PHOENIX — New Cardinals coach Bruce Arians says his team isn’t looking for a quarterback.
“We already found one,” he told reporters at the NFL owners meeting this week.
While Arians hasn’t officially named a starter, there’s no doubt he’s leaning toward Drew Stanton, the backup to Andrew Luck in Indanapolis last season.
“I have all the confidence in the world with him being our starter,” Arians said.
The new coach, sporting a Cardinals red driver’s cap, said he hopes to name a starting quarterback as soon as possible. There will not be the kind of through-the-training camp competition for the job that was the hallmark of former coach Ken Whisenhunt.
“I’m not a two-quarterback guy,” Arians said. “When everything settles down and the roster is complete for spring, we’ll look at the situation and if we feel we can name a starter, we will name a starter. We need leadership on that side of the football and in our whole locker room.
“We’ll exhaust every opportunity in the draft, whoever else is available, but we are quite honestly comfortable with Drew Stanton.”
Arians knows that several mock drafts have the Cards taking West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith with the No. 7 pick overall.
“I think all speculators look at need and not the draft board,” Arians said. “If you draft for need, you’re in trouble. Just because you need one, you don’t take one. If there’s someone who fits the spot in the draft that you put him at, then you take one.
“That’s why I feel very comfortable with our situation right now, with Drew Stanton in our mix. The need value is not there.”
Whisenhunt annually staged a quarterback competition that often continued through the final game of the preseason. But Arians wants no part of that.
If it’s tough to pick one quarterback, Arians said, “It’s a problem.”
“When you’ve got two, you don’t have one,” he said. “That’s been my philosophy all these years. If we’re out there competing to see who the quarterback is, we’ve got a problem.”
A more plausible scenario has Arizona using that No. 7 pick to bolster its offensive line, which is not nearly the dire portrait that many have painted, the coach said. Arians called Levi Brown, who missed all of last season with a triceps injury, an “elite” tackle. He likes the improvement he saw from rookie tackles Bobbie Massie and Nate Potter as the season progressed, and either one of them could be moved to guard, Arians said.
“I think we’re maybe one player from having a hell of an offensive line,” Arians said.
Arians said the offensive line talent in this year’s draft is “one of the best I’ve seen in a while, at all positions.”
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Stanton, entering his seventh pro season, hasn’t played in an NFL game since he was with the Lions in 2010. He signed with the Jets in 2012 but requested a trade when the team signed Tim Tebow. New York traded him to Indianapolis, where he didn’t take a snap in a game as Luck excelled in his rookie season.
But Arians said he saw plenty of improvement from Stanton in practice through the season.
Arians, as a quarterbacks coach and then an offensive coordinator and interim head coach, coached the likes of Peyton Manning, Tim Couch, Ben Roethlisberger and Luck.
“The guy that I take the most pride in coaching is Kelly Holcomb,” Arians said. “Took him from a guy who basically was off the street to every time he played he’d throw for 400 yards. Ben, Peyton, Timmy, Andrew, all those guys, God gave them a ton of talent.”
Arians said he just tried not to mess up that ability with those quarterbacks, who all were first-round selections.
“You get your hands on a guy like Kelly and you watch him grow and fight the battles, bringing somebody in to beat him out every year, then he shines,” Arians said. “There are guys who don’t have the hype who can play that position.”
The Cardinals signed Stanton to a three-year contract, then released Kevin Kolb. The team has tendered an offer to Brian Hoyer. John Skelton and Ryan Lindley, who struggled mightily at quarterback for the worst offense in the NFL last season, remain on the roster.
Arians also said he is hopeful the Cardinals can still sign free-agent receiver and return man Josh Cribbs, who failed a physical. In a week or two, another physical is planned. He likes the idea of having Patrick Peterson and Cribbs as dual punt returners.