Will Whisenhunt finally unshackle Leinart?

Ken Whisenhunt stole a page from the college ranks when he debuted a two-quarterback system with second-year pro Matt Leinart and veteran Kurt Warner. While the system didn't last long due to a season-ending injury to Leinart, Whisenhunt is considering bringing it back for 2008.

Before Matt Leinart went down with a broken collarbone in Week 5, the Cardinals utilized the quarterback platoon for two full games in Weeks 3 and 4. Kurt Warner was far more effective in those game, completing 70 percent of his passes for 390 yards and a passer rating of 124.8. Leinart completed only 47 percent of his passes for 146 yards and a passer rating of 61.7.

This system clearly benefits Warner, who has experience as both a starter and a backup in the NFL. Leinart, on the other hand, was still trying to prove himself to the coaching staff and his teammates while adapting to the new quarterback situation.

Certainly, a young quarterback like Leinart can benefit from a system like this early in his career. Warner is a classy player who mentors Leinart and pushes him to improve.

That being said, there's a time when a team must turn over the keys completely to its franchise quarterback. That time is now for the Cardinals.

The previous coaching staff handed the reigns to Leinart in Week 4 of the 2006 season. Leinart excelled in the spotlight, throwing for more than 2,500 yards in 12 games and leading Arizona to a 4-2 record during his final six starts.

Next season will be a make-or-break year for Leinart, as the Cardinals determine whether he is the long-term solution at the game's most pivotal position. The only way to find this out is to let Leinart play without looking over his shoulder.

Leinart needs the opportunity to prepare as the full-time starter every week and to stay healthy for the entire season. Warner should be used solely in a backup role unless Leinart struggles or gets injured.

Warner, 36, is still a quality NFL quarterback, as evidenced by his 3,417 yards and 27 touchdowns last year. However, the Cardinals committed to Leinart by selecting him with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2006 draft.

Arizona has the core talent to be a winning football team next season and beyond. If Leinart doesn't produce next year, younger personnel at the quarterback position will become a must-have. Warner is a great leader and teammate but is not a viable long-term option.

Leinart needs to be given the opportunity to prove he can lead the team for years to come. If he is unable to do so in 2008, a change in scenery will likely benefit both parties.


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