Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt offered thoughts, insights and clarifications regarding his handling of quarterback Matt Leinart during an appearance Tuesday on the Scott Van Pelt Show.
I'll pass along some highlights and offer some thoughts:
On Leinart's feeling that he needed an explanation following his benching: It was communicated with Matt last Thursday and explained that we were going to start Derek [Anderson] in Chicago, as well as the reasons behind it. I can understand if he didn’t like the explanation or if he disagreed with it. However, I am comfortable in the way it was communicated and the way we communicate to all our players in general. There were a number of other positions where we made changes. … It's really not singling one person out. It’s about trying to find the best team for us as we go into the regular season a week and a half from now.
On Leinart in general: Matt has made a great deal of progress and there is no question in my mind that he can play quarterback in this league. Once again, that is the toughest position, in my opinion, to play in this league and there is a lot that goes with it besides just statistics. It’s more about how you handle the team, how you handle situations. There is a certain quality that you have to have in that position and that is all part of the evaluation process. And I think, more importantly, is how your team responds to that player and how you handle that role. I’m not talking about Matt. I’m just saying I feel like he has made great progress in that area, but, for whatever reason, we have not performed the way we have needed to perform as an offense. We have not made the progress that we as a coaching staff felt that we needed to do. So it’s not so much about that person as it is about trying to find the right combination. Once again, I believe Matt can play. I’m not saying that at all. I am just trying to find the best match for our football team.
On possibly releasing Leinart: That’s not something we have discussed. I can tell you that. We are going to look at our quarterback position. We have two rookies that are fighting for a position on our football team as well [Max Hall and John Skelton]. We have put a lot of time and effort in with Matt in trying to help him improve as a quarterback and fit into what we do well. I would say that would be something that would take a lot of time and thought before we made any kind of decision like that.
Whisenhunt said Anderson will start in the final exhibition game Thursday night. He said Anderson is getting more snaps because the team needs to find out more about him. Whisenhunt said he put the team on notice following the exhibition opener that jobs were on the line, and that there wasn't enough progress in the second exhibition game.
Leinart's reaction to Whisenhunt's moves is understandable. He's frustrated after putting in the time and effort he felt was necessary to keep the starting job, and it's not like Anderson has lit up the practice field or opposing defenses. It's also possible the Cardinals will view Leinart's response as whining and unbecoming of a starting quarterback -- in effect, more evidence Leinart isn't suited for the role. Leinart still might be the best available option for the Cardinals heading into the season. Whisenhunt will be watching closely to see how the team responds to both quarterbacks.