Kurt Warner was named starting quarterback Saturday.
Kurt Warner, freshly minted starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, realized he had overcome certain odds by beating out Matt Leinart – which coach Ken Whisenhunt officially announced Saturday.
“It’s probably rare to see it play out this way than the other,” Warner said. “(Teams) are always looking for the next guy to be able to run the show.
“You also realize in this business … you want to win now and who’s going to give us that best chance to win now.”
The drawn-out process Whisenhunt and his coaches used to choose Warner over Leinart came to an end with the 37-year-old veteran getting the chance to be back in the lineup.
Leinart, not surprisingly, was upset. That was OK with Whisenhunt, who said he would have been disappointed otherwise.
But while Whisenhunt insisted there were a lot of specific factors that went into the call – no one bigger than the others – it came down to a basic premise: Whisenhunt said Warner gives the Cardinals the best chance to win Sept. 7 in San Francisco when the Cardinals open the regular season.
“It was a fair evaluation of that position,” Whisenhunt said.
Whisenhunt was quick to say the decision didn’t mean he doesn’t think the Cardinals can win with Leinart behind center. He also emphasized there was a “high percentage” Leinart would play this season, just because many NFL starting quarterbacks are not able to play every game because of injuries.
Whisenhunt said he didn’t add extra weight to Leinart’s poor three-interception performance in Oakland or his good game against Denver’s backups in the preseason finale, although he added the Broncos’ showing “further solidifies my belief in what he will do for this franchise.”
Leinart was unavailable to the media Saturday.
“I guess (my reaction) is two-fold,” Warner said. “I was excited for me and the opportunity but I am also disappointed for Matt. I understand the position he is in and how difficult it is.
“It’s kind of bittersweet, but I am definitely excited.”
Warner said he had yet to talk to Leinart.
Warner, who threw for 27 touchdowns in 2007 after taking over for an injured Leinart, completed 12-of-17 passes in the preseason for 142 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions and a passing rating of 95.7.
Leinart, playing significantly more snaps, completed 28-of-45 passes for 354 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions and a passing rating of 73.8.
Warner acknowledged he never had doubts “I could be a starter and probably should be a starter in this league,” but he also insisted he recognized from the end of the 2007 season why he had to beat out Leinart.
“What you have to say is I understand the situation and how it played out like it did,” Warner said.
Whisenhunt said since his staff took over, Warner has been receptive to coaching and has worked hard on fundamentals such as footwork and ball protection. That added to Whisenhunt’s respect level.
Both Whisenhunt and Warner talked about Leinart’s still likely future ascension to the starting job for the franchise. Whisenhunt repeated that Leinart had just 16 regular-season starts in the NFL, too little data to decide Leinart can’t play.
Leinart’s anger has surfaced a few times, Whisenhunt said, such as when Leinart got hurt last season or when unflattering pictures were posted on the Internet in the offseason. Even last week, when Leinart struggled in Oakland and reports had him losing the starting job then, Whisenhunt watched how Leinart dealt with the issues.
That’s why he was pleased by Leinart’s solid showing against Denver.
“Great competitors get upset,” Whisenhunt said. “They are emotional. Part of being a good player is reining those emotions in and controlling them.”
Leinart will have to wait to show his progress on the field however. It’s Warner’s turn again.
Warner said he thanked Whisenhunt for staying true to his word about an open competition.
“Hopefully,” Warner said, “I can take us somewhere where we haven’t been in a long time."
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 8/30/08. Updated 8/30/08.