On the eve of what could very well be the highest scoring game in recent college football (Texas @ Texas Tech), let's reflect on the recent decision by Longhorns starting quarterback Colt McCoy to declare he's returning to Austin next fall for his senior season. So let's kick around the question that plagues so many collegiate junior football stars:
Stay in college or turn pro early?
Colt McCoy is currently quarterbacking the nation's top team. Texas is scoring at will against all opponents and against a porous pass defense like Texas Tech, McCoy might throw for 12 TDs this Saturday (and based on Graham Harrell's ability against Texas's similarly flawed pass defense, McCoy might need to).
And he has valiantly proclaimed he'll be back in Texas instead of in an NFL locker room next fall. Much rejoicing in Austin indeed. Much like the cheers in Los Angeles when USC's Heisman-winning quarterback decided to pass up the opportunity to be the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft and returned for a his senior year.
When Leinart announced he would return to USC in January 2005, the USC fight song started playing in my head. Dreams of an unprecedented third straight national championship filled my mind. I didn't agree with Leinart's decision, but as a USC fan, I loved it.
Here we are in the middle of the 2008 NFL season, and it's clear Leinart is not better off for remaining one extra year in the college football ranks.
Had the USC QB entered the 2004 NFL Draft after guiding the Trojans to an Orange Bowl route over Oklahoma to clinch the national championship, Leinart would have most certainly been the No. 1 overall pick of the San Francisco 49ers. Instead, San Fran drafted Alex Smith, signing him to a six-year, $49 million contract which included $24 million guaranteed. One year later after losing the national championship game to Texas and Vince Young, Leinart was drafted No. 10 by the Arizona Cardinals, receiving a six-year $51 million contract with $14 million guaranteed.
Leinart was also the very last member of his draft class to finally sign his contract. Basically, he thought he was worth his 2005 value. Well, as we all know in looking at today's economy, sometimes stocks can go down.
Now, realize Leinart didn't bomb out. He still received a good contract, and he'll take over the reigns in Arizona next season as Kurt Warner will retire at the end of the year. Both Leinart and Smith have dealt with season-ending injuries and being replaced as starters in their young careers. Leinart will still more than likely be a better pro than Smith. But Leinart could have been the beginning of a great overhaul in San Francisco that restored that franchise to the top of the ranks. Instead, here we are in 2008, three years into Leinart's career.
Maybe next year Matt will contribute. And maybe while he is, Colt McCoy will be in the NFL along with him, where he belongs.