NFL Cuts: Cardinals Release Matt Leinart, Is Derek Anderson The Solution?

Carl RagsdaleCorrespondent IIISeptember 4, 2010

According to both ESPN and, the Cardinals have released former first-round pick quarterback Matt Leinart.

Leinart, a former Heisman Trophy- and national championship-winning quarterback at USC, was expected to be a superstar in an offense that had receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

However, Leinart has played poorly in the time he was given as a starter for the Cardinals, making just 17 starts with a 7-10 record and a below average 70.3 quarterback rating.

Leinart was eventually benched in favor of veteran Kurt Warner, who led the Cardinals to their first-ever Super Bowl and earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2008.

With the retirement of Warner this past offseason, Leinart was given another chance in offseason activities and the preseason to prove that he was worthy of the starting quarterback job.

After an unimpressive preseason, the Cardinals have released Leinart, leaving Derek Anderson as the likely starter.

Derek Anderson has had an interesting career. He was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round of the 2005 draft but was placed on waivers early in the 2005 regular season.

The Cleveland Browns claimed him off of waivers to be a backup quarterback shortly afterward. Poor play by starters Charlie Frye and Trent Dilfer prompted the Browns to draft college star Brady Quinn.



However, after starter Charlie Frye was benched in the 2007 season opener, the Browns went with Anderson, not Quinn. The result was a 10-6 season for the Browns, who only missed the playoffs due to the tiebreaker rules.

Anderson made his lone Pro Bowl season as an alternate, with passing numbers as follows:

298/527 comp/att (56.5 completion percentage), 3,787 yards, 7.2 yards per attempt, 29 touchdowns, 19 interceptions, 82.5 quarterback rating

Those stats are far from perfect, but they are solid numbers.

The problem was, Anderson instantly went downhill in 2008 and 2009, with a completion percentage under 50%, only 12 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions in the 16 starts.

During that time, Anderson was benched in favor of Brady Quinn, then each quarterback had multiple turns at starter with neither performing admirably.

The public image of Anderson is focused on his 2008 and 2009 performances, and he has become the laughingstock of NFL quarterbacks.

However, is it possible that he could play like the 2007 Derek Anderson with the Cardinals?

The key to Anderson's performance in 2007 was that his support was excellent.



Braylon Edwards had a career year with 16 touchdown catches and 1,289 receiving yards. Kellen Winslow Jr. also had a career year with 1,106 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns.

When both players had below average years in 2008 and left the team in 2009, Anderson never came close to duplicating his 2007 success.

In Arizona, Anderson has receiving superstar Larry Fitzgerald, who is easily a better receiver than Edwards ever was.

Although Anquan Boldin is gone, Steve Breaston gives the Cardinals a solid No. 2 receiving threat.

Also, with Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower, Anderson should have solid run support as long as the Cardinals make an effort to balance their offensive attack.

These weapons give Anderson a legitimate chance to be successful again.

Derek Anderson to Larry Fitzgerald is a particularly intriguing duo. Anderson's best asset is his strong arm, while Fitzgerald is able to catch the deep pass over double teams as well as any other receiver in the NFL.

This means that as long as Anderson can put the ball in Fitzgerald's area on the deep passes, Larry can make a big play.

Let's have a reality check though. Anderson is never going to be the best quarterback in the league, and he is never going to carry a football team by himself.

However, with a strong supporting cast at wide receiver and at running back, he can put together a solid season and redeem himself for his poor play in 2008 and 2009.

Will the Cardinals win the NFC West again? If the running game and defense can play well, then they might make it. If not, the 49ers should be able to easily win the division.