In his first official Super Bowl week media comments, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt talked about the decision-making process that resulted in the benching of Matt Leinart and the elevation of rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches backup Kurt Warner before the start of the 2008 regular season.
The ballsy move by Whisenhunt, who had no need to justify the selection of Leinart with the tenth overall pick in the 2006 draft because Whisenhunt at the time was the Steelers’ offensive coordinator, laid the foundation for the Cardinals’ ascension to the Super Bowl, where they will face Whisenhunt’s Steelers.
“It was actually the Friday after we had ended camp,” Whisenhunt said. “It was a week and a day before our first regular season game. It was that Friday night that I stayed up all night making the decision on Kurt Warner.
“To Matt Leinart and Kurt’s credit, they both competed very hard for that position. I really believe the reason we had success this year at the position was because of that competition. As I’ve said before, it was a very close competition. It came down to what I felt was the player that gave us the best chance to win early, to start fast. I felt looking at our schedule with five east coast trips, it was important that we started off fast, and we did exactly that with Kurt.
“Kurt, to his credit, worked very hard on some of the things that we asked him to do: ball security, moving in the pocket, decisions on his reads. I think a great deal of the success he’s had is because of that work he’s put in. Kurt has never been afraid to work, and obviously because of our success, I’m very excited with the way he’s played but anytime a veteran player has had great success and then not had it, it’s always something you admire, to see him come back to that level again which Kurt obviously never felt was an issue.”
At the time, the decision was stunning, given that Warner didn’t play at all during a nationally-televised against preseason game against the Saints, who were the recipients of plenty of Super Bowl hype at the time.
And so, in hindsight, admitting failure as to Leinart was a small price for the organization to pay, since in exchange the Cardinals will be playing in their first Super Bowl in franchise history.


  1. Did Leinhart still go with the team to Tampa? With so many parties being scaled back or even cancelled I figured he might go home and attend the parties in Cali where he’s a legend, man.

  2. “And so, in hindsight, admitting failure as to Leinart was a small price for the organization to pay, since in exchange the Cardinals will be playing in their first Super Bowl in franchise history.”
    Are they admitting failure or just acknowledging that Leinart isn’t ready yet. Perhaps he will be a failure but he’s still young.
    If you look at Warner’s numbers last season, he played great in that little QB carousel Whisenhunt had going between him and Leinart, until obviously they were both injured. Had Warner been the started all that year and had stayed healthy, who know what kind of success they could have had.
    By the way, Warner is such a bad man…he yells at his coaches during football games.

  3. They would have won the division with Leinart
    What qb can’t hit a wide open Fitzgerald or Boldin or have have Fitz go up and get bad passes….

  4. Good to see a coach making tough decisions. Unlike the Bucs running the team via public opinion evidently.

  5. Facts Domino says:
    January 26th, 2009 at 8:55 pm
    They would have won the division with Leinart
    What qb can’t hit a wide open Fitzgerald or Boldin or have have Fitz go up and get bad passes….
    So is that why teams try not to blitz Kurt Warner?

  6. im going to out on a limb here and say that if the cards win, warner will retire, i was a huge leinhart fan when he played for USC, but im not sure he can cut in this league as anything more than a backup

  7. I think people are a little quick to label people busts in this league (Leinart in this case). Seems like some QBs just need time to learn. Not everyone can take their team to the SuperBowl in their first year. Look at the journey that Warner himself took to get to the super bowl/MVP.. or Rich Gannon.. sometimes these guys just need to learn for a while.

  8. Warner has a better cmp than Leinart, but Leinart has a better winning % at Ari than Warner during the regular season.
    Teams blitz Warner because of his horrible mechanics and ball handling issues… With those receivers he’s able to beat it, but he also lays it on the ground with contact.
    here is to Pittsburgh camping out in the AZ backfield…

  9. In the third preseason game, when Leinart threw 3 picks in 5 attempts against oakland, and then Warner came in and led the Cards to a 24-0 win, I think the decision was made. It was a no brainer… I don’t think there is any credit to be given for the ‘tough’ decision, it was a clear victory. If he had gone with Warner full time last year, then maybe we could credit Weisenhunt with some thing ballsy. This year, based on last years stats and preseason play, going with Leinart would have been balsy. If he’s serious about the tough decision, then I’ve given him too much credit, but I think that he’s just trying to keep Leinart’s spirits up with those comments for the future.
    The sad thing is that Warner took so long to play himself back into a viable starter. It goes to show you how long draft status and other intangibles stay important when you have an off year (or few years in Warners case)… where it is considered ballsy to play a 2 time mvp over an unproven overhyped roookie whom has been outperformed in nearly every statistical catagory over a season of split duty. I am glad to see Warner succeed now after being basically discarded by the league.
    Give Warner 6+ seconds and he’ll kill you. He’s one of the most acurate passers that’s every played (one of… read: top 20ish), and ‘The Vic’, if 2 mvp’s, 3 superbowl trips don’t put you in the conversation for hall of fame, what does?

  10. Someone said, “What qb can’t hit a wide open Fitzgerald or Boldin or have have Fitz go up and get bad passes…. ”
    Answer: Leinart.
    In 2007, with a healthy Fitzgerald and Boldin, Leinart didn’t throw a single touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald in his 5 games, and only 1 to Boldin. Larry Fitzgerald looked like nobody special with Leinart, averaging only 3 catches for a total of 42 yards per game.
    Leinart is the QB who only averaged 129 passing yards per game (lowest in the NFL) and posted a 61.9 passer rating (also lowest in the NFL). He only completed about 50% of his passes, averaged only 0.4 touchdowns per game, and threw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns.
    In that same year, after Leinart was injured, Warner averaged 1 touchdown per game EACH to Fitzgerald and Boldin, finished in the top-10 in most QB categories, and threw for about 300 YPG and almost broke every Arizona single-season QB record while only starting 11 games.
    And of course, this year playing a full season, Warner did break all the single-season QB records for the Cards, and built the #2 passing offense in the NFL.
    Those receivers are excellent — provided Kurt Warner is throwing the football. With Matt “Ryan Leaf” Leinart tossing that weak USC floater around the field, they just look sub-average.

  11. rlewis4242 – Good post, I rated you a 5.
    However, I think Kurt Warner would make the “Hall of Very Good” if there was one. Just not the HALL OF FAME.
    You have to have more than just 4 good seasons.

  12. If Jim Freaking Kelly can make the HOF, then Kurt Warner deserves it.
    I think if Kurt can help AZ win this SB, then he deserves to go in. Otherwise, I am OK with either outcome as far as his HOF selection later on.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.