In the Football Outsiders Almanac 2010 (which I highly recommend, btw), Aaron Schatz compared Jake Delhomme's ongoing presence as an NFL starting quarterback -- despite all evidence that he could no longer perform in that capacity -- to this Onion article about a CEO whose rise through the ranks was attributable to nothing but his "unbelievable handshake", a.k.a. his ability to make people like him and convince them that he's a strong leader. With all due respect to Delhomme's firm handshake, though, I think one of the men he's replacing in Cleveland has possibly surpassed him as the master of that charade.
That man, of course, would be Derek Anderson, picked up from the scrap heap this offseason by Arizona. Despite a giving vote of confidence to longtime QB-in-waiting Matt Leinart during OTAs and training camp, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt has soured on the former USC star to the point of giving Anderson the starting nod (which in turn has made Leinart so disgruntled that the team is considering trading him). What went wrong? The turning point for Whisenhunt was apparently Arizona's August 23 game vs. Tennessee, in which Leinart was unable to lead the offense to any kind of sustained ball movement and was pulled in favor of Anderson during the 2nd quarter.
Chief among Leinart's sins that night: a 2-yard completion on 3rd-and-3; a 7-yard completion on 3rd-and-16; and a deep incompletion on 3rd-and-1 when (ironically) one of his patented short checkdowns would have been enough for a 1st down. For Whisenhunt and the Cards' staff, it was a microcosm of Leinart's struggles since being named Kurt Warner's successor -- particularly when you compare Leinart's skills to those of Anderson, whose famously strong arm theoretically offers more big-play ability for an offense that has been starved for it (especially with Larry Fitzgerald injured).
That's the conventional wisdom, at least. However, if we look at the two quarterbacks' preseason performances on the whole, we see that even with Leinart's unimpressive play, Anderson has still done nothing to warrant supplanting him for the starting gig:
And this isn't the first time Anderson has passed a QB on the depth chart despite statistical evidence that he was the inferior option. As I noted last November, Anderson also convinced Eric Mangini to start him over Brady Quinn (who, granted, wasn't exactly enjoying a banner year either) even though he was having one of the worst seasons by a quarterback in NFL history.
Just like the CEO with the amazing handshake, Anderson apparently has the special ability to come across as the best man for the starting job, even when his actual on-field performance doesn't back that up. Now, Anderson supporters will obviously counter by pointing to his breakout 2007 season, when he went to the Pro Bowl and almost led the Browns to the playoffs... but you can include that season in his numbers and he still comes out as the league's 2nd-worst QB to receive 1,000 attempts since 2006.
Is Leinart necessarily a good quarterback? No, he's actually been well below-average according to the numbers so far. But the evidence we have on Anderson says that he's actually even worse -- worse over his entire career (including 2007), and worse so far this preseason. I'm all for a good QB competition, but at least give the spoils to the on-field victor rather than the guy with the better handshake.