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Is C.J. Stroud Already the Greatest OSU QB in NFL History?

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Can a quarterback become the greatest NFL player at his position after just ten games?  C.J. Stroud is making an awfully strong case.  After leading his Houston Texans to a game-winning drive in the waning seconds of their victory over the favored Cincinnati Bengals in Paycor Stadium.  It was a wild game, especially in the second half, with tons of splash plays, what-the-hell moments, and finger-nail-depleting tension – and at the end, even as a baby in the NFL, Stroud was there putting his throws right on the money and giving his team a chance to win.

So even though he’s only played ten games in the NFL, Stroud has already made his mark amongst Ohio State QBs who’ve made it to the NFL. In fact, his resume is already in the upper echelon – no kidding.  The track record of Ohio State QBs in the NFL is…not great.  Check that – it’s abysmal.

Is C.J. Stroud the greatest Ohio State QB in NFL history?  Incredibly, he might be.  Twenty-four different Ohio State QBs have either been drafted or signed as an undrafted free agent – and of those, only seven have even thrown more than 300 passes.  Last year, Tom Brady led the NFL with 733 pass attempts and 30 different players threw more than 300.  In practical terms, most OSU QBs barely have a modern-season’s worth of pass attempts in their entire careers.  At least Stroud has already thrown 318 passes.

But before we can say for sure, let’s take a look through Ohio State’s (depressing) history of sending QBs into the ranks of the NFL:

Don Scott (OSU 1938 - 1940)

Scott was drafted by the Chicago Bears with the 9th pick in 1941.  Despite his talent and outstanding collegiate resumé, Scott never played in the NFL, instead opting to volunteer for service in World War II.  Sadly, Scott was killed when his airplane crashed during a training exercise in England.  Scott remains one of the great what-ifs in not just Ohio State history, but in all the NFL.

Jack Graf (OSU 1939 - 1941)

Did not attempt a pass in the NFL.

Les Horvath (OSU 1940 - 1942, 1944)

Horvath, the 1944 Heisman winner, was drafted by the Cleveland Rams in 1943.  Unlike Scott and Graf, Horvath would play three seasons in the NFL, but not before volunteering to serve as a dental officer in the Navy.  While with the Rams, and later the newly-formed Cleveland Browns, Horvath primarily played halfback and never threw a pass in the NFL.

Dave Leggett (OSU 1951 - 1954)

Leggett was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals in 1955.  Leggett would play four games in the NFL before being called for service in the Air Force (he was ROTC at OSU).  For his career, Leggett threw exactly one pass, and it fell incomplete.

John Borton (OSU 1952 - 1954)

Borton was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1955.  Though he was selected several rounds after his teammate Leggett, Borton would go on to have the (relatively) more successful NFL career.  He appeared in only five games, and attempted six passes total, with three completions and one interception.

Frank Kremblas (OSU 1956 - 1958)

Did not attempt a pass in the NFL.

Rex Kern (OSU 1968 - 1970)

Did not attempt a pass in the NFL.

Ron Maciejowski (OSU 1968 - 1970)

Did not attempt a pass in the NFL.

Greg Hare (OSU 1971 - 1973)

Did not attempt a pass in the NFL.

Cornelius Greene (OSU 1972 - 1975)

Did not attempt a pass in the NFL.

Art Schlichter (OSU 1978 - 1981)

One of the most infamous draft busts of all-time, Schlichter was drafted by the Baltimore Colts with the 4th pick in 1982.  Though he was wildly talented and posted prodigious numbers at OSU, Schlichter suffered from a gambling addiction that derailed his NFL career.  During his third season in the league, Schlichter had accrued so much gambling debt that he confessed to the NFL’s commissioner because he was afraid bookies would blackmail him into throwing games.  He would be suspended for the entirety of the 1983 season before being reinstated the following year.  In four seasons (three active), Schlichter threw a total of 202 passes, completing 45% with three touchdowns to eleven interceptions.

Mike Tomczak (OSU 1981 - 1984)

Tomczack went undrafted in 1985 and eventually signed with the Chicago Bears.  That season, the Bears would go on to have one of the most dominant seasons in NFL history, going 15 - 1 and winning Super Bowl XX, though Tomczak only attempted six passes all year.  Tomczak would play fifteen seasons in the NFL for four different franchises, including his 1996 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, his only season as a primary starter.  That year, he led the Steelers to a 10 - 5 record and an appearance in the AFC Championship Game, throwing 401 passes, completing 54.4% with fifteen touchdowns to seventeen interceptions.  For his career, Tomczak threw 2337 passes, completing 53.4% with 88 touchdowns to 106 interceptions.

Jim Karsatos (OSU 1983 - 1986)

Did not attempt a pass in the NFL.

Tom Tupa (OSU 1984 - 1987)

Tupa was drafted by the Phoenix Cardinals in 1988.  Tupa would both punt and play QB during his time in the league, exclusively punting by 1996.  During his only full season as a starting QB, Tupa threw 315 passes, completing 52.4% with six touchdowns and thirteen interceptions.  For his career, Tupa would attempt 504 passes, completing 51.4% with twelve touchdowns to 25 interceptions.  He was a far better punter, even being named first-team All-Pro in 1999 with the New England Patriots, and winning a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002.

Kent Graham (OSU 1990 - 1991)

Graham was drafted by the New York Giants in 1992.  He would go on to play nine years in the NFL for four different franchises, starting 38 games in his career with his teams going 17 - 21 in those games.  For his career, Graham threw 1339 passes, completing 51.8% with 39 touchdowns to 33 interceptions.

Bobby Hoying (OSU 1992 - 1995)

Hoying was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1996.  He would go on to play five seasons in the NFL, starting thirteen games in his career with his teams going 3 - 9 - 1 in those games.  For his career, Hoying threw 456 passes, completing 53.% with eleven touchdowns to fifteen interceptions.

Joe Germaine (OSU 1996 - 1998)

Germaine was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 1999.  He would play one season with the Rams, appearing in three games and attempting sixteen passes with nine completions (56.3%), one touchdown and two interceptions.  He would later appear in three games with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2001, but did not record any statistics.

Steve Bellisari (OSU 1998 - 2001)

Did not attempt a pass in the NFL.

Craig Krenzel (OSU 2000 - 2003)

Krenzel was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2004.  He would go on to start 5 games for the Bears in 2004, with his team going 3 - 2 in those games.  He would later sign with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2005, though he did not appear in an NFL game after 2004.  For his career, Krenzel threw 127 passes, completing 46.5% with three touchdowns and six interceptions.

Troy Smith (OSU 2003 - 2006)

Smith, the 2006 Heisman winner, was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2007.  Despite his gaudy collegiate statistics, Smith struggled to find his footing in the NFL, playing only four seasons.  He would start eight games during his career, with his teams going 4 - 4 in those games.  For his career, Smith threw 243 passes, completing 51.7% with five touchdowns to four interceptions, while also adding three more touchdowns on the ground.

Terrelle Pryor (OSU 2008 - 2010)

Pryor was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 3rd round of the supplemental draft in 2011.  Though he played in the NFL for seven seasons, only three of those seasons were spent as a QB.  In 2015, after spending the entire 2014 season out of the NFL, Pryor transitioned to wide receiver, the position he would play for the rest of his career.  While as a QB, Pryor started ten games total, with his team going 3 - 7 in those games.  For his career, Pryor attempted 311 passes, completing 56.3% with nine touchdowns to twelve interceptions.  Pryor also added 646 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns, as well as catching 115 passes for 1,563 yards and seven receiving touchdowns during his career.

Cardale Jones (OSU 2013 - 2015)

Jones was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2016.  Jones would play just one season in the NFL, appearing in only one game.  For his career, Jones attempted eleven passes, with six completions (54.5%), zero touchdowns and one interception.

J.T. Barrett (OSU 2014 - 2017)

Did not attempt a pass in the NFL.

Dwayne Haskins (OSU 2017 - 2018)

Haskins was drafted by the Washington Redskins with the 15th pick in 2019.  He would only play two seasons in the NFL before his life was tragically cut short after being killed in 2021 by a vehicle on the highway.  Haskins started thirteen games in his career, with his team going 3 - 10 in those games.  For his career, Haskins threw 444 passes, completing 60.1% with twelve touchdowns to fourteen interceptions.

Justin Fields (OSU 2019 - 2020)

Fields was drafted by the Chicago Bears with the 11th pick in 2021.  So far, Fields has played three seasons in the NFL, starting 31 games in his career, with his team going 6 - 25 in those games.  For his career, Fields has attempted 750 passes, completing 60.1% with 35 touchdowns to 27 interceptions.  Fields has also been very productive on the ground, adding 1,800 yards and eleven rushing touchdowns.

C.J. Stroud OSU (2020 - 2022)

Stroud was drafted by the Houston Texans with the 2nd pick in 2023.  The two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year hasn’t missed a beat in the NFL, assuming the starting job right out of training camp and leading the Texans to a 5 - 4 record through nine games.  In the past two weeks, Stroud has posted two of the most impressive performances of any rookie QB in NFL history: first, throwing for an absurd 470 yards and five touchdowns in a 39 - 37 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which included a game-winning, 75-yard touchdown drive; and second, his recent upset victory over the Bengals.  So far in his rookie season, Stroud has thrown 318 passes, completing 61.6% with fifteen touchdowns to two interruptions.


Okay, so maybe Stroud has a little ways to go to be definitively considered the greatest OSU QB in NFL history, but let’s face facts: he’s already in the mix.  Sure, Ohio State’s recent history has at least produced some QBs that can compete in the NFL, but not one has dominated the game.  That is, until now.

Stroud is making QB look easy right now, and that’s incredible given the state of the Texans' roster in 2022.  Stroud has taken a team that barely managed to win three games last year to borderline-playoff status.  That’s bonkers for a rookie.  He’s calm, confident, accurate as hell and has plenty of arm strength to threaten the defense anywhere – and he often does.  Stroud has turned afterthoughts like Noah Brown and Tank Dell into household names.  He played himself into the MVP conversation, and while he’s a long way off from becoming the second player besides Jim Brown to win the award as a rookie, the fact that he’s being mentioned at all is a testament to how well he’s played.

Given that no OSU QB has ever, legitimately, been in the MVP conversation, that might be enough to give him the edge over Tomczak.  And really, only Tomczak stands in Stroud’s way.  As wonderful as Fields can be to watch, that 6 - 25 record is hard to get over, especially considering how pedestrian Fields’ passing numbers appear in comparison to Stroud’s.  Whether or not Stroud can take his team deep in the playoffs like Tomczak is yet to be seen, but given the way he’s began his career, it would be crazy to put any ceiling on this kid.  Finally, it appears the OSU QB Curse has been lifted.

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