Let’s get one thing clear: The Arizona Cardinals are not responsible for the failure of Matt Leinart.
Over the weekend, I saw an old video of everyone’s favorite oddball football prognosticator (Colin Cowherd) talking to Matt Leinart. In that video, Cowherd asked Leinart what led to his downfall in Arizona.
Leinart replied, saying that the Arizona Cardinals organization and Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt were the main reasons. More specifically, Whisenhunt “couldn’t adapt” his game or his personality to the team’s diversity. Leinart also said that he wasn’t a great “head football coach.”
Another wrinkle that deserves a more profound look was when Leinart said, “I wasn’t his guy.” Rumor has it that Whisenhunt couldn’t get along with Ben Roethlisberger during his time in Pittsburgh.
Could this be another case of the Bidwills “Bidwilling” themselves into another botched draft pick? What about Leinart admitting that he “didn’t do enough” to succeed in the NFL?
Matt Leinart can only blame himself, not the Arizona Cardinals
Leinart had a very successful college career under Pete Carroll at USC. Leinart and Reggie Bush are part of the most iconic college duos of all time. But when Leinart came into training camp and held out, it instantly made for awkward tension for all sides.
As a young Cardinals fan, I remember feeling annoyed about this. However, a 2006 article by ESPN showed that Leinart turned a contract totaling roughly $50 million with 14 of that guaranteed. Can you believe these numbers and how far quarterback contracts have come in 16 years?
Bill Bidwill was still the team’s general manager at the time, and that really sums up everything you need to know about how smoothly contract talks went- just ask Kelly Stouffer.
Regardless of all of this, the Cardinals had assembled one of (if not the best) roster they ever had. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin were your wide receivers, along with studs on defense such as Adrian Wilson, Antrel Rolle, Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby, and even Bertrand Berry.
The NFC West was becoming almost as weak as it ever was and will be (see 2010, 7-9 division champ Seattle Seahawks for reference).
The offensive line was improving but still the team’s weakest area. But the system was there to succeed, and Kurt Warner took advantage of it. It was brief, but Whisenhunt had the second-most successful spurt in team history until Bruce Arians came along.
Unfortunately, Leinart did not see it through, and there is no one else to blame than himself.