Last evening, America got to witness a familiar sight. A blast from the past. Matt Leinart and Vince Young were once again competing on the football field. Different times with much different personnel, but a very similar result. Now I realize it was just a preseason game, and it is hard to judge much from these “pretend” games as many like to call them. But Young once again demonstrated why he has, and will most likely continue to be, the better pro quarterback than Leinart.
I will admit, I, along with most of the rest of the America (outside of Texas), was all about the Matt Leinart and the USC bandwagon 5 years ago. I figured there was no way that Vince Young, and a very strong Longhorns team could beat the seemingly “professional” (little did we know) looking team out of USC. The Trojans were invincible. Outside of a minor hiccup against Notre Dame (USC still won the game), there never appeared to even be a chink in the Trojan armor. I was very surprised when Young finished 2nd in the Heisman Voting that year ahead of Matt Leinart. But who really cared? Leinart was projected to be the better pro QB by the Mel Kiper’s of the world and was on his way to a second consecutive National Title. Or so we thought…
Welcome to the 2005 BCS National Championship. Seemingly a home affair for the heavily favored Trojans in Pasadena. USC was leading late in the game and Matt Leinart was putting up another strong performance. But the real story of the game was the amazing play of Vince Young. The guy accounted for 467 total yards of offense, which is a mark that has never been touched by another player in a BCS National Championship game. Not to mention he led his team to 41 points against a very tough USC defense. How didn’t this guy win the Heisman Trophy, I, and many other people wondered? Either way, late in the 4th, Young scampered into the end zone past a diving Frostee Rucker to secure the stunning upset victory for Texas. It was the end of a Trojan dynasty. And little did we know, not only was this the beginning of the end for the program, but it was also the end of Matt Leinart as we knew it.
In 3 years as the Trojan starter, Leinart threw for over 30 TDs and less than 10 INTs each year. He also completed over 63% of his passes, won a National Title, and won a Heisman Trophy. Vince Young also was a starter at Texas for 3 seasons. In his first 2 years as the starter, he threw for 18 TDs and 18 INTs. Very modest numbers to say the least. But he was still finding ways to lead the Longhorns to victories. Do realize that he rushed for a combined 2,074 yards in these first 2 years as the starter as well. He was not your prototypical NFL pocket assassin. As a senior though, his game began to gel on all cylinders. He threw for 26 TDs and only 10 INTs. He also rushed for 1,050 yards and 12 TDs. The man was doing it all. Looking reminiscent of Michael Vick at Virginia Tech. Well the BCS National Championship Game marked the end of an era for Leinart. And apparently the beginning of a new era for Vince Young.
Come April 29th, 2006, NFL Draft Day. Mel Kiper had been stressing for months what a great class that was coming out. Guys like Reggie Bush, Mario Williams, AJ Hawk, and how there were 2 can’t miss QB prospects. The draft started out with a major debate as the Texans took defensive end Mario Williams rather than “Heisman Trophy” winner Reggie Bush (appears to have been the right decision now). Following this, Vince Young was the 3rd overall selection, while Matt Leinart fell to 10th overall. I was in disbelief. Leinart had the look of a big time NFL quarterback and had all the tools. He was 6 foot 5, had a strong-arm, a pocket presence, and had that Tom Brady like moxy, or so it seemed. Vince Young reminded me of Michael Vick. And guys like Michael Vick could get teams victories in the League, but guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were the pocket guys that could bring teams Super Bowls. Sure Vince Young would be fun to watch I thought, but Leinart would be the one hoisting up the Lombardi Trophy in a February within the next few years. Boy was I wrong.
Now I will admit that neither of these guys have panned out to be superstars. But it appears Young just needed some time to adjust to the pro game and is slowly but surely becoming a solid NFL quarterback. Leinart on the other hand, not so much. For Leinart’s career, he has played in 29 total games over a 4 year stretch, throwing 14 TDs and 20 INTs. His passer rating has been a very subpar 70.8. Young on the other hand has played in 45 games, throwing for 32 TDs and 39 INTs. His passer rating has been an also subpar 72.3. But he is a guy on the rise. A guy who brought Tennessee back from the dead last season. Leinart on the other hand has not shown any signs of improvement.
Will Young continue to soar into a star in this League while Leinart’s career continues to fizzle out and end in the near future? Or will these guys continue to compete for many more years to come in the NFL?
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.