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Diner morning news: Is Leinart’s time near?

If Warner retires, Cards backup must be ready. Plus more notes. Michael Lombardi

Print This January 28, 2010, 10:40 AM EST

QUOTE: “I suppose my formula might be: dream, diversify and never miss an angle, and I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse.” -- Walt Disney

Kurt Warner might say goodbye…Matt Leinart might say hello

There’s a press conference scheduled Friday in Phoenix for Kurt Warner to make an announcement of some sort. Now, the only reason to hold a press conference would be to announce his retirement because if he was going to continue playing, there would be no need to address the media.

Whatever he says Friday, I know this: Warner is going into the Hall of Fame of the first ballot. The yards passing and touchdown passes will serve as evidence supporting his election, but more than his numbers, his ability to help his teams win is the defining measure. Warner has thrown 84 touchdown passes the past three years and has never looked better as a player. Even at 38 years old, he’s playing at a high level. Some may say he has tremendous skill players around him who make him successful — well, so does Matt Leinart and I wonder if he can achieve the same numbers.

With Warner announcing “something,” all eyes will soon focus on Leinart. The Cardinals have the kind of team that should be able to compete for the Super Bowl if they can maintain the level of play from their quarterback, but can Leinart handle the job? I have my doubts. They stem from his inability to control the football, which often sails on him, and from overthrowing too many inside routes that result in interceptions.

In the past, Leinart’s work habits have never been strong, and he’s relied on his natural ability to be successful. He must speed up his game, speed up his thought process and become quicker in every phase. Being quick-minded is as important as being quick with his delivery. Leinart must work on both. He has to seize this opportunity and prove he can handle the job -- because I strongly doubt that Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt will just give him the job. He’ll make the situation competitive.

Can Hue Jackson turn around JaMarcus Russell?

Hue Jackson, the Raiders’ new offensive coordinator, will have his work cut out for him trying to make JaMarcus Russell a player, but his first challenge will be to recruit Russell to make him want to be a player. Russell has talent, but he lacks ambition, lacks pride and lacks the willingness to want to be a player. The greatest obstacle awaiting Jackson will be dealing with Russell’s indifference.

Jackson is a wonderful recruiter and has been successful making players want to play for him. But before he puts in one new play and changes the scheme, changes the approach, he will have to change Russell. That will be the hardest part of his new job.

Gregg Williams is talking like Rex Ryan

I heard a radio interview Wednesday with Gregg Williams, the defensive coordinator of the Saints, who went over his basic plan for attacking the Colts offense. Williams believes he has to be able to hit the quarterback and plans on attacking Manning in that fashion.

My question is: What tape can I watch that will show me this works? It didn’t work last Sunday for Rex Ryan and the Jets, and it didn’t work for Williams against Brett Favre. So why will it work against Manning? Answer: It won’t.

Diversity in the game plan is critical, and the opposing coordinator must be disciplined enough to save his good stuff for the final drive of the game. Getting to Manning in the first quarter might allow a team to gain a possession, but it won’t help you win the game. The Saints would be better off adopting the Ravens’ game plan – be willing to bend but don’t break, and play lights out in the red zone.

The best scenario for the Saints would be to have the ball last in the fourth quarter trying to gain the lead. The best defense for Manning is to not have him on the field at the end of the game. If the Colts have the ball, Williams must have a key pressure, a blitz he has never used before that the Saints can execute at the right time. Facing Manning, a coordinator must be tactical and patient. Williams might want to reconsider all the blitzing.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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