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Brady Quinn or Matt Leinart: Who Was Better in College?

Erin McLaughlinSenior Analyst IIJune 27, 2009

After having stellar careers in college, Brady Quinn and Matt Leinart have both found out that nothing is given to you in the NFL. In Arizona, Leinart has had a chance to start and will get another one. However, he is currently backing up a possible future Hall of Famer.

In Cleveland, Quinn hasn't had a chance to be a starter yet. He has shown some promise in the preseason and the little action he has got in the regular season. Most do expect him to take over as the starter this year but he will have to fight for it with Derek Anderson.

How both of their NFL careers turn out is still a long way from being determined. Regardless of that, they were both great in college and that can never be taken away no matter what.

Looking at their college careers, they did rival each other naturally since Quinn played for Notre Dame and Leinart played for USC. USC has won seven straight so the simple argument would be to say Leinart was better based on that. But if you know anything about football you know it isn't quite that easy.

USC certainly has had the better team by far in recent years. Therefore, can you really say that Leinart is automatically better if his team was clearly superior? The answer is clearly no.

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Looking back at their epic showdown in 2005, I think both Trojan and Irish fans would agree that that was a great game in the history of the rivalry. It did hurt that USC won but still it was a great game.

Both Quinn and Leinart performed brilliantly in that game. Quinn put his team up by three points with less than two minutes to go. Then Leinart came back with a last second play in which a controversial no call decided the game. Leinart was illegally pushed into the end zone by Reggie Bush.

In all fairness, you can't fault Bush for that and any player for any team would do the same thing. It is up to referee to call it. So I can't fault Bush at all.

After that game the debate about Leinart or Quinn was an interesting one. USC fans would say that they won the game and Leinart had a huge conversion on 4th and 9 in the last drive.

Notre Dame fans would counter that Quinn performed against a much tougher defense. Yet he still went wire to wire with Leinart.

Determining who was better really cannot be determined by one game. You really have to look at their whole entire career.

Looking at Leinart, he was really good right away and only got better in time. USC was 36-2 with him at quarterback and he was a huge reason why.

He beat out Matt Cassel for the starting job and we found out last year that Cassel is a damn good quarterback. I understand that is was a close competition and one of the factors, but not the determining factor, was that Leinart would be around for three years and Cassel would only be there for two.

Looking at Quinn, he took a couple of years to become a great quarterback. His win-loss record wasn't as good. However, the team around him was nowhere near the team Leinart had around him.

Don't get me wrong, I love Darius Walker but I would take Reggie Bush and LenDale White any day. USC also had a much better offensive line. Looking at their primary receivers with Dwayne Jarrett and Jeff Samardijiza, that is a tough one and probably too close to call. USC's defense was much better and it really was no comparison.

Based on all that, Leinart clearly had much more to work with than Quinn did. So although Leinart did win a Heisman and a National Championship, I would still take Quinn if I had my choice of the two.

It is a hard one because they are both great leaders on and off the field. However, the reason I would choose Quinn really comes down to a couple of factors that I admit are pure speculation.

I have no doubt that if Brady Quinn played for USC that his numbers and record would have been about the same as Leinart's and USC still wins a National Championship.

I am not sure that Matt Leinart could have had the same success in South Bend as Quinn did. I am not saying he wouldn't have, just that it is hard to determine what he would have done with less to work with.

Another factor is what would have happened if either guy were to go down. I have no doubt that USC had enough to rally around Matt Cassel and continue without missing much of a beat.

If Quinn would have gone down at any time for Notre Dame, it would have been over. Then team would have been lucky to win another game. As a domer, it hurts to say that but it is the reality.

In no way is that a shot at Matt Leinart. The reality is that both guys did a great job and got the most out of the talent they had. But at the end of the day, I know Quinn can get it done with less to work with.

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