There have been a few articles out lately talking about Matt Leinart and his quest to start for a team in 2011. He's currently a free-agent - he was dropped by the Cardinals in the preseason last year, signed on with the Texans shortly after, and sat at third on their depth chart the rest of the year, mostly running the scout team.
Apparently, a change of scenery did him well, because he's now coming out claiming to have regained his confidence and pining for a team to take a chance on him. If any team were to do so, you'd think it would be the Seahawks - who, under the stewardship of Pete Carroll, have taken chances on a lot of forgotten players, but particularly Pete's forgotten players. Former Trojans LenDale White, Mike Williams, Josh Pinkard, Anthony McCoy, and now Dominique Byrd have been brought on to see what they can do. Pinkard, McCoy, and Williams have stuck, Byrd is on the practice squad but White was famously released. Even Dwayne Jarrett was brought in last season for a tryout. The point is, I wouldn't put it past the Hawks to bring Matt Leinart in to compete for a job.
People will point to the fact that he wasn't signed last year after being released by the Cardinals so there's no reason he would be brought in now, and that may be true, but circumstances have changed significantly since then and Charlie Whitehurst remains the only QB with a contract. Leinart's work ethic had been called into question earlier in his career and his lack of effort could be attributed to the ease at which Leinart had succeeded in the past. Two time national champion, Heisman trophy winner, 10th overall pick in the draft. The pieces were all landing in place. This is a breeze, just enjoy the ride.
However, after being usurped by Kurt Warner for the starting job in his 2nd season, losing out to Derek Anderson after Warner had retired, and finally getting dropped unceremoniously prior to 2010, his confidence and sense of entitlement had gone out the window and perhaps a year sitting on the bench of a new team, with new coaches and front office leadership has instilled a new perspective and the ethic of what it really takes to succeed. Who knows - but it sure would make a great story right?
No one really knows how the draft will turn out and what the Seahawks have up their sleeves, but I wouldn't necessarily count Leinart out of the equation. He can run the approximate system Pete Carroll wants to run - and won the Heisman doing so. Yes, he had all-world talent around him and a first-class line and run game to help him there, but somewhere down the line NFL level scouts and front offices determined he had the talent to warrant a top-10 pick. Not that those people are always right, but he has shown flashes of that talent amid the terrible play, and If that talent could be put to use in the right system, he could succeed.. theoretically.
As Leinart put it, "A lot of football is about being in the right situation at the right time with the right kind of people."
I think that's true, to a large extent, and can be said about pretty much any sport or really any profession. Sometimes, a particular situation just doesn't foster success. We've seen many players resurrect their careers by moving to a new team or system. It happens, plain and simple. Predicting who it happens to and how, though, is not easy.
I would have to think, of all the teams in the league, the 'right situation at the right time with the right kind of people' would most aptly describe the current state of the Seahawks. On paper, the Seahawks are more than right for Leinart. Now, is Leinart right for the Seahawks? THAT, my friends, is a 'whoooooole nother question,' as they say.
Steve Wyche recently did a piece on the Leinart situation as well, and here's what he had to say about his ability to still play in the NFL:
The first thing for Leinart to fix is his persona. He is viewed as numbingly laid back, which coaches have told me screams a lack of leadership to his teammates. That's fixable. I also had a defensive coach give me a scouting report on Leinart last season, and the most damning claim was that he was easy to intercept due to his lack of anticipation.
That's an issue with some college quarterbacks from great teams. Because their receivers get so open, they don't have to throw based on timing and can hit receivers in space. The defensive coach said not being able to figure that out while on the pass-happy Cardinals damaged Leinart. Again, that's fixable.
(Former Seahawks OC Greg) Knapp told me he loved working with Leinart, who he said was really humbled by being cut after such high expectations. Leinart worked as hard as any quarterback on the team, despite doing little other than learning and practicing scout team reps all week. Knapp said Leinart would stay late a lot of nights and come in early, or on days off, to learn and practice Houston's offense -- a trait he found not only professional but admirable.
I went back and watched some limited tape of Leinart and it's about what you'd expect: some good things and some really bad things. That being said, you can pretty much say that about any relatively inexperienced QB so I'm not necessarily counting him out completely. I think, at worst, it wouldn't be a terrible move to bring him in and see if he can succeed in the right situation at the right time with the right kind of people: a Seahawks team looking for a franchise quarterback at a time when they have no clear candidate in sight, being coached by a guy that has shown the willingness and ability to revitalize or resurrect careers of the forgotten and maimed.
Here's one pre-draft scouting report by Robert Davis of Football's Future on Leinart that you should read and then consider and compare to the noise going around about QB's right now entering the draft:
Leinart is one of the most polished passers to come out of the college ranks since Peyton Manning. His ability to read defenses is second to none at the college level. USC even gave him the opportunity to call audibles at the line of scrimmage any time he wanted because of his ability to see what was developing. He has excellent timing with his receivers, and can put the ball on the money in any situation. His career completion percentage is just under 65%. Leinart has excellent touch and can float it in, or sling it into coverage if needed. He is also a good athlete for a player his size, and shows solid mobility inside the pocket. He is not a threat to run it, though he did run for six touchdowns this year, but he can avoid the rush and throw on the run once outside the pocket. What sets Leinart apart though is his leadership ability. He's played in big games every year, and more often than not, he came out on top. He will not make mistakes to cost you the game, and comes through when the game is on the line.
Some of the things he was lauded on pre-draft aren't things that go away - ability to diagnose defenses and change plays at the line, touch on the ball, timing with receivers. These things are important, and even though he hasn't lived up to his billing and has heretofore been a major disappointment, this doesn't mean he can't still succeed as an NFL quarterback.
He's a long shot - and if it doesn't work and he just doesn't have what it takes, it's not the end of the world. Just another in a long line of transactions to put on the ole' waiver wire for the Seahawks.