The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
At the time he arrived, though?
In this first installment of “Revisionist History” (which isn’t so much revising how people should think about a moment for the Cardinals since coming to Arizona as much as reminding them the mindset at the time), a glance back at when the Cards first signed Warner in March of 2005. Denny Green was in his second year as coach. Warner was coming off a benching for the Giants. The Cardinals were coming off a season in which Josh McCown, Shaun King and John Navarre were the quarterback-merry-go-round for Denny.
So Warner was signed. Both local papers compared the decision to the Cards signing Emmitt Smith a couple of years before (“Desperate teams – and desperate players – do desperate things” wrote the Tribune’s Scott Bordow). Remember, Warner only signed a one-year contract in 2005. He re-signed a three-year deal before 2006, and then the Cards took Matt Leinart in the draft, much to his chagrin.
I remember doing a big story on Warner (part one and part two) right before minicamp (that’s a Warner shot from that camp below). There was still much to prove. His halcyon days as a Ram were far behind him, his rebirth with the Cards under Ken Whisenhunt far ahead, relatively speaking. (I mean, I remember how he was showered with boos after the early-season Rams’ loss in 2006. Leinart was the starter soon after, and before the infamous Monday Night Meltdown against the Bears, Kurt was already considering retirement after the season. Can you imagine had he done that, and not had his run in ’07, ’08 and ’09?)
One thing was for certain, Warner still very much believed in himself, and always did, regardless of the circumstances of the team or even Leinart’s showing as a rookie.
A couple of quotes from my Warner opus stand out, especially in retrospect. The first: “It’s kind of my story, the underdog story, no chance to have success. It’s kind of like what I stepped into in St. Louis. I get a chance to rewrite my story and I get a chance to rewrite the story of the Arizona Cardinals.”
There is no question he did.
The second quote? “I am moving my family, I am buying a home and I am believing things are going to work out great. The great thing about it is so much of it depends on me.”
Tags: Dennis Green, Emmitt Smith, John Navarre, Josh McCown, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart, Revisionist history, Shaun King
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The talk about grabbing a “safe” pick high in the draft has been used for a long time now. As I have responded to a few people in blog post comments over the past month or so, there really isn’t such a thing as a “safe” pick. Now ESPN’s John Clayton has written a really good column on the subject, and the reality of going “safe.”
Clayton uses the example of the Dolphins going with tackle Jake Long (three Pro Bowls in three seasons already) and then taking QB Chad Henne in the second round, instead of taking QB Matt Ryan over Long. Henne isn’t working. They are still looking for a QB. Long was “safe” and he has been excellent. But was the pick for the best?
That’s why there is so much hair-pulling (figuratively, of course) about Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, and what they could mean. If you are the Bills, for instance, and you go with Von Miller over Gabbert, and Gabbert turns into Matt Ryan — even if Miller is another, say, Clay Matthews — did Buffalo make the right call? (The same argument can be made for the Cards, for instance, for taking Larry Fitzgerald over Ben Roethlisberger). It’s why the Panthers seem likely to take Cam Newton No. 1 overall, because no matter how “safe” a Patrick Peterson or Marcell Dareus might be, they can’t trump the impact of a franchise QB.
Then again, you don’t know if that QB is going to be a franchise guy (see Leinart, Matt — among others). Another concept: Is it better to take a QB who might wash out or end up with a position player who washes out? The upside of impact usually rests with the most important position. It’s another reason why making the decisions on draft day are never simple, even when sometimes they look that way.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Chad Henne, Clay Matthews, draft, Jake Long, Larry Fitzgerald, Marcell Dareus, Matt Leinart, Matt Ryan, Patrick Peterson, Von Miller
Posted in Blog | 73 Comments »
Coach Ken Whisenhunt just had his season-ending presser. Change is coming, he said — “When you go 5-11 … it has to be that way” — but he was short on specifics. Not a shock. Whisenhunt isn’t going to call people out publicly. Never has been his style.
–Very interesting comment from Whisenhunt about how “sometimes you get emotionally attached to players and what they have done for you in the past.”
“You may have a tendency to overlook certain things … When you win games, sometimes you let things slip a little bit, ‘OK, he didn’t make this play, he’ll make it the next time.’ That builds up over time and you start evaluating players based on what you remember them doing a year or two or three or four ago and maybe not candidly assessing where they are right now. That’s an easy trap to fall into … and you have to work past that.
So be more cold-hearted? “There’s a fine line there.”
As for players who underachieved this season, that has to change. “Their goodwill is used up.” And as for the “star” players, “Some of our best players didn’t play at their best.”
Let the speculation begin on which players about whom he is speaking.
I know this, that safety Adrian Wilson said while some players cared, some didn’t. He said sometimes, it was “hidden” to many. Asked if he could still see it, Wilson said “I’ve been here 10 years. I’ve seen a lot of bull(bleep).”
– There is a story out there saying WR coach John McNulty was the front-runner for the University of Miami offensive coordinator job. Whisenhunt said McNulty said he has not been contacted about the position. It’s just a rumor for now.
– Speaking of the coaching staff, Whisenhunt said he wasn’t saying anything less than 24 hours removed from the last game. “We have started the process already of evaluating and we are going to evaluate everything (including coaches). I know there will be changes, I don’t know what that will encompass, but we are going to work to make sure we don’t have another season like this.”
Something to keep in mind: With the labor uncertainty and the possibility the offseason could be lost, Whisenhunt said teams must be careful about new coaches and new schemes because there’s a chance there will only be three weeks or so to implement anything new, rather than a whole offseason. That’s a factor right now.
– Passing game coordinator Mike Miller could end up as the playcaller next season. But Whisenhunt, asked if he thought his own playcalling made it hard for him to manage the big picture, noted the 10 wins the Cards had in 2009 when he was calling plays. “What you have to be careful about is basing it off of one season (this season). I don’t feel like it does (hurt us).”
– Whisenhunt didn’t change his thoughts on the handling of the quarterback situation, after being asked directly about having regrets or second-guessing on the situation. “I think we were fair and honest about the process.”
He was asked if he felt Matt Leinart would have provided more wins.
“That’s a question I don’t think can ever be answered,” Whisenhunt said. “I did what I felt was in the best interest of our team at the time. It was based on performance, it was based on the reaction of the team to the players and who was in there and the confidence our team had in the position being able to execute. That’s what it was all about. It was based on the work in the offseason and the work in OTAs and training camp. That’s the way you have to evaluate players. Who knows? It’s a question that can’t be answered, but I am sure it is a popular topic.”
– LB Clark Haggans (sports hernia) and CB Michael Adams (shoulder) are the two players scheduled for offseason surgery for now.
Here’s a shot of Wilson and Kerry Rhodes wrapping things up. More later today on the homepage.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Clark Haggans, John McNulty, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Matt Leinart, Michael Adams, Mike Miller
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The Cardinals are undecided at quarterback at this moment.
With Derek Anderson undergoing concussion tests and Max Hall out seemingly at least a week if not longer with a dislocated shoulder, John Skelton is the only healthy QB right now. Coach Ken Whisenhunt wouldn’t commit to a starter yet, which doesn’t surprise. He wants to see where Anderson is first. The Cards also need to see what Skelton is comfortable with as a playcaller. If Hall is out — and Whisenhunt declined to say it was a season-ending injury — the Cards I would think would sign someone (and signs point to former Redskin Richard Bartel).
With everything going on, Whisenhunt was asked about what he has learned about dealing with the quarterback position, and was asked specifically if he would have kept Matt Leinart if he had to do it all over again.
“That’s the thing to talk about now (but) when we made the decision at the time, we did what we felt was best for our team and best for our future going forward,” Whisenhunt said. “Obviously it is easy to second-guess now because it hasn’t worked out the way any of us had hoped or thought it was going to. I can’t go back and say now you would do anything differently because the dynamic is different now (compared to) then when we were making the decisions.”
Whisenhunt was asked about having a veteran QB backup — which the Cards didn’t have — and he emphasized “it’s got to be what’s best for your team.”
“The team has to believe in that position too, and how those players are performing,” he added. “(Max and John) you felt earned their spots. If you had to do it over again, I think hindsight is always 20/20. But I look at other teams in the league who had veteran backups that now aren’t playing because they are playing other guys. There is no guarantee just because you have a veteran he will do the job for you.”
Overall, Whisenhunt said, finding a franchise quarterback isn’t easy. He pointed to both Miami and Denver, and their ongoing quests to replace Dan Marino and John Elway.
“I learned if your plan at quarterback, if they play well, it looks like a good plan,” Whisenhunt said. “If they don’t play well, it doesn’t look like such a good plan. There’s a number of teams out there struggling at the position.
“The bottom line is that position has not performed for us this year, nowhere near the level we have needed it to perform. We haven’t been able to compensate in other areas to account for that. What have I learned? I’ve learned it’s tough when you lose a quarterback like Kurt, and to have someone come in a play at the level you are used to without compensating in other areas is difficult.”
Tags: Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Matt Leinart, Max Hall
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The running back situation hasn’t changed much since yesterday. Jason Wright (concussion) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (hamstring) each sat out again. While Beanie Wells was limited, I will be shocked if he doesn’t play this weekend. That’s certainly how coach Ken Whisenhunt is talking. The question is whether the Cards are forced to activate Alfonso Smith from the practice squad if Wright and Hyphen can’t go, or if they risk going with two running backs (one of which has been dealing with a knee issue).
– Along those lines, Whisenhunt said he has not decided who the starting running back will be, nor the kick returner if Stephens-Howling can’t play.
– The other spot of concern is at cornerback, where starter Greg Toler, who was limited yesterday with a left foot injury, sat out altogether Thursday. Whisenhunt said it wasn’t serious but it’ll be wait-and-see. Safety Kerry Rhodes also was limited today after having his back act up. Rhodes was already on the injury list because of a sore hand.
– DT Darnell Dockett is getting better, Whisenhunt said, but the test to see if his shoulder will hold up won’t come until the weekend. The full injury list, by the way, is here.
– WR Larry Fitzgerald, on going to Kansas City: “I already talked to Todd (Haley) this week and he said he was going to let us win this game, so I don’t know if this one will be too tough. It’s already in the works.”
(Yes, he was joking).
– As an FYI, former third QB Brian St. Pierre, who was without a job until last week when injuries forced the Panthers to sign him, has been named Carolina’s starter this weekend for a home game against Baltimore. Stunningly, St. Pierre will have more NFL starts than Matt Leinart (who remains third-string in Houston) since Kurt Warner retired. If you would have asked me Thanksgiving-time 2009 where the Cards’ three QBs would be at this time 2010, I would have whiffed big on all three.
Tags: Alfonso Smith, Beanie Wells, Brian St. Pierre, Darnell Dockett, Greg Toler, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Kurt Warner, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart
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It’s funny (OK, maybe not hah-hah funny, the way last week went) but funny interesting that on the week where the biggest news was that the undrafted rookie was taking over at quarterback the most important news may have been acknowledging it is the established players that need to step up their collective game.
“It’s been discussed in our group and meetings,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “That’s an important thing. Our best players have to play better than they have played in order for us to be successful and there is no ambiguity in that message.”
That’s why we had a rash of “I have to worry about myself” talk in the locker room earlier this week, and why Darnell Dockett was talking about accountability (although he briefly left himself out of those who had to step up before properly recovering).
We can talk all day about Hall and what he will do (and make no mistake, he has to be at least adequate for this team to win, i.e., few rookie errors), but there are ways around that if the stars begin to shine. Some are dependent on others, like Fitz. But there is a big group of defenders like A-Dub, Dockett, Calais Campbell, DRC and Joey Porter that could allow the team to lean on them a little while (while Hall learns a bit) and give the Cards the chance to run the ball.
This defense is one of those groups that, every once in a while, turns in one of those dominant performances – like in the Monday Night Meltdown game, or against the Panthers in the playoffs or against the Vikings last year. Maybe the Saints will get the 2010 version.
– I will write more about Hall tomorrow on the homepage but – and don’t let me hear how negative I am being – keep the expectations tempered. If Hall comes out and throws a couple of TD passes and the Cards win, the coronation will happen anyway (even though it’ll be one game) and it will even happen at azcardinals.com. That’s natural. But let’s see what Hall does in the regular game all the way through first.
– Whisenhunt on the way the offensive line and defensive line looked this week, getting very physical (and working in pads Wednesday, which isn’t always the case). “That’s a good sign that our guys are trying to get it right,” Whisenhunt said.
– Fitzgerald is watching the standings in the division, just in case you were wondering. Asked where the Cards were as a team, he said “We’re leading the NFC west, that’s where we are.”
“Obviously we are not playing the kind of football of which we are capable, but things could be a heck of a lot worse, and we know that,” Fitzgerald said, adding, “anybody who says they don’t watch the other teams in their division play and hope for them all to lose is lying to you. That’s the nature of competition. We want to win it. We know we need to put together a streak of games, starting Sunday preferably, and try to take control.”
– The question now is, can Fitz continue to get the ball, even if it’s from the rookie? My guess is yes. And don’t ask Fitz about Hall’s arm strength or is Hall throws a “catchable ball” or anything like that. It’s a moot point to him. “I’ve never seen an ugly ball come in my direction in all the years I’ve been playing,” Fitz said. “Punt it to me, roll it to me, whatever you want to do, I’m going to catch it.”
Fitz does know neither a punt or a rolling ball would count as a reception, right?
– Whisenhunt was asked about handling the quarterback situation early in the offseason after Warner retired, and if the Cards should have signed a veteran now that they are down to a rookie.
“Well, we did sign a veteran,” Whisenhunt said. “We signed Derek (Anderson). If I remember, you can go back and check the timing of it, we didn’t have a lot of options available. I’ve heard a number of talks about certain quarterbacks in the league, but at the time we were in a situation when Kurt (Warner) retired and we didn’t have another quarterback, there weren’t a lot of opportunities available. We did what we thought was the right move in bringing Derek in here as a veteran player who had success in the league. At that time, we tried to make an offer for the guy in San Diego (Charlie Whitehurst) who went to Seattle. We did have a plan that we tried to execute. I don’t know what other alternatives that we had available to us at that time that you would consider us having done.”
Key to remember Matt Leinart was on board at the time too, and – regardless of what people want to think – was still a likely option at that point.
– Two appearances by Kurt Warner in two weeks. One for “Dancing With the Stars.” One for FOX and his analyst job. None for playing football for the Cardinals.
“Did I think Kurt wasn’t going to be busy with things like that? No. I know Kurt would get slammed as soon as he made that decision to come back,” Whisenhunt said. “In fact, I’ll be honest, I think Kurt sometimes wishes he was playing football again so he didn’t have so much stuff going on.”
I think Whisenhunt sometimes wishes that too.
– The Saints aren’t hitting on all cylinders as an offense. That can play to the Cards’ favor. It needs to play into their favor. I don’t see the Cards able to score with the Saints if Drew Brees comes in and puts up a 28-spot. But maybe, just maybe, the Cards get a little magic with Hall and a big defensive effort in front of the home crowd. To be 3-2 at the bye, given everything, would be a spectacular achievement.
– And so I leave with this: veteran back and brainiac Jason Wright – he went to Northwestern – on coming back after that San Diego beatdown, the second in three weeks the Cards suffered: “We need to be harder on ourselves about that loss,” he said. “You can get sucker-punched walking down the street. But if you get sucker-punched a second time, you are a sucker. That’s the reality of the situation. We have to be harder on ourselves because this is the second time around.”
We’ll see what that means against the Saints Sunday.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, DRC, Drew Brees, Jason Wright, Joey Porter, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart, Max Hall, Saints
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The Cardinals have been in Arizona since 1988. Max Hall becomes just the fourth rookie quarterback to get a start for the team in that span. The trio before him included Jake Plummer, John Navarre and Matt Leinart.
As you can see, a rookie starter isn’t a guarantee of success (and, in all honesty, a rookie doesn’t get a start in the first place unless the team is struggling, so the rest of the team has to be taken into account). It can be argued that, of the four rookie QB situations for the Cards, Hall walks into the best team situation (although Leinart had a decent supporting cast, he had less of a running game and less of a coaching staff).
Expectations, however, should always be tempered in this situation.
“I’m going to make mistakes,” Hall said, “but I am going to give it everything I have.”
Tags: Jake Plummer, John Navarre, Matt Leinart, Max Hall
Posted in Blog | 66 Comments »
See, the week before, Matt Leinart had broken his collarbone and was out for the season. The Cards were only carrying two quarterbacks at the time, so, Tim Rattay came in off the street to back up Warner. And then Warner went down. Rattay played the rest of that game against the Panthers — a loss, even though the Panthers also had to bring Vinny Testaverde off the street to play QB because of injuries — and the offense looked understandably disheveled.
Warner came back the next week, amazingly, playing with a bad left elbow. Warner had to deal with pain and a funky brace, but the alternative was using Rattay (pictured below) when he just didn’t know what he was doing.
There is a reason teams aren’t adding quarterbacks midseason and then using them. Heck, there is a reason teams bring back players they have already cut if someone is needed — think Onrea Jones — instead of looking elsewhere. If you need to plug someone in right away, you want someone who knows the system. That’s why a trade (however silly the idea) of someone like Kevin Kolb would not work in the short-term even if he was available. Or why a team is going to be hesitant to claim a Trent Edwards and put him on the field right away.
There’s a reason Leinart, when he signed with the Texans, had no immediate chance to be the backup even over journeyman Dan Orlovsky. Orlovsky had been with the Texans all offseason. He knew the offense. Leinart didn’t/doesn’t. At best, it’ll be deep into the season before Leinart moves up the depth chart. This isn’t baseball or basketball, where a new player can slide right in and make an impact.
And in the case of the Cards, coach Ken Whisenhunt made the choice to go with the three quarterbacks he has now. He’s going to stick with that plan at least through the season (barring injury), which is why Derek Anderson remains entrenched as a starter and why, if the team were to make a change, rookie Max Hall would get the call rather than the Cards putting a call into, say, the UFL to see if ancient Jeff Garcia is available.
Tags: Derek Anderson, Jeff Garcia, Kevin Kolb, Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart, Max Hall, Tim Rattay, Trent Edwards, Vinny Testaverde
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Not that it is any surprise, but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald insisted Wednesday he was not a factor in the Cards’ switch in quarterbacks from Matt Leinart to Derek Anderson (Coach Ken Whisenhunt had already said no players, including Fitzgerald, impacted the discussions).
“I want to clear the air on that one,” Fitzgerald told Bob Baum of the AP. “I had nothing to do with that. Somebody told me I was pulling for Derek. I’ve never taken a snap with Derek, so how can I vouch for a man that I haven’t even played with. … I think it’s unfair to point (to) me as somebody that would do that. I just want to win. I believe in coach Whisenhunt and what he’s done here over the years.
“Your job is not to talk in the media or have an opinion. It’s your job to go out there and produce and do what you’re asked to do.”
Tags: Derek Anderson, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart
Posted in Blog | 39 Comments »
The day the Cardinals drafted Matt Leinart, then-coach Dennis Green proclaimed the fact Leinart dropped to the team’s 10th overall selection as a “gift from heaven.” Then Leinart’s first two starts – close losses to the Chiefs and Bears (the Monday Night Meltdown) that Leinart should have won had the team held up – showed so much promise.
It never quite materialized, though.
Blame it on sitting behind a probable Hall of Famer. Blame it on coach Ken Whisenhunt’s arrival. Blame it on Leinart’s inability to seize the moments he was given, or the opportunities some fans think he never got. Doesn’t matter. Leinart is an ex-Cardinal now.
I do think this: If Leinart was better on the field, he’d be here. That sounds so general, but it’s true. The basic, fundamental reason Deuce Lutui is going to be starting at guard – after missing all the offseason and showing up well overweight – when Reggie Wells was traded after doing everything asked of him this summer? They think, in the end, Deuce is a better player.
They didn’t think Leinart was a better player than Derek Anderson. It was close – close enough that the other stuff comes into play, the stuff Whisenhunt declined to get into publicly Saturday and probably never will. The coach insisted no players had input in this decision (he was specifically asked about Larry Fitzgerald) and brought up again that stats aren’t everything.
Explaining some of the things he liked about rookie Max Hall – now the No. 2 QB – and Whiz noted, “There are a number of things you try to judge the quarterback position other than his completion percentage.”
Leinart couldn’t show Whisenhunt something for which he was looking. Whisenhunt likes to treat his quarterbacks like they are any other player on the team, a tight end or an inside linebacker. I’m not sure that works for Leinart. There is a reason Leinart clicks so well with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, his boss in college at USC. Leinart didn’t react well to his recent demotion, and whether you think Whisenhunt was fair to judge him on that or not, the bottom line is that Leinart should have known his coach well enough by now to know what was expected.
This wasn’t just about this preseason. Bottom line, the memory of his brief stint in Chicago last year lingered. Or the fact the Cards went through the Rams like butter in St. Louis behind Kurt Warner last season, and once Warner was concussed, the Cards suddenly couldn’t score with Leinart. There were other moments, I’m sure.
Whisenhunt insisted Saturday he thought Leinart could play. He just obviously couldn’t play for the Cardinals.
Leinart will sign somewhere else. Everyone will see whether Whisenhunt made a big mistake, or just cut his losses. In the meantime, Whiz has gone with Anderson, no sure bet, and backed him up with coaching staff favorite Hall, the rookie brimming with confidence.
“He’s not the second coming at the position,” Whisenhunt said of Hall, “but he’s done some good things. … He’s probably mad he’s not the starter. He’s definitely not afraid.”
Hall, actually, bluntly said “absolutely” the other night when I asked if he was comfortable being the backup if needed. I’m not sure that was ever an edge Leinart possessed. Maybe that could have helped. Whether Hall can translate it to success on the field, well, that too will be judged.
Leinart has already been judged, at least here. He’s not the first first-round quarterback to wash out nor will he be the last. Whisenhunt said both sides needed a fresh start. Of everything said and written in this whole saga, that is the point of which I am the most sure.
Tags: Dennis Green, Derek Anderson, Deuce Lutui, Ken Whisenhunt, Matt Leinart, Max Hall, Reggie Wells
Posted in Blog | 159 Comments »