During most of the offseason, it appeared a certainty that the former first-round pick would be the heir-apparent to Kurt Warner in Arizona. But after a disappointing training camp and preseason, Ken Whisenhunt and the Cardinals decided that Derek Anderson would be a superior option at quarterback.
Quite a steep fall for one of the most decorated college quarterbacks of all time.
Leinart has undoubtedly been a huge disappointment throughout his professional career. From his inaccuracy to his rumored party-filled social life, Leinart has never been able to live up to the expectations that accompanied his Heisman trophy and 10th overall draft selection.
However, very few discuss Leinart's professional career in an historic sense. Frankly, a very strong argument can be made that Matt Leinart is one of the worst NFL quarterbacks of all time.
Matt Leinart will finish his career with the Arizona Cardinals with a 70.8 passer rating, a 57.1 percent completion percentage, and a 14:20 TD/INT ratio.
Bad numbers, certainly. But worst of all time?
By itself, no. Leinart's statistics are poor, but not historically poor. Fellow draft bust JaMarcus Russell had a 65.2 career passer rating with the Oakland Raiders, while Ryan Leaf finished his career with an atrocious 50.0 rating.
However, few quarterback busts have had the quality of weapons that Leinart possessed during his time with the Cardinals.
Leinart immediately entered into a fantastic situation for a quarterback. In 2007, Larry Fitzgerald was coming off his first Pro Bowl, and Anquan Boldin had already established himself as one of the premier physical receivers in the game.
But it didn't matter. Leinart was still unable to succeed. While most failures at quarterback are plagued by a poor supporting cast, Leinart had a stellar array of weapons and he still played at a below-average level.
Fitzgerald, arguably the league's most talented wide receiver, best exemplifies Leinart's ineptitude. He only had one game with over 100 yards receiving with Leinart as his quarterback.
He is one of the best receivers in the game. If a quarterback can't find a way to get him the ball, there is obviously something wrong with the passer.
The November 22, 2009 game versus the St. Louis Rams was a perfect example of Leinart's inability to utilize Fitzgerald.
In the first half, Fitzgerald caught six passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. He was virtually uncoverable. However, that was with Kurt Warner at quarterback.
After taking a blow to the head, Warner left the game shortly before halftime, leaving Leinart to play the second half.
Fitzgerald caught two passes for 16 yards and was a non-factor in the second half. The Cardinals scored no points in the half, and nearly blew a 21-3 lead to a 1-8 squad.
JaMarcus Russell never had weapons even close to the Fitzgerald/Boldin combo. Leaf lacked standout targets as well.
While both quarterbacks were unmitigated disasters, at least they lacked true talent at the skill positions.
Leinart failed with some of the best weapons in the game.
Leinart's career is not over yet. Teams are showing interest in signing Leinart to a contract to serve as a backup. Chances are, he will get another chance.
But as of now, the former USC star is one of the biggest busts in recent NFL history, and unlike other busts, he lacks any legitimate excuse for his failure.