Quarterback John Skelton watches from the sidelines after being taken out of Sunday's loss.
John Skelton had games like this before, in both high school and college, a setting in which it seemed like nothing was going to go right.
The Cardinals' quarterback certainly had time to stew about it on the sideline Sunday in a loss to San Francisco, as his offense stagnated over and over and Skelton suffered through his worst game as a pro.
"You get that snowball effect," Skelton said Monday, talking about the need to be self-critical after completing just 6-of-19 passes for 99 yards and three interceptions before being removed for the final quarter of the 23-7 game. "You throw one interception and all of a sudden you are seeing the defenders instead of the receivers. From there it just gets worse."
All Skelton can do is try to come back, and he may need to do that right away. Kevin Kolb will be the starter again once again, but – as has been reiterated over and over – only when he is healthy again. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said that Kolb was "not real close" to suiting up against San Francisco and there remains doubt he can be close this week when the Cards go to St. Louis.
Kolb said he doesn't think he'll do any more damage on it if it isn't 100 percent healthy, but that still doesn't mean he can be effective playing on it right now. It's wait-and-see, Whisenhunt said once again, and a frustrated Kolb brought up again one of his themes since getting hurt: "I've never been through anything like this before."
If Kolb can't play, it will be Skelton again, Whisenhunt said. That is reassuring to hear, Skelton admitted.
Still, "we've got to get better at making sure he won't struggle," Whisenhunt said.
Skelton has to make it a moment from which to learn. In the moment, though, it is not easy.
"You have a pretty good feel how to socially interact with guys," said third-string quarterback Rich Bartel, who came in for Skelton in the fourth quarter and led the Cards to their lone score when he threw a touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald. "We tried to encourage John. He is still young as a starter, he is still raw. There is no reason to be in the tank about anything. Just play ball.
"He doesn't need any more pressure on him. The coaches yell at us enough. We support each other."
Skelton knew, after his third interception, he would likely be pulled out of the game "and rightfully so." Normally a slow starter who has been closing well, both he and Whisenhunt kept waiting for him to turn it around and yet he couldn't.
Whisenhunt went to Bartel. Skelton was left a day later unable to explain why it never clicked in.
"It's a frustrating thing when you get a question like that and you just don't know how to answer it," Skelton said. "Against a good defense like that, it's hard to make a mistake and not let it affect you."
Kolb has been through some difficult performances, both in Arizona and Philadelphia, and he said he shared those experiences – and how to rebound from them – with Skelton. It isn't unique to Skelton, Kolb said, and that includes some pretty big-name QBs.
Avoiding instant judgment wasn't a good idea with Skelton on his first two starts this season, and it's not advisable now either.
"John did a great job in the first two games and in John's defense, he got a little banged up on his hand yesterday," Kolb said. "He fought through it. It just wasn't his day and that's OK, we will move forward."
The quarterback dynamic is an interesting one. There is camaraderie among the three that is easily seen. But playing, for each of them, is the most important thing. Whenever Skelton was asked about his spot replacing Kolb, he said the right things about when Kolb came back, but talked about his hopes of being a starter. Kolb has genuinely encouraged Skelton, but has also been clearly turned off by questions of whether he worried about Skelton taking his job.
Even Bartel, getting a taste of playing time and throwing his first NFL touchdown Sunday, is hopeful to get more.
"If anybody can understand what (John) feels, it is us," said Bartel, motioning to Kolb's locker next to him. "I know everybody else may think they can (know), but nobody really knows what it is like back there."
With nose tackle Dan Williams done for the season with a broken left arm, Whisenhunt said the Cards will need to add a defensive lineman to the roster. They already have defensive end Ronald Talley, who was on the active roster earlier this season, on the practice squad. Rookie David Carter and Nick Eason will be filling Williams' role. …
Whisenhunt said the rehab of running back Ryan Williams is going well, although he wouldn't commit to Williams being ready for training camp. "We're talking a bunch of months away yet," Whisenhunt said.