Let’s face it, Arizona’s single shining moment of QB excellence was between 2005 & 2009, when Kurt Warner was under center. Before and since it has been middling at best and a disaster at worst, with the 2012 season shaping up to be a prime example of the latter.
With his team currently mired in an eight-game losing streak after starting the season 4-0, coach Ken Whisenhunt announced Wednesday that backup John Skelton would replace sixth-round draft pick Ryan Lindley, who was at the helm of, arguably, one the worst offensive performances in recent memory last Sunday at the New York Jets.
Lindley completed 10 of 31 passes for 72 yards and one interception while Arizona tied a dubious franchise record with five first downs and was 0 for 15 on third-down conversions. Unlike the Jets decision to bench Mark Sanchez late in the third quarter, the Cardinals inexplicably chose to keep Lindley in the game. They only managed to gain 22 yards total the entire second half.
After the game, Whisenhunt told reporters, “As the head coach, you have to make those decisions. You always do what you think gives you the best chance. That's what we did.”
Because Lindley wound up not giving them the any chance of winning (even against the Jets’ 3rd string quarterback) is ultimately why Skelton is starting. Whisenhunt told the Associated Press, “There's a number of reasons that we're making this decision. I'm not going to get into each one of these reasons, but that's the direction we're going.”
One of those reasons is they’re going on the road to face division rival Seattle Seahawks. Taking on an opponent with the best home record in the league (5-0) and a QB (in rookie Russell Wilson) who has an NFL-best 122.0 home passer rating is a daunting task for any team.
Skelton may be the best, if not only, option right now, but Arizona would have probably chosen Kevin Kolb, who’s still nursing a severe rib injury, if they had a choice. Kolb, whom the Cardinals gave a five-year $63.5 million contract to while trading a 2012 second-round draft pick to Philadelphia, and Skelton have replaced and re-replaced each other as the starting QB for nearly two seasons.
Kolb’s first season was plagued by inconsistency and injury with the result being a preseason battle this year for the starting job. Skelton emerged the winner but an ankle injury in Week 1 against Seattle gave Kolb another chance. He rallied to take the team 4-1 but was sidelined because of the rib injury during a Week 6 game at Buffalo. Skelton took over again but was benched by Whisenhunt in favor of Lindley during a Week 11 loss at Atlanta after going just 2 of 7 for 6 yards.
It’s a revolving door in Arizona and it’s anyone’s guess as to how long Skelton will remain the starter this time around. Kolb is still dealing with his injury and is likely to miss his seventh-straight game. Ryan Lindley isn’t ready, not by a long shot, to play quarterback at the professional level in the National Football League.
With three big question marks at the quarterback position, Arizona needs to address this long-standing issue. Skelton and Lindley are not long-term solutions and there’s a possibility that neither is Kolb. All that money potentially spent for naught.
The person I feel the most sympathy for is actually WR Larry Fitzgerald, whose tremendous talent is being utterly wasted in Arizona. He is on pace for a career-low season in touchdown receptions and his total receptions and yards per catch are on pace to be the lowest since his rookie season.
The lack of consistency and competence at quarterback is the chief reason why Fitzgerald is underperforming. Kolb, Skelton and Lindley have thrown for a combined 10 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and have completed only 55% of their passes, helping to make the Cardinals the worst total offense in the league.
After the loss to Atlanta, Whisenhunt addressed the Cardinals lingering quarterback conundrum, “Quarterbacks are hard to find. There are a lot of teams that have been struggling with this. How long has it been since Dan Marino was in Miami? You deal with it the best way you can.”
Those are excuses fans and players don’t need or want to hear. Quarterbacks aren’t hard to find and can be found in the unlikeliest of places. Of all teams, Arizona should know this. They took Warner who, at that point in his career was a journeyman, and developed an inspired offense around him. Those years with the Cardinals have all but solidified his place in the Hall of Fame. They can find that great quarterback again but it will only happen once they’re willing to seriously address the problems they currently have.
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