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Duke Quarterbacks Have Generally Had A Spotty History In The NFL

With one shining exception

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NFL: NFL Draft
Apr 25, 2019; Nashville, TN, USA; Daniel Jones (Duke) is selected as the number six overall pick to the New York Giants in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft in Downtown Nashville.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

With the sixth pick of the 2019 NFL draft, the New York Giants select . . .We all know what happened next. The Giants picked Duke quarterback Daniel Jones, a selection met with reactions ranging from mild consternation to Def-Con-4.

Should the Giants have waited until later in the first round for Jones? The second round? Until the end of time?

Surely, that quarterback from Ohio State we’ve heard of has to be better than that quarterback from Duke that we haven’t heard of.

More nuanced observers noted that the Ohio State quarterback was throwing to Ohio State receivers and was protected by Ohio State blockers.

Truth be told, Duke hasn’t exactly been in the business of producing NFL stars, not recently anyway. Those win-less seasons were win-less on merit. Offensive guard Ed Newman was the last Duke alum to make the Pro Bowl and that was back in 1984.

Double for quarterback. Duke has had way more than its share of great college quarterbacks who did not become great pro quarterbacks.

Prior to Jones, Duke has sent a dozen quarterbacks to the NFL (and AFL).

That’s a pretty generous count. I’m including Ace Parker, who spent some of his NFL career as a single-wing tailback. But he was his team’s primary passer. Steve Slayden played in three NFL games but without a single pass attempt or rush. Ben Bennett played as a replacement player in 1987. Bob Broadhead was seven-for-25 for the 1960 Buffalo Bills. Sean Renfree attempted seven passes for the Atlanta Falcons, Scotty Glacken 15 for the Denver Broncos, Cliff Lewis 69 for the Cleveland Browns. Leo Hart might have been the best quarterback in Duke history and he threw 17 NFL passes. Thad Lewis got shots with eight different NFL teams, none of whom saw him as a long-term answer. Al Woodall was Joe Namath’s backup. Anthony Dilweg served the same function for Don Majkowski, although Dilweg was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week once in 1990, when Majkowski was out injured.

There were some exceptions. Parker led the NFL with 865 passing yards in 1938. He was playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Not a misprint. Parker was even better two years later when he passed for 817 yards, rushed for 306 yards and led the league with six interceptions and 19 PATS.

Parker was named NFL MVP for 1940.

Duke’s greatest NFL success story was Christian Adolph Jurgensen, better known as Sonny. Ironically, Jurgensen was not a great college quarterback. Injuries held him back, as did the conservative offensive philosophy of Bill Murray.

Jurgensen threw for 380 yards as a senior, including a career-high 121 yards against Navy.

But Parker was an assistant coach on that team and he made sure his NFL friends knew about Jurgensen’s powerful right arm. The Philadelphia Eagles picked Jurgensen in the fourth round--53 overall-and the rest was history.

Jurgensen spent four seasons backing up Norm Van Brocklin but passed for 3,723 yards in 1961. The Eagles unwisely traded him to Washington for the younger Norm Snead. Jurgensen became a perennial all-star at Washington, a pudgy, beer-bellied bomb thrower. He was the NFL’s leading passer when he retired after the 1974 season, with 32,224 passing yards and 255 TD passes. As much as anyone, Jurgensen was responsible for the NFL’s transformation from a running league to a passing league.

Two successes and a bunch of not successes.

And then there was Dave Brown. And that’s Part II.

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