This post is sponsored by NCAA Football 2011 and is part of a week-long series that will further introduce Utah football.
The greatness of a team can only be achieved through the success of its players. For Utah, their best seasons could not have happened if it weren't for the special collection of talent the program has produced.
Then there are players who might not have offered up great seasons, but nevertheless were great themselves. Scott Mitchell was a fantastic quarterback at the U - but the accomplishments of the program during his time here wasn't all that great. He's probably best remembered for his 1988 Holy War performance, where the Utes thoroughly dismantled the stunned Cougars.
Unfortunately, there were no conference championships or bowl games during his stretch as Utah's quarterback. It doesn't mean, though, he was any less of a great player. Mitchell just didn't have the coaching staff and supporting cast to achieve greatness - especially on the defensive end.
So each player's role is different. It wouldn't be fair to limit one's success based on the overall performance of the program. If that were the case, Lance Rice would be considered one of the best quarterbacks in Utah football history for his 2001 performance.
With all that considered, I've probably got to go with Brian Johnson. Which is a tough decision, because the man he replaced (Alex Smith) did it first and better here at Utah. Of course, that's no knock against Johnson. It's just reality. Smith's stats and overall accomplishments are something you won't see often here. Especially being drafted number one overall. But it isn't necessarily all about ability on the field. Johnson gets the edge not because he's a better quarterback (this isn't about our greatest Utes). No, he gets the edge similar to how 2008's Utah team has the edge over their 2004 counterparts in my eyes. There is just too many good memories to not have it be my choice as favorite.
Especially when you consider his performances in the Holy War and Sugar Bowl. Then, of course, there was the whole leading Utah back from the brink twice. Those games, those moments, are ones I'll be talking about for years to come. They were certainly magical and I don't want to make it sound like I'm slighting Smith here, because I'm not. It's just Smith's success, collectivity, kind of blurs together. Outside of 2003 and maybe the Fiesta Bowl, it's hard to find a collection of games that stand out from one another. 2008 had that and more.
It also doesn't hurt that Johnson returned to Utah and is now on the coaching staff. Though Smith certainly was put in a better post-college career situation when he was drafted by the Niners.
So overall, they were both fantastic quarterbacks. I'll readily admit Smith was the better player. But Johnson is my favorite because he created the better memories.
Who's your favorite Ute?