Following a legend at quarterback, historically, is difficult. It doesn’t always transition well to the won-loss record either.
Brian Griese was 6-10 in his first season as Broncos’ starter the year after John Elway left, although he did go 11-5 the season after that. Jeff Garcia came in for Steve Young in 1999 as the 49ers stumbled to a 4-12 record. Two years later, Garcia had the Niners with 12 wins and a division title. Quincy Carter tried to follow Troy Aikman in Dallas, but the Cowboys were already aging (5-11 in Aikman’s last season of 2000) and Carter was never a genuine quarterback prospect anyway.
What does this mean for Matt Leinart? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.
Perhaps it sounds wishy-washy to say time is the only way to truly evaluate Leinart now that he steps in for Kurt Warner. Leinart, save for the Tennessee start, didn’t look great in many of his brief appearances this season. And it’ll be a jolt for the Cards in many ways to deal with a Warner-less roster. I heard former Bills special team star Steve Tasker talk on the radio how hard it was for the Bills when Jim Kelly retired.Clearly, the Cards didn’t want Warner to go, and not only did Whisenhunt say as much last week, he also was willing to give Warner latitude to keep the veteran around.
The Cards are likely going to have transition pains, and that’s not just because Leinart is the quarterback. Key players will leave (and new ones brought in). The offense may morph (hello Beanie!). Even then, the Cards need future hope out of Leinart, because they may not get all the victories right away. I’m guessing the Packers are pretty happy with Aaron Rodgers now, even though he won just six games last season when he replaced Brett Favre.
I’m not going to proclaim Leinart the savior, or even the answer. I will say I’d like to see him a) playing now that he has, in my opinion, matured as a person and a player; b) playing without Warner over his shoulder; and c) playing with a better offensive line and running game than he had the last time he was starting.
Knee-jerk reactions are never good anyway. Why do I have the feeling at least some of those who are convinced Leinart will never amount to anything are the same people raining boos down on Warner as he ran off the UoP field Sept. 24, 2006, convinced he couldn’t win either?
Tags: Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart
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