Cards seek competition for Leinart

There's a reason Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn't fully committed to Matt Leinart as the team's starter for 2009.


LeinartLeinart hasn't yet earned the endorsement.

Whisenhunt, speaking Tuesday on XTRA910 radio in Phoenix, said the Cardinals would sign a quarterback to compete with Leinart. Not to back up Leinart, but to fight for the job. Whisenhunt said he has a "great deal" of confidence in Leinart, but he also told Leinart the team would bring in competition.

The Cardinals would hand the job to Leinart, Whisenhunt said, when "Matt goes to three Pro Bowls" and the Super Bowl, as predecessor Kurt Warner did.

Whisenhunt promotes competition throughout the roster.

Some coaches insist upon clarity at quarterback. That was always important to Mike Holmgren, who reiterated the philosophy at the NFL combine when explaining one reason the Browns would not keep both Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson.

Whisenhunt's approach has served the Cardinals well. Even Warner had to earn the starting job heading into the 2008 season. Whisenhunt's insistence upon placing conditions on the job was helpful, I thought, in convincing the previously freewheeling Warner to do a better job protecting the football.

I'm not sure how well the approach is suited for younger quarterbacks trying to find their way. Some might benefit from a stronger endorsement. That was my thinking on the 49ers' handling of Alex Smith a few years ago.