Friday, September 25, 2009

Just Not in the Cards? The Disappointing Letdown of Matt Leinart's Career

Matt Leinart was once the man. He was, no doubt, the best quarterback in College Football when he was playing with the USC Trojans. Along with his stellar running backs in LenDale White and Reggie Bush he was part of one of the most explosive offenses around.

When he came into the National Football League, nobody expected him to go to the Arizona Cardinals. Most predictions had him going to the New York Jets. Instead, the Jets ended up with a very successful left tackle in D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and the Cardinals got what they believed was their franchise QB.

His rookie year for Arizona wasn't bad, either, as he tallied 2,547 passing yards, eleven touchdowns, and twelve interceptions, to go along with a 74.0 quarterback rating.

In fact, his passing stats were comparable to Vince Young's 2006-07 Rookie season, who won the Rookie of the Year honors that year. Some people even questioned Vince Young winning the award over Leinart.

The next season, in his sophmore year, Cardinals fans were in high hopes Leinart would entertain them like he had the Trojans fans back in California.

Unfortunately, those fans would meet only with disappointment in the 2007-08 season. Leinart only played in five games for the team, and was sidelined for the remainder of the season after posting a paltry 647 passing yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions through those first five contests, with a QB Rating of only 61.9.

Where his rookie stats had fans filled with hope, his sophmore numbers had fans blurting out the words "bust" when his name was mentioned.

It got worse.

In the 2008-09 season, Leinart lost the starting quarterback job to veteran Kurt Warner for good. The Cards made the right choice starting Kurt, who was a star in the Arena Football League (and with the Rams), as Arizona had a Cinderella season to the Super Bowl despite a 9-7 record.

The Cardinals lost the Super Bowl in a close game to the Pittsburgh Steelers and their Cinderella season came to an end.

Of note? That year, Leinart had 264 yards, one touchdown and an interception, along with a 80.2 quarterback rating (a career high).

This is precisely why for the 2009-10 season, Leinart will remain the backup QB.

So far this season, Matt has only 22 passing yards with a 59.0 QB Rating. So, it begs the question; considering how talented and hyped he was coming out of college, is Matt Leinart a "letdown" as a pro?

To me, it's pretty clear he is. To me, he is a complete disappointment to the franchise, and frankly I don't know if he can lead the Cards.

Leinart was picked ahead of many good and great players who were taken in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft.

Players like Jay Cutler, Haloti Ngata, Antonio Cromartie, Tamba Hali, Manny Lawson, Laurence Maroney, Davin and Jonathan Joseph, DeAngelo Williams, Joseph Addai, Nick Mangold, Marcedes Lewis, and Mathias Kiwanuka.

All those players mentioned have had, by far, much more success than Leinart.

Entering his fourth season as an NFL quarterback, Leinart's stats, 3,480 career passing yards, 14 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions, with a QB Rating of 71.6, are actually rather deceiving, not showing how big a disappointment he's been.

Take away his rookie year, and Leinart looks like an Akili Smith.

When Kurt Warner retires, I don't think the Cards will look to Leinart to lead the franchise. He hasn't shown anything in his time with the National Football League.

Heck, maybe bringing Chris Leak from the Canadian Football League would be a whole lot better!

I really wouldn't be surprised if Arizona drafted another quarterback next year. I don't think they'll have such a bad record they'll be able to pick up someone like Sam Bradford, however, perhaps Tim Tebow will be an option.

An even better proposition would be waiting a couple of years and possibly picking up Robert Griffin, who could be a standout.

Matt Leinart hasn't lived up to his potential. One of the issues from ESPN the Mag from about a month ago predicted NFL's quarterbacks' stats and said that Leinart will probably retire in his late-20's or early-30's with 18 touchdowns and 25 interceptions, something along those lines.

His future isn't looking good, and when Kurt Warner retires, he'll have to make a move. He has a second-chance, but if he doesn't take advantage of it, someone else will and it'll all be over.

Wasted talent is rising, it's up to Matt to fix it.