To understand the condition that is The Ghost of Vince Young’s Past, one only has to go back to the 2005 National Championship Game. The team that was named by some in the media as the best college football team of my lifetime, the USC Trojans, lost the game against the Texas Longhorns, led by The Immortal Vince Young.
In that game, Young became legend, leaving Leinart bitter afterward and saying that he felt they (USC) were still the better team, despite seeing Young and Company win a game USC had more than enough chances to put away. Regardless, things were supposed to be good for Leinart after the game. He’d go to the league, make his mark, and become one of the best young QBs in the game. For reasons that are wide-ranging, he has yet to do so.
The man sat behind Kurt Warner for three years, essentially being afforded the opportunity to learn from one of the best quarterbacks of the last ten years. Sure, Leinart was brought in with the intention to start, but if you’re gonna go to the sideline, you’re going because Warner is starting, so there’s no shame in that. Warner leads, Leinart holds the clipboard, and once Warner decides to charge it to the game and retire, Leinart would be ready to go. The only issue with that is the season is almost here, and people still question whether Leinart wants to be good, whether he can be good, and if the focus is there for him to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
That’s the thing that makes this so maddening. The man won the Heisman in college, but it’s not like he’s a Heisman-winning quarterback that we knew wouldn’t be worth a damn in the pros. Leinart has legitimate talent and has shown flashes of what fans are expecting him to be. When he was starter a few years ago, he showed promise in the “They were who We Thought They Were” Monday Night Football Game, against the Chicago Bears, as well as strong performances against NFC West foes the Rams and the Niners. Contrary to what anyone believes, the NFC West is up for grabs, and, next to Matt Hassleback (assuming Hassleback stays healthy), he is the best QB in their division. It may not be saying the most, but it’s a start for the man who has the responsibility of leading the Cardinals to their third straight division title.
Does Leinart have what it takes? When my boys and I talk about it, it’s a dead-split. Ed and I think he does, while B-Lew and Dwayne say forget it. It may not be the time to declare “now or never” for the man, but as long as his college counterpart is doing his part to lead, it’s a question that will continue to be asked, a la what we used to see with Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf (in the beginning, y’all), LeBron and Carmelo, or any other situation where two players of similar traits or positions where drafted in the same year.
Honestly, the man just needs to go back to having fun again. Sure, the NFL is a job, but aren’t you supposed to enjoy and have fun doing what you do? At least, that’s the goal. Here’s hoping the maddening tale of Matt Leinart is solved this season.
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