Frustrated by three consecutive losses and offensive ineptness, coach Dennis Green decided the future is now. He's benched Kurt Warner and will start rookie quarterback Matt Leinart Sunday against Kansas City.
This is not a temporary fix, or a move that Green made suddenly. He contemplated it after the loss to St. Louis in Week 3 and decided during last week's 32-10 loss to Atlanta to make the move.
"That's not an emotional decision," Green said. "I had a lot of time to think about it while we were losing very badly."
Green had to do something, and Warner didn't do anything to convince him to stay the course. He had an interception returned for a touchdown and fumbled twice, losing one. That gives him 10 fumbles on the year.
"I wasn't making enough plays to help us win," Warner said. "Hopefully, Matt can step in and help us in doing that."
But Leinart will struggle, too, unless improvement is made elsewhere. The offensive line has been inconsistent, both in run blocking and pass protection. Unless that improves, Leinart will have a difficult baptism.
Warner, as usual, took the high road when Green announced the change immediately after last week's game. He helped Leinart warm up and was seen talking to him quietly in the locker room. But in a roundabout way, Warner sounded a warning for the rest of the team.
"I think the bottom line is you understand it's a team effort," he said. "It takes 11 guys on any snap to get this thing done, not just one guy. Hopefully, Matt can spark something and go in there and work some of his magic like he had before and help turn this thing around."
Leinart, who had an interception and a fumble last week in his debut, is confident he's ready.
"I have a lot of confidence," he said. "I'm not an arrogant or cocky person, but inside, I have a lot of confidence just from college days until now. I feel like I can play. I know I can go out there and do the job."
He'll need a better running game than the Cardinals have produced.
The Cardinals run a one-back offense in the truest meaning of the phrase. Edgerrin James is the only back getting any playing time.
Through four games, other running backs have carried just twice. Coaches don't seem troubled by this, and Green has said he would like to get James even more work.
James is averaging 22 carries. Green would like to see that average increase to about 25. The Cardinals' offense is still built upon the pass, so that leaves few carries for the other running backs.
"We brought a guy in here that we want to rush for 1,500 yards," Green said, referring to James, who signed a four-year, $30 million contract in the off-season. "Now, you can't do that without the football. You can't do it without 25 carries a game."
So the other backs have been relegated to special teams roles, even though both have starting experience. Backup J.J. Arrington has carried just three times this season. His main role is as the kickoff returner.
Marcel Shipp plays on nearly every special team, but he hasn't carried the ball this season.
Part of the reason for other backs' inactivity is that James is so versatile. He picks up the blitz well and he's an excellent receiver, so coaches want him on the field on third down.
James has been begging for the ball more.
"I just always feel like, the game is real simple -- use the person that's open," he said. "I just want to be part of it. I know I can help. That's one thing I'll never get away from, saying I know I can help this team."
--QB Matt Leinart completed five of eight passes in his NFL debut, but he also had an interception, was sacked once and lost a fumble. He received a brief indoctrination into what's it's like to be a Cardinals quarterback.
--RB Edgerrin James carried 20 times for 41 yards last week. On three of his first four carries, he was hit in the backfield as the Cardinals' offensive line was dominated.
--WR Larry Fitzgerald caught just three passes. One was for 46 yards, but the Cardinals weren't able to get him the ball the rest of the day.
--CB David Macklin could return to the starting lineup this week. Eric Green was benched in the first half last week, and Macklin, the starter in Week 1, took over.
--MLB Gerald Hayes is playing well and has given the team a physical presence in the middle.
--SS Adrian Wilson had a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown against Atlanta. That set a club record, eclipsing a 96-yarder that Larry Wilson had against Cleveland in 1965.
Leinart Is In; Offensive Line Still Out