Everyone remembers Dennis Green's "They are who we thought they were" tirade after the Arizona Cardinals blew a large lead over the Chicago Bears in 2007. But what people seem to forget is the steady, if not spectacular, performance rookie quarterback Matt Leinart gave that night.
Leinart's stats against that season's best defense: 24-42, 232 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions.
In fact, Leinart's rookie season was a success. The former Heisman Trophy winner completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 2,547 yards with 11 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. His quarterback rating of 74 was better than Vince Young's, that season's NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Historically, a 74 quarterback rating for a rookie is a very good number and a positive sign for things to come: Peyton Manning had a 71.2 rating as a rookie, his brother Eli had a 55.4, heck, Drew Brees had a 76.9 rating his second season (first as a starter) and 67.5 his third year.
So what happened between then and now as Leinart seems poised to lose his starting job to Derek Anderson, who has a career rating of 69.7?
Ken Whisenhunt arrived in Arizona. And then Leinart's drunken face was posted all over the Internet. And then Kurt Warner's career took flight again.
Leinart became relegated to a backup behind a man who had three Hall of Fame-type seasons. Whisenhunt changed the second-year player's mechanics and then criticized him for his work ethic.
The quarterback, whom two years previously had been the biggest sports star in Los Angeles, lost his mojo. And a quarterback lacking confidence and audacity is a quarterback bound to fail.
By all accounts, including Whisenhunt's, Leinart put in the work to become the starter this offseason and played well in camp to solidify his position.
This preseason, while he's played a little cautiously, Leinart has put up pretty decent numbers: 19-23, 161 yards (7.0 per attempt), one touchdown, and zero turnovers.
One 18-yard completion that led to an injury to star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and criticism from former NFL receiver Chris Carter started this current quarterback controversy. But the lack of backing from Whisenhunt is what really threw Leinart under the bus.
In order to explain why he removed Leinart from the starting lineup, Whisenhunt went with the old immeasurable reasoning: "It's not as much about stats as it is about chemistry with the team. In that position it's about how you handle everything that's thrown at you."
It's difficult to expect teammates to believe in a quarterback when it's clear the coach doesn't.
It's like the owner of a business constantly criticizing the company's manager publicly, demoting him a few times, and then saying, "Well, the employees just don't respect you" when he's demoted once again.
If Whisenhunt wants Leinart to succeed he needs to back him 100 percent and allow his quarterback to make plays, and forgive any mistakes. If he can't do that, it's time for the Cardinals to move the former No. 10 pick. In fact, it'd be a move long overdue.
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