By signing today with the Houston Texans, the much-maligned Matt Leinart will likely find a more friendly home than he did in Arizona. You would think his new coach, Gary Kubiak, can draw Leinart out of his shell if anyone can. Kubiak, you may recall, is a former quarterback himself who played nine years in the NFL at Denver, all in the shadow of the great John Elway. Just as Leinart struggled in the shadow of Kurt Warner.
The Texans did not sign Leinart to be the No. 3 quarterback behind the other Matt, Schuab, and Dan Orlovsky. If Leinart doesn’t end up as No. 2, then something’s wrong. Orlovsky, the former Connecticut star, is most noted for his 2008 season and his seven mediocre starts with the Detroit Lions. He threw two interceptions in his last preseason game.
With the Cardinals, Leinart only regressed under the eye of hard-nosed coach, Ken Whisenhunt. The Whiz is not yet noted for his development of first round draft picks who play offense. Tackle Levi Brown (Penn State) and running back Beanie Wells (Ohio State) have yet to fulfill their promise. As did Leinart. Yet on defense, where Whisenhunt takes less interest, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie appears a perennial All-Pro, and the switch to free safety of another cornerback, the now departed Antrel Rolle, turned out to be a winning move. Both were also No. 1 picks.
The Cardinals release of Leinart two days ago was big news in many ways. For the first time since Whisenhunt emerged as a winning coach (27-23 in three seasons with a Super Bowl appearance after the ’08 season), he was castigated by some fans for his messy handling of the Leinart affair. Many savvy Arizonans will be watching now what, if anything, Leinart is able to accomplish in Texas.
If Leinart for some reason performs well and the Cardinals and their quarterbacks struggle, Whisenhunt will likely begin to suffer what Leinart did in the last few weeks.
Should ineptitude come to pass out here in the desert, the fans will forget Whisenhunt’s past glories just as easily as they forgot the PR value and high expectations Leinart brought to a hapless franchise back in 2006. And the Whiz will soon find his thick neck, deserved or not, in the pitiless grasp of irate Cardinals fans.