John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt said, is the quarterback the Cardinals’ coaches think gives the team the best chance to win.
The reasoning isn’t going to change, and it was the same when Whisenhunt picked Kurt Warner over Matt Leinart in 2008, why he elevated Derek Anderson in the preseason in 2010 and why the Cards dealt for
So, without specifics – Whisenhunt was never going to break down his quarterback thinking point-by-point, and said as much Friday – Skelton was named the team’s starter heading into the regular season.
“We put a lot of time and effort in making the decision,” Whisenhunt said, “and we feel like it’s the right decision.”
Skelton, in his third NFL season and with 11 starts to his credit, gets the nod. In his seven starts last season, the 2010 fifth-round pick fashioned a 5-2 record (and piloted most of a sixth victory after Kolb’s concussion early in the 49ers game). He had 11 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and just a 68.9 passing rating, but came alive when the games were on the line and portrayed a calmness in the pocket that is apparent to all.
He said he was hopeful he would win the job, but all through the competition that ran from the day the 2011 season ended until Friday when he was told the news, he insisted he never tried to figure out where he stood in relation to Kolb.
“It’s kind of a weight off my shoulders in a sense because finally the speculating and the waiting are over,” Skelton said. “At the same time, there is another weight placed on them.”
Whisenhunt said Skelton has “looked like a young quarterback” at times but has made progress. Skelton, noting all his playing time last year, understands he can’t be seen as inexperienced. “I can’t use that as a crutch anymore,” Skelton said.
Whisenhunt isn’t unaware of the ramifications of Kolb’s move to the bench. Much was made of the trade for Kolb last offseason, for a second-round pick, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and then Kolb’s contract extension. The talk at the time was all about how the deal would be viewed through the prism of Kolb’s play.
But Whisenhunt explained again how the Cards saw an opportunity to improve the position by dealing for Kolb. “It’s not an exact science,” Whisenhunt said. “You have to do the best job you can evaluating the criteria at any position.”
Whisenhunt added he was not disappointed in Kolb. “We tried to address (the quarterback),” Whisenhunt said. “There’s no guarantee going forward Kevin won’t be playing for us, or won’t be the starter at some point. We’re talking about right now.”
Skelton said he didn’t get a chance to talk to Kolb, who left the facility after talking with Whisenhunt about the decision. Whisenhunt said Kolb was understandably disappointed, and reiterated Kolb will need to stay ready.
Whisenhunt said Skelton at quarterback would be viewed like every other position. “It’s a production-oriented business,” Whisenhunt said. “If you’re not getting the job done, you’re going to be replaced. Our expectation is that (Skelton) is going to get the job done.”
That’s Skelton’s thought too.
“I see myself as the starter and I’m going to keep looking forward and not look back,” he said.
Skelton said the wait hadn’t been as stressful as perhaps the media made it out to be, and said if he hadn’t had to answer questions constantly about the quarterback battle, he wouldn’t have thought much about it in camp. He also said he never once thought he wouldn’t have a legitimate chance at winning the job, despite all the Cardinals had invested in Kolb.
“Ever since I got to the Cardinals’ organization, everyone has been forthright,” Skelton said. “They have always been truthful, that’s from management to coach Whisenhunt to my position coach. When the season ended last year and coach Whisenhunt took me into his office and told me I’d have a chance to compete, I knew he’d be a man of his word.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity.”