 1998.

To put it kindly, Smith was awful in the NFL. He started only 4 games in 1999, after a lengthy contract holdout and a failure to learn the playbook.

He started 11 games in 2000, showing an inability to grasp the playbook and lead the team. Bengals were 2-9 in his starts, he completed a putrid 44% of his passes and threw only 3 TDs, compared to 6 INTs. He started only 1 game during 2001 and 2002, before he was out of the league by 2003. He did spend time playing in NFL Europe for a few years. Smith’s career record was 3-14.

Chris Miller (#13, 1987) – Miller played 7 years for the Falcons, who drafted him in 1987 and compiled a 23-43 record with Atlanta and 34-58 overall, including 23 starts with the Rams and 3 with the Broncos. For his career, Miller threw 123 TD and 102 INT.

Falcons, who originated in 1966, won their second ever playoff game in 1991, with Miller at the helm. In two playoff starts, Miller completed 35-62 passes, 469 yards, 3 TD, 5 INT.

George Shaw (#1, 1955) – Shaw was the #1 pick by the Baltimore Colts. He was quickly inserted into the starting role and started 12 games in 1955. In 1956, he continue his strong play breaking his leg. Shaw was replaced by Johnny Unitas, and the rest is history.

He spent two years with the Colts as a backup to Unitas, starting 3 games in 1958. He started 6 games for the Giants between 1959-1960, 4 with the Vikings in 1961, and 1 with the Broncos in 1962. His overall record was 12-17-2, throwing 41 TD and 63 INT.

Other notable Oregon QBs in the NFL

Norm Van Brocklin (1949 – round 4, pick 37)- The first Oregon QB to play in the NFL won 2 NFL Championships (pre-Super Bowl era) in 1951 with the LA Rams and 1960 with the Philadelphia Eagles. Van Brocklin won league MVP in 1960 and was a 9x Pro Bowler.

Dan Fouts (1973 – round 3, pick 64) – Fouts is currently a CBS announcer, but before that he was 3x First-team All-Pro with the Chargers. He is in the Chargers Hall of Fame and was a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team in the 1980s. Fouts led the Chargers to 4 consecutive playoff appearances between 1979-1983, going 3-4.

Dennis Dixon (2008 – round 5, pick 156) – Dixon started only 3 games in his NFL career. But he was a good enough backup to be a 2x Super Bowl Champion – with Steelers in 2008 and with Ravens in 2012.

Mike is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) and an alum of the University of Cincinnati.

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