Breaking down the 2008 Arizona Cardinals is not an easy thing to do. Some areas are easier than others to analyze. As we look ahead to 2009, the Cards obviously will have several areas that will need to be addressed. I will be looking at the the quarterback position right now and what it meant to the Cardinals and what the position may bring in 2009.
Kurt Warner was probably about three good games shy of being the NFL Most Valuable Player. Leave out the NY Jets, Minnesota Vikings, and New England Patriots, and Warner is probably holding the hardware, not the Colts Peyton Manning.
Warner started hot and finished hot. He had a perfect rating against the Miami Dolphins in week two. He had an outstanding playoffs. He was two plays shy of being the Super Bowl MVP.
Obviously Warner is playing at the young age of 37 (he will be 38 before next season) at a level most would love to be playing at 25. Warner, although never one to be confused with the legs of Vince Young or Donovan McNabb, didn’t really seem to lose a step in 2008. He can read blitzes among the best of them. He makes more smart plays than questionable ones. His value to the Cardinals is immeasurable.
The big question is will he return for 2009? He has said publicly that he wants to think about it. He has said if he does return, he wants it to be with the Cardinals. He also said the decision is not up to him, rather God. At yesterday’s Pro Bowl, he indicated having receiver Anquan Boldin return will help. So will choosing the right offensive coordinator to replace the departed Todd Haley. My best guess is that he returns, with a very healthy pay raise for the next two seasons.
His back up, Matt Leinart is also a big question mark. If Warner returns, does he? The thought is it is still his team when Warner leaves. Is Leinart willing to wait it out another two years until Warner calls it quits for good? My thought is no. Even though I’d like to see him to stay, I don’t blame him for wanting to leave. If he stays for the next two years before taking over the starting job full-time, he will be in his sixth season, which really is just about where Warner took off with his career, so he should look at that fact before making any rash decisions. My best guess is that if Warner stays, Leinart will look to be traded. If Warner leaves, Leinart has an excellent chance at being your 2009 starting quarterback.
Brian St. Pierre, although he didn’t play a down in the regular season, is still a valuable part of the bench. He knows the system and proved in the preseason he can play within it. In my opinion he is one of the better third string quarterbacks in the league. Look for him to be the back up to the starter if Warner leaves or retires.