Matt Leinart finally responded to being benched in favor of Derek Anderson for this Saturday’s pre-season game against the Chicago Bears. Here’s what he had to say:
It is disappointing and a little bit frustrating. I can’t sit up here and say I’m happy and all smiles. It is frustrating. I am not sure the expectation put on me. I have high expectations on myself, and I think, based on my body of work in the preseason, I have been accurate and not turned the ball over. I think the preseason is about gelling together as an offense. We have a lot of new faces on the offense.
When you don’t move the ball, it’s not what you want, but that is what preseason is for. To gel together as an offense. It is what it is. I don’t make these decisions. I have done everything coach has asked of me. I have been committed and I have worked extremely hard. If it is an open competition, then let’s have it that way from the start, if this is what this is.
Moving forward, I have to keep working. Go out (Saturday) and work my butt off and let my play do the talking. I am confident in my ability. I am extremely disappointed, and I’m not exactly sure why this decision was made, but it’s not my decision.”
It’s hardly inspiring stuff from Leinart. Phrases like “I’m not sure [of] the expectations put on me,” and “it is what it is,” are really head scratching at this point. Leinart went on to address the “mental strains” of the pre-season position battle:
It’s mentally draining. It drains you a little bit and it’s been like that the last three years. Physically I feel fine and I have been efficient this preseason … in the limited, limited opportunities I have had, I think I’ve done my best. Can I get better? Absolutely. I know that. I’m not perfect and I know I have a lot of work to do. If it’s open competition, I think you need equal opportunity. Who’s to say … I don’t know if that is happening.”
Leinart also responded to the position that Whisenhunt may be trying to send him a wake up call:
Coach has a way of handling me and my situation the last three years, even when Kurt was here. For me, I’ve always kind of taken it with a grain of salt and continued to work hard. If he is testing me, that’s fine. I am disappointed but it’s not going to stop me from working and being a leader. I know guys are looking to me still. It’s adversity but I will get through it. I know hard work pays off.
I’m not going to look much into it. I am going to go out, play my game, and take advantage of the opportunity I get. That’s all you can do.”
First, Whisenhunt flat out stated that he’s testing Leinart. Second, this is what I, and probably the rest of the Cardinals team, wanted to hear from Leinart: “I realize that the Cardinals have built a fine offense over the past few years with Kurt and others at the helm. We haven’t lived up to those expectations to this point and I take full responsibility for that. I understand that as a leader of this team, more is expected from me in order for us to succeed. I know I can meet those expectations and I just ask that the team place its trust in me to do so.”
Instead, we got mostly boilerplate, blame shifting equivocation about efficiency and accuracy on 4-yard passes. That’s not the stuff of which leaders are made. Matt had better wake up or he’s going to have a front row seat to watch Derek Anderson take control of this team.
I still say that Leinart has the ability to do it. Speaking strictly in terms of ability, I believe he’s a better quarterback than Anderson, who has zero accuracy and no touch. Unless Leinart’s attitude changes, however, ability will pale in comparison to strong leadership, even if it’s from a similarly or lesser skilled quarterback. I believe that Leinart will be should be the starting quarterback against the Rams on Sept. 12th, but his time to prove me right is really, really running out.