When you’re talking about the greatest quarterbacks in Syracuse football history, three names stand out above the rest: Donovan McNabb, Don McPherson, and Marvin Graves. The talent, production, and team success each of those three achieved has never been matched by any other quarterbacks in program history.
But finding that third quarterback to complete Syracuse’s quarterback Mt. Rushmore gets a little trickier. Do you go with Wilmeth Sidat-Singh, the two-sport star who was also a barrier-breaker at the position as one of the first African-Americans to star at the position in college football in the 1930s? Sidat-Singh’s production obviously can’t match McNabb, McPherson, or Graves, or even some of the players who have followed, simply because the sport was just so different at the time.
Ryan Nassib is another possible choice to place up on Syracuse’s QB Mt. Rushmore. I’ve written in the past about how undervalued I think Nassib tends to be; he put up some of the most impressive numbers of any signal caller in Syracuse history, and his senior year may very well be the single best season any Syracuse quarterback has ever had, from a statistical standpoint.
Todd Philcox followed McPherson and only started for a single year, but he put up strong numbers and went on to play in the NFL. Bill Hurley is another player whose numbers suffer by comparison from playing in a vastly different era, even if it was just the late ’70s. Still, it’s hard to imagine putting a guy with a career 49% completion rate on any quarterback Mt. Rushmore.
And that brings us to Eric Dungey. Though he’s yet to finish an entire season for the Orange, Dungey already ranks among the elite passers in Syracuse history as far as numbers go. The 6-foot-3 junior, heading into his third year as a starter, was on pace to break just about every single season record in the books for the Orange last year. At the time he was hurt against Clemson, he was among the leading passers in the nation.
Through his two seasons, he’s thrown for 3,977 yards, completing 63.1% of his attempts, with 26 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. He’s also rushed for 644 yards and 11 more scores, all while playing in just 17 games thus far (including a couple games that were shortened by injury, skewing the numbers a bit). Statistically, he’s on pace to shatter just about every record at Syracuse if he can stay healthy. He’s already 8th in career passing yards, despite his limited action, and needs just only about 5,200 yards in his final two years to eclipse Nassib’s career mark of 9,190 yards.
And if ever there was an offense in which to blow that record out of the water, it’s the Dino Babers offense.
Dungey’s certainly got the talent and intangibles to join the ranks of the all-time greats at Syracuse. Now, I mentioned above that McPherson, Graves, and McNabb could each check off “team success” as parts of the reason they stand above the rest. Between the three of them, the combined record for Syracuse’s football teams was 89-35-4. In Dungey’s first two seasons, the combined team record is just 7-17.
Obviously, that’s not through any fault of his, or at least not his alone. The quarterback, as the saying goes, gets too much credit for the wins, and equally too much credit for the losses. It’s the ultimate team sport, where no one player can make that much of a difference. Well, except for Bo Jackson in Tecmo.
It’ll be interesting to watch how the season plays out, as Dungey faces one of the most brutal schedules any Syracuse team has ever had to take on. Fighting to a bowl game would be a great accomplishment against what’s arguably the hardest schedule in the nation this year, and that would clear the path for Dungey to have one hell of a senior season that – again, if he stays healthy and the team develops the way we all hope they can develop – could see him as a dark horse Heisman candidate.
At the end of the day, deciding on any sports “Mt. Rushmore” is a pretty fruitless task, since it’s usually based on personal opinions and different players are shaped by their eras, their offenses, the talent surrounding them, and so on. But if Eric Dungey can stay healthy, I don’t think there’s any question he can make an awfully strong argument for that fourth spot on Syracuse’s quarterback Mt. Rushmore this season.