Friday, August 7, 2009

Tim Tebow 2009 Vs Matt Leinart 2005

The headline on the front of Yahoo! Sports was gently mocked, but Jason Cole's on-site reporting is a great read, particularly if you want a "national" view of Tebow and Florida.

The gist: Repeating as national champ is brutal. Cole revisits Oklahoma's back-to-back champs in the mid-1970s and Nebraska's back-to-back champs in the mid-1990s.

Another gist: This is going to be a hell of a good team. The expectation SHOULD be 14-0, and beyond: This team has the potential -- for now only the potential -- to be an all-time great team.

Here is my cautionary tale, and I'll hammer it all season: Let's all consider how people were talking in August 2005 about USC. Heck, how they were talking about USC throughout 2005...

...Right up until the calendar flipped to 2006 and USC's "all-time" aspirations imploded. Now most fans remember those great USC teams for losing to Texas rather than being a champion.

As the crazy coverage of Tim Tebow continues this fall, remember back to August 2005, when we were all ready to call Matt Leinart the Greatest College QB of All Time.

And, at the time, it seemed totally justified: He was coming off a title season (USC's 2nd straight, if you count the AP title in '03) and a Heisman year. (He was 6th in Heisman voting in '03.)

Leinart even had the off-field mojo -- a Bizzaro Tebow. Leinart was admired for being a shallow, pretty-boy Hollywood partier. He was the perfect symbol for the fake economic bubble.

Everyone was saying: Well, Leinart is already one of the top QBs of all time. Just one more title... just one more Heisman... and, wow, he'd be the BEST. (Sound familiar?)

And what's scary is how assumed away that title and that Heisman were. Of COURSE USC was going to win another title. And, OK, maybe Leinart won't win a Heisman; Reggie Bush will. Leinart will be No. 2. Good enough.

We all know how that ended: USC didn't win the title. Matt Leinart didn't win the Heisman.

In fact, not only did Leinart not come out of that season considered the greatest QB ever, he was leap-frogged on the "all-time college QB" scale by Vince Young.

Beyond the back-to-back title or unbeaten season -- if you want to think about the history -- Tim Tebow is Leinart 2.0: Just one more title... just one more Heisman... an idealized off-field story...

The stakes are very clear: If Tebow wins another title -- presumably an unbeaten season -- and wins another Heisman, he will be considered the greatest college QB -- perhaps player -- ever.

And if he doesn't? Well, we still view Matt Leinart as a Top 5 all-time college QB. But no one ever talks about him being the greatest ever anymore.

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