The Kurt Warner/Matt Leinart "Sham" of a QB Competition: Part II
Arizona Cardinals' Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt promised that the best quarterback would start in 2008... but what he's delivered thus far has been anything but a fair or open QB competition.
In his five games played in 2007, Matt Leinart made a convincing impersonation of Ryan Leaf. Leinart completed only about 50 percent of his passes, averaged only 0.4 touchdowns per game, threw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns, posted the worst passer rating in the NFL (61.9), and threw for the fewest yards per game (129).
And the talent of Arizona's Pro Bowl receivers—Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin—was virtually wasted, as Leinart only connected for one TD with Boldin and zero to Fitzgerald. And more, the Arizona passing attack under Leinart was ranked last in the NFL.
After Leinart suffered a season-ending injury (his second season-ending injury in his last five sacks), Kurt Warner took over and elevated the passing game to a very high level.
In only 11 starts, Warner came within a touchdown of the franchise single-season touchdown record. He threw 27 TDs, including 21 in his last eight games. He finished in the top-10 in passer rating (89.8), touchdowns per game, and yards per game.
He also connected with Anquan Boldin for about one touchdown per game, and did the same with Larry Fitzgerald—who consequently made the Pro Bowl. With Warner at the helm, Arizona's passing offense went from worst-in-the-league to one of the top three.
So Whisenhunt's decision to name Leinart the frontrunner in an offseason quarterback competition was puzzling (at best) and foolish (to most).
Front office pressure from the meddling Bidwills has been evident throughout the process, and so many Cardinal fans suspected that an even competition would not be delivered.
And thus far, all evidence points to a rigged "sham" competition in Leinart's favor. In the first preseason game versus the New Orleans Saints, Kurt Warner didn't even get to play a single down, and the fix appeared to be in.
However, in tonight's preseason game versus the Kansas City Chiefs, coach Ken Whisenhunt stooped to an even lower level of duplicity.
In the first half, Warner was given two possessions, followed by three for Leinart. Warner's first possession stalled after a fumble by Edgerrin James, and he scored on his second. All-in-all, he was impressive, completing six of nine passes for 54 yards and leading a 78-yard touchdown drive.
In Leinart's next three possessions, his play was very shaky—featuring only two completions in six attempts for 13 yards, two passes nearly picked off, and a fumble in Arizona territory.
Going head-to-head, Warner seemed to have taken a step forward...at least until coach Whisenhunt stepped in and doctored the results.
In the second half, to the surprise of most, Whisenhunt returned the starting offensive unit and Leinart to the field for another drive—after Kansas City pulled their starting defense from the game.
Leinart went on the manage a 5-5 touchdown drive against second, third, and fourth-string defenders, some of whom will be employed as bouncers and personal trainers by next Monday.
So, at this point in the supposed "competition," Warner has only been given two possessions in a single game—far fewer than the six possessions in two games received by Leinart.
Will the mainstream Arizona sports press notice and report this sham? Or will they simply read the box score and jot down a few "Matt Leinart held off Kurt Warner with a solid touchdown drive" talking points delivered by Bill Bidwill's propagandist Darren Urban?
Bleacher Report knows better...and we will be watching.
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