Rookie Ryan Lindley will start at quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals in their final exhibition game.
It has been so hot in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area this summer that it’s no wonder brains are starting to fry.
Even those of the so-called “brain trust” of the Arizona Cardinals, who attempted to escape the daily 110-degree temperatures in the Valley of the Sun by attending summer camp up in the refreshing pine-scented mountains of Flagstaff, were still obviously overheated.
This week’s news made that obvious.
With a heated battle for their starting quarterback job still unsettled, the Cardinals looked at Thursday’s exhibition finale as a final showdown for the job …
… and elected to punt.
Rather than let high-salaried under-achieving Kevin Kolb and upstart John Skelton battle it out one last time against the Denver Broncos before the home crowd, all O.K. Corral-style, head coach Ken Whisenhunt said he would instead start rookie Ryan Lindley.
And then Whisenhunt had the audacity to tell reporters after the stunning, mind-numbing announcement, that, no, Lindley would not emerge from this game as the starter for the Sept. 9 regular season opener.
So much for levity.
Not that many folks noticed.
Clearly Seattle had already won the news cycle by naming under-sized third-round draft pick Russell Wilson as its starter over high-salaried Matt Flynn.
And, just to make sure all eyes were focused on the Pacific Northwest and none on Arizona, the Seahawks cut 38-year-old Terrell Owens.
Nothing like owning a news cycle in an election year.
Of course, they don’t call Seahawks coach Pete Carroll “Always Compete Pete” for nothing. In letting it play out, Wilson was the clear winner.
Despite one extra practice game, the Cardinals have no clear winner and the competition remains unsettled, at least publicly.
Kolb and Skelton are not expected to play against Denver, wrote Kent Sommers of azcentral.com. He went on: “Whisenhunt said he’s not ready to name a starter, and that the evaluation process is continuing.
“The Broncos likely won’t play their starters long, so playing Kolb and Skelton an equal amount against Denver’s top players wasn’t practical, Whisenhunt said.”
As old west shootouts go, this one has been underwhelming. And here’s one guess the good folks in the Valley of the Sun, paying a pretty penny to watch Thursday’s practice game in an air conditioned dome, are none too pleased with the prospect of watching Lindley, the former San Diego State star, ostensibly show off his credentials for the team’s No. 3 quarterback gig.
In football terms, this pop-gun shootout looks like this:
- Skelton has completed 14 of 25 passes (56.0 %) for 131 yards, with 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, 9 first downs and a 5o.6 quarterback rating.
- Kolb: 22-37 (59.5) for 203 yards, 1 TD, 3 Ints, 11 first downs and a rating of 49.7.
- Lindley: 34-66 (51.5) for 362 yards, 0 TDs, 2 Ints, 20 first downs and a 55.2 rating.
Lindley has already had more opportunities to grow and this week will continue that. A further look inside these numbers raises questions about Whisenhunt’s true motivation in this decision.
The Cardinals, through the benefit of playing in the Hall of Fame Game, have already played four exhibitions. While Lindley’s pass attempts rank second in the league through the summer games, Kolb and Skelton’s are substantially lower than that of most quarterbacks who expect to be on the field when the season starts, especially those in battles for starting jobs. Again, with one extra game already.
Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck, two rookies expected to start for their respective teams, are at the top, as you would expect. But at the top with Lindley? The other name up there is Chase Daniels the clear backup to Drew Brees in New Orleans, who also has had the benefit of the additional Hall of Fame Game.
The names coupled with Kolb at 37 attempts are Pat Devlin and Curtis Painter, two fellas on the fringe of rosters with one fewer game. And then there is Skelton, whose attempts are near the bottom of the league for quarterbacks trying to win a job.
It is a head-scratcher.
Whisenhunt said he would let practice determine the final outcome of the quarterback battle. Sommers writes that Kolb has been the better practice player. So maybe a decision has been made to let Kolb start and groom Lindley, arguably the best quarterback on the roster.
As I wrote following the Cardinals’ Aug. 23 game at Tennessee, Kolb showed an ability to efficiently move the team when working out of shotgun and some no-huddle. And maybe that’s what the Cardinals’ brass sees as well?
Maybe that’s why they don’t want to throw him out there in a meaningless game when Lindley can run out the summer, meanwhile working Kolb more in practice in a slightly tweaked offense that will accentuate his strengths in anticipation of countering a fast, strong, tenacious pass rush that is to come against Seattle on Sept. 9?
Maybe, just maybe, the minds of the Cardinals’ “brain trust” aren’t fried after all.
On Twitter @JD_Parenti.