LOS ANGELES -- Arizona Cardinals defensive end
Word has apparently leaked back to Phoenix of Leinart's daily workouts with fellow USC quarterback alums
Four years after he was drafted, Leinart remains a celebrity in Los Angeles, as evidenced by the red carpet he had to cross to enter his charity bowling event on Thursday night. In Arizona, though, he is no more than the wild card on which the upcoming season rides. If Leinart performs well, the Cardinals will probably win the NFC West for the third year in a row, which constitutes a dynasty in the desert. If he does not, he could be supplanted by
"Matt is our guy," Campbell said. "We will live and die on his shoulders."
Leinart won the Cardinals' loyalty by waiting for it. He sat patiently on the sideline as Warner took hold of the team. Leinart clearly wished that he could be the one to guide the Cardinals to the Super Bowl, but he never said as much. He has served his penance -- and then some -- for that overblown photo of him with the girls in a Jacuzzi.
"This is the most excited I've ever been for a season by far," Leinart said. "It's the opportunity I've waited a long time for. I know this is my chance. I don't have any doubt in my mind about what I can do."
In a league desperate for quality quarterbacks, Leinart is a rarity -- a pedigreed passer who couldn't get the necessary snaps. Although he is often regarded as a first-round bust, the statistics tell a different story. As a rookie, he threw for more than 210 yards per game. He has completed more than 57 percent of his career passes. In his only start last season, he was 21 of 31 for 220 yards and no interceptions at Tennessee. He has not been Warner, by any means, but he has not been
Even though the Cardinals acquired Anderson in March, their offense seems well-suited to Leinart. Their dual running backs,
Leinart may not possess Roethlisberger's arm strength or mobility, but he knows how to read defenses and rarely misses open receivers. Of course, that was also the book on Super Bowl MVP
For the vaunted quarterback class of 2006, the time has come to find a measure of consistency.
Despite the obstacles he has faced in the NFL, Leinart still ranks among USC's finest football ambassadors, especially now that
Leinart is reminded of USC every day when he takes the field with Palmer and Cassel. He outperformed them in college, but now they are entrenched as NFL quarterbacks while his life as a starter is only beginning. When Leinart won the job at USC, he was taking over from Palmer, a Heisman Trophy-winner and school legend. Now he is succeeding Warner, a Super Bowl champion and potential Hall of Famer. Leinart has filled large cleats once before. The Cardinals are counting on him to do it again.