NASHVILLE TN - AUGUST 23: Quarterback Matt Leinart #7 of the Arizona Cardinals surveys the Tennessee Titans defense during a preseason game at LP Field on August 23 2010 in Nashville Tennessee. Tennessee defeated Arizona 24-10. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
It's funny how much of a storm was kicked up in the last few days because of these rumors involving the idea that Pete Carroll has talked to Matt Leinart about coming here to play some quarterback. I should note that if this rumor is true Pete Carroll is walking a pretty thin line concerning tampering because if the 2010 rules are re-applied this next season Leinart will be a restricted free agent. Anyway, that's neither here nor there.
The thought of Leinart in a Seahawks uniform sure triggered some differing emotions from fans. These emotions ranged from ecstatic exuberance to a furious rage. Some people were sort of in the midde with a shoulder shrug and a "why not, bring him in and see if he sticks?"
While that's sort of where I am with the whole idea, I wanted to see what fans of the team that drafted him 10th overall a few years back, -only to drop him completely at the beginning of last season-, would have to say about something like this.
I contacted Jess Root, the manager and lead-writer of our brother-blog (the masculine and alliterative opposite of sister-station) Revenge of the Birds. He recently did a piece on Leinart and the Seahawks and there were some interesting things said by the Cardinals' fans there that you should really check out. Jess also had some really interesting things to say about Matt Leinart when I talked to him:
Leinart is a weird topic for most of us. After the 2010 disaster we all look back in hindsight and say he should have been the guy.
Personally, I think he felt railroaded from the beginning with Whisenhunt. One flaw I think Whisenhunt has is a dislike for guys with a little bit of star power (Leinart, Beanie Wells). He was a blue-collar player that had to earn everything he ever did. The flashier guys, even if they work hard, are not Whiz guys because they are different.
As for most of us, he really did nothing at all after coming back from his broken collarbone that said that he would be great. But with the exception of a couple of bad relief appearances in 2009, he did nothing for us to say he was not going to be the guy. He completely changed as a person after he had a kid. He stopped the party scene, he starting working harder. But he says things that give the impression he doesn't quite get it.
I have a friend who knows a guy in the Cardinals' organization and based on rumor, Whiz never was sold on him. When the team was getting season ticket designs ready, the plan was to have Matty on like week 5 tix. Whiz said not a good idea. I think everyone thinks that he would have been so much better than Anderson/Hall/Skelton, but he had to be cut. His badmouthing of Whiz to the press was the end.
He never seemed to grab the team in terms of leadership. But, then again, he would have had the huddle if he had been given time and had he had success.
Bottom line...I think if he ever has to "fight" for a starting job, he will only ever be a "game manager". If a team gives him the a starting job, he will game manage for a while and eventually grow into a solid, maybe very good QB. But he seems to be the type of athlete that needs the vote of confidence from his coach and not have to look over his shoulder. Maybe that's not the type of athlete that is successful in the NFL, but he seems like that type of guy to me.
I think Jess' appraisal is pretty dead-on regarding his personality and it's interesting to get his point of view to hear that he could turn into a solid starter if given the job - I would have expected Cardinal fans to judge him more harshly after he failed to amount to anything in the desert despite using a 10th overall pick on him. That says something..., though their QB situation is just as dire as ours at the moment so that no doubt has a large part to do with it.
This next part might intrigue you a little bit. As Jess alluded to, Pete Carroll, shortly after accepting the reins for the Seahawks last season, talked to reporters about how important job-security was for Leinart and how he was floundering a bit before being given the starting job over Matt Cassell. After 'winning' that confidence from his coach, he went on to play so well he won the Heisman Trophy. Here's what Carroll said about Leinart's chances starting for the Cardinals last season:
"I know the fact when Kenny [Whisenhunt] says to Matt, 'You're my starting quarterback', it makes worlds of difference to Matt. I watched that happen when we had to choose between he and Cassel years ago. Matt was floundering. Cassel was floundering. We didn't look like we were going anywhere. Then we made a call the last day of spring practice, 'OK, if we were playing a game today, you'd be the starter, Leinart. Go ahead and take it over.' He had a look in his eye. He said what I think he probably said to Kenny: 'You'll never regret this and you'll never have to look back.' And he just flipped and hit the switch. I think that's what he's been waiting for. He's been waiting for that recognition that you are our starting guy and I think he's going to be a terrific player. I don't know him in any other way. I don't know how to think of him in any other way than he is going to be a great performer for them."
While my first reaction is to say this goes against the whole "competition" thing that Carroll always preaches, you take a look back at the last season and realize that Matt Hasselbeck was named the starting QB in training camp and he held on to that title throughout the season. The Rams game at the end of the year was an outlier but I think it was more a case where they had gameplanned around Charlie the entire week so it was smarter to just go with him at that point. Even after winning that game, Charlie was relegated back to the bench and Matt was again handed the keys. So despite this "competition" culture, I think that Pete Carroll knows the value of some continuity at the quarterback position and displayed that in 2010 by leaving Matt in for the vast majority of the time, even during his turnover-riddled series of games where he appeared to be in a fugue state every time he touched the football.
While I don't believe these rumors to be true necessarily, it has piqued my interest enough to look into it more and what I've found is either very disturbing or very exciting. Exciting because if Matt Leinart were to be brought in and showed enough in camp to win the starting gig over Charlie Whitehurst there's always the remote chance that he would 'flip that switch' like Carroll said and show that form that won him the Heisman Trophy at USC and got him drafted 10th overall.
Disturbing because then you consider the idea that Matt Leinart is a guy that couldn't even convince Houston's coaching staff that he warranted holding onto their 3rd string QB spot, and prior to that was dropped unceremoniously by the Cardinals, a team with no real other option at QB. This guy might be starting for you in 2011. Try not to start hyperventilating.