The last time I brought up this topic was shortly after the Eagles game of week 10 in which John Skelton came from behind to win the game for the Arizona Cardinals against what a lackluster Andy Reid team. Since it seems like Kevin Kolb will start against the Dallas Cowboys- provided his health is where he wants it to be- I thought I would revisit the quarterback controversy.
There's no kind way to spin a 1-6 record for any starting quarterback. Kolb was 1-2 at home and 0-4 on the road. Since the win-loss record is (for me) the biggest talking point, I'd like to go over Kolb's win and losses as an Arizona quarterback.
Week 1: Carolina. The deciding score of the game was a Patrick Peterson punt return for a touchdown, his first of the year. Arizona's defense stopped Carolina on 4th down with 1:14 left on the clock. Kolb played his best game year, though it must be noted one of his touchdown passes- to Jeff King- was a blown assignment in which the tight end went deep down the sideline and no one covered him.
Week 2: Washington. Kolb played well once again. The game was decided by one point. I'll hang this loss on Chansi Stuckey, given his fumble after running for a first down with 1:43 left on the clock in the fourth quarter. Kolb played well enough to win, but one crucial mistake hurt the team.
Week 3: Seattle. Jay Feely deserves credit for the loss in this game as he missed two field goals in a 3-point game. Arizona's defense played well, but the offense was not electric. Still, the Cards should have won this game, or at least been able to force an overtime period. Kolb threw two interceptions and lost a fumble here.
Week 4: New York Giants: Beanie Wells scored three touchdowns in this game, which accounts for Kolb throwing no touchdown passes. However, the passing defense for Arizona was atrocious, giving up big plays to Eli Manning all day. 27 points should be enough to win, but the I think the defense lost this game for Arizona.
Week 5: Minnesota. Going in, Minnesota was winless. They earned their first win of the year against the Cardinals in this one. Adrian Peterson could not be stopped, but Kevin Kolb played very poorly, throwing the ball 42 times for no touchdowns and two interceptions. Richard Bartel got some snaps and didn't fare any better. Kolb also lost another fumble in this game. Objectively, the team could have played better, but the play from the quarterback position left much to be desired.
Week 7: Pittsburgh. Kevin Kolb played a very good game here. He threw a 2nd and 18 pass to LaRod Stevens-Howling that went 73 yards for a touchdown. I think Kolb is good at screen passes, possibly the result of his time in Philadelphia. Kolb's safety in the end zone did not prove the difference in the game as the next score was a field goal. The most noticeable difference here as how Arizona's offense ran out of gas late in the game.
Week 8: Baltimore. Up 24-6 at the half, Arizona looked poised to capture the win against a run-first Baltimore Ravens team. It was not to be as Baltimore torched Arizona's secondary. Meanwhile, Kolb went 10 for 21 with 153 yards. The defensive collapse cost the team the game, but at the same time, Arizona's offense did not execute well in the second half. In addition, Ray Rice could not be kept out of the endzone.
Summary: The team has been unable to seal wins that should have gone to Kolb, but he has also had games where he could have played better, which would have proved the difference. It's unknown how much of this is the atmosphere he creates through his leadership and how much of this is a change in personnel (for instance, Joey Porter was a starter, but did not play well).
After Kolb's injuries, John Skelton became the starter in Week 9. He played about the way we all expected him to: nothing consistent, but certainly entertaining. Statistically, Skelton does not look like an NFL starter. However, given Arizona's strong running game and improved defense, the question isn't whether Skelton puts up good numbers but whether he makes a good fit for the system coach Ken Whisenhunt is currently running. His 3-1 record, on the surface, would seem to suggest that this is currently the case. It should also be noted here that 3 of Skelton's 4 games were played on the road.
Week 9: St. Louis. Let's be honest here, St. Louis is a bad team. They chose to get rid of Laurent Robinson, who is now an all-star for the Dallas Cowboys. Their leading receiver from last year, Danny Amendola, was injured. They acquired Brandon Lloyd from the Denver Broncos, but he has not been able to elevate the offense all by himself. For all these reasons, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the Rams were unable to get in the end zone, just as John Skelton and the Cardinals were unable to score until the fourth quarter when a clutch throw to Larry Fitzgerald tied the game up, allowing Patrick Peterson to make his second game-winning punt return of the year. Skelton's performance was not outstanding, though he did play a significant part in the team's win.
Week 10: Philadelphia. This was the game that closed Philadelphia's season. DeSean Jackson sat out because he missed a special teams meeting. Michael Vick played poorly, then got injured. The Eagles only touchdown came on an interception from Asante Samuel. Arizona's defense could have had 4 picks against Vick: one was called back on a penalty, the other overturned on a challenge. As was the case with the Rams game, the Cardinals did not score a lot in the first three quarters, though Skelton scored twice, partly from luck, partly from some really clutch throws. He threw a 17-yard pass on 3rd and 19, then converted the following 4th and 2. John Skelton led the game winning drive for Arizona while AJ Jefferson picked off Michael Vick to end the game.
Week 11: San Francisco: There are two factors to note here: Skelton played terribly in the first three quarters and he did not get a chance to play in the 4th quarter, in which he has had his greatest successes. With a score of 23-0 in the 4th, it was unlikely that the Cards were going to come back and get multiple scores against the 49ers. It should also be noted that San Franscisco dominated the time of possession- mostly because of Skelton's three interceptions. With better quarterback play, this game may have been winnable for Arizona.
Week 12: St. Louis: Skelton did not play well once again in a game that saw Beanie Wells run all over everyone. Arizona only scored one offensive touchdown in this game, which should have been a lot more given that they had a +7 minute advantage in time of possession. Arizona only had 4 first downs by passing the ball. However, one of those came on 3rd down on what proved to be the game winning drive, a nine yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald on 3rd and 6. The next play, Beanie runs it for 53 yards. The next drive, Skelton throws another clutch throw on a 3rd and 4 to keep Arizona with possession while the Rams kept using their time outs. Skelton didn't win the game for Arizona by himself, but he did play a role in ensuring the Cardinals picked up the W.
This time, I'm not going to make a recommendation one way or the other, but leave it up to you guys to decide. Who should be the starter for Arizona? Kolb has lost games, but some of those weren't his fault. Skelton has played poorly at times but come through when the team has needed him. The starting QB might be the decision that defines Ken Whisenhunt's tenure as a head coach.