This past week in the NFL marked a turning point in the 2014 offseason. Right about this time every year – approximately two weeks before the NFL Draft – the Wonderlic Test scores are revealed, and every notable draft pick has their intelligence judged by 12 minutes and 50 multiple choice questions. Love or hate the test itself, the Wonderlic is one of the old guard traditions the NFL hasn’t abandoned in favor of player safety or higher ratings.
Johnny Manziel dominated the week’s headlines with his score of 32, which was tops among the prominent quarterbacks in this year’s draft. The Wonderlic scores of QB’s are usually scrutinized with a much finer-toothed comb, as the position is traditionally thought of as the face of the franchise. However the accuracy of the Wonderlic in its ability to determine a player’s aptitude on the field is inconclusive at best. Russell Wilson scored a 24 out of 50, yet Blaine Gabbert scored a 42. Which QB is better suited to stand at the helm of a NFL offense?
With that in mind, who are the smartest quarterbacks in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history?
Well “Smart” has a varying definition, so some ground rules need to be established. The QB in question had to start for the Buccaneers at some point. Football acumen is clearly a necessary component in this equation, as is academic achievement and post-football professional success. The final piece would have to be cunning, as the QB position requires a fair amount of improvisation. Given the criteria, here are the five smartest QB’s in Buccaneers history:
5. Steve Spurrier: (1976) The Ole’ Ball Coach didn’t always stalk the sidelines wearing a visor and a cross disposition. Spurrier was a First Team All-American QB at the University of Florida, and won the 1966 Heisman Trophy. The 49ers drafted Spurrier with the third overall pick in 1967, but in nine seasons with the team Spurrier could never supplant John Bodie as the starter. In his only season in Tampa Bay, Spurrier was the opening day starter for the 0-14 1976 Bucs, and retired after the season. However Spurrier doesn’t make this list for his time in a helmet. The Ole’ Ball Coach cracks the list for the six SEC conference titles and the 1996 National Championship which keep him company at night. His wile is legendary and his guts are unquestioned.
4. Brian Griese: (2004-2005, 2008) Though his time in Tampa Bay was mostly forgettable, Brian Griese had a solid football career. As the son of a hall of fame Quarterback, Griese had to do something to stand out. So instead of following in his dad’s footsteps and taking a scholarship to Purdue, Griese turned down scholarships from Purdue and Kentucky to walk on at Michigan. If that wasn’t enough for him to make this list, Griese proceeded to beat Ohio State three times in his career and lead the Wolverines to a National Championship in 1997. He won a Super Bowl Ring as the backup, and then successor to, John Elway in Denver, and now has a very successful broadcasting career. Griese is also the founder and board president of a charity which receives substantial donations from Nike and Coors. Clearly he is putting that Michigan education to good use.
3. Trent Dilfer: (1994-1999) One cannot earn a reputation as the ultimate game manger without some serious cranial capacity. No one is going to listen to Trent Dilfer give a dissertation on Astrophysics anytime soon, but the man has a tremendous understanding of the game. Dilfer’s skills never jumped off the page at anyone, but he didn’t make game-changing mistakes. The Fresno State product held the NCAA record for most consecutive passes without an interception (271) for 14 years. Dilfer would parlay that efficiency in to a Lombardi Trophy with the Baltimore Ravens the year after he left Tampa Bay. He now serves as a very well respected NFL commentator and is still widely viewed as the worst QB to win a Super Bowl. But what do you call the worst QB to win a Super Bowl? A Super Bowl Champion – And it’s hard to argue with that logic.
2. Gary Huff: (1977-1978) For those who may not recognize the name, Gary Huff spent two season with the Buccaneers and was under center for the first win in Tampa Bay franchise history. Huff was also an All-American at Florida State where he led the nation in touchdown passes in 1971 and 1972. However Huff makes this list for his post-playing career success. After his NFL career ended Huff worked as a CPA for Tampa Accounting firms. He then got in to coaching at the college and NFL level from 1983-87 when he became the CFO of the Raiders. Huff left that post in 1993 to become the VP of Operations for a Cell phone company – In 1993! Huff is currently a Senior Associate Athletic Director at Florida State and ranks as the smartest businessman on the list.
1. Brad Johnson: (2001-2004) Brad Johnson was never Brett Favre on a football field. He was probably no Ryan Fitzpatrick in a classroom either. However Brad Johnson is quite simply the smartest QB to ever strap on a Buccaneers helmet. Between the 2000 and 2001 season, Johnson was cut by the Redskins in favor of Jeff George. Johnson did have more interceptions than touchdowns in 2000, but he had gone to the Pro Bowl the year prior. Johnson and his agent made the decision to reunite with Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay. Johnson had played for Dungy in Minnesota where he was previously an Assistant. Though Dungy was let go after the 2001 season; Johnson set Bucs single season records for yards, completions, and attempts that year. In 2002 Johnson led Tampa Bay to their first Super Bowl title and earned his second trip to the Pro Bowl. For all his accolades on the field, Johnson takes the No.1 spot on our list because had managed to parlay a marginal college career in to 15+ year as an NFL QB with a Super Bowl ring. It takes a fair amount of intelligence to pull that off, and the choice Johnson made to come to Tampa Bay is clearly one of the smartest decisions in Bucs history.