Ever since the retirement of Kurt Warner after the 2009 playoffs, the quarterback position has been nothing but a constant situation for the Arizona Cardinals. Matt Leinart was supposed to become the team's franchise QB and starter for the next ten years. Instead, he was cut before the end of the preseason, he signed with and was the number three QB of the Houston Texans a year ago.
Now, because of a possible season-ending foot injury to Houston starting QB Matt Schaub, Leinart is in line to take over a team that is well on its way to the playoffs, with a light schedule, a great running game, an elite receiver and a solid defense.
Why is this happening now, and why didn't it work in Arizona? It seems it was about fit.
I will admit and you may know that I was on Team Leinart for a long time. I felt that he should not have been cut. He should have been the starter last year for the Cardinals. None of that matters now, but I hope he is successful in Houston.
When news came out Monday afternoon of Schaub's injury, Arizona Republic Cardinals beat writer Kent Somers tweeted a series of thoughts that more or less sum up my thoughts on Leinart.
If you didn't already know, Ken Whisehunt is not a "pat on the back" sort of coach. He challenges players and uses tough love. He and Ben Roethlisberger butted heads. He and Kurt Warner butted heads.
That's not to say that Whiz is bad. In fact, I would imagine that most NFL coaches are the "kick in the rear" style of player managing and motivating.
My impression of Leinart's personality is that when he came into the league, he knew that at some point he was going to be given a starting job and that he knew that he would be able to grow into it. He does not seem the sort that responds well to open competition.
Back at USC in his college days, Pete Carroll recalled that both Leinart and Matt Cassel were both floundering battling for the starting job. One day Carroll decided on Leinart and gave him the gig. It was then he flourished.
Here he was never given a chance to grow into the job. Twice his season was cut short because of injuries and then Kurt Warner won the job, played at a Hall of Fame level and took the team to the Super Bowl.
When given the starting job at the start of camp, he played it safe. He did not do anything to grab hold of the job. He did nothing to lose the job either. He probably (and this is pure speculation) felt that he would be able to grow into the job and get comfortable.
The rest is history, so to say.
There is something to say about a guy who doesn't respond to a fire being lit under his butt. If you don't respond to competition for your job, you might not be able to cut it in the NFL.
Matt Leinart was never Whisenhunt's guy. He didn't draft him. Leinart never did anything stand out under Whiz and he apparently did not have the traits the Whiz wanted as his starting QB. Whiz wants a hard-working, competitive guy that will be better because of the challenges around him on the team. He helps players grow with tough love.
Leinart just wasn't that type of guy. It had to be frustrating for both coach and player. Some players don't respond to some coaches. Look at Alex Smith and what he has become. He responded to one coach in particular. The coaches before him weren't all terrible, but Jim Harbaugh has been able to reach him differently.
Leinart seems to have that situation in Houston. He chose to stay as a backup there rather than compete for a starting job in Seattle and reunite with his college coach. Why? He likes the system, he feels he is developing and getting better and his coach, Gary Kubiak, loves him.
Will he be successful? I think so, but I thought he would have been fine here last year. What is more likely is that Whisenhunt knew that Leinart would not be successful in that setting and that is why he stuck with Derek Anderson and company. He knew he was never going to get out of Leinart what he wanted from his starting quarterback?
Is that wrong? Maybe. Is it reality in many NFL teams? I would think so. Not every coach can get good things out of players. Even Bill Belichick couldn't get Albert Haynesworth back to his previous All-Pro level.
If the point has not yet been made clear, based on what we have previously seen from Leinart and the way he reacts to things, I think we are going to see a guy that has steady increased success as the season goes on, especially if Matt Schaub does indeed miss the rest of the season. He will probably do well.
As for if he had stayed? He probably would have done okay at best under Whiz. He was just a bad fit with the coaching staff.
Is that something we should put on Whisenhunt's shoulders if Leinart succeeds? Perhaps that is fair. But when 30 other teams passed on him other than Houston, you know that he wasn't exactly a hot commodity. No one else thought he was worth taking a look at.
Sometimes it's something as little as "fit." He didn't fit here with Whisenhunt and the gang. We will see if his better fit in Houston yields more success than here.
But what do the rest of you think and say?