The pattern of a quarterback controversy in the Arizona Cardinals franchise, under the reign of Coach Ken Whisenhunt, is becoming less of a surprise and more of an expectation each season. The Cardinals named John Skelton their starting quarterback over high-priced QB Kevin Kolb for the first regular season game against the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday. What does that mean? Other than Kolb getting paid millions to be a back-up for now, absolutely nothing.
Skelton considers his head coach a “man of his word,” but all Whisenhunt has stated is that Kolb took being benched “like a pro” and that Skelton is expected to “get the job done.” (If he doesn’t show consistent productivity, he can be replaced just like “any other position” in the NFL.)
Whisenhunt maintains that he chose who is the most likely to win games but doesn’t offer additional details as to his thought process. His strategy (assuming that is what it is) of waiting to announce a starter until the last week of preseason will continue to be a tedious mystery. Some contest that it was Kolb’s job to lose, while others suggest that Skelton earned the part. Either way, it is time for the team (and fans) to rally behind the chosen one.
The lack of commitment to support a single quarterback is reminiscent of the Kurt Warner and Matt Leinart scenario in 2008. Both Warner and Leinart had about a 60 percent completion rate during their preseason attempts that year, neither one a stellar performance. Leinart was a Heisman winner hopeful, projected to be the franchise quarterback the Cardinals needed. However, it was Warner who started as the Cardinals QB in 2008 and led the team to be NFC champs that year and to their first Super Bowl appearance. (This is not to project Skelton will be the QB who delivers an initial Super Bowl ring to a deserving Fitzgerald by any means, only a background comparison.)
Warner and Skelton were each humble in their response to gaining starter status, and both implied that Whisenhunt was direct in the competitive nature and they knew they had to earn their keep. It remains to be seen where the line is drawn between competition that drives a player towards success and one that could cause a break in confidence.
Skelton’s presence on the field has been recognized by multiple sources, and it particularly does not go unnoticed in comparison to Kolb. Skelton has an accurate (but not entirely consistent) arm, leadership potential and a 6-foot-5-inch build that could prove to be an advantage. Skelton says he feels validated and that a weight has been lifted off of his shoulders now that he knows he can move forward with a mindset of a starting QB for the team.
With the Seattle Seahawks choosing to bench Matt Flynn and start Russell Wilson, it will be a battle of rookie confidence on the field in their first game of the regular season on September 9.