Kevin C. Cox
As crazy as it was to do with a lead, based on the coaching staff's message over the bye, it had to be done.
The majority of you readers believed that the biggest blunder of last Sunday's game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Atlanta Falcons was when head coach Ken Whisenhunt decided to yank quarterback John Skelton from the game with a 13-0 lead and put in rookie Ryan Lindley. You did not feel that it was the missed throw Skelton had in the end zone to Larry Fitzgerald, Atlanta coach Mike Smith's challenge flag and penalty or a dropped pass or even when Fitz didn't play through the whistle.
Yet despite your thoughts, I think what Whiz did was simply good coaching and that the team will be better because of it.
Whiz himself said that the coaching staff preached over the two weeks leading up to the Atlanta game that changes would be made if people weren't making plays or if they were leaving plays on the field. He meant it was for everyone.
It was enough to take defensive snaps away from Adrian Wilson and also to keep rookie cornerback Jamell Fleming off the field on defense for the entire game. It had to be the same message with the quarterback.
Skelton was in the game for 15 plays offensively. In that time, and in only seven pass attempts, he misfired on throws to four players on short passes (<10 yards). He also missed a wide open Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone on a throw that was not a difficult one to make.
Yes, the team was up 13-0, but at that point could the coaches see the defense taking the ball away six times and shutting the door on one of the league's top scoring teams? You could not assume that.
And so, Whiz had to do it. It was a calculated risk at the moment, but based on how Skelton had been playing, it did not look as if Lindley could do any worse.
To those who say that Skelton should have been allowed to have played through it, then that would have flied in the face of what the team was saying for two weeks. It would have sent a mixed message to the players that the quarterback position was going to be handled differently. The quarterback would not have to be as accountable as the rest of the players.
No...you can't do that, especially if the message you are trying to send to the team is to create a greater sense of urgency to get winning and back in the playoff picture. At that point, you need results and less simple improvement.
Now, Lindley certainly didn't do any better. What does that mean?
It means that Skelton is not necessarily done. If Kevin Kolb is not yet ready to go, the fact that Lindley played does not mean that he is the guy moving forward. Again, it is a message of consistency. James Sanders and Rashad Johnson earned playing time in practice, so Wilson lost snaps. If Skelton regains what he had to win the starting job in the preseason and outdoes Lindley in practice and in prepping for the Rams, he will be back on the field.
Now when Kevin Kolb returns, it will be a different story. Based on Skelton's play, it would seem that Kolb would take over. But until then, all the coaches are saying is that they are going to play the guy that gives the team the best chance to win.
Lindley or Skelton against the Rams? It could go either way.
But as for the benching, it was a message that had to be sent to Skelton and the rest of the team. With the team currently on a six-game losing streak, there is less room for error. They have made enough mistakes. The team can't afford more if they want to reach their goals. Perform or be replaced. Whiz was right for doing it, even if the results weren't much different.
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