Cardinals go back to Skelton at quarterback

Whisenhunt switches back from overwhelmed Lindley to experienced-but-flawed Skelton.

TEMPE, Ariz. — If timing is everything, then Ken Whisenhunt’s machinery could use some fine-tuning. When it comes to quarterbacks, the Arizona Cardinals coach’s internal clock seems a bit off.

In the latest turn in the Cardinals’ 3-year-old quarterback saga, Whisenhunt announced Wednesday that John Skelton will resume his role as the club’s starting quarterback when the club faces the Seahawks on Sunday at Seattle's CenturyLink Field. It’s the same role Skelton lost to Kevin Kolb in Week 1 because of an ankle injury, and the one he lost in Atlanta to Ryan Lindley after a poor first quarter on Nov. 18.

“There’s a number of reasons that we’re making this decision,” Whisenhunt said. “I’m not going to get into each one of those reasons, but that’s the direction we’re going.

“Some of it has to do with playing up there in that noise, in that environment, but I’m not going to get into all of them.”

Did Whisenhunt get an edict from above to pull the plug on the not-ready-for-primetime Lindley experiment? Did he realize that his job is in jeopardy after eight straight losses? Did he realize how hollow his promise sounded when he said he would only put players on the field who give his team the best chance to win, before sticking with Lindley through a nearly unwatchable performance last week against the Jets?

We’ll never know. All we got Wednesday was evasion, but that’s to be expected. All that matters is that it’s the right move, even if it comes a bit late.

It was obvious to almost everyone watching last week that Lindley was overwhelmed. Despite all his warts — his inaccuracy, his poor reads — Skelton’s experience still gave the Cardinals their best chance to win a game the Jets were all too happy to lose.

But just like his quick hook of Skelton in Atlanta, Whisenhunt seemed to miss the moment for change, whether through stubbornness or genuine belief that Lindley was still the best option.

The fact that he’s switching to Skelton now opens him up to even more scrutiny, but that might have been unavoidable. The Cards will be decided underdogs again this week in Seattle, where the Seahawks are 5-0. Whatever the outcome, Skelton was all too happy to exit the doghouse.

"It's another opportunity,” he said. “You can't take any opportunity for granted."

Skelton said he did his best to keep a positive attitude during his latest benching.

"It's humbling, but it’s part of this league,” he said.

When asked what he needed to do moving forward, Skelton delivered the answer on everyone’s mind.

"My biggest concern would be completing more balls,” he said.

In six games, Skelton has completed 98 of 179 attempts for 1,058 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions. His 54.7 completion percentage and 64.4 passer rating both rank dead last in the NFL (34th) among QBs with enough attempts to qualify.

Maybe that’s why Whisenhunt was noticeably devoid of compliments for Skelton’s play when he discussed the switch with the media.

“He understands the position. The big thing is he’s ready,” Whisenhunt said. “We talked about this week and what the expectations are, and he’s worked hard to be prepared. I’m certainly hopeful that he’ll play well.”

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