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Devil's Advocate: Kurt Warner Flops in Arizona

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Devil's Advocate: Kurt Warner Flops in Arizona
http://assets.espn.go.com/photo/2006/0908/nfl_u_leinart_warner_275.jpgYou know those people who’re afraid to say “I told you so” when they’re right?

I'm not one of them—as my wife can surely attest.

And in the case of Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals, I can confidently say that I've won this round.

Aaron 1, Readers 0.

A few weeks back, I argued that the Cardinals were making a huge mistake in having Matt Leinart split game reps with Kurt Warner.

My reasoning was simple: Arizona needs to know exactly what they have in Leinart heading into next year. If he isn’ the answer, the Cards need to make a move in the offseason—maybe by acquiring a veteran QB like Donovan McNabb.

Many people disagreed.

The critics said that Warner gave the Cardinals the best chance to win now—and that that was the only thing that mattered.

And then the dissenters got their wish: Leinart went down for the season against the Rams, and Warner took over the starting job.

Unfortunately, the 2007 Arizona Cardinals aren’t on par with the “Greatest Show on Turf” Warner led in St. Louis—and this isn’t the same Kurt Warner who played for the Rams.

On the contrary, this is the Kurt Warner who was jettisoned by both the Rams and the N.Y. Giants, and who was benched in favor of the rookie Leinart in Arizona last season.

After Arizona's most recent loss Sunday against Tampa Bay, those who called for Warner were no doubt reminded of that old saying:

Be careful what you wish for.

Warners’ success in flip-flopping with Leinart was the byproduct of a no-huddle offense that allowed him to make quick throws and avoid pressure. The more methodical system Warner’s been asked to run since taking over as starter has exposed the weaknesses that led other teams to give up on him—namely his lack of mobility, fumbling problems, proclivity for interceptions, and knack for getting injured.

The numbers don't lie.

In the three games in which Warner split time, he threw for 580 yards, four TDs, and only one INT.

In the three games in which Warner has started, his stats have dipped to 475 yards, two TDs, and four INTs. He has also three fumbles, losing two of them.

More importantly, the Cardinals are 0-3 with Warner as the starter in 2007—and 3-15 overall with him under center since 2005.

This of course brings us back to the point I made before:

Arizona thought they had a franchise QB when they took Matt Leinart 10th overall in last year's draft.

But is he up to the task?

No one can say for sure.

So far, Leinart’s numbers would say no—but you have to remember that this is a QB who’s played in just 17 NFL games...for three different offensive coordinators.

So where does that leave the Cardinals?

The team fancies itself a contender. They have a loaded offense, an improved defense, and a new coaching staff that’s brought a winning attitude to a franchise notorious for losing.

The one thing the Cards don’t have?

A franchise QB.

Warner, clearly, is not it. There are serious doubts about Leinart as well. This leaves Arizona facing some very tough decisions this offseason.

Do the Cards roll the dice and hope Leinart breaks out?

If they're wrong, it means  another lost season.

Do they trade Leinart for a proven veteran QB?

Nothing would hurt more than seeing Leinart become a superstar somewhere else.

In any event, the choices the Cards make this offseason will make or break the team for years for come.

If they hadn't placed such a premium on winning now, the decision would be a much easier one. As it stands—and if history is any indication—the Cardinals are likely to make the wrong choice...and will continue to be the laughingstock of the NFL.

But hey, if it's any consolation just remember:

I told you so.
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