Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 7/19/12
The best quarterback to have played on the Cardinals in recent memory stated that he thinks Kevin Kolb will be handed the starting gig once all of the dust settles in Arizona.

While Kolb may be the favorite to win the job, it would appear that John Skelton is a formidable competitor.

The win-loss record of each QB last year really doesn’t matter at this point; the defining factor will be who coach Whisenhunt believes can give the Cardinals the best chance to win each game.
Statistics are often skewed and unreliable to show how a player actually performed in a game, but we can begin to see general trends by looking at the overall performance of each player.

Let’s take a look at Kolb first. He started a total of nine games in 2011 (although he was quickly removed from one of those games due to injury) and finished the year with a completion percentage of 57.7 and 1,955 yards.

He threw 9 touchdowns and 8 interceptions and had 8 fumbles. In comparison, Skelton started seven games, threw 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, 1,913 yards, and a completion percentage of 54.9.

Although Kolb threw fewer interceptions and had a slightly higher completion percentage, it would appear that the performances of each player were rather similar. In the eight games that Kolb played (his ninth game will be omitted for the purposes of this article since he threw one pass for 2 yards in that game), Larry Fitzgerald racked up 658 yards and 2 touchdowns on 38 receptions. In the eight games that Skelton played, Fitzgerald caught 42 passes, 6 of which went for touchdowns, and gained 753 yards.
Fitzgerald ended up being more productive with Skelton on the field, but the statistics don’t show the whole picture. If you look at each game last year, you can definitely see chemistry between Skelton and Fitzgerald. Some will argue that the shortened offseason didn’t allow Kolb to fully understand the offense, while Skelton had already been on the team the previous year.

However, the game film also reveals each quarterback's confidence while in the pocket. Kolb rarely stepped up to make a pass. At the very least, he could have taken some shots at Fitzgerald. Kolb has quite possibly the best wide receiver in the NFL to throw to, so he has to be willing to step up and make a good throw.

The best quarterbacks only leave the pocket if they have to. If you look at any of the elites like Brady or Brees, you’ll see that they will step up and make a throw most of the time. This was a rare occurrence with Kolb last year, and should be a huge concern going forward.
If you take a look at Skelton, not only did he look more comfortable in the pocket, but he did a solid job of keeping his eyes downfield when he left the pocket. He certainly made some questionable decisions, but the necessary fundamentals were there. He threw to Fitzgerald in coverage multiple times, which ended up in some long gains more often than not.  He stepped up in the pocket to make most of his throws, despite a shaky offensive line.

Skelton may not be an elite quarterback, but he is showing the ability to lead a winning football team. Another huge factor was the manner in which he came back from terrible games. He did not lose confidence after those poor performances. The ability to bounce back from a bad outing is another reason that Skelton deserves to compete for the starting job.

What Skelton needs is more experience. The quarterback position has proven to be the most valued position on the field in recent seasons (just look at the contracts for unproven players such as Kolb and Matt Flynn), so it is important that the Cardinals invest confidence in Skelton.

The 49ers showed that an efficient quarterback who makes smart decisions combined with a solid defense can make for a playoff-caliber team. The Cardinals' defense showed their ability in the second-half of the 2011 season, and with solid quarterback play, this team has a chance at competing with the 49ers for the division title. 

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