TEMPE, ARIZ – When the Cardinals name a starting quarterback each week, it’s wise to take the announcements with a grain of salt. As we’ve learned in the three seasons since Kurt Warner retired, each successive QB comprises no more than a grain in the ever-mounting pillar of failed replacements.
When coach Ken Whisenhunt handed the baton to recently signed Brian Hoyer for Sunday’s season finale in San Francisco, he insisted he wasn’t just spinning the chamber in his season-long game of QB roulette.
“I wouldn’t put him in there just to play him and see what he is. This isn’t a tryout,” Whisenhunt said. “I think he merited that based on the way he played in the game last weekend (against the Bears). It is an opportunity to see how he handles that with a week of practice.”
There are two ways to view Whisenhunt’s comments. He’s either being kind to Hoyer, who was out of work for most of this season, or it’s an admission of how bad the two previous guys, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley, were this season. Maybe it’s both.
“It’s no secret we haven’t gotten the production out of that position we’ve needed,” Whisenhunt said. “We’ve got to get consistency at that position. This is an opportunity to see how Brian measures up.”
But if you’re expecting Hoyer to be the long-sought QB savior, don’t hold your breath. It’s questionable (at best) that he will even be with the club next season. And it’s doubtful that he will be able to showcase much to change the Cardinals’ minds against a talented and angry 49ers defense that is coming off a spanking in Seattle and is still hoping to secure a first-round bye in the playoffs.
“What a good test and opportunity to go and play against those guys up in their place,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer spent three seasons as a backup to Tom Brady in New England, but he was out of work for most of this season. The Steelers signed him when QB Ben Roethlisberger was injured, then released him three weeks later when Roethlisberger returned.
“The way I kind of look at is my 10 weeks off was kind of like the summer, then I had a couple weeks of preseason,” Hoyer said. “Now I’m in my sixth or seventh game.”
Hoyer will be the fourth starter at quarterback for the Cardinals this year and the seventh to play in a game since Warner retired (Derek Anderson, Max Hall and Rich Bartel appeared in previous seasons). He takes over a 32nd-ranked offense that is minus its top two pass-catching tight ends (Todd Heap and Rob Housler), its starting left tackle (Levi Brown), its starting center (Lyle Sendlein) and one of its top two running backs (Ryan Williams).
In his career, Hoyer has completed 38 of 62 passes (61.3 percent) for 391 yards, a TD and two interceptions. He saw his first action of the season in the second half of Sunday’s 28-13 loss to the Bears, completing 11 of 19 passes for 105 yards with one interception and no TDs.
”He has a good knowledge of the game, good timing on his throws,” Whisenhunt said. ”He did a good job in the game last week, making some accurate throws, some quick throws. Obviously the interception wasn’t one of those, but it will be interesting to see how he stacks up with a week to prepare. I know he’s going against a tough defense. It will be a tough situation, but it’s a great time to evaluate him and see where he is.”
It’s also a dream come true for the Michigan State product, who has waited four seasons to make his first NFL start.
”It’s a crazy business,” he said. “I never thought it would come with the Arizona Cardinals in Week (17).”