This interview took place on Friday, August 27, before the Arizona Cardinals played the Chicago Bears in their third preseason game. In that game, which the Cardinals won 14-9, Matt Leinart completed nine of ten passes for 84 yards and one touchdown (to Steve Breaston).
Every year it seems like at least one high profile college quarterback slips much longer than originally expected in the NFL Draft. It makes sense. It’s the most important position in the game, but teams only need one great one to win and, aside from the once-in-a-generation guys like Peyton Manning, it’s hard to determine which quarterbacks will be great in the NFL. Teams would much rather happen upon the next Tom Brady, a sixth round pick, than blow a top choice on the next JaMarcus Russell.
This year, Jimmy Clausen fell from a possible first round pick who was almost even with top overall choice Sam Bradford on most draft boards, to a late second round pick. In 2007, another Notre Dame standout, Brady Quinn fell to 22nd overall and has already switched teams. In 2005, Aaron Rodgers went from potential first overall selection to 24th. And in 2006, Matt Leinart was expected to go much higher than tenth. Rodgers is a star, but the verdict is still out on the other three. Did they slip for good reason or should they have been higher? It’s hard to tell, but the prospects of Clausen, Quinn or Leinart becoming Pro Bowl quarterbacks don’t look great right now.
Leinart could change that this season. He has only attempted 595 passes in his career, mostly backing up for Kurt Warner. Now, he has a chance to be the starter. But, Arizona brought in former Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Anderson and even recently announced that Anderson would start the third preseason game – usually considered a dress rehearsal for the regular season, where the eventual starters play the longest. Will Leinart win the battle? Will he get a chance to prove himself over one season? Does he deserve a chance? Or is he just not current head coach Ken Whisenhunt’s guy?
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart joined Gambo and Ash on KTAR in Phoenix to discuss whether his play in the preseason should dictate who the starter is for the team, how he learned that Derek Anderson would start against Chicago and what explanation he was given, if he would request a trade if not chosen as the starter and his frustration with playing time.
On if he feels like the game against Chicago will decide he Cardinals’ starter at quarterback:
“No I don’t. It shouldn’t and I don’t feel that way. I’ve probably thought about a million different things in the last 24 hours and really, I’ve just come to the conclusion that I have nothing to lose. People probably think that I have everything to lose, but I really don’t. I’ve been through these situations many times in the last couple of years. It all comes down to me performing with my team and playing well for this football team, moving the chains, being aggressive and that’s it. We’ll see what happens. I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket for this game.”
On getting the news that Derek Anderson would start in the preseason:
“It’s been a long couple of days. I’m disappointed, but I’ve learned that I can only control what I can control. That’s going out and playing football and to keep my mindset that I’ve had all along. I need to prepare like I am the starter. It’s one preseason game. I’m happy with where I have been and where I am at. I just need to try to continue to get better. That’s really all I can do… The whole thing is trying something different to see if we can get something going with the offense because we haven’t been productive in the first two games. It is what it is. I don’t make those decisions. I feel like for an offense, we haven’t moved the ball like we want to. That’s obvious.”
On if he would want to be traded if not the starter this season:
“It’s different. Kurt (Warner) is Kurt. He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback. He’s been to three Super Bowls. I think Derek (Anderson) is a good quarterback. It’s just a totally different situation. It’s hard to say what would happen. To be honest, I can’t, I’m not going to worry about that. If that situation does happen, we’ll see. I do want to be in a situation where I am wanted and where I am appreciated and where I can have success. If that’s Arizona, then good. That’s where I want to be.”
On if he feels he just isn’t Ken Whisenhunt’s guy:
“I don’t know what it is and I don’t really look into it more. We’ve had our ups and downs over the last four years. All I’ve really focused on is working my butt off and preparing and to be committed to this team and to the position and trying to help this team win. That’s the position that I feel I have put myself in. Who knows? It very well may be. We’ll see what happens. Right now, this is not about him or me. It’s just about this team and trying to get things on track. That’s my job as a leader. I’m not looking too much into this. It’s one preseason game. I feel like I have been very accurate. I haven’t turned the ball over. I’ve been consistent. Preseason is about jelling together. That’s something we are still in the process of doing as a lot of teams probably are… I’ve done what’s asked of me plus more I think. I’ve been a good teammate. I’ve always said the right thing the last three years. I’ve lived behind the shadows and just worked my butt off just to get to this moment. That’s all I can do. I can sit here and say that I have worked my hardest to this point and I will continue to work my hardest past this point… He’s my coach and I respect him as my coach.”
On if the disparity between him and Derek Anderson in preseason playing time disturbs him:
“Yeah. It’s tough. To be a quarterback and to get better and to learn and to experience, you have to get the reps. Reps in practice is one thing but playing games is another and that’s what preseason is all about. I haven’t been a starter since ’06, ’07. That’s three years. I need the work and that’s something that’s been evident in both (preseason) games… I need to get better. I’m aware of that. I think we all need to get better as a whole. After watching the film and after we practice, we got a lot of work to do.”