TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals are sticking with rookie Ryan Lindley at quarterback, at least until Kevin Kolb is healthy enough to play.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said that while Lindley had three bad throws that resulted in interceptions, two of them returned for touchdowns, in his first NFL start on Sunday, the rookie did have other times when he was effective in the loss to the St. Louis Rams.
It was the Cardinals’ seventh loss in a row and almost all of them can be largely attributed to the quarterback position, with Kolb injured, replacement John Skelton ineffective and now with Lindley showing his inexperience at the worst of times.
For the first time since he was hurt five games ago, Kolb was able to practice on a limited basis last week.
Kolb was the first player Whisenhunt mentioned when he was asked on Monday what he was going to do about quarterback this week, as the Cardinals prepare to play the New York Jets on the road.
“Well, I don’t know where Kevin is health-wise,” the coach said. “He’s making progress, but as far as being ready for a game yet, that is something that we can’t determine until we see where he is Wednesday. Until he’s healthy, I don’t know where we are, where we are going to be until that point.”
What success Arizona has had this season came with Kolb at quarterback. He replaced the injured Skelton in the opener and directed the game-winning drive, then helped the team win its next three. But the Rams sacked him nine times in a Thursday night debacle in St. Louis, and he went down late at home against Buffalo the following week. A missed Jay Feely field goal sent that one into overtime, then Skelton’s interception set up the Bills’ game-winning field goal.
Assuming Kolb isn’t ready, Whisenhunt said Lindley would be the quarterback.
“Let’s start this thing off by saying you can’t have those interceptions,” Whisenhunt said, “but in the first half I thought that he did a really nice job. He moved in the pocket, was decisive, managed it, and made some good throws.”
Whisenhunt seemed to accept the first “pick six,” when Lindley was fooled by Janoris Jenkins, who slipped in front of intended receiver LaRod Stephens-Howling, intercepted and ran untouched 36 yards for the score.
The second one was another matter. The Cardinals had worked all day, indeed all season, to figure out how to get the ball to their best player — Larry Fitzgerald — who had beaten Jenkins down the sidelines. But instead of stepping up and into the throw, Lindley let fly off his back foot. The ball was underthrown by 10 yards, right into Jenkins’ hands, who returned this one 39 yards for the touchdown.
Another interception, in between those two, had Fitzgerald open, too, but again Lindley threw a bad pass into the hands of safety Craig Dahl. Only a holding penalty and missed field goal kept that turnover from producing St. Louis points.
“There is nobody more upset about it than him, especially after the game,” Whisenhunt said. “He was torn up because he knows he can’t do that, but one of the things you have to learn about as a young quarterback is when you get into the heat of the moment type things, how you have to respond. What was he in the first half, 17 of 24? He responded well with that. The second half, he made two bad throws. He made a bad decision on the one interception, and then the second one that he threw a pick-six, that was off his back foot and late to that side. He tried to come back to it. You can’t do that.”
Whisenhunt did not answer when asked if Kolb would start if he is healthy. That’s not an issue yet, the coach said, because Kolb isn’t healthy.
“He got better. He’s feeling better. Once again it’s more about when he physically can do it,” Whisenhunt said. “He threw the ball better, made some good throws, but he still had some soreness, and I think you have to weigh that with being able to take a hit in the pocket. That’s going to happen in this league. Even when you get throws off, you’re going to get hit and taken to the ground, and it has got to be a safety concern there as well.”
Fitzgerald is as politically correct as it comes, never publicly pointing fingers at those responsible for his diminished effectiveness in the game, a real comedown for one acknowledged to be among the best receivers in the game.
“It’s football. Things happen,” he said after the game. “Assignments are missed. When I’m perfect, I can start calling people out on their flaws and mistakes, but I’m not. We have to do a better job offensively executing.”