Note: This column appears in the 9/27 issue of the Glendale Star, and the 9/28 issue of the Peoria Times
During the halftime show of the Cardinals game this past Sunday, Terry Bradshaw -- always the beacon of intelligence -- said he disagreed with Ken Whisenhunt’s decision to bench Matt Leinart for a drive during the second quarter of the game in favor of Brenda Warner’s husband. Now, it’s not often that I disagree with Bradshaw -- except, of course, for when’s he’s talking -- but in this case, I couldn’t have sided more strongly with Wisenhunt.
Of course, at the time, I had assumed that Whisenhunt had replaced Leinart for the purpose of lighting a fire under the young QB, who had, up until that point, looked skittish, unsure of himself, generally awful, and, in baseball terms, Farnsworth-y. Granted, Leinart was on the road, facing arguably the NFL’s toughest defense in the Ravens. But hey, these are the games where a young QB has to step up, and I was impressed that Whisenhunt showed the cojones to take the ball away from a guy who may have assumed that he no longer needed to look over his shoulder now that his reign as “face of the franchise” had commenced. In fact, that very well may have been Whisenhunt’s plan, and his way of saying to Leinart, “If you think you can play that badly without immediate repercussions, you can move to Chicago.” But a funny thing happened on the way to teaching a young kid a lesson...
Kurt Warner comes in and immediately starts doing his best Kurt Warner circa 1999 impression, nailing receivers left and right, as if to show Leinart how it’s done, while Leinart stood on the sideline looking as humble as he did on draft day in 2006. And when guys like Anquan Boldin -- who, by the way, just may be the toughest wideout in the league -- started rallying around the ol’ guy, Whisenhunt had no other choice but to give his team the best shot to win. (In case you missed it, they didn’t. But still.)
Now, heading home to face the 3-0 Steelers, the Cardinals have a good old-fashioned quarterback controversy on their hands, even though Whisenhunt himself has said otherwise, claiming that Leinart remains the starting QB, while Warner presents a “package” option when they want to go no-huddle, which, coincidentally, would be a direct result of Leinart failing to produce. Hmmm…
The funny part about this particular QB battle to me is that -- minus Warner’s apparent superior ability to throw the ball better without huddling beforehand -- both Leinart and Warner are essentially the same player. Both have the combined agility of a barrel of paint. Both can look fantastic when things are going well (Warner during Super Bowl XXXIV, Leinart on the cover of “DUB Magazine") and awful when they aren’t (in general, Sundays). The only difference between the two guys rests in their lifestyles -- Warner being the former bag boy who frequents Church, and Leinart being the current frat boy who bags chicks -- and their age, as Leinart is twenty-something and Warner is 80.*
Can you freakin' BELIEVE that old geezer replaced me? I'm horny...
If not necessarily fun to watch, it should be interesting to see where things go from here. Sunday notwithstanding, my guess is that Kurt Warner will, sooner than later, revert to throwing a few lame ducks up for grabs, and dropping the ball immediately at the mere thought of impending contact (lest you forget, he was the starting quarterback of the Giants for a few hours). But then again, Warner could very well remain the Cards’ best chance to win right now. After all, it’s not like Leinart didn’t get a chance on Sunday to redeem himself, although his in-game response to Warner taking his job was, “I see your touchdown pass, and I raise you a three-and-out!”
This wasn’t how the story of 2007 was supposed to unfold, but Whisenhunt seems less interested in sticking to the script than winning football games. How this plays out from here may be decided against Pittsburgh, a team that, hopefully, is still getting advice from their former QB, Terry Bradshaw.
*may not be accurate
In my opinion Matt, you are like, the best G.M. ever! How do you do it?