Arizona Cardinals: Teacher Steps Aside and Student Gets a Chance To Shine

Kristian SiutaCorrespondent IIJanuary 27, 2010

FLAGSTAFF, AZ - JULY 31: Quaterbacks Kurt Warner #13 and Matt Leinart #7 of the Arizona Cardinals stand on the field during the team training camp at Northern Arizona University on July 31, 2009 in Flagstaff, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Matt Leinart has won at every single level he has ever competed at. Now, with fans all over Arizona awaiting current Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and his looming retirement announcement set for Friday, it appears that Leinart will have his shot at leading the red birds next fall. 

Leinart was one of the premier quarterbacks in Southern California, when he led the Mater Dei Monarchs of Santa Ana, Ca. to a Southern Section Division 1 Championship in 1999.

Leinart's Senior season did not end as he would have liked, missing out on a third consecutive Division 1 Championship when his Monarch's fell short in the quarter-finals, but he was named an All-County and an All-State Quarterback while setting school and Orange County passing records for attempts, completions, and touchdowns, all the while being named Gatorade California Athlete of the Year in 2000.

But Leinart did not stop in high school, his future NFL prowess was heightened by his performance and production at USC. 

From the moment that Leinart was named the starter at USC in 2003, he told Pete Carroll, "You are never going to regret this!" And sure enough, no one regretted naming Leinart the starting quarterback, because as history shows, the Trojans ran off an Associated Press National Championship in his debut season as the USC starter.

Then in 2004, the Trojans went "wire-to-wire", having started the season ranked No. 1 and finished the season undefeated and unanimous National Champions, while extending their winning streak to 22 games.  

Oh, and Leinart also added some quality hardware to his trophy case, winning the Heisman Trophy in 2004 as well. 

In 2005, the Trojans and Leinart did not end their fairy tale careers on a positive note, as USC sat helplessly as Vince Young led the Texas Longhorns to the Rose Bowl title. 

But Leinart knew he had more to accomplish on a much grander scale: the National Football League. 

The Arizona Cardinals drafted the Southern California kid, to be their quarterback of the future. Yet former Cardinals' coach Dennis Green needed to win now, and inserted Leinart to replace the struggling Kurt Warner. 

Yes, it hard to believe, Kurt Warner struggled in Arizona, but in 2006, that statement was the truth.

Now, three seasons later, we know that Warner was the teacher, instructor, and the Most Valuable Player as well. 

Leinart had his time to show off in 2006, but his production only won four games for the "red birds". In the past three seasons, Leinart has seen minimal game action.

However, time will only show how much Matt Leinart absorbed from the great mentor he had in Kurt Warner, but if his past performances in high school and college speak volumes, then the Cardinals' progress and growth looks to be bright.