I often wonder what people who don’t follow sports think
about. Do they take the time and energy that you and I focus on sports and
concentrate on reading, gaining new knowledge, and pondering philosophical
questions? Instead of wondering how many yards Tiki Barber will have this
year, or what effect rules changes will have on their fantasy teams, do they
think about the density of recycled steel or the air pressure of a certain room
at a certain altitude? If that’s what they think about, then good for them.
I’d rather follow football. And I’m constantly thinking about things that don’t
have any bearing on physics or world affairs.
In what will become a weekly feature, I’ll tell you what’s
on my mind and what I think about. It all relates to football and all relates
to the Cardinals, so you’re in the right place. But if I start talking about
Sartre’s effect on modern thinking, please do send me some hate mail.
On my mind this week is the quarterback situation that the
Arizona Cardinals currently face. They have Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart, Rohan Davey, and John Navarre. I listed them in order of skill and likelihood to
start/success that they would have if they did actually start. In my mind, at
this moment, there’s no real difference between Kurt Warner and Matt Leinart. I
understand that Leinart throws prettier passes, is younger, more durable, and
was a top 10 pick in this year’s draft, but Warner is still a two time MVP and a
guy that was 5-2 before being benched in favor of Eli Manning in 2004.
Davey and Navarre are a wash. And we should all pray long
and hard that neither of those two individuals are asked to marshal the offense
at any time; this season or next. So let’s turn a blind eye to the fact that
Warner hasn’t played a full season since 2001 and that Leinart could very well
get massacred behind a suspect offensive line in his rookie campaign and try to
understand which gentleman would make the most sense under center for the
We’ll have to see what happens during Rookie Camps and
Training Camp, but as of right now, it’s Warner. He has the best grasp of the
system, the confidence of his teammates, experience (and significant success) as
a starter in the NFL, and he’s still one of the best decision makers in the
league… when he finally gets around to making a decision, that is. Assuming
that he remains upright for the entire year, he’s the best, safest choice. Then
again, to make that assumption is to set yourself up for major future
Leinart has considerable skill and considerable potential.
While he was lauded as being the most “NFL ready” quarterback in this year’s
class, there is a tremendous difference between the college game and the pro
game. Young QBs like Ben Roethlisberger and Dan Marino that step right into an
offense and have success are generally more a product of their system than the
reason the system works.
And, given the talent that the Cardinals have on their
roster, added to Dennis Green’s history of statistical dominance in the passing
game no matter who’s behind center, I have a feeling that just about anyone can
come in and put up numbers. The key component for this year will be
finding the guy who can put the ball in the end zone and win games. Neil Rackers didn’t set the NFL record for most field goals in season last year
simply because he’s really good at kicking from 50 yards out. He set it, in
large part, because the Cardinals too often settled for field goals when they
should’ve scored touchdowns.
With Edgerrin James in the mix, some of that should
change. They’ll be able to hand him the ball near the goal line and should be
able to effectively use play-action. But, he can’t do it by himself. Early on
in the season, Warner will be the best guy to make the right decision at the
right time where it matters; in the red zone. As the season wears on, however,
Warner may start to deteriorate mentally and physically. This should only be a
problem if the Cardinals are winning games and have a decent shot at making the
playoffs. And, in general, Warner is only a problem in that situation.
If the Cardinals come out to a fast start and go into their
bye at 6-2 or 5-3 with Warner at the helm, no one will be calling for Leinart.
If they start 3-5 or 2-6, Leinart should be and will be called upon. However,
the danger comes in the Cardinals getting off to a fast start, sticking with
Warner, and having him fall apart come Week 12. At that point, Leinart can step
in, but there will be little to no support for him in that situation.
Best of all possible worlds, they get off to a fast start
(which is not only possible, but likely, given their schedule). Warner is the
guy. Leinert learns under his tutelage. Warner manages to finish out the
season and they make the playoffs. It’s more likely that Warner gets hurt in
Week 6 and Leinart is pressed into action too soon, but let’s dream for a
If Warner does manage to finish the season and the
Cardinals do manage to make it to the playoffs, we will not have a
situation like the one in San Diego. The primary reason for this is that
Warner’s much too old to be a viable option for the future. A playoff season
this year is significantly more important to the organization than getting
Leinart reps this year. All a playoff season does is move Leinart’s timetable
up a year. Instead of replacing an injured/ineffective Warner in Week 6 of the
2006 season, he’ll simply step in Week 6 of 2007.
Leinart will start. He will be the quarterback of this
franchise. The only question is when. The only answer is: as soon as Warner