Do you really want to work in the personnel office of a National Football League team? Or even be someone on TV, radio, or the Internet suggesting who the best players available in the NFL Draft will be? Would you dare say publically who a specific team should consider in regards to the franchise’s needs??
Then get ready to be humbled, and often.
Just the quarterback position alone proves the total crapshoot in trying to determine what a player’s ability or potential may be. And very often it comes down to attributes that cannot be measured at the NFL Combine or even on a Wonderlic test. Maybe it’s that ‘swagger’ rating used in the Madden 11 game.
The hits and misses in the recent history of the NFL Draft are well documented. I start with 1990 when Mel Kiper was totally sold on Heisman winner Andre Ware, the seventh overall pick that year. The tape of Kiper declaring Ware the next big thing comes out every so often. Like everyone else, Mel has had his hits and misses over the years. The next year scouts were drooling over San Diego St. QB Dan McGwire, in part because he happened to be 6’8”. McGwire could never come close to cutting it in the NFL, and after a shaky first pre-season appearance that year, then-Green Bay Packers radio commentator Max McGee said on-air that McGwire looked ‘like a big dummy’.
The hits and misses were well documented. Drew Bledsoe was a #1 overall pick and had a nice career. Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger all wound up being hits from the 2004 Draft, two of them have Super Bowl rings and the third has not done bad either. Peyton Manning has lived up to all advance billing. Donovan McNabb, Aaron Rodgers, Daunte Culpepper (for a while), there are plenty of first round picks that were guessed right on.
Then there are the ‘cant-misses’ that missed badly. Rick Mirer, Joey Harrington, Akili Smith, Tim Couch, David Carr, JaMarcus Russell (current Packer Matt Flynn was his back-up at LSU), and of course the captain of this list, Ryan Leaf.
And then there are those passed over before coming stars, Tom Brady drafted in sixth round, Tony Romo being undrafted, and finally Kurt Warner having to cut his teeth in the Arena League before finally getting a look. Brett Favre lasted to the 35th overall pick of the 1991 draft, being by-passed by the Packers at #33. GB wound up trading a first-round pick for the then unproven Favre the following year.
Which leads me to the current Arizona Cardinals quarterback system and the fate of Matt Leinart.
First off, I find it hilarious that the talking heads on television are still waiting for the Cardinals to come to Kurt Warner’s house and drag him kicking and screaming out of retirement.
It’s not happening, and Warner can’t possibly make it any more clear. He announced his retirement soon after last season. He’s said repeatedly on Twitter he’s not coming back (that’s straight from the horse’s mouth), as ESPN mused about his absence during a pre-season game. #13 is not walking back through that door, he’s 180 degrees from Favre. Not that Favre didn’t have the right to un-retire or that Warner does not have the right to un-retire. Warner’s just moved on, he’s obviously much more than about football, although I believe he will make a great TV analyst in time.
It’s no surprise that Matt Leinart was a failure in his last chance to seize the Cardinals starting QB job. Warner himself was thought of as a stopgap when he came to the Cards in 2005, and conventional wisdom had him merely keeping the seat warm, before being named the starter the first time Leinart spit the bit early in ’07.
The amazing thing about the Leinart’s career path was how San Francisco 49ers fans were bent when he did not declare for the 2005 NFL Draft, where he was projected as the #1 overall choice. The Niners wound up taking Alex Smith that year, bypassing a kid that was playing locally at Cal the previous fall and completing 23 consecutive passes against the vaunted USC Trojans in the LA Coliseum. Maybe that day the NFL draftniks should have figured out who the top QB prospect should had been.
Leinart ends up slipping to the tenth overall pick in the 2006 Draft, and it turns out AZ may have been better served with Jay Cutler (the #11 overall pick) if they were willing to endure that headache. Leinart’s legacy will likely be simply of someone who fared much better at the NCAA than NFL level. Whether it’s his personality or work ethic or getting the respect of teammates, Leinart apparently fell short in those areas that are hard to measure before draft day.
I was not high on Leinart in fantasy football turns going into this season. And the Cardinals hedged their bets by getting Derek Anderson as a free agent and drafting Jon Skelton in the fifth round of this year’s draft. My original projection was that it would be Week 3 when coach Ken Whisenhunt would make his final decision to name Anderson as the starter, which would not be a tasty thought to AZ fans or fantasy owners of Larry Fitzgerald.
Fortunately, though – I don’t see Anderson lasting long into the season.
The Cardinals decided to give a free agent offer to undrafted rookie and local product product Max Hall, who has emerged as the Cardinals’ best QB period during camp, and suddenly could end up being the franchise’s future.
The quick Bio Blast on Max. Nephew of former Dallas Cowboy Danny White. Originally went to Arizona State, eventually transferred to BYU, where he had a nice three-year career in the Mountain West Conference and won some big games vs. the likes of UCLA and Oklahoma. Kind of a Danny Ainge 2.0, it was said that one practice in Provo had to be halted after Max got into three fights on the field. Also went on a Brandon Phillips routine calling out the University of Utah program after a BYU/Utah clash (Utah fans allegedly doused Max’s folks). Also called out Arizona Wildcat fans for the same reason, but more recently backed off (likely because U of A people buy Cardinals tickets too).
The Cardinals coaching staff has raved about Hall, mentioning that he has some ‘Kurt Warner’ qualities. From mini-camp on, it’s been said that Hall has shown that he has all the NFL throws, and more importantly, can command the respect of his teammates. In games, Max has been equally impressive, going 7-9 for 126 yards passing (plus rushing TD) in the Cards pre-season finale. Meanwhile Anderson, Leinart, and Skelton had 61 passing yards combined. It was enough to convince the coaching staff to cut their losses with Leinart and name Hall as the #2 QB going into the season, that’s #2 and fast closing in on #1.
So why would Hall go un-selected on Draft Day??? A quick look at the player profile gives a good clue.
Actually, it’s said that Hall is only a shade over 6 feet (6′ 1/4”), by comparison Leinart is 6’5” and Derek Anderson 6’6”. Meanwhile Aaron Rodgers in 6’2”, Favre also 6’2”, Tony Romo 6’2” Drew Brees 6′ even. One of these days scouts are going to figure out that height is over-rated.
It isn’t a matter of if but when Hall gets the starting job, and I figure it shouldn’t be long. Rookies ending up seeing significant time as a NFL starting QB is rare, not to mention an undrafted rook. But also take into consideration Hall grew up in football and he turns 25 in October and played in a pro-style offense in college. I would look at him more as the equivalent of a second or third year man.
The Cardinals open the 2010 season at St. Louis, Anderson might be able to get through that game. AZ then goes to Atlanta before hosting Oakland, and then play the Chargers and Saints leading into a Week 6 bye. Conventional wisdom says around that time a change would be made if Derek is not lighting up the skies. And even the Cards are 2-3 at that point, there would be plenty of time to right the ship in the weak NFC West.
Or Sam Bradford could totally outplay Derek on opening day and Whisenhunt may get the sense of urgency even sooner.
And actually Danny White wouldn’t be surprised if Max thinks he should be starting now.
I would not totally put the anointing oil on Max Hall at this point, but at the very least I can see him doing a solid job this season, or at least easily exceed the low bar that was set by Leinart. And having the likes of Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston at one’s disposal, as well as playing in the NFC West, also will make such a transition smoother. If in a fantasy football league and looking for a fill-in QB, I would make a waiver claim now, especially if you have a spot where you can afford to stash someone away for a while.
Hopefully Max Hall will at least be a good short-term answer in the desert, and that Kurt Warner can finally R.I.P (Retire In Peace).