Forget performance. Don’t think about the intangibles. If you want to know why the Cardinals are jettisoning their quarterback, the one-time golden boy, Matt Leinart, then look to the usual scenario. Follow the money.
Leinart’s contract is far too expensive for value anitcipated or received. That’s how the Cardinals no doubt look at it. He signed on for $50.8 million over six years in 2006, and has played little and inconsistently and shown himself to be injury prone. Derek Anderson, who was promoted to first team last week, signed a 2-year deal in March for only $7.25 million. From the beginning Leinart had to prove himself vastly superior to Anderson to save himself and his big-money deal. If anything, in camp and in preseason, Leinart was seen only as slightly better by head coach Ken Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves.
Imagine this conversation last winter between Graves and head coach Ken Whisenhunt, filtered down from the mouth of Cardinals president Michael Bidwill, whose family owns the team.
Graves: Ken, this is very important. I want you to listen closely.
Graves: You need to be really sure, no doubts, that Matt can not only be the starter next season, but that he is going to get us to the playoffs. Nothing else will do. That’s why we’re going to bring in another veteran quarterback to compete with Matt, someone you feel good about. Like Charlie Whitehurst or Derek Anderson. Or if you have someone else in mind let me know. Matt has to be much better than the new guy or else. I think you can read between the lines, know where I’m coming from.
Whisenhunt: I can tell you right now that Matt isn’t that kind of a quarterback. He isn’t going to be a difference maker for us. Either Whitehurst or Anderson will push him, it will be very close.
Graves: Good. That’s how I see it too. Just keep me informed how practices are going. We’ve got some time here. Still on for golf at 2?
And so Matt will go away now, his big, big paydays likely gone forever. That’s life in the NFL.