Matt Leinart (Getty)
After being named the starting quarterback prior to the 2008 season, Matt Leinart relinquished those duties to veteran Kurt Warner. The rest is history as Warner led the Cardinals to their first ever Super Bowl berth while Leinart watched from the sidelines. However, with a new year on the horizon and another offseason under his belt, Leinart is ready for a shot at redemption in the desert.
As a backup quarterback, history shows you’re only one play away from seeing the field. That notion becomes even more of a reality when the incumbent starter under center is 38 years of age. Although he’s working diligently to reverse his fortunes, Matt Leinart currently hails as the backup to Kurt Warner. His newest attempt includes learning the ropes of mixed martial arts. From the looks of it, Leinart has ditched the party scene for time in the octagon as it’s known in the world of MMA.
Leinart’s time in the NFL has been turbulent thus far and the former Heisman Trophy winner brought much of that on his own shoulders. After being dubbed as a party boy, Leinart’s performance on the field was amplified for not being up to par. With pictures surfacing in the media, Arizona fans questioned his work ethic and dedication towards the team. In addition, there’s no doubt Leinart lost respect from his coaches and teammates, something he’s trying to gain back with each passing day.
To Leinart’s credit, there are other highly touted quarterbacks finding the going not so easy. Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young – who was selected seven picks ahead of Leinart in the 2006 draft – also finds himself on the second string. Tennessee’s situation is very similar to that of the Cardinals as a veteran took the reigns under center. QB Kerry Collins led the Titans to the playoffs a year ago and will continue his starting duties in 2009.
After being released by the New York Giants and subsequently finding a new home in Arizona, it was apparent that Warner still had plenty of gas left in the tank. Since he arrived in the desert, Warner has recaptured the magic he displayed during his tenure with the St. Louis Rams. Leinart hasn’t been replaced with a journeyman quarterback or undrafted rookie, but rather a Pro Bowl caliber signal caller who happens to own two MVP awards and a Super Bowl ring.
If Warner wasn’t starting, chances are slim he would still be wearing an Arizona uniform. Fortunately for the Cardinals, the team continues to hold the rights to each player. After all, Leinart is still in line to be Warner’s heir apparent but will likely be holding a clipboard for at least another two years. On a positive note, Leinart’s backup duties have given him ample time to study the game and he could come back better than ever once he’s finally called upon.
Also working in Leinart’s favor is the continued offensive success in Arizona. Additionally, the team’s overall stability is growing with Ken Whisenhunt now entering his third season as head coach. After Warner’s contract expires following the 2010 season, Leinart could be stepping into a gold mine. If he’s able to pick up where Warner left off, Leinart’s patience and practice time could pay off in a big way.
Only time will tell if Leinart’s abilities ever pan out, but Cardinal fans are optimistic that scenario takes place in Arizona. Leinart has shown flashes of brilliance during his first three professional seasons but finds himself on the bench waiting for another opportunity. If that chance comes this year, the Cardinals are hopeful Leinart finally realizes his potential and redeems himself on and off the field.
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