Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked about receiver
Larry Fitzgerald and his ability to play at a Pro Bowl
level regardless of who is throwing him the ball.
“He’s a special player and I think that when you see the
competition at that position this year, the production
that some of these other offenses have had and the players
at those positions,” Whiz said, “that Larry would be
recognized as a starter, I think, is pretty significant.”
It is, and it’s also a shame.
Fitzgerald has topped the 1,000 yard receiving mark six
times in his career – and the 1,400 yard mark thrice. He’s
never scored fewer than six touchdowns, and his hands have
been featured in commercials for IHOP and ESPN.
Suffice to say, the guy can catch the ball – he will catch
the ball – so long as it actually gets to him. And that,
unfortunately, is still a problem.
Most of the country took notice of Fitzgerald during the
team’s run to the Super Bowl a few years back, as he and
Kurt Warner torched every defense put in front of him. He
set records along the way, and entered the conversation as
the top receiver in the game.
I guess that’s what 293 catches, 3,932 yards and 35
touchdowns over a three season span will do for you. The
problem is – and this isn’t new – since Warner retired,
Fitz’s numbers have dropped. Sure, he caught 90 passes
last year, and yes, he’s going to finish with more than
1,300 yards this season, but he’s reached the end zone a
grand total of 14 times over the last two years.
It’s not like Fitzgerald is getting worse – quite the
contrary – he’s actually getting better, as a career-best
mark of 17.8 yards per catch shows.
What is worse or, at least, not better, is
the play at quarterback. With last season’s train wreck in
the rearview mirror, it was thought that Kevin Kolb could
be the guy. Fitzgerald wanted him under center, and the
Cardinals made it happen.
Then the season arrived, and that idea that Kolb is the
future was shot to hell. Injuries and general
ineffectiveness have led to a flurry of questions about
the quarterback; with no one being sure of how good he is
because, simply, he hasn’t played enough. ESPN’s Mike Sando is giving Kolb an
“incomplete” for 2011, and that’s fair. He may be better
next year with a full offseason under his belt, but one
has to wonder if fragility may ultimately be his undoing.
Of course, when one player can’t play someone else takes
his place, and that’s where the QB situation gets even
When all is said and done, John Skelton will have played
in as many games as Kolb, winning more but posting
inferior statistics. He’s made some mind-boggling
decisions that have led to turnovers, but also made some
throws that make you say “wow.” The second-year pro has
the size and arm to play the position, but is clearly a
project that may never actually pan out. Can he be counted
on to be the team’s next franchise QB? Nope.
And thus, the Cardinals will finish 2011 with the same
problem they had at the close of the 2010 campaign:
Uncertainty at the game’s most important position.
The good news, though, is that the rest of the team seems
to be coming together. Rarely does a squad finish .500
with shoddy QB play, but a stout defense combined with
great special teams play has led the Cardinals to that
mark. Assuming those units don’t regress, the team could
be a QB away from being something special.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals are having as much trouble
finding a quarterback as their quarterbacks are at finding