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Peterson: How will Stanford fans remember Kevin Hogan?

Five or 10 years from now, how will you remember Kevin Hogan?

Surely some Stanford fans will recall memories of Hogan plunging into the end zone in Eugene to put the Card ahead in their eventual upset of the Ducks or Hogan’s masterful performance in the 2013 Pac-12 Championship Game, in which he guided Stanford to its second consecutive conference title. Stat lovers may instead reflect on Hogan as the only Stanford quarterback ever to guide the Cardinal to two bowl wins or as the holder of Stanford’s second-best career completion percentage and passing efficiency rating (ahead of John Elway and Jim Plunkett).

However, there will also be some Stanford fans that reminisce on Hogan’s role in the 2014 Stanford offense’s underperformance or his questionable play in the 2013 loss to USC or 2014 losses to Notre Dame and Arizona State. And to some, Hogan might have never reached the potential he flashed in the magnificent 2012 run in which he guided Stanford to a Rose Bowl victory.

But five or 10 years from now, how should you remember Kevin Hogan? And as the time for him to make his decision on whether to return for his final year of eligibility approaches, should you want him back?

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Kevin Hogan was always going to be tied to Andrew Luck, no matter how his career turned out and despite the fact that Josh Nunes was technically Luck’s successor. That’s just the reality for any quarterback who takes over less than a year after the departure of a legend – just ask John Brantley at the University of Florida, who took over after Tim Tebow.

In the shadow of Andrew Luck, no quarterback could have lived up to expectations.

Luck was a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback to come through Stanford, bringing exceptional play to the quarterback position every time he stepped on the field. It was inevitable that once he left, a gaping void would be left under center for the Cardinal. Stanford fans knew it too.

And yet, even when Kevin Hogan entered and led Stanford to back-to-back Rose Bowls and turned a ridiculously difficult schedule into an eight-win season without much of a running game, pundits questioned Hogan and blamed many of Stanford’s slip-ups on him because he couldn’t play at the same level as Luck, despite everyone knowing it was likely that no one ever would. Hogan seemingly went from being Stanford’s savior and “the next Luck” as a sophomore, when he took over for Nunes, to the cause of its problems as a senior, at least in the eyes of many fans, students and media.

But imagine a Stanford to which Andrew Luck never came. Maybe he accepted one of his other offers, from Oklahoma State, Northwestern, Purdue or somewhere else. In this world, modern-day Stanford followers never saw near-perfection at the quarterback position. Additionally, Hogan would no longer have his every throw compared and contrasted with those of Luck. He would never have borne the burdensome title of being “the next Luck.”

In that world, Hogan would be hailed as one of the best quarterbacks in Stanford history, a title that he has rightfully earned in my opinion.

Admittedly, Hogan has several flaws: His throwing motion could use some work, he rarely goes through all of his progressions and he has a tendency to stare down receivers. Because Luck never seemed to have these flaws, they are pointed out and blamed as the reasons for Stanford’s failures.

However, Hogan also possesses many outstanding traits as a quarterback, traits that get overlooked because Luck might have done them better: He’s always a threat to run, he rarely makes a big mistake, he has tremendous accuracy throwing the deep ball and he wins games.

In his first two career starts, he beat two top-15 teams, including a road win over No. 1 Oregon. He started his career 8-0 against top-25 teams. As mentioned above, he ranks second all-time in Stanford passing efficiency and completion percentage. And, though this year’s offense struggled for a large portion of the season, once the offensive line came together, Remound Wright emerged as a lead back and Christian McCaffrey saw more playing time, Hogan went 3-0 over the season’s final three games with a 76 percent completion rate, 4 touchdowns and 618 passing yards. Asking Hogan to replicate the results of 2012 and 2013 with a young offensive line, no lead back and a torturous schedule would be like asking a 2001 Volkswagen Jetta to accelerate at the same speed as a 2014 Lamborghini.

Before you criticize Hogan and eagerly await the arrival of Stanford’s next quarterback, remember to reflect on Hogan without the distorting lens that is Andrew Luck and appreciate him for the quarterback that he is – arguably one of the six or seven best quarterbacks in Stanford history and the leader of the offense during one of the school’s most successful runs.

Though Keller Chryst and Ryan Burns may be great quarterbacks someday, tabbing either as “the next Luck” only dooms them to the same criticisms heaped upon Hogan. There is no “next Luck,” and that’s the reality that Cardinal fans must embrace. Looking forward to these future quarterbacks also only lessens the value of Hogan.

One in the hand is worth two in the bush, and Kevin Hogan is a talented quarterback that flashed his own greatness with Stanford’s full arsenal in games against Cal, UCLA and Maryland to end the season.

I don’t know about you, but I hope to see Hogan under center for the Cardinal in 2015.

Michael Peterson is printing t-shirts that read, “Keller Chryst is the next Hogan.” For more information, contact Michael at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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