Desmond Ridder's record at Cincinnati: Is there a correlation between college wins and NFL success?

Desmond Ridder’s record at Cincinnati: Is there a correlation between college wins and NFL success?

There’s one word that NFL evaluators come up with often for Desmond Ridder: winner.

He helped guide Cincinnati to unprecedented success during his four years as the team’s quarterback. In his final two years, the Bearcats lost just two games total, with both coming in bowl games and the second coming to Alabama in the College Football Playoff. Cincinnati was the first non-Power 5 to reach the CFP.

Cincinnati was ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 each season Ridder was the starter. The Bearcats had never been ranked for four consecutive years previously.

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Winning in college isn’t everything, however, even if it does add allure to the player who was responsible for a great deal of the success. How well do collegiate QB wins translate to NFL success? The Sporting News takes a look.

Desmond Ridder’s record at Cincinnati

Ridder cemented himself in the Cincinnati record book during his four seasons at the school. He finished his career with a 44-6 record. He was a perfect 26-0 at home. He set school records with 87 touchdown passes, 12,281 total yards and 113 total touchdowns. His 10,239 passing yards are second in school history.

Ridder was the starter from the beginning of his collegiate career; he led the Bearcats to a 26-17 victory over UCLA in Week 1 of the 2018 season. He didn’t pick up his first collegiate loss until the seventh game of that season.

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With Ridder in charge of the offense, Cincinnati posted double-digit win totals in all but the COVID-19-affected 2020 season.

year WL
2018 11-2
2019 11-3
2020 9-1
2021 13-1

All-time FBS wins

Translating quarterback wins in college to the NFL has many challenges. The first problem is a simple one: the NCAA doesn’t track quarterback wins.

While there are lists of wins by FBS quarterbacks, they are not extensive and they rarely go past the top five or six.

There are still records out there, however, and Ridder ranks among the best. Late in the 2021 season, he moved past Georgia’s David Greene and TCU’s Andy Dalton into third place all time. The top six, per Cincinnati’s media guide for the Cotton Bowl.

Player Team WL
Kellen Moore Boise State 50-3
Colt McCoy Texas 45-8
Desmond Ridder Cincinnati 44-6
Andy Dalton UCT 42-7
David Greene georgia 42-10
Peyton Manning Tennessee 39-6

The list is quite a mixed bag. It contains one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Manning. It also includes Dalton, who guided the Bengals to the playoffs multiple times in the early 2010s. McCoy has carved out a solid NFL career as a backup. Moore appeared in three games for the Cowboys in 2015 but was otherwise a depth and practice squad quarterback. Greene was drafted in the third round by the Seahawks in 2005 but never appeared in a game.

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Though it isn’t official, Sports Reference’s Play Index can display the number of wins by team when a certain player attempted at least 10 passes in a game, dating to 2000. The big takeaway from the list: College wins are by no means an indicator of future success.

Based on the index’s results, 58 players have posted at least 30 team wins since 2000. Of that group, just six became Pro Bowlers.

Quarterback Team College wins Pro Bowls
Andy Dalton UCT 41 3
Philip Rivers NC State 33 8
Tyrod Taylor Virginia Tech 32 1
Andrew Luck Stanford 31 4
Deshaun Watson Clemson 31 3
Russell Wilson NC State/Wisconsin 30 9

And just two quarterbacks on Sports Reference’s list have led a team to a Super Bowl: Wilson and Colin Kaepernick (32 wins at Nevada). Wilson is the only one to collect a ring.

This is not to say that a lot of wins in college is detrimental to a quarterback’s NFL success. But longevity at a school is crucial to QBs racking up wins, and often that means that they are not in high demand in the draft.

Quarterbacks have to spend at least three years as a starter, if not four, to reach the top of the lists. If a player stays with a team for four years, that would mean they stayed in school not at least one draft for which they were eligible, which would indicate that their NFL prospects were viewed as low.

That isn’t entirely the case with Ridder. He chose to return to Cincinnati for his senior year. Yahoo Sports reported that he had been told he was projected to be drafted in the fourth to sixth rounds in 2021.

He will be rewarded for his decision to come back. He improved his draft stock and is now expected to be taken late in the first round or early in the second round. The Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer, in his seven-round mock draft, projects Ridder to go 20th overall to the Steelers.

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