NAPA -- The script has been flipped and the roles reversed. Somewhat.Because a decade ago -- in a stadium the Raiders used to call home -- Carson Palmer was the mentor and Matt Leinart the student. Now, while Palmer remains the unquestioned starter, as he was entering his senior season at USC, it is Leinart who he has had to lean on while learning a new offense.Same offense Leinart played in the past two years at Houston under his quarterbacks coach, Greg Knaap, the former Raiders offensive coordinator who is now returning to Oakland in the same capacity under first-year head coach Dennis Allen.Ironic, no?"It's an interesting turn of events," Leinart said Tuesday. "To be with Carson again, it's crazy. It's 10 years removed since he left USC. It's 10 years, we're back together, which is fun. It's interesting because Carson's been around the game a long time, (but) for me, being part of this offense a few years, I'm still competing my butt off, but this is the first year I've really felt like that veteran leader to help the young guys."Because we're a young football team, so this is the first year I've really felt like I'm helping the young guys."Except Palmer is not that young. Not in regular years -- he's going to be 33 years old on Dec. 27 -- or football years -- he's entering his 10th NFL season after being the No. 1 overall pick of the 2003 draft as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner."He's the same guy," Leinart said with a knowing grin. "Three kids now, married, but he's got the same personality. That's why we get along so good, both being from Orange County and kind of the same personality, lifestyle type thing. He's no different, though, than he was when he was 21."Leinart, though, grew up rooting for the Raiders, even as he succeeded Palmer at USC and won his own Heisman two years later, in 2004. Palmer was simply a football fan. And now, Palmer is getting coached up by Leinart in Knapp's version of the West Coast offense with a zone-blocking scheme.Yet while Palmer does not see the irony in it all, he is appreciative of Leinart's, ahem, coaching."No disrespect to my quarterback coach, Coach Flip (John DeFilippo) and Coach Knapp, but its different when you hear it from a player, for whatever reason," Palmer said. "Your coach can tell you the same thing over and over again and every once in a while Matt will chime in and say, You know, I hit this on this play against this team or whatever. Its nice to get a coaching point from a player some times. Not all the time, but sometimes."Hes got experience in it because hes done it and if he hasnt done it, hes seen it done by another quarterback in (Matt) Schaub or T.J. Yates or whoever it was. Its really nice to get kind of the same coaching points, but its a little more believable when you get it from a player sometimes."Leinart, though, was not about to take the credit. Not when he's been around Palmer most of his adult life."I know he's getting coached better then he's ever been coached," Leinart said. "And that's nothing against the other former coaches. But just the way Coach Knapp coaches, and this offense, I think it's different for Carson but it's something that I think he can thrive in."This is an offense that is very similar to what we ran at USC with Coach (Norm) Chow and (Steve) Sarkesian and all those guys, Coach (Lane) Kiffin, and it's funny, I know myself and Carson both like getting out of the pocket and throwing on the run. Some offenses you don't do that a whole lot. But in this offense, with all the misdirection stuff we do and the running game we have, that bootleg stuff, that's why Houston is so good at it."And why the Raiders believe they can do it toowith Leinart acting as a conduit for his old college teammate.
Old Trojans Palmer and Leinart, together again
August 1, 2012, 2:16 am