The Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback issues have become a national punchline of sorts.
Bill Barnwell of Grantland.com, which is the somewhat comical side of ESPN run by Bill Simmons, wrote a story on Week 11 in the NFL, with the headline “Arizona’s Revolving QB Door.”
According to Barnwell, a ‘point probability estimator’ figured the Cardinals should have scored 24 against the Falcons, so the 19 they came up with was certainly a disappointment.
Especially, you know, when you factor in a good running game, solid special teams play and the six turnovers Arizona came up with.
Why were the Cardinals unable to produce on those drives? Well, you can probably start with the decision made by Ken Whisenhunt to bench starter John Skelton. Benching the inaccurate Skelton isn’t unwise in a vacuum, but consider the circumstances surrounding the benching. Arizona was coming off their bye week, giving them a two-week stretch where they chose to do nothing about Skelton’s middling play and continued to give the former Fordham quarterback the first-team reps in practice. Yet after a 2-for-7 start at the beginning of the game against Atlanta, Whisenhunt chose to bench Skelton — who had a 13-0 lead at the time — for rookie sixth-rounder Ryan Lindley, who proceeded to go for 9-for-20 for 64 yards while losing a fumble that was recovered for a (bizarre) touchdown.
Barnwell says Whisenhunt’s move to bench Skelton was “short-sighted on both ends.”
For one, benching Skelton after seven passes without an interception is absurd. If Whisenhunt is going to cycle through his quarterbacks on whims that quickly, he’s going to end up with three quarterbacks who have absolutely no confidence, something that has happened to him and his team in virtually every season that didn’t involve Kurt Warner holding the job all year. And if Skelton’s leash was really only seven bad passes long, Whisenhunt should have realized that before the bye and made the move to Lindley in advance, giving the rookie a week of practice (and two weeks of mental preparation) before unleashing him into a key game on the road against a playoff team.
Those are all fair points, as the move to Lindley backfired and one could believe sticking with Skelton would have resulted in a win Sunday.
As the article notes, the cumulative stats of quarterbacks picked in the sixth or seventh rounds when playing as rookies are bad (434-for-819, 4,082 yards, 21 touchdowns, 40 interceptions), so it’s not as if it would have been fair to expect Lindley to perform at a high level. Add in the fact that he probably didn’t receive the starter’s share of reps in practice last week, and you have a recipe for anything but success.
Ultimately the decision contributed to a loss, which was the Cardinals sixth in a row. The team’s record has plummeted from 4-0 to 4-6, and there is little hope on the horizon, even if Kevin Kolb returns to the lineup soon.
Their hot streak roughly coincided with the time Kevin Kolb spent in the lineup before getting injured, but don’t get correlation and causation confused. Had Kolb stayed healthy, Whisenhunt would probably have found a reason to bench him, too. If this once-promising Arizona season continues to fall apart à la last year’s Buccaneers or Bills and Whisenhunt ends up paying for it with his job, his inability to handle the quarterback position will have been his downfall.