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Ken Whisenhunt sends right message in benching John Skelton

It may not have resulted in a win, but Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt made the call of the season early in Sunday’s game at the Georgia Dome.

After four first quarter possessions, quarterback John Skelton got the hook in favor of rookie Ryan Lindley.

Skelton suffered yet another bout of ineffectiveness, completing just 2-of-7 passes for six yards. But the problem wasn’t necessarily Skelton’s completion percentage. The problem was his on-going struggles with accuracy, which led to several missed opportunities. And this time, there were no receivers dropping passes to blame.

The play that stands out like a sore thumb is a first quarter throw into the end zone intended for a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald that wound up soaring out of bounds. Earlier, Skelton had a chance to hit Fitzgerald for a first down but missed on that one as well. Neither throw appeared to be all that difficult.

The Cardinals defense intercepted Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan three times in the first quarter but had only a 13-0 lead to show for it. They wound up with five picks and a fumble recovery on the afternoon. A team with half an offense would have won by a minimum of three touchdowns with that kind of defensive performance.

Unless Lindley gets hurt, Skelton should not see the field again this season.

At 4-6, chances are slim to none this team is bound for the playoffs, although no one inside the organization would dare admit that now, nor should they. Both the division and the conference are way too competitive for a team with less than 10 wins to reach the postseason. So unless you think the Cardinals have a six-game winning streak in them with December road games at New York, Seattle and San Francisco, then hear me out.

Skelton has had multiple opportunities to take the starting quarterback job from Kevin Kolb. He didn’t have a good preseason. He wasn’t off to a good start in Week 1 before getting hurt. And, with the exception of a decent second half in Green Bay two weeks ago, he’s been inaccurate way too often since Kolb got hurt five weeks ago. There’s no reason to believe the Cardinals can win with Skelton under center. In fact, they haven’t yet this season.

Although Lindley wasn’t anything special against the Falcons, he wasn’t expected to be. He hadn’t seen any game action since the preseason, and presumably did not receive many snaps with the first team offense in practice during the bye week. He looked like a sixth-round draft pick making his NFL debut.

Unfortunately Skelton has looked like a rookie since August. I think that given a full week to practice with the starters, we’ll see a better Lindley next Sunday against the Rams.

In fact, Lindley should play until Kolb is healthy enough to return, especially if the Cardinals have the slightest inkling he could be their signal caller of the future. Maybe they have already secretly decided to move on from Kolb after the season.

There are still more questions than answers surrounding their future at quarterback.

Would Larry Fitzgerald be okay with a rookie under center the rest of the way? He only caught one ball for 11 yards on Sunday. Of course it was Lindley who threw it to him.

And did you read his body language when Skelton missed him in the end zone?

John Skelton is a nice guy. I think he works hard and does his best to prepare as thoroughly as he can. He’s got a good arm. The Cardinals had an impressive run with him running the show down the stretch last year — thanks in larger part to Patrick Peterson and a great defense — but the proof is in the pudding this year.

2012 started with so much promise, but has gone down in a hurry. Now it’s time for the Cardinals to give fans a reason to have hope for the future.