Ryan Lindley was no better than John Skelton Sunday afternoon in Atlanta.
And why should he have been?
A sixth-round pick this past April, Lindley is in no way ready to lead an NFL team…on the road…against one of the best teams in the NFL.
Yet, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt elected to turn to the rookie in place of Skelton with the Cardinals up 13-0 because, as he told the Arizona Cardinals Radio Network after the game, “The message this week was that we’re going to make a change at different positions and the quarterback isn’t exempt from that.
“If they’re not making the plays — enough plays — to win, then you’ve got to look and see if the next guy can do that. That’s why you have depth at positions and that’s why you do that.”
Whisenhunt said some throws were missed early, and this is true. Skelton came out of the gate playing about as poorly as he could, firing wide on nearly every throw and missing a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald on the first play following Matt Ryan’s third interception of the day on a throw that, had it been accurate, would have given Arizona a 17-0 lead.
He was bad. But Whisenhunt had to know Lindley, playing in a regular season game for the first time in his career, would not be any better.
And he wasn’t, finishing the day completing just 9-of-20 passes for 64 yards. The offense was as miserable as it’s ever been with Lindley under center, and that was with a solid effort from the run game to go along with a superb defensive performance.
That the move was made in a game the Cardinals were leading should not be much of a surprise, as Skelton had completed just 2-of-7 passes at the time and was playing poorly.
One gets the feeling this decision was in the works for some time, and the coach was just waiting for the chance to get Lindley into a game.
It’s a move there might be no going back from.
Kevin Kolb is not coming back next year. His salary along with his injury history and general ineffectiveness will assure that. Even when he’s healthy, with a playoff run out of the question, what is there to gain from sending him back onto the field?
But Skelton, who played well enough last year to get a shot at the starting job this season, had done poorly enough this year to lead Whisenunt to look for a reason to send him to the bench.
This is a player who, while a notorious slow starter, had thrown for 306, 290 and 262 yards in his last three games.
This is a man who, according to Cardinals coaches last week, was showing marked improvement over the last few weeks.
This is the quarterback Coach Whiz chose to be his starter heading into the season, folks.
The decision seemed like a sound one at the time. Kolb was a mess in the preseason and Skelton, while not great, was better. And considering how he played last season, the Fordham product appeared to be heading in the right direction.
But he’s regressed this season, and that’s worrisome.
Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, Max Hall, Kevin Kolb and now John Skelton. All younger quarterbacks, all never improved under Whisenhunt. In fact, one could argue most of them even regressed.
Whisenhunt’s history with quarterbacks, save for his time with Kurt Warner, is checkered at best.
And with the way he’s handled both Kolb and Skelton, one has to wonder how they feel about their head coach, too.
But that’s purely speculation, possibly of the unfair variety.
What we do know is the Cardinals have now tried six different quarterbacks since Kurt Warner retired, and of the six, not one looks to be anything more than a backup in the NFL.
While there are no guarantees, it would seem likely the Cardinals will once again be looking for a quarterback in the offseason. It’s becoming an annual ritual. It needs to stop.
Ken Whisenhunt and his staff appear unable to handle the quarterback position, bungling it so poorly that it has basically crippled what would otherwise be a pretty good football team. And whether the coaches are poor talent evaluators or simply unable to coax the best out of their passers, the fact remains the most important position in sports seems as hopeless as ever with regards to the Arizona Cardinals.
And nothing that happened Sunday did anything to change that perspective.