Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/1/12

Last year, a team started the season with high hopes.

They believed the quarterback which they had acquired via trade and given a lucrative extension to was the answer, while a project QB sat on the bench.

Then they got off to a very poor start, and had to put their project in as the starter. Lo and behold, they actually started winning!

They wound up finishing 8-8, but that was a big improvement over what they expected after that poor start.

Which team am I talking about?

While the Broncos cut their well-paid starter (Kyle Orton) and traded their project (Tim Tebow), the Cardinals kept both, even paying Kevin Kolb his large $7 million roster bonus rather than cutting him before March 17 as many expected. 

The story continues in Arizona, while Denver went with the relatively drama-free Peyton Manning.

Last year, John Skelton was clearly the answer for the Cardinals. With him as the starter, they went 5-2. With Kevin Kolb, they went 3-6.

Larry Fitzgerald has to love this decision too.

When Skelton started in four games in 2010, Fitzgerald had 27 receptions for 468 yards and a TD.  In the seven that Skelton started in 2011, plus Week 14 against the 49ers where Kolb left after one pass, Fitzgerald had 40 receptions for 703 yards and five TDs. 

Kolb is skittish in the pocket, and does not trust Fitzgerald to go get the ball for him, which makes the offense as a whole much weaker. 

If the defense has to worry about Fitzgerald, the run game will open up and the other receivers will find bigger holes in opposing coverages. Kolb does not create that concern, while Skelton does.

By making the offense more efficient, Skelton also relieves pressure on the defense, enabling them to chase turnovers rather than worrying about getting an immediate stop.

Skelton is not the next Tom Brady, but he is a good “for now” answer, and the best starting quarterback for the Cardinals since Kurt Warner retired. He makes his whole team better. It should not have taken this long for the Cardinals to realize that.

He might be a good backup for fantasy teams too, especially if you have guys like Michael Vick who are injury-prone, or guys who might not repeat previous performances like Cam Newton (who had terrible passing stats in later weeks last year and will be losing several of his goal-line TDs to Mike Tolbert). 

Anyone throwing to Fitzgerald will be able to put up at least 3,000 passing yards and 16 TDs. If Michael Floyd lives up to his 13th overall draft position, there will be a repeat of the glory days for the Arizona passing game, when Fitzgerald had Anquan Boldin starting across from him.

Keep an eye on Arizona this year.  Skelton’s preseason struggles will not translate to the regular season, and the Cardinals will finish 10-6 or better with him at the helm. And we have all seen what can happen in the playoffs in recent years.



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