As the Arizona Cardinals season winds down, they currently sit at 5-10 with nowhere to go but up. They've seen it all this year: the good, the bad and everything in between. When Kevin Kolb was under center, Arizona meddled between good and everything in between.
When John Skelton and Ryan Lindley took snaps as the starting quarterback, there's no question they were considered bad. Ever since Kolb left the lineup Skelton and Lindley have combined for two touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. Pretty eye-opening numbers if you ask me.
We all knew they would play pretty poorly, but that is just flat-out awful. Which is why Ken Whisenhunt's move to start the newly-signed Brian Hoyer shouldn't surprise anyone. The announcement came today after practice when Whisenhunt addressed the media:
Whiz said Brian Hoyer will start at quarterback against SF Sunday. #AZvsSF— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) December 26, 2012
According to Kent Somers of AZCentral.com, Hoyer will be the sixth different starting quarterback Arizona has had over the course of the last three years. Let's see if we can name all six—Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley and Hoyer.
If you add Richard Bartel into the mix, Hoyer would make the seventh quarterback the Cardinals have played in a game. That statistic right there should tell you all you need to know about Arizona's quarterback situation since Kurt Warner left.
It hasn't been pretty to say the least.
However, the futility at quarterback may prove to be a blessing in disguise to the four-year pro. Hoyer was signed off the street a little over two weeks ago, so it's remarkable that he played as well as he did in relief duty this past Sunday.
He was a pedestrian 11-of-19 for 105 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked twice, but when he had time to throw he did okay. With a clean pocket, his completion percentage jumped 3.6 percentage points and his yards per attempt went up 0.3 yards.
Moreover, 75 of his 105 pass yards came when he had a clean pocket to work with.
Here's a chart from Pro Football Focus that shows just how Hoyer's passes were distributed. Obviously, his most effective area was from zero to nine yards in the middle of the field. He completed 80 percent of his passes for 57 yards with a quarterback rating of 90.4.
His least effective throws came when he launched passes of 20 yards or more down the field. He completed one 24-yard strike right down the middle to All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Yet, his two other shots downfield fell incomplete. Both were also intended for Fitzgerald—one flew incomplete down the right sideline and the other fell incomplete in the middle of the field.
I can understand the conservative nature of the play-calling considering it's impossible to think Hoyer has learned all of the plays and line checks in two weeks time. I'm sure with a full week of preparation, the game plan will grow considerably larger this week.
Nevertheless, it would be foolish to think he will make enough of an impact to beat the 49ers at Candlestick. Let's not forget, this week's start will mark the first time Hoyer has started in an NFL game. Sure, he backed up Tom Brady forever, but the jury is still out on him since no one wanted to even take a chance on him until the Cardinals came a knocking.
Without question Hoyer will be looking to impress more than just the Cardinals on Sunday. If all goes well, he will have one-and-a-half games of above-average tape from the 2012 season, something he could use to land a backup job elsewhere this offseason.
Shoot, it could even help him land a job in the desert.
He would have to blow the coaches away on Sunday to be in the running for the starting quarterback position, but let's face it, we have all seen weirder things happen before. To play at his absolute best against the 49ers a few things have to happen.
Left tackle Nate Potter needs to keep Aldon Smith in check. Right tackle Bobby Massie needs to keep Ahmad Brooks at bay and the Cardinals' backfield needs to generate some kind of rushing attack. Over the last three weeks, Arizona has only managed to run the ball for 57 yards per game.
Now I know why I am not surprised that Mike Miller's offense is dead last in the NFL in rushing. Through 15 games this season they have rushed the ball 335 times for 1,149 yards—76.6 yards per game simply won't get the job done or cut it for that matter.
For the sake of Mr. Hoyer, let's hope someone comes to his aid this week besides Ray Horton's defense.