Number three is number one on the depth chart for at least one week. Coach Whisenhunt has shuffled the cards by benching Matt Leinart in favor of Derek Anderson, who will take the field first for the Cardinals this Saturday against the Bears.
“I don’t think we have performed the way we should have on offense,” Whisenhunt said. “We’re looking at different players in different spots.” The head coach’s remarks are decidedly understated, considering the importance of establishing a clear first string quarterback. Whisenhunt, however, is billing the move not as a permanent decision, but just an opportunity to view how the team responds to trotting Anderson out there to start.
There’s no question that the offense has struggled to move under Leinart’s direction. In Leinart’s defense, however, he’s 10/13 for 77 yards with 0 INTs. The problem is that he has zero touch downs as well and few first downs. In addition, it’s been reported that Leinart is giving up on his first read very quickly, opting to check down to safe yet non-threatening throws.
Whisenhunt plans to insert Leinart in the second quarter, giving him the opportunity to run the two-minute drill and play well into the second half. This means we’ll get a good look at what the Cardinals can do with Derek Anderson running the first team offense with a clean slate, rather than following in Leinart’s wake.
I guess Leinart has to look over his shoulder after all. This time, however, it’s not a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback; it’s a Cleveland Browns cast-off. Leinart lost his starting job to Kurt Warner during the 2008 pre-season.
I have no great love for Leinart. On the contrary, his body language, arm strength, accuracy, and leadership are all questionable. At first blush, this move seems like a welcome change of pace to Leinart’s frustrating drive-stalling efforts. Upon second thought, however, it seems like a dubious choice.
Think about it this way. Suppose Anderson goes out there to start the game and the best happens; the Cards drive down the field and put up six. What does that prove? Honestly, not much. It’s a very small sample size, meaning the occurrence of a certain result is not an indicator of the occurrence of similar results in the future.
For poker players out there, it’s like chasing a flush or a straight and hitting it the first time you make such a play. Does that mean it was the right play or that you should do it all the time? Of course not.
In the meantime, you’ve destroyed Leinart’s barely there confidence to get a look at a quarterback that probably isn’t a better option anyway. Anderson’s still learning the Cards’ system and the INTs will mount, most likely at a rate that will outstrip his TDs. I think it’s tough to say that Anderson is per se a better quarterback than Leinart right now. As a result, a single successful performance won’t tell us much about whether Anderson should start over Leinart.
I’ve always felt that Leinart doesn’t need to be a stud for the Cardinals to win. I would take a safe, albeit vanilla offense under Leinart over a high risk-high reward offense under Anderson. Derek’s style of play will most likely lead to an increased number of turnovers. This will put a tremendous strain on a defense that has new players everywhere on the field. I’ve yet to see a team consistently lose the turnover battle and win games.
Such is my opinion. Do you disagree? Let me know in the comments section.
As Whisenhunt said, it’s not a permanent move and it may be a wake up call to Leinart. There will be much more on this breaking story as it develops.