Cards change mind, will stick with Warner as QB

Updated: September 27, 2006, 2:01 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Matt Leinart's time as a starting quarterback in the NFL will have to wait -- the Cardinals are sticking with Kurt Warner as their starter.

"Generally talking about the starting lineup is not something we do," coach Dennis Green said. "However, given the speculation that was out there we want to make it clear. We're disappointed after last week, but we still expect to be a playoff football team and we fully expect Kurt Warner to be the quarterback that leads us. That has not changed."

Sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that the Cardinals were planning to go with Leinart as their starting quarterback this week, but a team source said the Cardinals reconsidered overnight and decided that starting Leinart at this point in the season would put too much pressure on the rookie quarterback. The Cardinals will continue to monitor the quarterback situation and still could make a change later in the season.

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ESPN Classic looks at Matt Leinart with the debut of the "Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Matt Leinart for Returning for His Senior Season at USC." The show airs Thursday, Sept. 28 at 10 p.m. ET. For more on the show, click here.

Warner had an awful performance in Sunday's 16-14 home loss to the St. Louis Rams. The 35-year-old quarterback was intercepted three times -- once with the team at the Rams' 1-yard line and another at the St. Louis 14.

To cap it off, Warner fumbled a snap at the Rams' 18 with 1:46 to play as Arizona was positioning itself for what would have been the winning field goal.

The Cardinals' ugly loss came in front of a sellout crowd of 63,278 in their new stadium, and many of them let Warner know what they thought of his performance as he left the field.

"I'm not worried about that," Warner said Sunday. "I mean, whatever."

Warner was named NFC offensive player of the week after Arizona's season-opening victory over San Francisco, but the offense has produced just 24 points in subsequent losses at Seattle and against the Rams.

Warner and center Alex Stepanovich have had problems with the snap at times, even in pre-game warmups. Although he was seen jawing at his center after the fumble, Warner told reporters that the snap was good.

"I did my assignment," Stepanovich said, "and the next thing I know the ball is on the ground."

Warner finds himself in this precarious position for the third time in his career. After leading St. Louis to two Super Bowls in three seasons, he lost his job to Marc Bulger, then signed with the New York Giants in 2004. He was the Giants' starter for nine games but was benched in favor of rookie Eli Manning.

Leinart is without doubt Arizona's franchise quarterback of the future after the team took him with the No. 10 pick overall. But he missed most of the preseason after failing to come to terms on his rookie contract until just before the end of camp.

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Sean Salisbury
ESPN football analyst Sean Salisbury believes it's time for veteran Kurt Warner to step aside in Arizona and rookie Matt Leinart to step in.

To listen to all of Salisbury's comments, click hereInsider

The plan this season was for Leinart to watch and learn from the sidelines, but Green has not hesitated to switch quarterbacks in his uphill fight to bring a winner to Arizona. Green praised Leinart's poise and performance in the preseason.

With a 12-23 record in two-plus seasons with the Cardinals, Green admits he has wondered at times whether he can turn around the long-suffering franchise.

"I think any time a coach doesn't win enough, he's got to think about that," he said. "I'd be crazy not to. I've won a lot of games in my career. The question is I haven't won here."

At his regular Monday news conference, Green declined to confirm Warner would remain as a starter, fueling speculation that Leinart would get his first NFL start just four weeks into the season.

Green acknowledged following the Rams game that he was as angry as he's ever been in his two-plus seasons as Arizona coach. He was hired to build a winner by the time the team moved into its new stadium this year. But the Cardinals are 1-2 going into the Falcons game and 12-23 since Green took the job.

John Clayton: Quick Hits
John Clayton
Dennis Green's decision to go with Kurt Warner over Matt Leinart is a classic example of how a veteran coach is better served to make a personnel decision 48 hours after the game instead of 24. Green had to be emotional on Monday. It was a close loss at home in which his veteran quarterback, Warner, fumbled a snap when the team was in scoring position at the end of the game. Most long-time coaches like to wait until Tuesdays after a Sunday game, and Green obviously didn't have to make a decision Monday.

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Neither Warner nor Leinart was available in the Cardinals' locker room before the regularly scheduled team meetings Tuesday evening.

Green also was unavailable.

Leinart told reporters Monday evening that he knew nothing about being chosen to start and believed the job still belonged to Warner.

Wide receiver Anquan Boldin said in the locker room Tuesday that he hadn't heard of any aborted decision to change starters.

"We get work with both of them in practice I think a decent amount," Boldin said. "Whoever's in there, I'm going to back them 100 percent. I think any move coach Green makes is for the betterment of the team."

The admittedly impatient Green has been known to make abrupt quarterback changes. Even though the team had won three of four, he benched Josh McCown in favor of Shaun King for two games in 2004, then replaced King with John Navarre before going back to McCown. The Cardinals lost all three.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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