Replacing a legend never easy

Posted by Darren Urban on February 2, 2010 – 3:59 pm

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?

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31 Responses to “Replacing a legend never easy”

  1. By Sue H on Feb 2, 2010 | Reply

    Darren, I couldn’t agree more. Now is the time to see what Matt is made of–while he’s not a huge hit against the salary cap. He gets a lot more expensive in 2011. It might be painful this season, but I have hopes that Matt will come out and surprise everyone.

  2. By Scott Hornberger on Feb 2, 2010 | Reply

    It will indeed be interesting to see this offense transition to…well, something different than what it was with Warner at the controls. With the talent they have at WR, they can’t move dramatically away from the passing game. But the emergence of Beanie Wells does late last year is a good thing because they probably will have to become more run-oriented. And, really, why shouldn’t they??? Wells looks like the real deal and Hightower gives them a great tandem in the backfield. Let the big guys up front do some more run blocking and let the running game take the pressure off Leinart so he has a chance to pick his spots to make big plays down the field instead of needing to carry the team on his shoulders. If this team is bringing home another NFC West crown next year, I won’t mind at all if it’s a “different” team getting it done. Fine with me!

  3. By Devin on Feb 2, 2010 | Reply

    remember – there is no salary cap and 2011 is no guarantee.

  4. By Secret on Feb 2, 2010 | Reply

    The blind side also changes, which is unique to our team. We could probably get a steal in the RT position with the skill of a 1st round LT in the 2nd or 3rd round of the draft. Move Levi to the LT position run strong that direction so he can run block.

  5. By LUKE on Feb 2, 2010 | Reply

    As a cards fan i have to go into this in a positive manner.i honestly believe leinart might surprise alot of doubters.i think coach whiz will change up our offense a bit and like darren said,it may take some transition time but if you are a cards fan youve gotta give matt support to show what hes got.

  6. By Gags on Feb 2, 2010 | Reply

    Off topic i know, but if Rolle leaves do you expect Rashad Johnson to be the guy or a free agency fix?

  7. By darrenurban on Feb 2, 2010 | Reply

    Gags —

    Rashad would be the default but they’d have to try and find a vet to at least back him up I’d think.

  8. By Kevin15 on Feb 2, 2010 | Reply


    I agree. Where are all the Leinart haters on this blogs?? LOL. Patience people… “In Whiz we trust” Run Beanie Run!

  9. By Paul on Feb 2, 2010 | Reply

    Boy that link to the 2006 Rams game brought back bad nightmares. Thanks Darren. 🙂

  10. By Adam on Feb 2, 2010 | Reply

    Darren… great last line in your blog!! Can’t stand Leinart haters… as long as he is a Card, support him.

  11. By Joe-B on Feb 2, 2010 | Reply

    I’ve already said that I think he will be fine. As long as he can keep playing like he did at Tennessee [although he has to get touchdowns, 21 of 31 and 220 yards is still good] the team will do just fine.

  12. By NMcards Fan on Feb 2, 2010 | Reply

    Couldn’t agree more, as fans we have endured worse.

    We have a great coach who has put pieces in place to build something great, missing piece is us the fans. Matt will do it, and if not we rebuild at the position.

  13. By Peter in Canada on Feb 3, 2010 | Reply

    You are right on, replacing a ledgend isn’t easy. The good thing is he doesn’t have to replace him. Under Warner the passing game was naturally predominant and the run was used basically to neutralize the pass rush to set up play action.The Cardinals have a running game and i have confidence in the coaching staff to change the offence to feature the run to set up the passing. It was evident in Warner’s retirement speech that Ken wasn’t totally at ease with the offence being a run-oriented coachbut to his credit put his ego on the shelf to play to Warner’s great strengths. I think the offence will be o.k. it’s the defence that needs to be fixed, especially the pass defence.

  14. By Michael Mailand on Feb 3, 2010 | Reply

    Sad Warner left, BUT – in Leinart we trust. Let the guy get the chance, before everybody cuts him.
    Great aticle.

    In Denmark we chears for the Cards:)

  15. By Secret on Feb 3, 2010 | Reply

    I remember in the last cards underground that someone said you guys might do another pod cast if warner did in fact retire. Will you guys do another cardinals underground?

  16. By darrenurban on Feb 3, 2010 | Reply

    Secret —

    We don’t have one planned as of right now.

  17. By Payner on Feb 3, 2010 | Reply

    Darren, I like the positive comments. I love Warner, but I am excited for Matt to play. He’s got the arm and the height to see the field, and I think he’s learned alot behind Warner. Once he settles in, he’s awesome. I bet we still win our division with all of our weapons and the way Whis is getting our D built up. I’ve been a fan since roasting in Sun Devil Stadium in the 90’s, and this is a great ride for Cardinals fans since Whis came, we got the new stadium, and we drafted Matt Lienart, now let’s finish what we started.

  18. By Paul on Feb 3, 2010 | Reply

    Now, don’t label me a “Leinart hater”, because that implies blind hatred without reason. I don’t hate Leinart at all, I wish him, and the team, well. I love the Cards!!! But the facts are that Leinart has squandered his chances by not mastering the 2 min offense in 2008 (which led Whiz to give that job to Kurt, who showed he still had the skills) and overall by not acting like a professional.
    Call me cautious….I think we need a backup plan based on what Matt has (not) shown us. But if he turns out good (and I’m wrong), I will be very happy. I want this team to win!

  19. By darrenurban on Feb 3, 2010 | Reply

    Paul —

    As long as you are reasoned in your doubts, I have no issues. And you are.

    I do ask this, however — and this isn’t necessarily just directed to you, because you are hardly the only one to have brought it up — but I question the “not acting like a professional.” To what specifically are you referring? (Please don’t say the hot tub pictures, shots that were old by the time they came out in the first place and to me, have zero bearing on where Leinart is as a quarterback in 2010).

  20. By Big Red Fan on Feb 3, 2010 | Reply

    I have to think that Kurt, being the kind of guy kurt is, would not leave the team in a mess with his retirement. Does this mean another playoff run? Maybe, maybe not. But – I think he decided early and decisively specifically to avoid that and give them months to revamp a Leinart offense.

  21. By dadavizzle on Feb 3, 2010 | Reply

    In my opinion we should get Mike Vick. Just my $0.02.
    Mike Vick has much potential and much experience… Matt I just doubt will be able to reach that bar which Kurt left in the sky.

  22. By FightON on Feb 3, 2010 | Reply

    Darren, it will never end. The questioning and denial of the change in ML’s committment, atitude and dedication will never change because fans in AZ do not want Matt to succeed. Matt did bring some of this on himself, but it seems the fans there will not accept him, if they ever did because they refuse to acknowledge his attitude adjustments.

    While KW was a great QB for the organization, the flaw in his game was that he was a one man show via the passing game and made it clear he did not care for the running game. Sorry, but with that attitude, a QB has to pass and score because they’ve left their offense no other option. When you effectively run the clock, you have less time to score, true…but you keep your defense on the sidelines along with the opponents offense, see how that works?

    Kurt had a rare talent and ability that few QBs in the league, now and in the past, posses – and he played up to it. AZ fans need to accept that a QB like that does not come around often and accept that a balanced offense is ultimately the best option over all. I hope that AZ fans don’t end up like Denver fans who continue to pine over Elway.

  23. By Jerry on Feb 3, 2010 | Reply

    Let’s be serious and logical for just a moment. How many times have we pulled Warner because we were doing so well just to see Leinart go three and out over and over again. Bears this past year? Let Warner rest. Leinart throw a pick. Warner go back out there. He has proven that he is another Jake Plummer, a mistake. Can we eat out mistakes with the party frat boys and understand that being hopeful for our beloved Cardinals does not mean that Matt will respond with anything more than what he has already shown. Warner retiring does not bestow his super hero powers down to Leinart. We should be looking towards trying to wheel and deal for a QB that has that passion for a championship and that can play well with our offense. Otherwise, the 9er fans and Seahawk fans will be correct and our reign at the top of the NFC West will be short lived.

    Hoping for the best. Not hating just being realistic. Cards fan for life!
    P.S. I can’t wait to show the Saints how loud we can get here in Glendale, AZ in the 2010 season!

  24. By darrenurban on Feb 3, 2010 | Reply

    Jerry —

    I appreciate you are hoping for the best. But in my opinion, you can’t say you aren’t “hating” and then throw out the “party frat boy” line. I’m not sure how anyone who isn’t at this facility daily can know if Leinart doesn’t have a passion for a championship. Because he went to USC? Because he failed to beat out Warner? Because he was in People magazine once upon a time?

    Maybe he won’t measure up. I’m not saying he definitely will. And you have an argument about his brief performances and a lack of production. Those are the rational points I can digest. But so many fans cling to this talk-radio, shallow interpretation of the player … I just don’t understand.

  25. By Scott Hornberger on Feb 3, 2010 | Reply

    I don’t understand why anyone has an ounce of interest in Vick. First and foremost, he wasn’t a great QB before his arrest and he’s not even a good QB now that he doesn’t have the same dynamic moves and speed he used to have. But that’s on the field. I live just outside of Philly and I’ve seen the negative reaction that hasn’t died down since the day the Eagles signed him. I want no part of him and I hope the Cardinals don’t, either. Same goes for McNabb, by the way.

  26. By Ryan on Feb 4, 2010 | Reply

    Darren, I read a rumor on that a few players on the Cardinals think the team might take a crack at Chad Pennington if his shoulder has healed. Any thoughts?

  27. By darrenurban on Feb 4, 2010 | Reply

    Ryan —

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Pennington is the backup they chase, but that’s just an educated guess right now.

  28. By Paul on Feb 4, 2010 | Reply

    Darren-my not being a professional line was based on ML sitting down with a reporter and complaining about the organization, mostly. But also his appearances in “relief” have led me to believe he wasn’t very up on the playbook….receiver goes left and he throws right, etc. I know that will happen sometimes, and there are “read routes” where you have to have experience with the receiver to know where he’s going to cut, but when it happens more than once, I start to blame the QB.

    Wishing ML the best though!

    Thanks for being so accessible Darren.

  29. By darrenurban on Feb 4, 2010 | Reply

    Paul —

    No problem. That’s what I’m here for. As for the ML complaining, the only time I remember that was early in 2007 with the “ride or die” thing with Michael Silver. I think it’s safe to say that’s well in the past. The other stuff … it’s tough to get on the same page when you don’t get practice time with the first unit. Don’t forget, the Harrison SB interception came in part because Anquan was reportedly in the wrong place, so it even happens to the stars.

    Bottom line, Leinart has much to prove. I think he deserves a clean slate at this point. If he doesn’t get it done, then all criticism is fair.

  30. By Danny Heksolson on Feb 8, 2010 | Reply

    Well, I think that we need to give time to Matt to prove that much he has to prove; not so much time, because the niners are getting back, so, I think he and Whiz know exactly what is required at this point in order to keep us winning games. So, be patient dear cardinals fans, we need to reinforce our defense and that is a must, and would be a nice idea to have an offensive coordinator again, Matt will be ok, and we just need him to execute, not to be a Warner´s sucesor; big regards to the BIG RED nation worldwide!

  31. By mirza nijemcevic on Feb 9, 2010 | Reply

    1.matt needs time to warm up is hard coming in a game cold and expect him to be the best.I believe he is going to be very good and he is the future of my Cardinals.he just needs to loosen up and throw with the flow.2.i wouldn’t trade Boldin he is a monster when it comes to football,give him a deal and keep him and fitzgerald don’t matter what happens i’m a cardinal for life.

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