Thursday, June 02, 2011

Top Men

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John Witkowski

Bruce Wood at the Big Green Alert Blog is asking for your input on who the best QB’s for each Ivy school have been since the formal foundation of the league in 1956.

With two more years to go in the brilliant Sean Brackett’s career, this would be my Columbia top 5:

1) John Witkowski
2) Archie Roberts
3) Marty Domres
4) Don Jackson
5) Mike Cavanaugh

Honorable Mentions: Jeff Otis, Claude Benham, Bruce Mayhew, Craig Hormann.
Roberts is definitely the best overall athlete to play the position at Columbia in the last 70 years. But Witkowski was such an astoundingly good passer that you can’t deny him the top spot.

Domres and Jackson were incredible competitors with a lot of talent. Domres gets the edge because he was just that much more talented and had a pretty decent run in the NFL.

Until Brackett came along, Cavanaugh was the best total package QB many of us had ever seen. He’s the biggest reason the Lions posted their first winning season in 23 years in 1994. But a terrible injury in his senior season robbed him of what probably would have been the numbers to vault him higher on this list.

Benham was a great runner and jump passer who was Columbia’s first All Ivy QB. Mayhew had a monster season or two in some lean times. Hormann had a tremendous gun for an arm and was basically the entire Columbia offense in the solid 2006 season. Jeff Otis had fantastic personal numbers in the exciting 2003 campaign.

For those of you unfamiliar with Witkowski, suffice it to say that he put up ridiculous stats at an absolute nadir for the Columbia football program.

He twice passed for more than 3,000 yards in a season, no one else in Columbia history has had more than 2,500 yards passing.

He tossed 29 TD passes in his junior year of 1982, and 23 in ’83. No one else in CU history has had more than the 19 TD passes Brackett threw last season.

He made the careers of three of Columbia’s greatest all-time pass targets, WR’s Bill Reggio and Don Lewis and TE Dan Upperco.

The list of his attributes goes on and on.

John had the NFL equivalent of a “cup of coffee” in the pros, getting some playing time with the Detroit Lions in the mid-1980’s.

If Brackett can parlay his talents into winning seasons his final two years, he would probably displace Cavanaugh or Jackson on the list. Grabbing the number one spot is not outside the realm of possibility, but unlike Witkowski Brackett will need to bring victories to go along with any statistical feats. The stakes are higher now and the Columbia program is too improved to elevate the offensive leader of a one or two win team to join the all-time greats.

As a starter, Brackett already has six wins under his belt and that is a lot more than the measly three wins Witkowski enjoyed from 1981-83.


At Thu Jun 02, 07:50:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Jake for another great trip down memory lane. Is there any films of Witkowski floating around in the CU archives. It would be fun to see them...Thinking about some of the games CU has played over the years, I can't help but recall the amount of times we have led at halftime and even late in the game, only to lose in the final minutes. Not sure what the reasons for that are, but I hope we can avoid those painful losses in the coming year.

At Thu Jun 02, 12:51:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All were terrific, Jake, but for a Columbia QB (post-1956) that I loved to see every Saturday afternoon, my pick is the great all-around performer Archie Roberts.

At Thu Jun 02, 04:44:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which of these great players won an Ivy Championship or at least came close? Winning (as Charlie Sheen would say)...needs to count for alot as you rate these guys.

At Thu Jun 02, 04:49:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If only Columbia had fielded a defense in those years! Opponents ran and threw right through us. We were particularly weak in our secondary those years. If we had had our current secondary we would have one many more games.

The 55-41 loss to Dartmouth reflects this. A team should never lose when they score 41 points!!!! I felt so bad for Wit and the O that day.

At Thu Jun 02, 05:38:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also remember Mike Cavanaugh. I think we were 6-0 the year he broke his leg at Princeton and then we lost all four of the remaining games. He made that much of a difference to the offense.

Makes me hope we have a true and ready backup for Brackett should he go down. I think there are a couple of run and gun QBs on the roster, which is good.

My vote for QBs is:

1) Domres
2) Roberts
3) Witkowski
4) hey, what about Luckman?

At Thu Jun 02, 05:43:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

Luckman played for us in the 1930's... this list is 1956-present.

At Thu Jun 02, 05:45:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

During the Witkowski years, my dad (a chinese immigrant who was a techie from MIT and no football afficionado) came with me to three games and all he kept saying was that the receivers of the other team were always open. Pretty simple

Our corners were giving away too much respect for fear of being beaten deep...they laid off a good 10-12 yards on every play.

We always found ourselves down by 2 TDs in the first quarter...or more.


Chen 82

At Thu Jun 02, 09:27:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ass great as Witkowksi was, it is hard to put him at number 1 given that we were behind so many games, that presumably second strings were put in for the opposing teams and there was less pressure on opponents to try to stop him when they had usually healthy leads. Nevertheless Wit was terrific!

At Thu Jun 02, 10:34:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

.... when I was being recruited, I saw Archie Roberts play .... Brackett somehow reminds me of him ... I played with Marty Domres .... Archie was a college quaterback, Marty was a prototypical pro QB .... I'd rank Marty #1, but just barely ahead of Archie ...

Frank F

At Fri Jun 03, 01:26:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at CU in the Witkowski years and went to many games. I think the posters here who downgrade Wit for not winning have have no idea just how terrible the program was in those days. We stopped no one. We could not run the ball. The baseball team was loaded with football recruits who quit after freshman year, seeing how hopeless the situation was. The facilities and coaching were bad. We gave up 390 points in 1982, the worst in program history. The proof of Wit's excellence isn't just his NFL experience. In '82 and '83 we scored 236 and 218 points. In 1984 we scored 117 points. In 1985 we scored 75 points! Witkowski alone might've been worth 100 points a year to the offense.

At Fri Jun 03, 04:20:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a shame about Cavanaugh's injury; I had forgotten about that. Sounds like if he were healthy we would have definitely had a shot at the title that year. Ouch!

At Fri Jun 03, 07:03:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To last poster, Wit was fantastic, but to be rated our #1 QB in the Ivy era I think you have to have won more than 3 games in a 3 year career. If he had had a defense that could allow only 20 points per game he might have had a winning record. Life is not always fair though.


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