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To QB Or Not QB, And Friday Before The Browns

All the talk and speculation about who will be quarterback in Cleveland on Sunday – Kyler Murray or Clayton Tune – has brought back memories of some interesting QB back-and-forths I have covered with this team over the years.

In 2004, the Cardinals were going to Carolina during Denny Green's first season. The offense wasn't playing particularly well, but the team had won four of six with Josh McCown at quarterback. Then, sitting in my hotel room Saturday night (I was still working for the East Valley Tribune), I got a call from a reliable source saying Green decided last minute to start Shaun King at QB.

It was stunning, the way it played out. It didn't play out too well on the field, with King struggling in a blowout loss. King then struggled in his next start at home, an ugly offensive day in a loss to the Jets when McCown replaced him. Was McCown back in the lineup? Nope. Green went with seventh-round rookie John Navarre the next week at Detroit, and that went poorly. Navarre got injured, McCown started the rest of the season, and the team signed Kurt Warner in the offseason.

This is a different scenario, of course. There is no question of who the quarterback will/should be, just a question of when. This week, in Cleveland? Next week at home against the Falcons? We know Murray, if not activated Saturday has to be activated by midweek following.

And so, the Great Kyler Waitout '23 continues. At least, this week, there will be answers before Saturday night.

-- Whomever is playing QB, they will be down some key skill guys. Wide receiver Michael Wilson and running back Emari Demercado didn't practice all week, and especially with James Conner still down, that leaves running back pretty thin. Wilson's absence hurts the pass game, but it also hurts in the run game, as well has he has been blocking.

-- If Wilson can't go, that just ratchets up the importance of tight end Trey McBride, who seemed to have a breakout game last week – his first since Zach Ertz got hurt. McBride had 10 catches, a franchise record for tight ends in a game, and his 95 yards was oh-so-close to getting him to be the first tight end to have 100 yards in a game for the Cardinals since 1989.

-- It really is amazing that, since the team moved to Arizona in 1988, they have only had two 100-yard games from tight ends. Jay Novacek had one in 1988 and Rob Awalt had the aforementioned one in 1989.

-- Uniform update: The Cardinals will be wearing their usual road white-on-white in Cleveland.

-- The Cardinals have some Browns expatriates. OC Drew Petzing and QB coach Israel Woolfork both were on the coaching staff in Cleveland before coming to Arizona, and starting center Hjalte Froholdt played for the Browns before coming to the Cardinals as a free agent. And yes, since the head coach remains Kevin Stefanski, the Cardinals were hoping to mine some information.

"It would be wise to mine those resources," defensive coordinator Nick Rallis said with a grin.

-- With the news Deshaun Watson will start at QB for the Browns after an injury-laden last month, the spotlight returns to the pass rush. The Browns are excellent at running the ball, but if the Cardinals can forced some passing situations, perhaps they can get to Watson. The Cardinals have 24 sacks this season – eighth in the NFL – spread around 11 players.

-- Myles Garrett is a handful for any offensive line, and the Browns sack master will be an issue for the Cardinals regardless of who is QB. But veteran left tackle D.J. Humphries said one of the most important parts of trying to block a premier pass rusher is to remember your own technique more than whomever is lining up to get your QB.

"They are all so different," Humphries said. "You have to have the mindset, 'It's about me.' If you sit around thinking of what these guys are going to do like it's basketball, I'm trying to figure out what these guys are going to do, no, I just know what I'm going to do. That's the mentality I have taken in my career taking on those types of rushers. He's going to do his thing. This is my plan for me."

-- The Cardinals are also fourth in the NFL with 43 tackles for loss, a number that figures to grow with the return of safety Budda Baker, who can be an in-the-box menace in such situations.

-- The last time the Cardinals went to Cleveland there were significant differences for both teams, as the Cardinals won easily. But most memorable from that 2021 game was that head coach (and play caller) Kliff Kingsbury tested positive for Covid the Friday before the game (as did QB coach Cam Turner and linebacker Chandler Jones) and didn't make the trip. Assistant coach Spencer Whipple, then the assistant receivers coach and now the team's pass game specialist, got to call the plays in a 37-14 win.

"A couple people have brought it up but it feels like a long time ago," Whipple said Friday. "It'll be fun to go back. It was a good game, a good team win that day. Crazy circumstances."

-- The last word comes from Baker, after I asked him if he ever talks to teammates about the Cardinals' disappointing record or if, as a leader, you ignore it.

"We believe each and every week and at the end of the day, the record is not what we wanted it to be, but we go in each and every week to the best of our ability … trying to do our job and to win games," Baker said. "Our team is very close knit and guys aren't thinking about our past or thinking about our record. They are continuing to take it one day at a time and continuing to try to ultimately win. That's what we all work to do. It doesn't even have to be said much. We have the right guys in the building."

See you Sunday (after whatever news we have Saturday – keep it tuned to

Captains (from left) Dennis Gardeck, D.J. Humphries, Budda Baker and Kyzir White.
Captains (from left) Dennis Gardeck, D.J. Humphries, Budda Baker and Kyzir White.