Monday, October 1, 2007

Disaster averted

A talented, young athlete complains to the media about their situation and the team is left to deal with the fallout.

But unlike Hope Solo and the US women's national team, Matt Leinart and the Arizona Cardinals handled such a situation professionally and level-headed.

Here's Leinart's situation: He was a high draft choice and labeled the franchise quarterback. He played some last season but the team struggled overall. This year, he was named the starting quarterback in the preseason but the Cardinals lost their opener. In game two, Leinart threw 299 yards and a TD as the Cardinals upset Seattle. Week 3 was the turning point of the season so far; Leinart struggled against the Ravens. He was 9-for-20 for 53 yards and was pulled in favor of Kurt Warner, who led the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl title several years ago and once considered one of the top quarterbacks in the game. Warner led the Cardinals to a comeback though the Cardinals still lost. However, Warner made an impression on Ken Whisenhunt and the first-year coach used both Warner and Leinart Sunday against Pittsburgh. The Cardinals won 21-14.

However, that win didn't exactly make Leinart happy, as he talked to's Michael Silver.

During the game, Leinart snapped at the offensive coordinator and glared at his coach. Afterward, Leinart expressed frustration over his situation:

I just want them to ride or die with me. If I'm the franchise quarterback, play me and let me stumble, because I'll fight through it, and that will help me and our team in the long run. I know coaches want to win now, and I guess they have their reasons. But I don't understand it, and this switching back and forth is almost worse than getting benched.

So, how did Whisenhunt react to Leinart's reaction?

He reacted just the way I hoped he'd react. He was mad, and he wanted to play. That's the sign of a competitor – of a guy who can be our franchise quarterback for a long time.

And how did Warner react?

It's a hard situation for him; if I were the starter, I'd be upset. As the backup, I have no complaints. All I can ask for is a chance to play every week. It's working, for now.

The Cardinals haven't exactly been the model for NFL success, in fact, it's quite the contrary. The Cardinals have made the playoffs once since 1983. Still, the Cardinals seemingly handled the situation well. Warner, the veteran and Super Bowl champion, didn't come out and say that there were 52 guys united and that they needed for everyone to be in line; Whisenhunt didn't boot Leinart off the team or even relegate him to the bench full-time and I doubt Ron Wolfley (former Cardinals running back and current radio announcer) said he wouldn't want to catch passes from Leinart.

Yet the US women, supposedly one of the world's great national teams, handled a similar situation the way you would expect a team not used to winning anything would. But level-headed and sane people can still be found in sports.


Anonymous said...

Hugo Sanchez did the same thing with Nery Castillo during the Gold Cup. Castillo was livid about being on the bench for the game versus Guadaloupe. He said "If I'm not good enough to start versus Guadaloupe maybe I should step aside and let somebody else who is take my spot."

Hugo applauded him for his competitive spirit and started him for the final game versus US and left him on as a starter for the Copa America where Nery was extremely dangerous. And I still believe that in the Gold Cup final, had Mexico had a legitimate back-up for Borgetti when he went injured, and not that small-time striker Bravo, we would've seen a much different game.

Say what you must about Gooch "owning" Borgetti, but fact of the matter is Borgetti kept the US backline busy. Bravo was inexistent [through that game and through the Copa America]

But I'm rambling... point being: Most coaches are glad to see their key players fired up and wanting to play 100% of the time.

Anonymous said...

Are we still beating this dead horse?

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of dead horse to be beaten. Just wait until the players from the WNT actually come home and start talking to people about what really went down.

diane said...

After Wayne Rooney lost his temper during a World Cup qualifier and cursed at the England captain for restraining him, the press was all over it wanting to know whether the captain was pissed off. He laughed and said of course not, he loved Rooney's passion, it's what made him a great player, if the temper came with that they would deal with it and there were enough older players on the team to help him grow out of it -- don't know if the coach even got involved. Rooney still loses the temper, but even a year after that incident he was better able to hold it in check.

Mentoring is huge in any group activity. And being able to weather the the most bizarre range of behavior and reactions is essential to surviving any group as highly competitive and intimate as a sports team.

A.C. said...

Nery is an excellent example of a coach managing a tempermental player well. In not just this example, but in other cases, Nery did and said things that Hugo could have gotten steamed about, but he kept his cool and now Mexico has this exciting prospect on their side.

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