Quarterback John Skelton runs for a first down in the win over the Cowboys on Christmas.
For the Cardinals and coach Ken Whisenhunt, the idea of John Skelton as future quarterback remains in its embryonic stages, too early to determine if it would work.
Skelton, however, admits he has thought about it – especially the possibility of him leading the team in 2011.
"I do think about it, although I don't think too much about it," the rookie said. "It's in the back of my mind. I was kind of fortunate to have really a four-game audition. Even if it doesn't work out, the experience I am getting is invaluable."
With one game left in the 2010 season, the Cardinals aren't sure what they will do at quarterback next year. Skelton has shown some promise, but certainly not enough to definitively say he can carry the franchise for a decade.
Through three starts (and part of a fourth appearance), Skelton has completed 46-of-101 passes for 570 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His passing rating in the comeback win against Dallas was a respectable 82.6 even though he completed only 11 of 25 throws. He's only turned the ball over twice, none in two victories.
Whisenhunt acknowledged Skelton has improved since getting into games. He's been impressed with his mechanics (although Skelton's footwork needs attention) and thinks Skelton will raise that completion percentage as he becomes more comfortable playing the game.
"A lot of times he's just trying to figure out what the play is called much less go through the progression or hit the check-down or extend the play," Whisenhunt said.
There was much praise coming from Whisenhunt Monday toward his young QB, but also much caution. Whisenhunt has repeatedly raved about Skelton's accountability and temperament for the position. He noted the improvisation skills Skelton showed on the crucial pass to Max Komar – on the move under pressure – that set up the game-winning field goal, and the coolness in which Skelton found Larry Fitzgerald on fourth down. He likes the idea Skelton can scramble for a few yards when necessary.
Yet there are still issues like calling plays, communicating the offense, even fumbling the snap that teammate Steve Breaston was forced to fall upon to save a turnover.
"When he comes off the field and he's missed a read or he's missed a throw, he can tell you what he was thinking or why it happened," Whisenhunt said. "That doesn't necessarily mean he's going to do it right the next time, but it's all part of the process of learning."
Deciding whether Skelton can be the man behind center next season isn't limited to what happens right now, either. Let's say for argument's sake the Cards do want to turn to him. It makes this offseason crucial in his development.
If there is a work stoppage/lockout, however, Skelton's time with coaches and at the facility will be compromised, if not wiped out altogether depending on how quickly a new collective bargaining agreement can be reached.
"(Passing game coordinator) Mike (Miller) was talking about, 'When you come in next offseason we will start right at the beginning, as if you were here as a rookie again and it's working from the ground up and it will be so good because it's a refresher for you,' " Skelton said. "In the back of my head, I was thinking, 'If we're not here, if there is a labor dispute …' it's lost time."
So Skelton will pack in as much as he can now, just in case, learn what he can. He was in the facility Monday – a players' day off – studying video of Saturday's win. He'd love to have a chance to be the starter again next season.
The other candidates in that quarterback process are yet to be decided.
"We're going to have a lot of things we have to consider in the offseason," Whisenhunt said, "because we don't want to have this type of season again."
The Cardinals-Cowboys game was the most watched television show on Christmas, averaging 7.8 million viewers. That total made it the third-most watched NFL Network game over the past five years, behind Dallas-New Orleans (10.5M) on Dec. 19, 2009 and Dallas-Green Bay (10.1) on Nov. 29, 2007.
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