As I sit here thinking about the Arizona Cardinals and what to discuss, it became evident to me that in the midst of Kurt Warner's retirement and the Super Bowl, we haven't discussed the future of Matt Leinart. So here's what we know so far:
- He was drafted out of the first round in 2006(10th pick overall), and was the heir to take over as the "quarterback of the future".
- That year, he took over for Kurt Warner following Warner's horrid 1-4 start, and had a marginally successful rookie season(4-7 record)
- In 2007, Leinart split duties with Warner through the first five games of the season before suffering a broken collarbone against the Rams.
- Since the injury, Leinart has appeared in just twelve games, seeing minimal playing time.
More thoughts on his career after the jump...Leinart started the majority of his career his rookie season, completing a unimpressive 56.8% of his passes, but also throwing for nearly 2,600 yards and 11 touchdowns. The psyche of a 24-year quarterback can be fragile, and when he was shuffled in and out of the line-up in 2007 in place of Warner, we can assume that his confidence was bruised.
Through the course of Matt Leinart's career, we've seen the rise and fall of a promising rookie, but does the burden all rest on his shoulders? After all, he was competing against a 37-year old gunslinger that will more-then-likely become enshrined in the Cardinals Ring of Honor and the NFL Hall of Fame one day.
While under the tutelage of Warner, Leinart had a chance to learn from one of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks of all time. Warner posted a 28-24 record while Leinart was on the bench, averaging 64.9% of his passes, 244 yards a game, and 22 touchdowns a season. Leinart's seen it all. He's surveyed the field for four seasons, witnessed five playoff games, and has been a part of the Super Bowl. He has the experience - now he needs to put the necessary tools in place.
Leinart will get that opportunity, inheriting a Cardinals' offense filled with toys that any other quarterback would jump at the chance to have. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are both pro bowlers, Steve Breaston could start for 20 other teams, Early Doucet has potential through the roof, Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower are both under 22-years of age, and the offensive line is the best it's been in years. Matt Leinart is joining elite company, and now he needs to play to his potential.
During week 10 of the regular season against the St. Louis Rams, Kurt Warner went down after a blow to the head caused concussion-like symptoms. Matt Leinart was thrown into the line up in the second half and the offense went limp. Ken Whisenhunt admittedly went conservative with the play calling, taking the fall for often criticised young quarterback. During the following week, there was speculation that Kurt Warner would start on the road against the Tennessee Titans. Warner and Leinart split reps with the first-team offense leading up to the game, and on gameday, Leinart was ruled the starter.
With Matt in the line up, the offense was noticeably more aggressive, and his throws were more on target then the week before. The Titans were one of the hottest teams in the league at that point in the year, and starting his only game of the season on the road was no easy request. In the end, the Cardinals lost, but Leinart gave the team every opportunity to win the game. Against the Rams and Titans, he completed 69.5% of his passes and didn't commit a turnover, giving myself and other Cardinal fans hope for next season.
So now I ask - what should we expect from Matt Leinart in 2010? He'll surely get the majority of the practice time with the first team offense - which one can assume will help. 2010 is his year to prove what he's made of. The Arizona Cardinals are Matt Leinart's team for the taking.
What are your expectations for Matt Leinart next season? If he tanks, do the Cardinals stand a chance in the division race? Will the offense become more run-based?