Now that Horton is here and the coaching staff is pretty much settled there isn't really a lot to talk about besides stuff like we have already been talking about Free Agency, Trades (Kevin Kolb, Carson Palmer, Kyle Orton), or the Draft along with the possibility of there not even being a 2011 NFL Season. So, now that we have had a while to reflect on this after the debacle that occurred between Matt Leinart and Coach Whisenhunt, I thought this could be something to get a good debate out of everyone around here. I'm wondering what you guys think went wrong with him during his time with the Cardinals.
Now, lets go over some of the good and some of the bad after the jump...
Throughout Training Camp and the Offseason, all we heard about was how much Leinart has grown up since his injury in 2007, how hard he has been working, how the Team and Coach Whiz believed in him, and how he was going to be the guy this year. Everything seemed like it was going well until the second game of the Preseason against the Titans (which was also a nationally televised game on ESPN) where Leinart didn't pick up a 1st down in either of his three drives, and Derek Anderson moved the second team offense well even though his accuracy issues were still rearing their ugly head. After that, Leinart was demoted to second string as a way of seeing how the offense handled the change, then a little bit later Leinart spoke out to the media about how frustrated he was with the entire situation, how he thought he outperformed Anderson in the Preseason (and just looking at the stats, he did), and how he was never told that there would be a competition between him and Anderson, and how he should have been told that from the beginning. Around this time, there were some leaks that the team had no faith in Leinart, that he was too laid back, and Cris Carter also said that he thinks Larry Fitzgerald might think that Leinart could get him hurt after a play in the first Preseason game where Fitz was injured after a pass from Leinart. Then, after the fourth Preseason game, Leinart was cut, he went on to sign with the Texans as their third Quarterback, and the Cardinals decided to ride with Anderson, Hall, and Skelton. What ensued is best forgotten.
This was a pretty disappointing turn of events, Leinart was a pretty divisive figure during his time with the Cardinals, but a lot of people (including myself) wanted to see him get a shot to see what he could do in the Post Warner era, and after seeing what the other four guys the Cardinals used last season did, how much worse could he be? After watching Derek Anderson play, it makes you think that Leinart must have been so bad that he just stumbles around on the field drooling over himself.
Looking at Leinart, I felt that a lot of this drama came from him not being the right fit for the Offensive system that Coach Whisenhunt wanted to run. In his Rookie year, he played pretty well in Denny Greens West Coast Offense on what was not really a good team. But then in 2007, besides his game against the Seahawks during the 4th Quarter of the Steelers game he did not play well in his first year under Whisenhunt's offense (you can also say similar things about Warner not playing as well in Green's offense as he did with Whisenhunt's). The whole Quarterback shuffle in 2007 before his broken collarbone and the constant battles for his job (even with Brian St. Pierre in 2009!) aren't necessarily good things for the confidence of a young Quarterback. Just comparing how he played from 2006 and then looking at how he played during the Preseason and what you hear from the Training Camp practices he also seemed more tentative like he was worried about making mistakes and he could have thought that if he did make a mistake he would get pulled. It also did seem like Whisenhunt and Leinart never got along very well, something that Anquan Boldin hinted at last September.
The things that are normally brought up with Leinart, like the hot tub pictures or his work ethic (there are a lot of comments about him partying his way out of the NFL) didn't seem like a problem to me. I can't think of anything similar to the hot tub pictures he did ever since those came out, and everything we heard was that he was more mature coming into this year, and how his work ethic was one of the things that he improved on the most since the time he came here. Leinart even talked about how much being around Warner helped him work harder and study the game more. Like I said above, the biggest problem I saw with Leinart was that he was being too tentative, and he seemed less confident than he used to be.
I still do think that he can be a good Quarterback in this league too. It all depends on the system he is in though. He would fit the best in the West Coast Offense, or some type of balanced offense that can run and throw, which is actually what a lot of us were expecting going into last season. But who would have expected us to throw on seemingly every play when you have a Quarterback who was one of the worst in the NFL during the 2009 Season with the Browns before he came here? Looking at the Titans game from 2009 shows you what Leinart can do, he is accurate in the short and intermediate passing game, he is good with Playaction passes and bootlegs, and he doesn't make a lot of the stupid throws that wind up being Intercepted. But, he also only has an average arm. He can throw deep, but it isn't necessarily his strength. Pretty much the opposite of what you were getting with Derek Anderson, he had the big arm and he was willing to take more chances that can lead to big plays, but he was inaccurate and he also had the frustrating tendency to be the kind of Quarterback that could make a beautiful deep pass on one play, then on the very next play he could chuck it right into the arms of a Linebacker or a Defensive Back.
I was looking forward to seeing if Leinart could prove that he was worth taking in the first round back in 2006, but now I'm just left wondering what he could have done because he didn't really get a shot with anything besides leading the offense in a couple of Preseason games with playbooks that are probably less complex than what you would see in a High School game and we never got to see what he could do in the games that actually mattered. He could have led the Cardinals to the playoffs (it would have only takes 7 wins this year!), or he could have fallen flat on his face like Anderson did. But now, we will never know and the Cardinals are stuck trying to find a new Quarterback along with filling a bunch of other holes on their roster after a very disappointing 5-11 season where they constantly found new ways to lose.
I am also interested in seeing if Leinart does get a shot at being a starter with another team someday. I want to see if he plays well which will annoy me a little bit because he will then wind up joining so many other Cardinals who wound up having more success with another team. And if he plays poorly, then I will know that the Cardinals made the right choice by letting him go.
So, what do you think?