Friday, January 29, 2010

Kurt Warner Retires: The Time Has Come For Leinart

Today the 12 year career of Kurt Warner came to an end. I can't say I'm surprised, but I will say a few things about Warner.

First things first, any debate over whether or not Warner is a Hall of Famer is irrational. Though Warner only had (being generous) six good seasons, five of those seasons resulted in a playoff berth, four of those seasons ended with a Pro Bowl, three of those seasons ended with a Super Bowl berth, two included MVP awards, and one ended with a Super Bowl victory and game MVP award. In other words, when Warner was good he was great.

For his career, his numbers compare well to Troy Aikman's, Jim Kelly's, and Terry Bradshaw's; all Hall of Famers.

To sum things up for Warner, before 2007 he wasn't going to be a Hall of Famer. After 2008 he looked like he was going to be one. Now after 2009, Kurt Warner is definitely a Hall of Famer, and he's one of the rare instances where a players talent may not have been astonishing, but his will and positive attitude helped him achieve the highest level of success there is to achieve in professional football.

I will make one last comment about Warner, and it is a thought to chew on in your head. How much did having Orlando Pace, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Marshall Faulk, Larry Fitzgerald, and Anquan Boldin help Warner get to the Hall of Fame? All were All Pro talents without Warner. Warner was never an All Pro talent without them. I'm not saying Warner doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame, because he does. I'm just wondering if Kerry Collins, Drew Bledsoe, or Vinny Testaverde could have put up the same numbers in the same systems with the same results.

Anyway, the real story in Warner's retirement now becomes Matt Leinart. This past season Leinart had to fill in for Warner a few times and looked "alright," but for the most part his career has been a disaster. And while his draft day partners Vince Young, Reggie Bush, and Jay Cutler haven't exactly been excellent, compared to Leinart they've been Hall of Famers.

Part of the problem for Leinart is that the Cardinals quarterback job has never been "his." In 2006, Leinart's rookie year, he started on the bench but performed well in some instances. Leinart entered 2007 looking to take the next step, but lost his job midway through the season never to regain it. From 2007 to 2009 Kurt Warner revitalized a Cardinals franchise that had been dead for decades, leading the franchise to it's first Super Bowl, and in turn keeping Leinart on the bench.

Now Leinart enters 2010 as the probable candidate to take over the Cardinals quarterback job, and in all reality the franchise has no choice. The Cardinals have invested too much money over the past four seasons in Leinart to not find out if they already have their future quarterback. If the Cardinals can satisfy Boldin's needs, Leinart will inherit the most explosive offense in the NFL in a division that doesn't look to be more difficult in 2010 than it was in 2009.

In other words things are looking good for Matt Leinart.

2010 is actually a big year for all of those 2006 to 2007 quarterbacks. Vince Young and Jay Cutler need to prove themselves in Tennessee and Chicago, a failure in 2010 could lead to a new team in 2011 for either. Brady Quinn and JaMarcus Russell of the 2007 draft need to prove themselves in 2010 or both will be unemployed come 2011. But nobody has the pressure that Leinart has entering 2010, after all, Leinart is inheriting the undeniable best team of the bunch.

Anything short of a division title next year and Matt Leinart's tenure as the QB in Arizona becomes unsuccessful. The pressure is on for Leinart, the Cardinals coaching staff, and the Cardinals franchise in general to get back to the elite level of the NFC next year.

And that, at the end of the day, is why Kurt Warner was a Hall of Fame quarterback.

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