Comparing the Timelines of Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner: Does Leinart Have Hope?
It's that time of year again, everyone. The annual tradition of professional backup quarterback Matt Leinart coming out to the media and declaring his newly-found dedication to the game of football never gets old, and although his pronouncement came early this year, it usually signifies that training camp is within seeing distance.
It's like the majority of the world's New Years resolutions: taken seriously for a couple weeks, perhaps months, then forgotten about because it's too hard or boring or chocolate tastes too damn good.
Leinart still believes he can become a starter, kind of like the man he used to back up in Arizona: "Everyone's path is different, (Warner) didn't start a game until he was (28). He's probably a Hall of Famer."
So, one could perceive that Leinart likens his rocky NFL path to that of Kurt Warner's. Interesting. Let's take a look at these two paths, and see if there are any similarities that make Leinart's story just as inspiring and unlikely as Warner's:
Warner: Went undrafted out of the University of Northern Iowa; invited to try out for the Green Bay Packers.
Leinart: Selected 10th overall by the Arizona Cardinals; given a six-year, $51 million contract.
First Year out of College
Warner: Released by Green Bay Packers; worked for a Hy-Vee Grocery Store in Cedar Falls; stocked shelves for $5.50 an hour.
Leinart: Took over starting quarterback job from Warner during Week 4; set then-NFL rookie record for yards in a game with 405; threw for 2,457 yards, 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Left a baby in a former USC volleyball player; dated Paris Hilton.
Second Year out of College
Warner: Plays for Arena Football League's Iowa Barnstormers, as no other NFL teams will give him a chance.
Leinart: Began season as a starter; almost immediately became a situational quarterback once the offense faltered, which he wasn't happy with. Broke his collarbone during Week 5 and ended his season; pictures of him partying and drinking and being a 25-year-old hit the Internet, causing some fervor from those who like their NFL quarterbacks not acting like kids.
Third Year out of College
Warner: Year two with the Iowa Barnstormers, makes First-Team All-Arena.
Leinart: Was supposed to be the starter going into the season, but a series of poor preseason performances ruined his chances. Leinart threw only 29 passes this season, and the Cardinals made the Super Bowl as Leinart spent most of his time explaining to media members he was ready to grow up.
Fourth Year out of College
Warner: Granted tryout with Chicago Bears before the AFL season; suffers spider bite on honeymoon and can't go. In year three with the Iowa Barnstormers, he makes First-Team All-Arena and marries his wife Brenda, who helps him find Jesus.
Leinart: Throws 77 passes as Warner starts all but one regular-season game.
Fifth Year out of College
Warner: Signed by St. Louis Rams; sent to NFL Europe to play for the Amsterdam Admirals; spent NFL season as third-string backup for Rams.
Leinart: Signed one-year contract with the Houston Texans; threw literally zero passes.
Sixth Year out of College
Warner: Wins MVP, Super Bowl, Super Bowl MVP after then-starter Trent Green gets injured in the preseason.
Leinart: Gets to start in Week 12 when Houston quarterback Matt Schaub gets injured; Leinart responds by fracturing his collarbone pretty much immediately.
So yeah. Those are the two timelines. It is incredibly easy to bash Leinart and crown Warner—the party-hard heathen versus the pious, hard-working angel, would be an easy, lazy, cliched tagline to this matchup—but both are paths are depressing in various parts, with Leinart being the Benjamin Button of the two.
As mentioned, Leinart makes statements of his vowing to improve all the time, but they rarely occur. One has to wonder whether or not Leinart feels bad for the beginning of his career, and if he feels he squandered his opportunities.
More likely, he probably could care less, because he's crazy rich and doesn't have time for that.
There have been career resurrections throughout NFL history, and I suppose it isn't totally out of the question that Leinart turns his career around. Maybe the empty promises will stop being given "empty" as an adjective. Obviously, that seems highly unlikely, but who knows?
Maybe Leinart can find Jesus like other successful left-handed quarterbacks have. That probably won't help, but the overall narrative would be a little less depressing at least. Unless he starts shoving it in our faces.
Matt Leinart's seasonal resolutions are always entertaining, and this year's is bolder than the others. A vow that he will one day, somehow turn everything around. It's half admirable and half insane, and if he's given the chance, I'll watch.
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