The relationship between coach Ken Whisenhunt and quarterback Matt Leinart has always been an arranged marriage.
Leinart was taken with the 10th overall pick in 2006, the year before Whisenhunt came, and player and coach have never connected beyond a professional level.
Whisenhunt's decision to bench Leinart is yet another example. Leinart has completed 82 percent of his passes this preseason and has not committed a turnover.
Yet, Whisenhunt senses something is missing. Perhaps the fire and passion he seeks in a quarterback. Or maybe Whisenhunt doesn't think Leinart's teammates believe in him.
But he benched Leinart for Derek Anderson for the third preseason game, and that could remain the situation heading into the regular season.
"(Matt) continued to be efficient with the football," he said, "but once again, it's not as much about stats as it is about chemistry with the team, how you handle everything that's thrown at you. Obviously, I was very pleased with his performance tonight (last Saturday)."
Leinart was stunned last Thursday when Whisenhunt informed him of the demotion. Anderson had played far more in the preseason, with 10 possessions in the first two games to Leinart's six. Anderson attempted 28 more passes, and that wasn't all because he was completing them and moving the ball.
Anderson has had his struggles in preseason, too. He's had two interceptions and has missed open receivers. Whisenhunt hasn't announced a starter for the season opener in St. Louis, but he seems inclined to go with Anderson.
Leinart's public response to his demotion has been measured, but firm. He hasn't ripped Whisenhunt, but he's made it clear he's unhappy.
"That is what is surprising," Leinart said. "I don't make these decisions and sometimes you don't know why decisions are made. I can't really worry about anything that's out of my control. Like I said, I still plan on starting opening week."
The backdrop to this story is that the Cardinals like their two rookie quarterbacks, John Skelton, a fifth-round pick, and Max Hall, a free agent.
Coaches are especially high on Hall, whose toughness and intelligence could make him the team's starter soon, perhaps in 2011, or sometime this season.
Hall is barely over 6-feet tall and his arm strength is not impressive. But he reads defenses well, has good mobility and is bulldog tough. He has some of the same qualities as Kurt Warner.
It's probably too early to put the offense in Hall's hands, but don't be surprised if it happens in the next couple years.
Clearly, Leinart doesn't fit in the team's future. If he's not the starter this year, the Cardinals could try to trade him, but that might be difficult given that Leinart is due a hefty pay hike next year.
His new team likely would want to restructure his contract.
But it would be hard for Leinart to remain with the Cardinals as the No.2 quarterback, given how Whisenhunt obviously feels about him. Whisenhunt has demoted Leinart twice now, once in 2008 and again this year.
He has never meshed with Whisenhunt, who has never been touchy-feely with his quarterbacks. Leinart has performed his best under coaches who expressed confidence in him.
Pete Carroll, his coach at Southern Cal, said Leinart became a different player once coaches installed him as a starter. Under former Cardinals coach Dennis Green, Leinart played with a looseness and flair that seems to be missing now.
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