Matt Leinart is not as good as Kurt Warner. Any team that's faced the two can tell you that. Which is why the 49ers have to be crossing their fingers, wishing upon a star and throwing pennies into wells with the hope that Warner, 38, decides to retire. That was part of their thinking last year when they tried, unsuccessfully, to woo Warner. Not only would he strengthen the 49ers, the thinking went, his absence would weaken the Cardinals.
"I don't have a target date but I am going to get away," Warner said after the Saints knocked - stress on "knocked" -- the Cardinals out of the playoffs. "I have thought about it a lot and have some ideas in my head, but want to get away from the season for a minute and make sure what you're feeling stays that way. I don't think it will be a long drawn-out thing. I wouldn't want to do that to an organization."
The 49ers have been ok against Warner since he arrived in Arizona. They were 3-4 in games he started. The rest of the league, however, has not done as well, and the Cardinals have been the NFC West champs the last two seasons. It's hard to see Leinart duplicating that success. His numbers with the Cardinals are skewed a bit because he played a lot his rookie season. But even his cameos in recent years have shown a big disparity.
While Warner has completed 65 percent of his passes as a Cardinal, Leinart's completion percentage is 51.1 percent. Warner also wins in yards per completion (7.5 to 6.5), touchdown-interception ratio (100-59 to 14-20) and passer rating (91.9 to 70.8)
If Warner retires, you'd have to consider the 49ers the favorites in the NFC West. Seattle, after all, is overhauling its coaching staff and front office. The Rams are where the 49ers were four years ago. Of course, the offseason could bring other, not-as-pleasant surprises that would change the division dynamic, such as Donovan McNabb winding up in Arizona or Seattle. Stay tuned ...
-- Matt Barrows