Epic Carnival | Where Sports and Pop Culture Collide: IS IT TOO EARLY TO CALL MATT LEINART A BUST?


by WCT, The Ship of Fools

It looks like Kurt Warner is going to beat out Matt Leinart for the Arizona Cardinals' starting QB job. Again.

Leinart, who won 1 BCS title at USC, played for a second, won the 2004 Heisman Trophy, and was a 2006 1st round draft pick, has now been beaten out by the 37-year-old journeyman three years in a row. Now as he enters his third year as a pro, at what point do we start to use the "B" word for Leinart? At what point do we start to examine the possibility that he may have been a creation of USC, and isn't really a good quarterback?

When Leinart was tearing up college football, his team had better athletes passing out towels and water than most of his opponents had in their starting lineups. It is very easy to look good as a quarterback when the talent disparity is so great week after week. Those USC teams were loaded. Now, in the NFL, where the talent is much more evenly distributed, he is struggling. In college, he threw 99 TDs and 23 interceptions an finished with a 37-2 record as a starter. In his first two years in the NFL, he is 7-9 in only 16 starts and has 13 TDs vs. 16 INTs. And this is on a team with two Pro Bowl receivers.

Perhaps it is too early, this is after all only his third season in the League. But on the other hand, take a look at what the quarterbacks he was drafted with have been up to: Vince Young was drafted 3rd overall that year, and despite erratic play at times, is 17-11 as a starter, has taken a team to the playoffs (in the tougher conference) and been to the Pro Bowl. Jay Cutler was drafted 1 spot behind Leinart at #11 and he has a QB rating near 90 and has established himself as the Broncos starter. Hell, even Tarvaris Jackson, who was drafted in the 2nd round, has an above .500 record as a starter. Brodie Croyle, drafted in the 6th round, has an 0-6 record as a starter, and even his QB rating is comparable to Leinart's.

At USC, Leinart had All-Americans all over the field and he and his teams dominated. Now in the NFL, with legitimate offensive talent around him mind you, but nowhere near the disparity he enjoyed in college, he can't get out of his own way. When Arizona drafted Leinart in 2006, they did not draft him to still be the backup 3 seasons later. The fact that Kurt Warner, who is years past his prime, and suffers injury after injury keeps beating Matt out should be a sign that Leinart is beginning to look a lot like a draft bust. If people are willing to call Leinart's college teammate Reggie Bush a bust, even with his solid rookie season, then why is it that Matt has escaped that same scrutiny with less of a track record?

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