TEMPE, Ariz. (Nov. 30, 2006) -- If rumors about Pete Carroll coming to the Arizona Cardinals turn out to be true, Matt Leinart would lead the welcoming parade.
"I love coach Carroll. He's real close to me," the Cardinals rookie quarterback said after a team practice. "We've been through a lot at USC for five years and he's seen me grow into the person I am today and the player I am today.
"If that day were ever to come, whether it's 10 years from now or whatever, it would be pretty fun."
Leinart said he doesn't know, though, if Carroll wants to return to the NFL.
"It's something I haven't really talked to him about," Leinart said. "I've talked to him quite a bit this season, just talking about whatever, you know life and all that kind of stuff. I would not rule out that possibility in the future. I'm not one to say next year or the year after or whatever, but he's a competitive guy and he wants to win."
Leinart, who was 37-2 and won two national titles -- along with a Heisman Trophy -- as a starter at USC, said Carroll's current job would be hard to leave.
"What he has at SC is something special, though," Leinart said. "He could go down as one of the greatest college coaches ever. I think he already is in six years, based on what he's done. But we'll see what happens."
If Carroll's Trojans beat UCLA this weekend, USC likely would play Ohio State for the national title Jan. 8. The site: University of Phoenix Stadium, the Cardinals' new stadium in Glendale.
Answering the inevitable NFL questions, Carroll told the Los Angeles Times "things are so good for me right now, I can't picture a place that would be attractive enough for me to leave. That could change, but right now I can't even imagine it."
The Cardinals, meanwhile, aren't even commenting on the status of current coach Dennis Green, let alone on his possible successor. But with the team 2-9 heading into Week 13's game at St. Louis, Green's fate after three losing seasons seems sealed.
If Carroll came to Arizona, he'd have a young quarterback who has impressed and improved in seven games as an NFL starter.
Leinart threw for 405 yards in Week 12's 31-26 loss at Minnesota, the most by a rookie in NFL history. The old mark of 388 was set by Jake Plummer with the Cardinals in 1997.
"I think he's going to be a tremendous player, I really do," Green said. "He can give you what you need to win the game. If you've got to audible a lot, I think he can do that for you. He can go out and throw the ball. He's made a lot of big throws down the field."
It was just the eighth time a Cardinals quarterback has thrown for more than 400 yards in a game.
"He looks real comfortable back there," said wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who caught 11 passes for 172 yards against the Vikings. "He's recognizing coverages and putting the ball where it needs to be."
Leinart credited the improved offensive line, which gave up one sack while he threw 51 times -- completing 31 -- against Minnesota.
"When you throw that many times, and we're successful, it shows what we can do," Leinart said. "It shows, I guess, what I can do when I'm put into that situation."