Arizona Cardinals Tickets - Is Warner the Right Choice?

by Morgan Dunn - Date: 2008-09-10 - Word Count: 647 Share This!

After Matt Leinart apparently went color blind in the Arizona Cardinals third game of the preseason, in which he threw three interceptions in less than two quarters of play, the team has reportedly awarded the starting quarterback job to Kurt Warner. Leinart went 4-12 for a measly 24 yards and the aforementioned picks against the Oakland Raiders, a performance that apparently sealed his fate as 2008 backup.

The 37-year-old Warner steps in more than ready to go. Warner appeared in 14 games last season in Leinart's absence due to injury, throwing a whopping 27 touchdown passes in the process. He posted a quarterback rating of nearly 90 and eclipsed 3400 yards through the air. The former Super Bowl MVP is entering his fourth season with the club, appearing in 30 games in his Cardinals tenure thus far. Leinart missed all but five games last season due to injury, but was handed back the starting role during the offseason.

Many NFL pundits, including myself, expected a big step forward from the USC product in 2008. The team has expressed concerns about Leinart's arm strength, which is a bit perplexing. Leinart's lack of the proverbial "laser rocket arm" was well-documented during the months leading up to the 2006 NFL Draft and was probably a factor in Leinart's draft day slide. Leinart's arm strength, or lack thereof, shouldn't come as a surprise to Cardinals management.

It comes as a surprise to me that the team gave up on Leinart, at least for this season, after one bad preseason game. I know Leinart's performance against Oakland was nothing short of putrid, but this seems like a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. Leinart fared well in the two previous games this preseason and it's odd that one bad game would automatically unseat him as the starter.

I am going to give the Cardinals coaching staff the benefit of the doubt, though, and assume that the Oakland game was not the only problem. Leinart's offseason activities have led to his work ethic and dedication being questioned, but the former Trojan attended every offseason workout the team held. He could still very well be the quarterback of the future in Arizona, but most people were expecting him to be the signal caller of the present as well.

There is still a chance that Matty Hollywood regains his job as starter this season, but it may take an injury to Warner, who does have a history of getting hurt when he holds onto the ball for too long. For now, the Cards are going with Warner, who does give the team the best chance to win this season. Warner's got perhaps the best wide receiver tandem in the league in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and don't sleep on tight end and resident giant Leonard Pope in the red zone. Warner could very well throw 30 touchdowns in the 2008 campaign, but will that be enough to propel the Cardinals to the playoffs?

Arizona plays in a pretty weak NFC West and a postseason berth isn't completely out of the question, but it would certainly be a surprise. With Warner at the helm, I still don't see the club winning more than seven games. Were Leinart the starter, I'd probably knock off one or two of those victories. So is it better to go 7-9 with a stop-gap quarterback or let your future quarterback take his lumps while learning the position and go 5-11? Leinart would gain valuable experience while the team got a look at whether he truly is their guy going forward or not and the team would land a better pick in the 2009 draft. I know Herm Edwards would tell me that "you play to win the game," but you must look at this situation from a long-term, franchise-oriented standpoint. But more wins sell more Arizona Cardinals tickets, a correlation that surely isn't lost on Cardinals ownership.

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