Steve Smith: the forgotten link in the chain of great QBs
Maybe it is because his last name is Smith or maybe it is because he hails from a place called Grand Blanc. Whatever the reason, Steve Smith (starting QB from 1981-1983) is often completely overlooked in discussions about great Michigan quaterbacks of the modern era despite the fact that he had a rather stellar career. U of M was 26-10 during his three years as a starter and he led the Wolverines to a Rose Bowl berth (Big 10 Championship), a Sugar Bowl, and a Bluebonnet Bowl.
Smith was Bo's last great "running-offense" oriented QB. By 1984, when Jim Harbaugh was the starting QB, Bo's offense had been re-tooled to a more modern NFL-style passing offense as opposed to his old option-style offense that he ran with Rick Leach as his starter. In fact, with the new offense, Harbaugh led the nation in passing efficiency in 1985. However, Smith operated under a much different system. Although he was a decent passer, Smith was also employed as a primary ball carrier as is evidenced by the fact that that he is #24 on Michigan's career rushing yardage leaders.
Although Smith is not widely hailed as one of Michigan's elite quarterbacks, his statistics compare favorably with those of the greatest U of M QB (and my favorite player) of all-time Rick Leach. As you will certainly recall, Leach was a 4-year starter from 1975-1978. Leach led Michigan to three consecutive Big Ten Championships and, consequently, to three consecutive Rose Bowl Game appearances as well as an Orange Bowl game appearance. U of M was an astounding 38-8-2 during Leach's four years as a starter.
Here are the passing statistics for the two:
Leach: 250/537 46.6% 4,284 yds. 48 tds. 35 int.
Smith 324/648 50.0% 4,860 yds. 42 tds. 32 int.
The passing statistics are fairly close. Smith stacks up well. Now for the rushing statistics:
Leach: 487 att. 2,176 yds. 4.5 yds./att. 34 tds.
Smith: 329 att. 1,736 yds. 5.3 yds./att. 31 tds.
Again, Smith's statistics hold up well in a comparison against those of Rick "The Peach" Leach. The bottom line is that Smith deserves to be mentioned among the elite U of M quarterbacks of the modern era. Most conversations about U of M being "Quarterback U" start with Jim Harbaugh and proceed with the litany of NFL bound QBs including Elvis Grbac, Todd Collins, Scott Dreisbach, Brian Griese, Tom Brady, Drew Henson and John Navarre. Then some old school traditionalists throw in Rick Leach's name for his stand-out accomplishments and John Wangler for delivering Bo his first Rose Bowl win. Steve Smith earned the right to have his name mentioned in that conversation as well. Go Blue!
Labels: Rick Leach