As we continue to spin the position wheel heading into camp, we finally land on the position that everyone loves to talk about, quarterbacks. It's no secret that one of the biggest question marks on the 2008 season is who will play quarterback and how successful will they be. We've covered tight ends, wide receivers, running backs and full backs, but no position could be the difference between a top ten draft pick in 2009 or a trip to the playoffs like the quarterback position. Off the field story lines abound, but we know most of them so I'll do my best to stick to which quarterback is best for the Arizona Cardinals in 2008 and beyond.
Matt Leinart: It doesn't take a genius to look at Leinart stat lines and see that he's at the proverbial 'cross-roads' in his young career. One way to look at it is that he vastly underperformed his sophomore season after a promising rookie campaign and that he dangerously close to toeing the line of being tagged a draft bust. The other school of thought, and for the record the one that I subscribe to, is that he struggled learning a new offense, didn't handle the 'QB rotational' well and got injured before he could pull his season out of a nose dive. So what does that mean for 2008? Well basically it means that he's now had a full season to get accustomed to and become well-versed in the Whiz/Haley offense. That combined with the best offensive line to wear a Cardinals' jersey in quite a while, a dynamic group of receivers and a competent running game should give Matt every opportunity to shine in his third season. We'll likely know what we've got in Leinart several games into the season but for now I'm confident that he's not only the future, but the QB of the present as well.
Kurt Warner: There's no doubt that Warner's play in 2007 was something that Cardinals fans don't see very often. He threw for the most touchdowns and highest QB rating since 1984 (Neil Lomax), the most yards since 2001 (Plummer) and he did it all in just 14 games (11 starts). He also led the Cardinals to their first non-losing season in ten years. So why isn't he the quarterback of the present and the future? Well, Kurt has two big blemishes on his resume right now. The first is obvious and inevitable, he's 37 years old. Rarely to teams give an older player a big contract or the 'keys' to their franchise. The second is a problem that Warner has always had, he turns the ball over at an alarming rate. As amazing as his season was in 2007, he still threw 17 interceptions and had 12 fumbles (six of which where lost). Needless to say, 23 turnovers in 14 games is reprehensible and for a team that borders on mediocrity, turnovers are often the difference between a win and a loss. To make matters worse his high turnover rate has plagued him his entire career (100 interceptions and 80 fumbles in 93 games). Warner's a very capable quarterback of leading a team to victory but he's also had plenty of maddening 'throw your beer at the TV' moments as well.
Brian St. Pierre: St. Pierre is another former Steeler who has followed Whisenhunt and Grimm to Arizona and St Pierre has the advantage of being very familiar with not only the offensive coaching staff but also the offense in general. His upside is limited though considering that he'll turn 29 during the season and hasn't appeared in an NFL game since 2004. In fact, the six year veteran has never completed a pass in a regular season game and has never really made any push to become much more than a 3rd string 'emergency QB.' Basically I'd imagine that the coaching staff views St. Pierre as a $600K insurance policy just in case something should happen to both Leinart and Warner. Other than the fact that he knows the offense though, he doesn't have much upside or potential.
Anthony Morelli: The undrafted free agent from Penn State would certainly seem to have a long way to go to even make an NFL roster, much less make an impact. Morelli's scouting report basically says he's got the size (6'4 231), arm strength, toughness and athleticism to play but that he's also inaccurate, inconsistent and that he lacks even the most basic 'football IQ' (stares down receivers, doesn't read coverages, regularly make bad decisions). Penn State fans certainly don't sing his praises and in fact don't think much of the kid at all. Still though, it's worth mentioning that Morelli set records as a junior and broke his own records as a senior and remains the only Penn State QB in their history to post multiple 2,000 yard seasons. He also won 18 games the past two seasons, including two bowl wins and consecutive top 25 finishes. I'd imagine that he'll show enough during camp during the preseason that the coaching staff enough will keep him around on the practice squad. He's still got a lot of growing to do though and I'd imagine that even in injuries decimated the QB position, we'd hear names like Vinny Testaverde or Drew Bledsoe before they called upon Morelli.
The play at the quarterback position will no doubt be pivotal to the Cardinals success in 2008, as it is every year. For now I'm putting my faith in Leinart but I do think that if he falters, Whiz will have a short leash and we'll see the Warner lighting it up early and often. It's not uncommon for a quarterback, or any player for that matter, to struggle in their first two seasons, especially when the have to learn an entirely new scheme. Warner is a more than capable player and could arguably be the best backup quarterback in the league. Thoughts? Have I been drinking too much 'Matt Leinart Kool-Aid' or do you still have faith in him as well? Anyone out there think Morelli is anything more than a live arm with nothing between the ears?