AZ's QB's Part One: A Case for Leinart

Well, as the Arizona Cardinals wrapped up their mini camp this past weekend many were surprised by the effective play of QB Matt Leinart. Apparently he looked sharp, and did not appear to be rusty at all, a testimony to is study of the playbook and film during his time on IR this past year. BUT…..Those same observers were quick to acknowledge the play of veteran Kurt Warner, saying that he also looked very sharp in drills. Leinart looked good. Warner looked good.

So let the inevitable QB Controversy discussions begin.

From azcardinals.comWe know it’s coming. Let the experts chime on in about how Leinart’s party pictures are some kind of indication of his ability on the field, or about how Warner is never going to be happy playing the back up role after the kind of year he had in 2007. As long as we have two talented players for a position that can only be occupied by one man, this debate is going to continue. But personally, I actually enjoy the debate. And today I’m going to be making the case for Leinart to be the starter.

So giving him the benefit of the doubt, here are my top 5 reasons why Leinart is a better option for the Cards as the starting QB in 2008:

1. The ‘IT’ Factor
Whatever you want to call it; charisma, confidence, moxie……whatever, Matt Leinart has it. This kid is a proven winner. From a high school championship, onto to 2 National Championships and a Heisman Trophy, nobody can be stupid enough to argue that this boy has a ton of talent and skill. There are so many intangibles that every NFL player has to possess, and for a quarterback the most important quality is the ability to walk into the huddle and have the other 10 guys in that huddle know you are in charge. We’ve heard from the veterans and rookies alike, and they’re not saying Kurt doesn’t have it, but so does Matt.

2. Mobility
Let me make this perfectly clear, Matt Leinart is not a tremendous threat to score with his feet, at least not in the running game. When I say mobility, I mean the ability to avoid the rush and buy more time in the pocket. You need proof? Watch film of both Seahawks games last year and you’ll see a big difference in how each QB handled the Seattle pass rush. Leinart was mere tenths of a second from being sacked several times, but a simple side step or a slight movement in the pocket bought him the time to make the plays down field.

3. Accuracy
Say what you want about his arm strength, if you look over his entire career (college and pros) Leinart is an accurate passer. While he doesn’t have the rocket that Kurt does, he throws a tight spiral and has shown that he can put the ball into great spots where only his guys can get it. Leinart is less of a gunslinger than Warner and by that regard does not make all the risky throws that Warner does. As his playing time increases, his accuracy will only get better.

4. Youth
Now how can his age be a positive factor in him being the starting QB? Because he has a lot more tread left on the tires as opposed to Warner. Sure Matt got knocked out last season, but the coaching staff is already marveling at how much stronger he looks now and he is already completely healthy and ready to go. Kurt was a warrior playing with that elbow injury last year, but at 36, with over 10 years in professional football, his body is not what it once was. Leinart is a big QB, standing at 6’5″ and now over 230lbs. He has bulked up and is ready for the hard knocks he’s going to keep taking as a QB in the NFL. Warner is a warrior, but you can’t fight Father Time.

5. Drive
This may also be questionable one for some of you out there. Call me crazy, but part of me thinks that a player who has never reached the top of their profession has more to play for than someone who has already acheived greatness. Kurt has been to the top; a former two-time league MVP and Super Bowl MVP, he has led his team to victory on the greatest stage in sports. If he doesn’t win here in Arizona, he’s always got those memories. Leinart is young and he is hungry, just like most every other player on the Cards’ roster. Guys like Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald haven’t even sniffed the post-season during their time here, and that is a rallying point for them around Leinart. I’ve seen watching both of these guys during games. Kurt is what I would call a “quiet professional” who does his job and does it well. Leinart is full of fire, he gets emotional, he gets excited, and that kind of play is contagious.

This is a debate that is going to continue well into the preseason and, in all likelihood, into the regular season as well. My brother Tom once told me that the most popular guy on the team is always the backup quarterback, not really for what he has or hasn’t done, but because whenever the starter struggles everyone thinks that the backup will be the savior and I couldn’t agree more. Patience is not a virtue that many NFL fans tend to have, so clamoring for Leinart to produce may seem warranted. But if you’re truly an Arizona Cardinals fan, I mean truly an Arizona Cardinals fan, than like me you have to be one of the most patient people on the planet. So just relax Cards fans.

Coming soon……part two: a case for Warner.


Mike Duggan

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Tags: Arizona Cardinals Kurt Warner Matt Leinart

  • HardHat

    Nice try, but you got everything wrong.

    Drive? Leinart driven to the top of his profession? No. If he were, he’d have left USC with the Heisman and National Title and moved on to the NFL. All evidence points to him living in the past (college), rather than the future. Warner has the greater drive to succeed, since he knows he doesn’t have many years left. Leinart plays like he’s “pacing” himself.

    Accuracy? This one I almost blew soda all over my computer screen. Warner is the 2nd most accurate passer in the history of the NFL (65.1%). Leinart is a 50% passer.

    IT Factor? The Arizona Republic reports that both Fitzgerald and Boldin prefer Warner at QB. Maybe that’s because Leinart threw zero TD’s to Fitz in 5 games and only 1 to Q. Perhaps you meant some off-the-field IT factor???… but after seeing Matt manning a beer bong for chubby college freshmen and sporting a waxed chest in the hot tub — I image his IT factor is lost forever.

    Youth? Youth is overrated. Leinart has suffered 2 season-ending injuries in his last 5 sacks! He’ll never make it to Warner’s age in the NFL. He’s simply too fragile.

    Mobility? Neither is very mobile, but Warner’s mobility is shifty… like a cat. For example, the darting around the non-existent pocket at the end of the 1st half versus the 49ers buying time for Fitz to get downfield for that 55 yard bomb TD. Leinart’s lack of shiftiness too often gets him driven into the turf like a golf tee.

    Bottom Line:

    Warner was a top-10 rated QB in 2007. He threw 27 TD’s in only 11 starts (a Pro Bowl pace), and finished with a 89.8 passer rating. He averaged 310 yards per start, and in his last 8 games, he threw 21 TD’s and had the offense firing on all cylinders.

    Leinart, in stark contrast, averaged 129 passing yards per game and was the lowest rated passer in the NFL (60.9). He threw twice as many interceptions as TD’s, and zero TD’s to Fitz.

    In the NFL, you play for today. And the Cardinals’ best QB today is Kurt Warner.

  • Mike Duggan


    Very valid points, like I said this is just part one of a two part series and the next article will sing the praises of Kurt Warner over Matt Leinart.

    So for argument’s sake, let’s talk about some of your points.

    Drive -
    You are saying that Leinart’s decision to return to college for his senior year and try to win-a-record 3rd National Championship and possibly a second Heisman Trophy in a row means that he is not a driven individual? Ok….I guess so. If you want to make the case for Warner having a greater drive to succeed, then he should not have been happy with the QB Platooning system that existed last year. Leinart bitched about it because he is a more fiery competitor, he wants to be the only one on the field. Warner was all too happy to accept the duties and never campaigned hard for the starting job. That tells me he that he doesn’t have that same drive anymore like he did when he was in St Louis.

    Accuracy -
    Sorry, didn’t mean to make you almost spill your soda. You’ll notice that I never said Warner wasn’t accurate, which I know he is. I said that Warner takes more risks with the ball. It’s easy to criticize someone after only a small sampling of games but I look back at USC and his time with the Cards. Remember, a bad O-Line is a big contributor to a QBs rating and accuracy. Leinart only spent 4.5 games with this year’s O-Line which was much better than the 2006 unit.

    Youth is never overrated. Players can get faster, stronger, smarter, but they can never get younger. His injury at the end of 2006 was not season ending, but the coaches held him out of the final game as a precautionary measure. As for 2007, he got blind-sided and got his colar bone broken, it could happen to anybody. So far, no knee injuries, no injuries to his throwing arm, and no concussions. And one of the big reasons Warner has made it to his age in the NFL is that he has actually only played in nine seasons, meaning he actually became the starter in the NFL when he was 27, Leinart was 23.

    You’re right, neither is very mobile. But you can’t seriously call Kurt shifty like a cat!? Your reference is the end of the first half of the Cards/49ers game on his Hail Mary toss to Fitzgerald for a TD right? Come on man, the defense was playing with seven men deep in coverage, one LB spying the QB 5-10 yards off of the line and a 3 man rush coming at Warner. Avoiding a three man rush when the other team does not make you nimble. Leinart is much more athletic than Warner.

    IT Factor-
    Remember, I didn’t say that Kurt doesn’t have that moxie too. But you read one report, you get one version. You read a different report, you get another version, and so on and so on….the AZ Republic also ran stories stating that Boldin had requested a trade, then Boldin himself says he doesn’t want one. AZCARDINALS.COM posted an article in which Edge talked about both Warner and Leinart and he indicated that he preferred Leinart because it meant more touches for him in the running game. Either way, both guys have “IT” in my opinion.

    Bottom Line:

    You’re only as good as your last game in the fans’ eyes. Warner’s performance last year is more fresh than his abysmal 2006 campaign, hence he is the messiah. I’m not saying that Leinart is the clear QB, I will be publishing a blog about Kurt, I’m just saying that we need to keep things in perspective.

  • HardHat

    Thanks for your reply.

    I really want to focus on this “drive” issue… and you actually used the “competitor” word to describe Leinart…

    Yet I’ve never seen a QB so afraid of competition for the job as Matt Leinart. Warner has welcomed an open competition, and Leinart has demanded a coronation… First in that whine bar with Michael Silver, and then at the end of the season.

    And so Leinart’s demand for “no job competition” makes him more competitive? That’s simply not a logical conclusion.

    And Leinart’s demand for a coronation reveals a lack of confidence that he could actually win a fair and open competition with Warner.

    In the end, the players will play a big factor in this. Regardless of how many advertising $’s junior bowtie has tied up in Leinart, and regardless of how much pressure he brings to bear on Whisenhunt, if the players want Warner… they’ll get Warner.

    NFL careers are too short to be wasted wet nursing a QB with suspect skills and questionable commitment.

  • Mike Duggan

    Hard Hat-

    Great comments

    Honestly, I didn’t think of Matt as demanding for “no-job competition” in that interview, I just think he was frustrated with the lack of confidence he perceived from the coaching staff.

    I can’t argue with anything you are saying. You’re right, we can’t wait around forever for Leinart to be this great QB, he has to grow up in a hurry. And if you’ve been watching ESPN or NFL Live lately, they’ve been running stories on the Cards and Leinart. So I am looking for Matt to come out this year with a big chip on his shoulder, ready to prove what he’s got.

    I think this literally is a do or die year for Leinart.