Get SI's Duke Championship Package Free  Subscribe to SI Give the Gift of SI
Posted: Monday January 19, 2009 12:42PM; Updated: Tuesday January 20, 2009 10:11AM
Austin Murphy Austin Murphy >

An open letter from Matt Leinart to fellow Trojan Mark Sanchez

Story Highlights

Some thoughts on Matt Sanchez's huge decision from someone who's been there

Leinart returned for his senior year, even though he would've probably gone No. 1

Sanchez will most likely be one of the top two quarterbacks taken in the draft

Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
Pete Carroll and Mark Sanchez
Pete Carroll criticized Mark Sanchez's during a press conference in which the quarterback announced he was leaving school early.
Austin Murphy's Mailbag
Austin Murphy will answer questions from users.

Yo Mark!

Sorry if this seems rushed -- I'm texting you from the Cardinals' locker room here in Tempe. All the reporters are gathered around Kurt right now, so I've got some time ...

Hey, caught that YouTube clip of you announcing that you're bailing on your senior season at USC. That was a nice touch, mentioning how you arrived at your decision after "sleepless nights and lots of prayer." I hear that, bro. I made my decision after a fair number of sleepless nights, too.

You're one of 41 underclassmen who declared for the draft. But the guys everybody's talking about are the QBs who stuck around: Colt McCoy of Texas, Sam Bradford of Oklahoma, and my personal fave, Florida's Tim Tebow. Gotta love a lefty who comes back to win a third national championship!

Bradford was a lock to be the top pick, so he's taking a fair amount of heat from people who think he's nuts to turn down $30 million, minimum, in guaranteed money. Of course, they aren't the one who would've then ended up spending the prime of his career with the Detroit Lions. Personally, I think college football fans should stop worrying about Bradford's financial future -- dude's gonna muddle through, OK? -- and just be grateful that, unlike college hoops, some of the stars actually choose to stick around as long as they can.

Having left a few million on the table myself in exchange for the privilege of one last college season, I see where Sam, Colt and Tim are coming from. They want to hang around and hone their skills, take one last shot at a national title, and get one more year of belly laughs with their boys before wiping the smile off their faces and reporting to the No Fun League.

There's a lot to be said for fine-tuning your game before taking it to the next level. But I'll spare you that lecture, since you've already gotten it from Coach Carroll. How about Pete sticking it to you in that press conference? Damn -- I haven't seen him that ticked off since he found out Reggie's parents lived in a house owned by a sports agent. Did you see what he put up on his Web site, It was more like

Pete doesn't care that you're going to be one of the top two quarterbacks taken, along with Matt Stafford of Georgia. He's telling the world that 62 percent of underclassmen quarterbacks who declare early don't pan out. He points out that you've only started 16 games, and that you desperately needed another college season to beef up your "body of work".

Of course, he told Lofa Tatupu the same thing four years ago. Remember Lofa? Played linebacker for us, and left after his junior season? Seattle took him in the second round. He's been in the league three years and played in three Pro Bowls. Just signed a $42 million deal, with $18 mill guaranteed.

Not that Pete doesn't make some valid points in your case. NFL scouts don't have that much info on you. You had one full season as a starter, and, no offense but, before you schooled Penn State in the Rose Bowl -- 413 passing yards, four TDs, no picks -- you didn't exactly remind anyone of, well, me.

Yeah, you had nice games against Virginia and Ohio State. But you looked tentative and scared in that loss at Oregon State. You had three picks and a fumble on four consecutive possessions in that ugly-ass win over Arizona State. Between Oct. 4 and New Year's Day you never threw for more than 269 yards in a game. That used to be a good half for me.

Listen, I'm not stupid. I mean, yes, it was stupid to invite a bunch of underage coeds over to my place for a beer bash last spring, and then get my picture taken with them in the hot tub. What I'm saying is, I see you working here. You're thinking: I don't want to be the next Matt Leinart.

It's true. I was projected as the first pick in the 2005 draft. But I stayed in school, and when the Cardinals took me with the 10th pick a year later, all I heard was how much bank I'd lost -- $7 million, minimum. I look at it this way: I had one of the best years of my life, came within one Vince Young scramble of winning a third straight national title, then signed a six-year deal for what could end up being $51 mill (if I make some incentives), $14 million of it guaranteed. Am I out a few bucks? Yeah. Am I going to need food stamps in the foreseeable future? No.

You're taking the plunge now because a few guys you're afraid might be selected before you are staying in school. It's a smart business decision, I guess. But you're not a CPA, you're a gunslinger, bro! Where's the bravado? Who's to say you don't have a breakthrough season in '09, throw for 4,000 yards, win the Heisman and leave all those guys in the dust? I've seen you up close, homes. You've got that kind of game, and you had that kind of supporting cast -- nine starters returning, excluding you -- but you walked away from it.

Check out the schedule next season: Sept. 9 at Ohio State. Can you imagine what a blast it would have been, turning down the volume in the Horseshoe? October 17th at Notre Dame. Wake up the echoes? I lived to put those echoes to sleep. And the BCS title game is in the Rose Bowl! Man, we've owned the Rose Bowl ... ever since my last game. I saw you after the Penn State game, up on that ladder, conducting the band with Tommy Trojan's sword. How sweet would it be to do that one more time -- right after you won a crystal ball?

But hey, it's a free country. Good luck at the combine. Hope you beat the odds, regardless of your slender "body of work." Speaking of which, would you mind snagging me a couple phone numbers from the new batch of Song Girls?

Thanks in advance,

Fight On!


Hot Topics: NBA Playoffs NHL Playoffs NFL schedule LaMarcus Aldridge Michael Pineda Phil Jackson Tiger Woods
TM & © 2013 Time Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved. Terms under which this service is provided to you. Read our privacy guidelines and ad choices.
SI CoverRead All ArticlesBuy Cover Reprint