For every reason Matt Leinart was cut from the Arizona Cardinals today, there are double the number of reasons as to why he’s still NFL material.
In fact, there are a good number of reasons as to why he’s still a worthy NFL starting quarterback—beginning with his amazing attitude and the fact that he’s just 27 years old.
Today, with the breaking news hitting the Saturday sports world that Leinart has been released by the Cardinals, I’ll be breaking down the top 10 reasons he’s still a NFL starter—beginning with a 2007 injury that forced Leinart to the bench and into a two-year hole that eventually led to his dismissal.
On October 10, 2007, Leinart fractured his collarbone after being sacked—and three days later, his season officially came to a close when he was placed on injured reserve.
In 2008, Leinart started just five games for the Cardinals while continuing to recover from his 2007 season-ending injury before being handed back the starting position in the offseason.
However, by the first game in 2009, Leinart lost his starting role to Kurt Warner after a terrible preseason outing and was a backup QB the remainder of the season.
Since that time, he’s continued to play a backup role until his release by the Cardinals today.
But trust me when I say Leinart’s NFL career is far from over.
Regardless of being cut today by the Cardinals, the 27-year-old Leinart still has plenty of years left in his throwing arm.
And I can almost guarantee you that some NFL team out there will be picking up the former USC star.
He’s really only had equivalent to about two years of starting snaps in the NFL, and I have no doubt he’s still got a load of talent—and he’ll prove it one day soon on the NFL gridiron.
You don’t win a Heisman trophy in NCAA football for being a dud.
In fact, you have to be a stud to win the Heisman—and Leinart did just that during his junior year at USC while guiding the Trojans to a BCS National Championship and second straight No. 1 finish in the AP poll.
And his senior year at USC may have ended just as perfectly if not for a picture perfect performance by Texas’ Vince Young in the BCS title game.
After graduation, Leinart’s No. 11 jersey was retired at USC—and it’s only a matter of time before Leinart is back on the gridiron throwing bullets to receivers.
Does anyone really remember the Matt Leinart that entered the 2006 NFL season as the play-caller for the Arizona Cardinals?
Looking back, Leinart played in 12 games that season (starting 11) while completing 214-of-377 passes for 2,547 yards.
In his rookie campaign, Leinart also threw 11 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and was sacked 21 times; on the ground, the QB garnered 49 yards on 22 rush attempts with two touchdowns and eight fumbles (two lost).
Completing 56.8 percent of his passes in 2006, Leinart ended the season with a quarterback rating of 74.0.
Can the Leinart of 2006 be back on an NFL roster in 2010, or 2011 at latest?
As stated in the last slide, you aren’t just handed a Heisman trophy for nothing.
Leinart was a phenomenal QB at USC, and Trojan and California fans alike had high hopes for the former star when he entered the NFL ranks.
And they still have a reason to believe.
Leinart has always been a never-give-up type of player, and I don’t think for one second that this latest setback will deter the 27-year-old quarterback.
The main thing Leinart needs right now is what many of the best athletes to ever play the game have needed to revitalize their careers: a fresh start in a new place.
Where will that be?
Only time will tell; but bank on Leinart remaining in the NFL.
You honestly cannot replace four years of experience on an NFL roster, even if half that time was spent as a backup player or on the injured list.
And Leinart’s gridiron greatness is a prime example of just that: raw talent mixed with unequivocal NFL experience.
He may be without a job for the time being, but I don’t think Leinart will be unemployed for long.
In fact, I’d go as far to say that a majority of the NFL teams entering this coming season will be considering picking up Leinart before the 2010 campaign kicks off next weekend.
And I wouldn’t be surprised one bit to see Leinart wearing a new jersey come opening kickoff next Sunday.
Looking at more recent numbers, there are definitely reasons to be smiling if you’re an NFL owner or coach looking into acquiring Leinart.
In three preseason games, the 27-year-old QB threw for 126 yards and one touchdown—with his most complete performance coming in a 14-9 victory at Chicago in week three of the preseason.
In the win at Chicago, Leinart completed 9-of-10 passes for 84 yards and one touchdown, ending the game with a quarterback rating of 135.0 in a near-perfect showing.
That one game, in and of itself, should give optimism to Leinart, other NFL owners looking for a QB, and NFL fans in general.
Leinart’s career is far from over; just wait.
In addition to racking up 126 passing yards, Leinart also completed 16-of-21 pass attempts in three preseason games.
Pretty amazing for a guy that was just cut from the Cardinals.
His lowest QB rating in his trio of outings in preseason play was a 64.6—coming in week four of the preseason in a 20-10 Cardinals victory.
In his final preseason game with Arizona, Leinart completed 3-of-5 passes for 14 yards, adding four yards on the ground on one rushing attempt.
Those may not quite be equal to the NFL’s 2006 season numbers for the former USC star, but he’s definitely heading in the right direction.
One of the most amazing things about Leinart, at least in my opinion, is his overall humble attitude and persistent desire to succeed.
You really can’t ask for much more from an NFL player playing any position on the gridiron, but it truly speaks volumes for a team’s play-caller to remain humble and upbeat through constant beatings.
But Leinart has done just that, surviving two-plus years on the bench before his final days with Arizona came to a close this afternoon.
Trust me, though: Leinart will be back on the field in no time.
His Arizona days me be in the rearview mirror, but there’s a bright future on the horizon for Leinart.
Basically, it all comes down to one simple thing: Leinart can still play the game.
And he’s still worthy of at least getting another opportunity to prove himself on the NFL gridiron.
Where he will actually land has yet to be seen, but I do believe Leinart will continue to play football professionally.
It may take some time before we see the Leinart of old, and to be perfectly honest those days may truly be in the past.
But I know Leinart can still be a successful quarterback in the NFL.
And I have no doubt he’ll be back on the field of play before anyone knows it…
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at email@example.com