This is the time of year that many teams face what fans might perceive as tough decisions regarding releasing popular players or high draft picks. However, in reality, these decisions are not hard for organizations to make as they enter Week 3 of the preseason -- the real dress rehearsal for the regular season.
Players often gain a reputation for high-quality play and those perceptions are not real, regardless of any Pro Bowl vote. For example, everyone outside the NFL thought the Jets were crazy for releasing guard Alan Faneca this past spring, but most everyone in the league knew the veteran's play was far from Pro Bowl caliber, despite getting the nod, and his salary was not in sync with his performance. Hence Faneca could no longer help the Jets, and they released him.
While Faneca might be able to help the Cardinals as they rebuild their offensive line, his play has not been the same the last few years. This is the point where one team's discard might make another roster better. These are the types of moves happening behind the scenes for every team executive.
As the season moves into late August, cut days loom and create some surprises for fans. Teams are now working the phones to offer players they feel are going to be on the bubble, yet in reality, cannot make their 53-man roster. Calls are constantly being made in attempt to gain a draft pick for a player a team is essentially prepared to release.
So, who could be the biggest surprises? Which team will admit a mistake and move on? Let's examine a few possibilities.
Matt Leinart, Arizona Cardinals
Could the Cardinals actually release or deal (not sure he has any trade value) the man they have pegged to take over for Kurt Warner? Based on Leinart's play this preseason, the scenario could actually become reality.
Leinart has not been accurate -- that goes for now or the last time he was the designated starter. He has not looked quick-minded or decisive with the ball. In fact, he has looked slow behind center, making the entire offense follow suit.
If Leinart is not the starter, what purpose does he serve in Arizona? Once the decision is reached that Leinart is not the guy, then the Cardinals must move him along -- essentially waiving the 2006 first-round pick.
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The coaches would not be convinced in Leinart's ability to perform, nor would his teammates have faith, therefore, what would his role be? As a backup? No way. Can you imagine the deflation in the team's season if in Week 2 Leinart regained his job due to Derek Anderson getting hurt? No one would have confidence that Leinart was going to instantly turn it around, and coach Ken Whisenhunt would be on the prowl for another starter.
Whisenhunt has no stake in the Leinart pick, he inherited the quarterback from the prior regime and has tried to make it work, but it is far from happening at this point.
Some might say I am being too harsh on Leinart, quickly making this proclamation, but this evaluation has been nothing but fast. Leinart has had time, the training in the system and very good coaching. Most of all, he has had a career-altering experience, in which he realized he had to work hard and needed to spend more time on the field than hosting hot tub parties. Still, the more experience he gains does not seem to translate to playing more quickly or making more accurate throws when the pace of the game increases.
As a former team executive, once you give someone a chance to show you what kind of player he is, regardless of draft status or money spent, you must act accordingly. As Bill Parcells would constantly remind me, "Once a player shows you who he is, believe him."
Leinart has had plenty of time to show the coaching staff and his teammates who he is, and now the Cardinals are forced to believe him.
Pat White, Miami Dolphins
White was an expensive "luxury pick" for the Dolphins, who reached for him in the second round of the 2009 draft. He was supposed to enhance their Wildcat offense and then develop as a passing quarterback. Not really the description some might associate with a second-round pick. However, many in the organization felt that they had to beat the Patriots, who had four second-round selections and had used three already.
If the Dolphins hadn't made their move at 44, they might not have been able to get the man they envisioned could give them some big plays in their offense. So far, his development as a passer has been below par.
White has a gun for an arm but, like Leinart, has not been able to progress with his accuracy. His passing tree is limited in terms of what level he can make solid throws. He is not accurate on the short, middle or deep ball. White has not been able to lead a normal offense and when he enters the game to run the Wildcat, the defense is ready for the unexpected. A gadget player does not work, unless he can run all the plays and White has not proven he can handle the job.
White is the fourth string quarterback on the roster and isn't expected to play in the team's third preseason game, a sure sign that the experiment is coming to an end. By all indications, the Dolphins gambled on White and seem to have lost.
Gosder Cherilus, Detroit Lions
Schwartz had hope that Cherilus would give him a pillar of strength at right tackle and one less position to improve. However, Cherilus has disappointed and is currently working behind veteran Jon Jansen. Everyone in the league is looking for offensive linemen and some team might have modest interest in Cherilus, but he does not look like a long-term solution for the Lions.
Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, Washington Redskins
The Redskins decided to add veterans at running back this offseason, signing both Johnson and Parker, hoping one might be able to become the back of old, not an older back. This preseason, however, each has shown his age. The Redskins have two younger options in Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams, who both look much better in all facets.
Parker has only one carry in the preseason, while Johnson has eight. Beyond that, neither has proven to the coaching staff that they can handle the load any more. The waiver wire might be waiting.