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Arizona Cardinals Top Ten Biggest Draft Busts: Matt Leinart, The Biggest Bust Of All

Today we conclude the draft bust series, bringing you the biggest bust the Cardinals have had since 1990. I would argue that he is probably the biggest bust in team history. Since it is still part of recent history, it also stings the most. 

In review, draft bust number 10 was Cody Brown in 2009. Bust number nine was running back Chuck Levy in 1994. Bust number eight was running back Leeland McElroy in 1996. The Cardinals' seventh biggest bust was receiver Bryant Johnson in 2003. Draft bust number six takes us all the way back to 1990 with RB Anthony Thompson. Biggest bust number five was cornerback Tom Knight and coming in at number four was Thomas Jones. The third biggest bust was actually a pair of players on the defensive line -- Wendall Bryant and Andre Wadsworth. The second biggest bust was a really big guy -- Leonard Davis

Who has earned this ignominious distinction? You know who it is. It is a player that some feel got a raw deal while others felt wasted his opportunities. The biggest draft bust is none other than quarterback Matt Leinart.

Leinart had about as illustrious a career as you can have in college while playing for USC. He won two national championships, a Heisman trophy and finished his college career 37-2 as a starter. If it weren't for one incredible game-winning drive by Vince Young, he would have been 38-1 with three national championships.

He would have been the number one pick in 2005 and would have been a San Francisco 49er, but he chose to return for his senior year. 

In 2006, the Cardinals had the 10th pick in the draft. They coveted a quarterback, as they had just completed a season with Josh McCown and Kurt Warner and were another season removed from starting McCown, Shaun King and John Navarre. No one, though, expected Leinart to be there at number 10.

He was and the Cardinals swooped him up. The then coach Dennis Green called him "a gift from heaven."

He started 11 games his rookie season and showed flashes of potential greatness, including a 405 yard performance against the Minnesota Vikings. His season ended in the 16th game, when a sack caused a sprained shoulder. 

In 2007, he began the season as starting quarterback, but Kurt Warner began to creep into the picture. Warner was used in two-minute drills, that is until a sack broke Leinart's collarbone to end his season.

In 2008, he was given the starting job, only to have it wrested away by Warner after the second preseason game. The rest was history -- two division championships and a Super Bowl berth with Warner. 

After Warner's retirement, it was all but a foregone conclusion that Leinart would then get his chance. Some may argue that he didn't get a fair shake, and that is valid, but he never did anything to show that he was clearly the guy that should lead the team.

Whether it was the previous injuries, a bad attitude, a poor work ethic or simply an inability to win over Ken Whisenhunt, it all culminated to his being released before the start of the 2010 season. He went from being a "gift from heaven" to a castoff who could not crack second string as a member of the Houston Texans.

There are several things we will never know. We do not know what would have been had the Cardinals stuck with him. But he certainly has done nothing to show since 2007 that he is anything close to a franchise quarterback. That is what he was drafted to be. no one had a better pedigree. He was to be the guy for years. 

He wasn't. And all signs point to his never being that guy. No he wasn't drafted as high as Andre Wadsworth, Tom Knight or Leonard Davis, but he was to be the most important player on the team -- the leader and face of  the franchise. This is why Leinart earns the biggest bust recognition in Cardinals draft history.

Come back next week. We begin a much more pleasing series -- the top 10 draft successes of the Cardinals since 1990.

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