Quarterback battles are not won in the preseason; they’re lost.
In 2008, by most accounts, Kurt Warner was outplaying Matt Leinart in training camp. The veteran was more accurate, more poised, and showing the skill that made him a Super Bowl champion and league MVP in St. Louis.
But it wasn’t enough for him to take the starting job from the former Heisman Trophy winner, the guy who was drafted to be the team’s QB of the future.
The competition between the two went into the preseason and through two games Warner, who would eventually lead the Cardinals to the Super Bowl, had not really separated himself from Leinart, who would eventually make a career out of holding a clipboard.
Leinart: 14 of 19 for 153 yards and 1 TD
Warner: 8 of 13 for 94 yards
In fact, one could argue that while Warner was having the better camp, Leinart had outplayed the veteran in the two preseason games. But that wasn’t enough to secure the job.
Then came the all-important third preseason game in Oakland against the Raiders. The younger signal caller essentially wet the bed and completed just 4-of-12 passes for 24 yards and three interceptions.
Battle over; job lost.
From that point reports started circulating that Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was planning on tabbing Warner as his starter.
He did just that and the rest, as they say, is history.
As fate would have it, the Cardinals’ opponent Friday night in the all-important third preseason game is that very same Raiders team. And, just like four years ago, the Arizona Cardinals starting QB job may very well be lost against the Silver and Black.
While no one can honestly say John Skelton has outplayed Kevin Kolb over the last few weeks, it’s no secret the former Eagle has struggled. He’s completed just 2-of-9 passes for 25 yards with one interception, struggling to overcome poor offensive line plays as well as his own penchant for getting injured.
Skelton, on the other hand, has completed 7-of-12 passes for 67 yards with one interception. He’s shown improved accuracy over last season and an ability to stand tall in the pocket and avoid the pass rush.
Is Skelton the answer? One cannot say that with any certainty, but he at least appears to be less of a question mark than the man he’s competing with.
Which is why Friday’s game is so crucial.
Kolb will most certainly get the start at University of Phoenix Stadium with a chance to not only make up whatever ground he’s lost to Skelton, but prove once and for all that he is the guy who should be leading this team.
Fail to do so and the fans will turn on the QB in a way that will make him miss being in Philadelphia.
Coach Whiz has been reluctant to choose Skelton over Kolb because, quite frankly, there’s no going back once that decision is made.
Go with Kolb and should he falter or get injured you can feel fairly confident turning to Skelton. Go with Skelton and should he falter or get injured you have only a player no one has any confidence in to give the ball to.
That player, of course, is the one who was supposed to win the job.
No doubt that is playing and will play a role in the coach’s decision now, just as it did four years ago.
Back then Leinart made the decision for Whisenhunt, losing a job that was his to win.
It’s up to Kolb to not do the same thing Friday.