Posted on: September 15, 2009 3:41 pm

Leinart Time

Week 1 was a massive disappointment to say the least.  The very least.  These are the defending NFC Champions and they appeared to be completely out of sync.  Is it too early for to ask Kurt Warner to sit and watch?  I think not.

Many fans do not follow, enjoy, or appreciate the preseason.  They are meaningless games to the fan; a tease of Sunday's yet to come.  Some care not of the hard work and true passion played by the hopefuls.  If you are a true fan of football and a team, then you may see the preseason differently.  The off-season is long, and players go through a variety of changes in this time.  Physical well being (or lack thereof), mental preparation, and life changing events can effect a player and their production just as it would you or I.  The preseason gives us that first glance of the season and in doing so exposes the players at their rawest and most vulnerable.  You can learn many things about the season ahead based on performances and quirks seen in the preseason.  Although the effectiveness of players is apparantly highly problematic during this time and shouldn't be overanalyzed, it is still a great barometer.

I will not sugar coat this next statement:  Kurt Warner played like dog shit in the preseason.  I could delve into the numbers and lack of excellence achieved in little playing time, but that would just disprove my previous statement pertaining to over analyzation.  I will pose this point of view however.  Just because Warner led the team to the Super Bowl deosn't mean he is the best quarterback for this team.  I'll explain.  Warner and Leinart battled throughout the preseason of 2008 for the starting position of quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals.  Kurt Warner outshined Leinart and definitively won the spot.  He then led the team to a 9-7 record and an extraordinary run through the playoffs.  We all know the story and thank him for it.  He was then rewarded a new contract, as well he should. 

Entering the 2009 season Kurt Warner was the heir apparant to the throne.  Why should he not be?  Yet in the preseason, not only was he outplayed by Leinart, he didn't play well at all.  In routes in which his receivers were wide open in the flat, his throws were out of bounds.  On seam routes to tight ends up the middle, his tosses were too high.  In situations that called for the long ball, his powerful right arm threw ducks that quacked through the night.  I understand what he did last season, but this is this year.  Leinart's calm pocket presence and quick decision making, two qualities I have always felt eluded the USC alum, were crisp and poignant in the preseason.  If this were the 2008 and the two were fighting for the position, Leinart would have won with flying colors and without question.  You are supposed to put the best player in the game, right?  Matt Leinart has been the better player for more than a month now. 

Following the loss to the San Francisco 49ers in which Kurt Warner performed at the same level as he did in the preseason, I believe it is Matt Leinart time.  I don't know if Matt has earned it more than Kurt has handed it to him, but I feel if this team wants to make an effort towards repeating as NFC Champions (or make the playoffs for that matter), Ken Whisenhunt must make this decision.  Perhaps Kurt Warner has peaked, perhaps the hip surgery didn't go as well as we all hoped, and perhaps I am jumping the gun too soon on this thing.  It is only Week 1.  Yet after what I watched in the preseason, I feel Matt Leinart took the necessary steps in the offseason to be the franchise quarterback we all envisioned he'd be. 

Time will tell whether or not Whisenhunt puts Leinart in (unlikely I guess), but I hope we aren't 0-3 when he makes his decision.
Category: NFL
Posted on: August 24, 2009 9:56 pm

The Preseason and Matt Leinart

The Cardinals are now 0-2 as the preseason rolls on.  I say "So what?"  In all honestly, as many of us know, the preseason means little as far as the wins and losses go.  It means everything for the fan, however.  You hear it all the time, "It's just the preseason.  Who cares?  These games don't count."  I beg to differ.  This is the time of year in which the fan is given the opportunity to truly know their team.  We can all be arm chair quarterbacks, playing the "what if" game, predicting what Ken Whisenhunt should do next.  The depth chart opens wide as we watch these games, learning more about the construction of the Cardinals with every snap.  Now is the time to understand all aspects of the team as the Fight For 53 continues. 

Like most of America, I am an avid player of fantasy football.  For those who play, they know the double edged sword we carry.  You love your team and that can be contradictory to what you need for fantasy success.  Playing out possible scenarios is part of the fun (okay, I need Warner to throw a TD, but not to Boldin), but it does feel as if it ruins part of the allure of the game.  The preseason holds no value in the world of fantasy, and I feel as if this time of year is the time in which the true passion of the game is being put forth.  Men are not fighting as much for their contracts as they are for the simple chance to play and affect an NFL football game.

In watching the Arizona Cardinals preseason through the eyes of a fan, I will give my input up to this point.  Allow me to say this before I continue: I am not a Matt Leinart fan.  I never have been.  I religiously follow Notre Dame football, and being a resident of Phoenix, Arizona makes me an Arizona State Sun Devil supporter as well.  Leinart beat my teams regularly while playing for Southern Cal, and his ‘being a product of a system’ has been a nice and easy argument since his lack of production since entering the NFL.  Up to this point in the preseason, he has impressed me.  Granted he is playing against 2<sup>nd</sup> and 3<sup>rd</sup> team defenses, he has been doing something I have never seen him do: he is releasing the ball quicker.

My main complaint in the past when watching Matt Leinart is his lack of a quick release and poor decision making.  When a quarterback takes a three, five, or seven step drop, the idea is that when the last foot hits the ground, the decision as to where the ball needs to go has been made and the ball is airborne.  In seasons past this has not been Leinart’s forte.  He would take a five step drop and bounce around, standing in the pocket without making judgment, waiting for the inevitable blindside sack from an opposing defense.  In other cases the pressure would make the unsure footed Leinart flee, leading to a pass thrown out of desperation into a defenders arm.

Thus far he has been the contrary.  His calm demeanor and quick decision making has him looking like a professional quarterback.  Although Kurt Warner holds the job down, as well he should, you must be impressed by the work put in by Leinart.  Perhaps he has been listening to Warner, a man who could be the best mentor for a young quarterback in the league.  As the preseason rolls on we will find out more about what the 2009-2010 Arizona Cardinals are all about.  Enjoy this time of year, for it is the purest time in a sport full of multi-million dollar players concerned with touches not victories.

Category: NFL
Posted on: May 13, 2009 10:16 am

The Heartless D'Backs and No Retaliation

Mark Grace had a right to be fuming in the press box last night.  The Arizona Diamondbacks, a team with no heart and no spark, sat by as Micah Owings plunked Ryan Roberts in the elbow.  It was clearly an intentional HBP, as it occurred on the first pitch of the at bat, following an inning in which Brandon Phillips was buzzed.  Could this be the single act that would set off a light in every Diamondback?  Was this the chance to show what kind of team they really are?  It was, and they showed it. 

The Diamondbacks have become a lackluster shell of untapped potential this year.  They lack pizzazz, swagger, spunk, and anger.  They have become a team of free swinging idiots that miss everything in the strike zone and pop up pitchers' mistakes.  Throughout the 2007 run to the playoffs, you saw a gritty young team not afraid of making mistakes, most notably on the base paths.  It was a team with will power, and that determination brought them all the way to the NLCS.  This year you have Eric "I Run Into Outs to Prove I'm Hustling" Brynes attempting to take second after the right fielder has the ball or stealing third with no outs.  Chris Young, although I love his defense, needs to take a trip to AAA Tucson and remember what hitting a baseball feels like.  Mark Reynolds can hit a ball 475 feet (once every 15 AB's) but strikes out too frequently (once every 2.85 AB's).  Firing Bob Melvin was not the answer.

On Tuesday night, the Diamondbacks had a chance to stand up for themselves as well as one of their own.  It was an opportunity to say, "We're not taking this shit anymore.  We're not lying down."  Instead new manager A.J. Hinch decided to pitch to the Reds in the top of the 9th, business as usual.  I feel the anger of Mark Grace.  This team has so much talent and an incredible amount of potential.  Someone needs to light a spark under their ass.  Perhaps a bench clearing brawl would do the trick.  Instead, the Diamondbacks sat in their home dugout once again, watching the visiting team shake hands after yet another loss.  It was a lack of retaliation the spoke volumes about the team. 
Category: MLB
Posted on: December 29, 2008 1:41 pm

Has Hell Fozen Over in the Valley of the Sun?

I am an avid watcher of all Valley of the Sun sports, seeing as I am a 17 year Valley resident. I moved back to the place of my birth in 1995, just missing the frenzy of the Phoenix Suns (which, by all accounts, was fine by me). Minus the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, there are consistencies out here in the desert. As we close the year that is 2008, I have noticed an unequal balance in the equilibrium of all Valley sports fans. Could the end of existence be near?! Take a look at my theory:

1. The Diamondbacks are on a Losing Trend

The only professional championship in the history of Phoenix sports (if you count the Phoenix Mercury, fuck you) was achieved by a team with a two headed monster. Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson provided the boost this city needed. Although the rest of the country was most likely supporting the Yankees, even though people rarely do, it seemed destined to be their championship. After all, September 11 of the that year scarred the New York City landscape forever. The Diamondbacks somehow prevailed in the bottom on the 9th, and in doing so, delivered a Phoenician Championship.

In their 10 year existence, they have won a World Series, 3 division titles (2007 being the most recent), and a Wild Card berth. Yet 2008 was a year in which the Diamondbacks sunk back into mediocrity. Ups and downs are part of any franchise, so this comes as no great surprise. It's going to happen. A down year in a franchise of winners just hurts, but is acceptable. This doesn't prove or disprove my theory, it just shows that a winning team is doing something it is not accustomed to doing: losing.

2. ASU Football Sucks, U of A Wins a Bowl Game

This has been a steady balance since I moved back here. ASU football, while never overpowering or dominating, was a decent team that made several bowl appearances. What one thing does Jake Plummer, Andrew Walter, Sam Keller, and that cry baby Rudy Carpenter all share? Bowl victories. Being a ranked college football team is not an oddity for this university.

The University of Arizona is normally the little brother just dying to play. Since the Desert Swarm Defense departed in 1995, the Cats have made a mere 3 bowl appearances. That equates to a bundle of losing seasons. This year it's all flipped around and unaligned. The Arizona State Sun Devils finish the year 5-7 (after much preseason hype mind you) and the Arizona Wildcats finish 8-5 after beating BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. That's wrong, but not as jacked up and different as...

3. U of A Basketball Sucks, ASU is Ranked

Now this has got to wake some people up! U of A has dominated the Arizona sports scene for two decades. Yes, Lute Olsen has retired and with his retirement goes a dynasty. I know U of A is not a Valley team, but they are the rival, so we always keep a close and hateful eye upon them. Although I thoroughly enjoy basking in their demise, it is an odd feeling. When ASU beats U of A, it a joyous occasion because it is unexpected. God damn, U of A fell off fast.

On the other hand, as of this blog's posting, the Arizona State Sun Devils are ranked #20 in the country! Again, this is a great thing. I'd like to personally thank James Harden for hanging out here in the desert another year. I love watching this team play the slow down style of college basketball, but they prove my point again. Something odd is happening out here, everything is upside down.

4. Phoenix Suns No Longer Dominate

This was a long time coming...how many seasons can you win 50+ straight? Since my personal reappearance in the desert, the Suns have made the playoffs every year but 2002. It is disappointing to see a lack of dominance from a team that is always winning. If they are not careful, they might get left behind. The Jason Richardson trade might propel the Suns to a playoff push, but our time is done. We no longer boast one of the top teams in the NBA, and it is another sign of the ever changing tide.

5. The Cardinals are going to the Playoffs

This is the sign of the end of the world. Every team has been acting uncharacteristic, but when the Cardinals roll into the playoffs, you know something isn't right. Perhaps they lucked out this year, considering that masked behind their 9-7 record is the fact that the teams they beat hold a .368 winning percentage, and the teams they lost to won .634 of their games. I believe that if they win the Super Bowl, the earth will split and Satan and Saddam Hussein will emerge to rule us all.

I'm just saying, this aren't right out here in the desert. The advantage of it is that we get to cheer on teams we never cheer on, and talk shit about, well, everyone. Phoenix fans are a pessimistic bunch. Why? Look at our history.

The truth has been told, now let the debating begin.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com