Five starts for Cardinals have shown that Blaine Gabbert is a backup QB
Dec 17, 2017, 3:39 PM | Updated: Dec 18, 2017, 12:08 pm
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
When the Cardinals faced the Redskins at FedExField in Landover, Md., on Sunday, they trotted out a patchwork offensive line that featured, from left to right, Will Holden, Alex Boone, A.Q. Shipley, Evan Boehm and John Wetzel.
They took the field with the same group of receivers that, except Larry Fitzgerald, has failed to make big plays all season.
They were without starting running back David Johnson, brief replacement Adrian Peterson and aside from a far-flung, mathematical playoff possibility, there was nothing left to play for but pride.
Despite that considerable array of qualifiers, it’s time to admit that after five starts, Blaine Gabbert is not going to amount to anything more than a backup quarterback.
That’s not really a criticism. If Gabbert doesn’t land a starting or better offer from another team, the Cardinals should re-sign him. Drew Stanton isn’t under contract next year and he won’t likely be back. The Cardinals need a veteran backup quarterback and Gabbert can do enough with his arm and legs to serve as a decent fill-in.
Knowing that is Gabbert’s ceiling is an important piece of information that should guide the Cardinals’ offseason plans, however, whether Carson Palmer returns for another season or not. Maybe that means finding another veteran through a trade, as the Cardinals did with Palmer, or more logically, drafting their QB of the future, but the Cardinals must operate knowing that Gabbert is not the guy.
On Sunday, Gabbert completed 16 of 41 passes for 189 yards, no touchdowns and an interception for a passer rating of 43.6.
He fumbled on the Cardinals’ first possession at his own 18-yard line, leading to the Redskins’ first touchdown. He missed an easy touchdown pass to tight end Gabe Holmes. He threw a bad pick to Preston Smith two plays later when he threw behind Rick Seals-Jones.
Despite running 80 offensive plays, the Cardinals never found the end zone, settling instead for five Phil Dawson field goals.
“You’ve got to make plays. Kicking field goals isn’t going to get it done,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Paul Calvisi. “You’ve got to make a play in the red zone and you damn sure can’t turn it over in the red zone.”
In five games, all starts, Gabbert has completed 95 of 171 attempts (55.6 percent) for 1,086 yards and six touchdowns. He has thrown six interceptions and he has fumbled seven times, losing two.
Ball security is a consistent issue, but on a recent radio interview with 98.7 FM Arizona’ Sports Station, general manager Steve Keim highlighted another one. Gabbert has difficulty making touch passes to the outside, and that was on display again against the Redskins.
The most maddening aspect of Sunday’s game was the Cardinals’ red-zone ineptness. They were 0 for 6 on the touchdown scale and the reasons were simple.
“You’ve just got to make throws and make catches,” Arians told Calvisi. “We had some third-and-shorts where we just had to complete balls.”
The Cardinals have two games left. If they want to evaluate Gabbert for a couple more games, that’s fine, but there probably isn’t much more than they can learn about a guy who has already put 48 games worth of film out there for evaluation.
If Stanton is healthy enough to play — a big if — it would be a nice gesture for all he has meant to the organization to give him one final start at home against the New York Giants on Christmas Eve. The Cardinals know what they have in Gabbert and they know they are not going to the playoffs. Why not send a class act out with a classy gesture?