Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tim Tebow vs. Matt Leinart

If you watched even a smidgen of last night's Cardinals-Titans game, you saw how woeful Arizona's offense is in the post-Warner era.

Here is my question: For all the complaints about Tim Tebow's NFL potential or his performance all of 3 months and 1 preseason game into his NFL career, how about a moment to note how atrociously, judgment-erodingly wrong the NFL draftniks were about Matt Leinart, who almost all rated as "NFL prototype" and "can't-miss." Certainly, Leinart didn't get graded as a prospect as severely as Tebow was. The draftniks swooned.

And yet, five years in, Leinart is terrible. Maybe it's the team; maybe it's the lack of development help; maybe it's him. But the fact is: The draft "experts" couldn't have been more wrong. And, given what we see out of Leinart, I'll take Tim Tebow's prospects 5 years from now over where Leinart is now.

After 1 or (more likely) 2 or (less likely) 3 seasons as an understudy to Kyle Orton, Tebow may or may not turn into fellow longtime-understudy Aaron Rodgers -- maybe Tebow will simply be a serviceable starter, like Alex Smith or Vince Young.

But he certainly won't be -- can't be -- as bad as Leinart.

Ironically, Leinart was displaced as college football's best QB of the decade by Tim Tebow.


  1. Among all of Tebow's intangibles, his most important is his drive to win. Leinart's never really had that. Even in that legendary USC-ND game, Leinart had to ask Reggie Bush if he thought they should go for that last play. I can't imagine Tebow ever having to ask a teammate whether or not to go for a play that could win them the game in the final seconds.

    (Although I still wouldn't rule out Leinart eventually being successful in the NFL. He did nothing to distinguish himself at USC until his Junior year, when he barely beat Matt Cassel to become the starter. Nobody predicted he'd have the kind of success that he ultimately had. Maybe if he got back together w/Pete Carroll, he'd improve like Mike Williams is improving.)

  2. Um, your memory of the "draftniks" take on Leinart is a little hazy. After the 2004 season, his junior year where he won the Heisman, Leinart was seen as a "can't miss" pro prospect and probably would have been taken #1 overall had he left. Unfortunately for him, Leinart decided to stay for his senior year. That year he was exposed for having a weak arm and his draft stock plummeted dramatically. By the time of the combine, Leinart was looked at as a late-first round, early second round pick. Or, in other words, the same range as Tebow.

    Look, I know you're really, really invested in Tebow (kind of to a frightening degree) and are particularly hopeful to prove all his doubters wrong. And it may indeed happen if he's given enough time to develop. And Leinart is undoubtedly a bust at the pro level, the Cardinals don't want to play him, they're kind of stuck with it. Adding to his physical limitations, Leinart had the rep as a party boy his first few seasons, enjoyed the life of a pro rather than the work required (something Tebow does not suffer from). But trying to use Leinart as proof the "draft experts" don't know what they're talking about is misplaced and a little bit dishonest (intellectually). By the time he went pro, Leinart wasn't projected as a franchise QB and has shown he'll never become one.

  3. "By the time of the combine, Leinart was looked at as a late-first round, early second round pick. Or, in other words, the same range as Tebow."

    "By the time he went pro, Leinart wasn't projected as a franchise QB"

    Based on the quick search I did on this, it looks like Dan's memory about this might be better than yours (as it should be since Dan is a sports writer). Several renowned 'experts' thought Leinart would go before 10th in 2006, despite his having a weak arm & legs that don't bend:

    Weeks before the Draft, Mel Kiper projected Leinart to go #3:

    In 1/06, Kiper predicted Leinart would go 2nd, after Bush:

    Days before the Draft, both Peter King & Dr Z at SI predicted Leinart at #3:

    Days before the Draft, Don Banks at SI predicted Leinart to go to the Raiders at #7:

    Days before the draft, Rick Gosselin predicted Leinart would go at #10 & quoted an anonymous NFL guy as saying Leinart 'may be the most NFL-ready quarterback to hit a draft board since Peyton Manning in 1998.'

    Days before the Draft, none of the draftniks at USA Today chose Leinart to go later than 9th-most thought he'd go by #7:

    After the draft, ESPN said the Cardinals getting Leinart at #10 was a 'great value':

    After the draft, walterfootball.com called Leinart 'far and beyond the best quarterback in the 2006 class':

    From Wikipedia:
    "Leinart was considered one of the top prospects in the 2006 NFL Draft class. Standing 6'5" (1.96 m) and weighing 225 pounds (100 kg) and a left-handed thrower, he was considered the prototypical NFL quarterback in terms of size but with a weak arm."

    Contrast that w/Tim: many draftniks were still thinking Tim would be a 3rd-rounder (& better suited to playing another position) as late as Feb/early March of this year. I saw Todd McShay in January state emphatically that Tebow would never be a starting QB & would have to play another position. McShay & Kiper called Tim a 4th Round Talent who would go in the 3rd Round. As the Draft got closer, they amended that to his being a 3rd Round talent who someone could 'reach' for in the 2nd Round. Charlie Casserly predicted that Tebow would be drafted in the 4th Round.

    In Feb, Mike Mayock said that someone could 'take a chance' on Tim & he could go 'as high' as the 2nd Round.

    Most draftniks only started coming around to the idea that Tebow could actually be a late-1st or early-2nd round draft pick in March of this year & even then, they usually called it a 'reach'. In fact, most 'experts' still think JM getting Tebow at #25 was a reach. In a 3/22 post about this, Dan said this:

    'I continue to find it interesting that people think it's some kind of reach that Tebow will go at the back of Round 1 or the start of Round 2. That's exactly where I've said he'll go, for months.'

    Based on the archives I found, many of the most famous draftniks around were wrong about Leinart in 2006 & until less than 2 months before this year's Draft, many-possibly most-of them were still wrong about where Tim would go. Leinart's sorry career is more evidence that most draft 'experts' don't know what they're talking about (Mayock being one of the few exceptions imho), which is the point that Dan was making.

  4. Btw, if my above comment came across as rude, that was unintentional.

  5. No, I didn't take that as rude, and I stand somewhat corrected. There are two separate issues here (1) what the draft "experts" thought of Leinart and (2) how they projected Tebow. As far as the first goes, obviously my memory was a little "hazy" as well, I was sure I remember Leinart slipping considerably his senior year because shortcomings in his game became apparent. But clearly I remember less about Leinart's draft position than I thought I did. And his career has unquestionably been a bust.

    As a side note, this is generally true of ALL prospects. The thinking goes that if you are projected highly as a junior you should go, because all the scouts will do your next year is dissect you looking for reasons to lower your value. Pro teams are always in love with the new, whose faults have been masked/overlooked. A good test of this hypothesis is Jake Locker this year. A number of draft/scouting services projected him s the #1 last year (yes, over Bradford) had he gone out. And he's currently projected as the #1 for next year's draft. It will be interesting to see how he ends up.

    As to the second point about Tebow, it is hard to say where he ought to have been drafted. No one would, I believe, argue that Tebow is going to need a season or more to develop and work on his mechanics, thus taking him in the first couple of rounds is risky as those players are generally expected to play significant minutes right away and usually more than the special, limited circumstances that Shanoff predicts Tebow to be used in. That is not to say that Tebow didn't "deserve" to be picked in the first round and it's clear that Denver really wanted him (having given up 2 later round picks to move up). Probably just more evidence of how Tebow is one of the most unique pro prospects to come along in a great while.

  6. I agree w/everything you said & Leinart definitely was drafted lower b/c he stayed for his Senior year.

  7. I don't understand where people are getting this nonsense that Tebow shouldn't start his first year. If guys like Matt Ryan and Flacco and Vince Young could have the success they did there is no reason Tebow couldn't do the same.

    The ONE unique thing about Tebow is that it may be BENEFICIAL to take more time with Tebow because you could RAISE his upside even more by polishing his technique which he never really did his entire football career because he was too busy dominating.

    But bottom line.. like Vince Young... Tebow has enough raw talent and athleticism to dominate immediately with or without polished fundamentals.

    I think guys like Tebow and Peyton Manning also suffered even more by staying longer in college because not only did they get that extra scrutiny mentioned above.. BUT they are facing the toughest defenses in college football in the SEC.

    This is how guys like Manning and Tebow were massively underrated going into college and guys like Ryan Leaf, Sam Bradford and colt McCoy were so massively overrated.

    It just amazes me how people cannot see this.. they see guys like Colt and Bradford sitting behind those dominant offensive lines with all day to pass to receivers that are always open in the BIG12 and cannot fathom them being completely exposed against real defenses. And Tebow is the complete opposite against all that NFL talent in the SEC. I said repeatedly that I questioned whether Bradford and Colt would even be starters in the SEC and I feel completely vindicated in saying it now. Knock on wood. Don't want to jinx myself. haha

    The hilarious part is that everyone said Tebow was Ryan Leaf.. but they ignore the reason leaf got so overrated.. he was outside the SEC just like McCoy and Bradford while, like Manning who was underrated, Tebow was in the SEC. It's comical how people ALWAYS get it wrong.