In last night's Tennessee Titans-Arizona Cardinals game, Matt Leinart went 4-for-6, threw for 28 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, and grabbed a 77.1 passer rating as Arizona's starting quarterback.
After several seasons of battling for the starting QB job on and off, Leinart appears to be the Cardinals' starter for the time being. Matt Leinart, Heisman trophy winner, winner of TWO national championships as the starter at USC, only NOW becoming a season-long starter?
Yes, it's true.
One of the elite college quarterbacks of his era, warming the bench for four years, and then achieving sub-par numbers. People may not like to admit, but this could be the future of another elite quarterback, one of the greatest EVER: Tim Tebow. Yes, as much as Florida Gators fans don't want to admit it, Tim Tebow is more similar to Matt Leinart than most believe. There are a few major reasons why:
Stellar College Careers
Of course, this one is obvious. As we know, Matt Leinart won the Heisman, as did Tim Tebow. Matt Leinart led the USC Trojans to two national championships and almost a third, as well as 34 straight wins (Reggie Bush scandals aside), and Tim Tebow led the Florida Gators to a national championship and came close to a second. They too dominated the NCAA during Tebow's reign. Both were regarded as great college quarterbacks with potential in the NFL. They were both the elite.
Although not vital to the game of football itself, its a worthwhile comparison.
Both Leinart and Tebow were well-liked, at least by their fan-bases. Leinart was (and is) your typical California beach boy. Laid back, fun to hang out with, not too intense.
Tebow is your good Christian boy, spending his days doing charity work and writing Bible verses on his eye black. While that sort of religiosity is maligned by some, he was overall seen as a genuine nice guy, a "giver" if you will. Both Leinart and Tebow both had/have a personal dimension that connects them to fans.
Questions of NFL Readiness
Now we get to the real heart of the problem. Leinart and Tebow were both questioned about their ability to compete in the NFL around the time their respective drafts approached (Leinart, 2006, and Tebow, 2010), and partially for the same reason: their throwing motion. Leinart was criticized, still to this day, for his long, slow release, his inability to get rid of the ball in the face of the pass rush.
Leinart was clearly let off the hook by having Reggie Bush on the field with him at USC, so naturally there was question of his ability to make plays in the NFL.
Tebow was criticized (again, today as well) for his throwing motion, this time for not only a sluggish release, but his almost side-arm characteristic, which yielded a dangerously low release point. Many have questioned Tebow's ability to make plays in the NFL as well, where it's much easier for a top-notch cornerback to pick off a low-thrown pass. Questions have remained for both these QB's as they entered the NFL.
In the end, nothing is guaranteed. Leinart and Tebow may both surprise us and become elite quarterbacks. Or Tebow may become elite in a few years and Leinart will suffer in Arizona. Who knows? But in the end, the Tebow fans need to take caution in their lofty predictions until he can prove first-round worth.