After quarterbacking a profound dynasty at USC, destroying Oklahoma in the 2004 BCS title game, winning a Heisman Trophy, posting a mediocre rookie season and being benched for an aging veteran (who turned out to still be pretty damn good), Matt Leinart is regarded as a bust or a dud.
But is it fair to say he's a bust?
Like many NFL players, Leinart has taken a while to mature. He was a spoiled little brat early in his career, never sacrificing his legendary college status to establish himself as a professional. Leinart partied hard and practiced light. Instead of studying film and learning to manage an offense, he helped coeds better manage their beer bongs.
After Arizona dumped Leinart in 2009, Gary Kubiak decided to take a chance on the still-young quarterback. Leinart impressed. Kubiak was so enthralled with Leinart he decided to keep him around, signing him to a two-year, $5.5 million deal. Kubiak has a hunch for great QBs. After all, Matt Schaub was just a backup who nobody thought could start in this league when Kubiak brought him over from Atlanta.
According to Kubiak, Leinart has become a professional. He studies film regularly, dedicates himself to learning the game and the offense, and works exceptionally hard. Leinart wants a second chance, and with Matt Schaub going down for the season with a Lisfranc injury, that opportunity has come.
There has been a lot of vitriol from Texans fans this past week, many mourning for a dead season, while others see a playoff victory as impossible. Almost all fans calling radio shows and writing blogs aren't convinced Matt Leinart can get the job done. Some (moronic) fans called for the Texans to sign Vince Young (even though he's under contract) or Brett Favre (even though he's retired and stinks).
Of course, these are the same fans that say Schaub isn't good enough to win a playoff game, and he should be ran out of town.
It is real doom and gloom in Houston right now. Fans have no faith in anything around the Bayou City, especially not a quarterback with such a dismal professional resume. But does the quarterback of this Texans team have to be exceptional?
We aren't talking about Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers going down. Schaub didn't call the plays from the line of scrimmage, and he certainly didn't paint the field with impressive throws. In fact, he has been shockingly inaccurate this season.
The Texans don't win games like the Saints or the Packers. You aren't going to see circa 2009 Texans, winning games with 440 passing and 80 yards rushing while allowing 28 points to the opposition. These Texans depend on the run and their defense to win ballgames.
And that won't change with Leinart.
Leinart is going to be ready for his opportunity, an opportunity to cement himself as a professional and perhaps win a starting job with another team in the future. More importantly, the Texans will be ready. The offensive line, the two-headed monster of Arian Foster and Ben Tate, and the No. 1 defense in the NFL will rally around Leinart. If this team has proven anything this season, it's their resiliency.
A guy named Andre Johnson will be back on the field this weekend as well.
Leinart has what it takes to get the job done and the right coaches in place to make it happen. We saw what he is capable of at USC, and flashes during his rookie season with the Cardinals. We know he is hungry. If he buys in, he could find himself quarterbacking another historic team.
All he needs is the fans behind him. Jump on board, Houston.