The Walking Dead fandom was turned on its head recently when it was revealed that Andrew Lincoln will exit the show at some point in Season 9. At first, the news sounded like a ridiculous rumor, but as more details rolled out and Lincoln's co-star Norman Reedus shared a somewhat cryptic but telling photo on Instagram, fans began to embrace the reality that Rick Grimes is on his way out. Reedus wasn't the only person memorializing Rick on social media either as the actor's former co-star Lew Temple paid tribute to the actor on Twitter:

Lew Temple, who played Axel on Season 3 of The Walking Dead, more than likely knows just as much as the casual fan concerning what's going on with Andrew Lincoln's stint on The Walking Dead, so he didn't have any additional information to share on that situation. He does know Lincoln is the heart and soul of TWD, and even compared his role on the series to that of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. For those less up on sports than others, Lew Temple is essentially calling the Rick Grimes actor a legend, and that his run on the series has elevated the program immensely.

Lew Temple's comparison is even apter than perhaps he originally meant, as it's just as hard to predict the success of The Walking Dead without Rick Grimes as it with The New England Patriots without Tom Brady. Both franchises have a strong supporting cast, but without the man who has anchored the franchise in their shoulders for years, will it all still work? Could this be the end of a dynasty?

At least The Walking Dead may have stronger contenders for a new "quarterback" than the opposite franchise in this analogy. Various reports have surfaced that offers are being made to Norman Reedus as well as Danai Gurira to take up the lead upon Andrew Lincoln's exit. Either one stepping into the role is sure to have its growing pains, although with The Walking Dead's ratings taking a big slide in Season 8, a new lead could be just what the show needs to continue its run on television. Of course, there's also that possibility that Lincoln's exit could plummet viewership even lower, and signal the eventual end of the series.

The Walking Dead will return for Season 9 on AMC sometime this fall. For a look at other upcoming programming headed to television much sooner, visit our summer premiere guide.

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