Let's Start With Leinart:
The best and worst thing that has happened thus far this season is that Matt Leinart got his opportunity to be the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. When the Cardinals took Leinart with the 10th overall selection this
April, everyone knew that the Leinart Era would have to start eventually,
but no one knew exactly when that would be.
Kurt Warner's ineffectiveness, the popular theory went (and was re-enforced
by me) that if Leinart started at any point this year, the season was over.
According to Dennis Green, the season was over in Week 5. And that was
considerably earlier than anyone had assumed.
For the remainder of the season, it will be important to track the young
quarterback's development. After going 37-2 at Southern Cal, the 0-3 start to
Leinart's career must be jarring and foreign to him. The important aspect of
his development to track will be how he deals with the adversity that comes with
playing for the Cardinals. Will he rise to the occasion and "make everyone on
the team better"? Or, will he fall prey to the losing mentality that hangs over
the entire organization?
Only time will tell.
Will the Offensive Line Improve?
No. It's entirely possible that they'll play better (after all, they can't
play any worse). The best thing that coach Green and offensive line
coach Steve Loney can do for this unit is offer it a modicum of stability by
rolling out the same starters for the rest of the season, barring injury.
Offensive line play is all about continuity, timing, and familiarity.
Athleticism, strength, size, and tenacity come into play, but the common thread
among the best lines in the NFL is that they've all been together and started
numerous games together for a long time.
While it's true that Arizona will (or, at least should) blow up the
offensive line and start over at the end of the season, they still owe it to
themselves and the gentlemen they currently have under contract to see what they
What's the Game Plan From Here?
When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose.
The Cardinals should continue to be aggressive on defense. Not aggressive to
a fault, but aggressive. Clancy Pendergast needs to continue to preach his
usual aggressive style, but temper that with discipline and caution.
On offense, they need to stick with the running game to establish
consistency. They also need to take some shots down the field to loosen up the
defense. They need to take chances. Playing conservative hasn't worked.
Running the ball for the sake of running the ball hasn't worked. At 1-7, having
been largely ineffective on offense for most of the season, it can't get much
By opening up the passing game, the coaches can see what Leinart is really
made of. And Leinart can see what he's really made of.
Don't Forget, NFL Players Are People, Too:
The one thing that analysts and "experts" forget when they're breaking down
film is that players in the NFL are people, just like you and me. For every
Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson, there's a Marc Columbo or a Rod Smith. Everyone
has worked at a company where the "star" salesperson bangs a gong every time he
closes a big deal. Everyone also knows Ed from accounting, who quietly goes
about his business, clocks out when the day is done, and goes home to the wife
Now, imagine that the company that you're working for is in danger. It's
been a bad year and the CEO and management are likely to be fired when it's all
said and done. The question is: Who is going to sustain their level of
productivity? Who is going to persevere and go above and beyond, even though
the future is uncertain? And who is going to lay low, only do as much as they
have to to survive, and wait until the new regime begins?
Anquan Boldin and Robert Griffith have already called out their teammates for
not trying hard enough now that the season is over. The popular line is that
they're all professionals.
Who works on their resume and cover letter during the day? Who tries to fill
their pipeline and create business for the future? And who does just enough to
Only time will tell. That's why they play the games.