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Best Vol QBs since Peyton Manning

Josh Dobbs is the best quarterback since Peyton Manning played at Tennessee.

That was the declaration I made on the internet today while doing my radio show. People got mad. Real mad.

Sometimes the truth hurts.

My official Power Rankings would go like this:

5. Tyler Bray
Tyler Bray’s play- and his ranking- did not match up to his talent.

Bray’s stats look really nice. He threw for 69 career touchdowns while throwing only 28 interceptions. Solid.

The problem is when you think of Tyler Bray’s on-field performances, you either think of him doing the “Oh, I’m loco” hand motion or a throat slash. Or him having the ball trying to tie or take the lead for the Vols at the end of the game and throwing an interception or fumbling.

Off the field, you think about the beer bottles and the jet ski.

Derek Dooley wasn’t a good coach, but Bray didn’t help him out by being a good leader in the locker room. Those teams were a rudderless ship. The team kind of reflected the quarterback.

4. Jonathan Crompton
Crompton was a disappointment at Tennessee, all things considered.

But it doesn’t stop him from cracking the top 5. And from me wondering what he could have turned into if he had been coached properly his entire time at Tennessee. Lane Kiffin not only salvaged his career at Tennessee, but also got him drafted in the 5th round of the NFL Draft. He never played a snap in the NFL, but played in the CFL.

And grew out a really nice head of hair.

We’d feel very differently about him if Daniel Lincoln would have made the game-winning field goal at number 1 Alabama.

Look, there is a reason Tennessee has been, uhm, not very good at football over the past twenty years. When you start actually going through the quarterbacks to have played here, it’s easy to kind of see why.

3. Casey Clausen
The Tennessee fan base thinks that Clausen has been underappreciated for what he did in Knoxville. So, naturally, they’ve now really overrated him.

They are quick to throw out numbers supporting the Ice Man. 14-1 on the road.  Road warrior.

Let’s take a look at the two most famous road wins on Clausen’s resume: 2001 and 2003 in the Swamp and 2003 when Tennessee broke Miami’s home winning streak.

2001 at Florida: Casey Clausen 17-25 1 TD 2 INTs 168 yards. Travis Stephens 19 carries- 226 yards and 2TDs. Florida ran the ball for 36 yards.

2003 at Florida: Casey Clausen 12-23 1TD 1INT 235 yards. Tennessee’s defense holds Florida to 10 points.

2003 at Miami: Tennessee’s offense scores 10 points and gains 170 total yards. Casey Clausen goes 11-18 for 81 yards. Tennessee’s defense forces four turnovers.

In the 2002 season, the Vols lost 5 games. In those losses, the Casey Clausen led offense scored 13 points vs Florida (TN was ranked number 4, Florida 13), 13 points at Georgia (Vols ranked 10, Georgia 8), 14 points vs unranked Alabama (Vols were 16), 3 in Knoxville vs third ranked Miami Hurricanes, and mustered a field goal in the bowl game against Maryland (ranked 20). The 2002 team had eight total draft picks on the team, two on offense.

Clausen benefited a lot from having a good roster of talent around him. During his time in Knoxville, 2000-2003, the Vols had 27 total draft picks, 11 total on offense highlighted by first round pick Donte Stallworth, second round pick Travis Henry, and third round picks Jason Witten and Kelley Washington.

There is something said for being a winner. Usually, that something is “wow, he had a really good team around him.” Clausen definitely benefited from Tennessee’s roster, but still has to get a least a little credit for never losing in Gainesville, even if the team was carried by the rushing attack and defense.

Alabama went 24-25 during his four years. Florida went 36-20. Georgia 40-12.

2. Tee Martin
National champion.

48 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and 5206 total yards in his career, basically two years as a starter.

Tennessee beating Florida in 1998 is the single greatest non-championship moment for a lot of Vol fans. I dreamed of going to Tennessee as I watched that on TV an hour from campus.

Martin went 22-3 as a starter. In his 3 losses, the team was able to score at least 21 in all of them.

His supporting cast was really strong. In his two seasons as starter, the Vols has 15 players drafted, six offensive players highlighted by first round running back Jamal Lewis, second round wide-out Peerless Price, and third round back Shawn Bryson.

Tee was drafted in the fifth round in 1999 to the Oakland Raiders.

Alabama went 31- 18. Florida won 41 games and lost 9. Georgia was 32-15.

1. Joshua Dobbs
9298 yards, 87 touchdowns, 29 interceptions.

Of the quarterbacks in these rankings, Dobbs has the highest completion percentage of anyone on this list. Aside from Tyler Bray, he probably played under the worst coaching staff of anyone on this list as well.

Dobbs does not have the big wins like these other two quarterbacks. His signature wins would be a home win over a 9-4 Florida team that won the East by default or a miracle at an 8-5 Georgia.

Those aren’t comparable to Tee’s championships, but Dobbs carrying Butch Jones to 9-4 in back-to-back seasons with a dominant Alabama on the schedule as an automatic loss is championship-worthy.

And Dobbs could have had a chance to play for a championship if he didn’t play the worst game of his career at South Carolina. Dobbs went 12-26 for 161 yards 1TD and 2INTs.

Combine that with a 13-31 performance vs Oklahoma where Dobbs only threw for 125 yards and ran for 12 with 2 total TDs and 1INT, and those are two signature wins that slipped through the quarterbacks fingers.

(Some will also talk about the game that cost Tennessee the Sugar Bowl in 2016, but Dobbs went 31-34 for 340 yards 2TDs while adding another 53 yards on the ground.)

In Dobbs’ first year at Tennessee, the Vols had three players drafted, including two offensive linemen.

No Vols were drafted following his second and third seasons. The 2016 team of course had six draft picks, three on offense, highlighted by Alvin Kamara in the third round.

That’s it. Nine total players drafted during his four year career. Casey Clausen had 27 from his four year career. Tee Martin had 15 in two years. Josh Dobbs had eight teammates get drafted as he went in the fifth round.

Alabama went 51-6. Florida went 30-21. Georgia won 36 and lost 16.


I went with Dobbs at number one due to his success despite coaching at talent around him. I feel very strongly that if you swapped out Dobbs on either Clausen or Tee’s teams, the results are the same at worst, with an improvement likely on some of those teams.

I don’t think that Clausen nor Martin would have made the 2013-2016 Vols any better than Dobbs did.

I understand that the game has changed. Dobbs’ completion percentage benefited from scheme, just as his accomplishments were diminished by his lack of offensive line, bad offensive coordinator and lack of quarterback coach.

The situation matters. Talent around you matters. The proof is in the number of draft picks on the roster. Coaching matters.

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