Iowa has built up a reputation as an NFL factory over the past couple of years. NFL coaches, executives, and even the so called "experts" talk up Kirk Ferentz as one of the best at getting college kids ready to be NFL players. Iowa has had success putting offensive linemen, defensive linemen, tight ends, etc. into the professional ranks. However, there has been one position that Iowa has not had the same kind of luck with in recent years. Leading up to this year's draft, I'm sure Hawkeye fans have heard this fact ad nauseum: Iowa has not had a quarterback drafted since 1992. To be fair, nineteen years is a long time. Not to mention, that the last two Iowa quarterbacks were twelfth round picks, which obviously doesn't exist anymore. So, extending that back to 1987, when Mark Vlasic went in the fourth round, means that Iowa has not had a quarterback drafted in the first seven rounds of the draft in my lifetime. Well, Ricky Stanzi finally bucked that trend today, as the Chiefs picked him up in the fifth round. And let me be the first to say: It's about fucking time, Iowa.
With that out of the way, let's get down to what this post is really about. Where does Ricky Stanzi rank all time among modern Iowa quarterbacks (modern, in this case, being since 1970)? It's an interesting question to be sure. Stanzi had mediocre years during his Sophomore and Junior campaigns, leaving the Iowa faithful hoping that he would finally put it all together. Then, during his Senior year, Stanzi literally became "The Manzi." He went from being known as a fourth quarter comeback kid, to a complete four quarter quarterback. His first two years under center for Iowa, surely drag his career numbers down, but how far do his Senior numbers pull him back up Iowa's lists? Well, let's find out.
First, let's take a look at career completion percentage.
Above, is the top 10 (there were 22 quarterbacks who qualified fort his post) career leaders in completion percentage in Iowa Hawkeye history (min. 100 attempts). Unsurprisingly, both Chuck Long and Hartlieb top this list. Stanzi makes this list, but comes in seventh, completing 59.76% of his passes over his career. Stanzi was a bit of an erratic passer until his Senior year, when he completed 64.1% of his passes. Before that, Stanzi completed 59.1% and 56.3% of his passes in his first two seasons leading the Hawkeyes.
Next, we'll take a look at yards per attempt:
Stanzi, once again, makes the top ten, but still sits outside the top five. At number six, Stanzi is still one of the only six Iowa quarterbacks since 1970 to average over 8 yards per pass attempt. Once again, Stanzi was much better during his Senior year, than he was in his first two years starting. In his Senior year, Stanzi averaged 8.7 yards per pass attempt, while averaging 7.7 his Sophomore year and 8.0 his Junior year.
After yards, we move on to touchdowns.
It looks like we found Stanzi's strong point. He had a propensity to find the endzone in a very efficient number of passes. Brad Banks comes in first place, with an insane average of 1 touchdown every 12.07 passes in his career. However, Stanzi comes in second place, averaging a touchdown on every 16.20 pass attempts.
Moving on to interceptions.
The fact that Stanzi made the top ten, is actually a credit to how good his senior year was. Because his Junior year was really bad. During his sophomore season, Stanzi averaged 1 interception every 28.22 pass attempts. That number increased pretty drastically during his Junior year, as he threw 1 interception every 20.27 attempts. His Junior year allowed Iowa fans to nickname Stanzi's disposition toward throwing interceptions, that also happened returned for touchdowns, as "Stanzi Balls" or "Rick Sixes." In his Senior year, Stanzi looked like he had been kidnapped. Instead of giving the ball up once a game, Stanzi became the poster boy for taking care of the ball, as he threw 1 interception every 57.50 attempts or less than 1 interception every 2 games. He was clearly bent on showing everybody that he was better than he showed his Junior year.
Also, I would be amiss, if I did not mention the fact that Jake Christensen tops this list. It's not surprising that Christensen leads Iowa in attempts per interceptions in the last 40 years. I mean, he could barely complete a pass to his own receivers, how the hell was he going to complete a pass to the other team?
Combining the two, we look at Stanzi's touchdown to interception ratio.
Thanks to his ability to throw touchdowns, Stanzi ranks number five since 1970 in career touchdown to interception ratio. Stanzi averaged 1interceptions for every 1.81 touchdowns thrown during his career. That number was helped enormously by his Senior year, when Stanzi averaged 1 interception for every 4.17 touchdowns thrown.
Once again, we see Christensen up near the top of the list. Feel free to insert your own "completing more passes to the turf than receivers" joke here.
Finally, let's take a look at career quarterback rating.
Brad Banks, Chuck Long, and Chuck Hartlieb, are the only ones who have a higher quarterback rating than Ricky Stanzi in the last four decades. That's pretty good company. Stanzi went from a 134.8 and 131.6 quarterback rating in his first two seasons, to a 157.6 quarterback rating during his Senior year. While, he only comes in fourth in career quarterback rating, he actually ranks as number one in single season quarterback rating since 1970. His Senior campaign of 156.7 just beats out Brad Banks (157.1), Chuck Hartlieb (156.7), and Chuck Long (156.5) for first place.
Ricky Stanzi first captured Iowa fans' hearts back in 2008, when he put together the game winning drive against Penn State. He took another step the next year, ripping out Sparty's heart on a last minute comeback drive, and then creating the whole "Americanzi" persona that quickly made him a cult favorite. However, in his Senior year, he finally put everything together. No longer was Stanzi known for just his patriotic demeanor. He was finally acknowledged as a complete quarterback, and one of the best one's in the nation.
So, where does a career like Stanzi's rank in modern Iowa history? Well, the only quarterbacks who appeared in the top 10 of each and every one of the stats above were: Brad Banks, Chuck Hartlieb, Ricky Stanzi, and Drew Tate. It turns out that Chuck Long had a bit of an interception problem (he ranked 16th, averaging 1 interception every 23.13 pass attempts). However, when you take the five quarterbacks mentioned above (including Long) and take their average ranking in each category from above, you get: Brad Banks- 2.33, Chuck Hartlieb- 5.00, Ricky Stanzi- 5.50, Chuck Long- 5.67 (damn interceptions), Drew Tate- 6.00. Now, this isn't a surefire objective way of ranking the best quarterbacks in modern Iowa history. Nor was it meant to be. However, I think this is more than enough evidence to show that, while Stanzi wasn't the best quarterback in modern Iowa history, he was in the top five, and probably the top four.
Chuck Long was more consistently good over his career (three years with a quarterback rating over 150), but Stanzi's Senior year seems to be just as good as Long's best season, and was actually graded better by quarterback rating. Looking at Hartlieb, he had a great Junior year, but then his Senior year looks similar to Stanzi's early years, except that it took Hartlieb over 100 more passes to put up similar touchdown and interception numbers. With Banks, well, Stanzi did beat his single season quarterback rating. However, Banks had better yards, touchdowns, and interceptions per attempt. Finally, with Drew Tate, His Junior year was very good, but his Sophomore and Senior campaigns were plagued by interceptions. Even without the interceptions, though, Stanzi's Senior numbers were better across the board than 2005 Tate's.
In his first two years as starting quarterback for the Iowa Hawkeyes, people would praise Ricky Stanzi by saying things like "intangibles" and "leadership." They would invoke things that were not quantifiable, because his stat line didn't necessarily represent how people viewed him as a quarterback. But, after his Senior year, people finally had something they could actually measure. Now, on top of saying "I like his moxie." People could now say:"Look at the numbers."
And with that, let me just say: Thank you Rick. You were a true leader on and off the field. Good luck in the NFL and beyond.
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