Arizona Cardinals Quarterback Competition: Have the Cardinals Tipped Their Hand?

Cian Fahey@CianafFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback John Skelton #19 of the Arizona Cardinals throws a pass during the NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks at the University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeated the Seahawks 23-20 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

John Skelton and Kevin Kolb had very different paths to the Arizona Cardinals organization, but both stand in the same position today.

At least, that is what Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt will tell you.

Whisenhunt recently told Jim Rome,

It's going to start out as even as it possibly can, and we're going to let the best player take it from there. We did that many years ago when we had Kurt Warner and Matt Leinart, and it worked out pretty good for us. So hopefully we'll have that same kind of magic.

Even though Whisenhunt is saying one thing publicly, the actions of the franchise this offseason, including Whisenhunt himself, say something completely different.

After giving up a second-round pick and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to acquire Kolb before last season, the Arizona Cardinals also gave him a contract worth up to $63 million. While only $21 million of that contract is guaranteed, the franchise has made a huge investment in the former Eagle.

Generally when franchises invest so heavily in one player, they will give that player every possible opportunity to succeed. The Cardinals essentially gave up a first-round pick, a second-round pick and committed a huge amount of cap space to Kolb once they traded for him.

If he doesn't become the team's starting quarterback, the franchise loses out on a significant venture.

Whereas if John Skelton doesn't work out, the Cardinals lose essentially nothing. Skelton has been with the Cardinals for two years after being taken in the fifth round of the 2010 draft. Skelton received no five-year extension, he is working on his rookie deal.

Considering that the Cardinals invested so heavily in Kolb only a year ago, the fact that the Cardinals coaching staff is showing so little faith in him this offseason is startling.

If you really believed in your quarterback when you acquired him, you would not be perturbed by early struggles. You don't invest a five-year deal and blockbuster trade in a quarterback if you do not believe in him.

One must wonder just how bad Kolb was last year for the Cardinals.

His struggles on the field were plain for all to see, but what I really wonder about is his off-field attitude in and around the facility with his performances at practice.

While Kolb wasn't showing a huge amount of quality on Sundays, you would expect him to have a great attitude and be impressive at practice if he is to be your starting quarterback. That alone would be enough for Kolb to buy more time as he adjusts to his new surroundings.

The fact is that Skelton didn't do enough to force his way into this competition alone. Kolb had to have fallen out of favor at some point for this situation to even be possible.

While this is all pure speculation based on some facts, there is no doubt that the Cardinals have made moves this offseason indicating that they expect Skelton to be the starter.

Rod Graves, the team's general manager, made two key additions to the offense this year bringing in Adam Snyder and Michael Floyd. Snyder is a grafting guard who will improve the running game and arrives at a position of need. There is nothing to read into that move in relation to the quarterback position because it was a move made to fill a need.

However, when the Cardinals drafted Michael Floyd in the first round of the draft, that said a lot of things about the direction they want their offense to go in.

In order to understand why the addition of Floyd indicates that Skelton will be the starter, you have to understand the abilities of both quarterbacks and the rookie receiver.

Michael Floyd is a huge receiver who can make plays in multiple ways.

He is somewhat similar to Larry Fitzgerald in that he will have a significant size advantage over whoever covers him in the NFL. Floyd's ability to snatch the ball out of the air with his large wingspan is a major reason the Cardinals will have been attracted to him.

With Floyd, they have two very physically imposing receivers on the outside.

The difference between Skelton and Kolb isn't huge, as both have more flaws than positives. However, Skelton has a huge arm that has the potential to be developed over time. That development will only take place with repetitions both in practice and on the field.

Skelton's struggles come with harnessing his arm strength to control his accuracy and touch. Having two huge receivers will help mask those aspects of his game.

With Floyd and Fitzgerald outside, the Cardinals would be able to mimic the San Diego Chargers offense of recent years and favor shots deep over sustained drives.

This will force the Cardinals to rely on the youth and ability of their defense, which should step up this year. Being good on defense is one thing, but compensating for a defense that doesn't consistently sustain drives is very taxing. That is something that the Cardinals can consider because their defense is such a young group.

Regardless of which quarterback eventually wins this arms race, Ken Whisenhunt will feel confident that he can compete for the NFC West next season. Whisenhunt may never have got the best out of Matt Leinart, but he was the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh when Ben Roethlisberger first emerged as a star.

There is no doubt in my mind, however, that John Skelton would be the better fit in the Arizona Cardinals offense next year.

They may not be 100 percent certain just yet, but I suspect the Cardinals are already leaning in that direction also.


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