The Arizona Cardinals and head coach Bruce Arians would be crazy to trust Drew Stanton as their starting quarterback. This is crazy like eating-three-day-old-sushi-that-sat-out-in-the-Phoenix-sun-in-a-car-in-July crazy.
And it just might leave the same taste in the mouths of Cardinals fans.
Stanton has thrown for 1,158 yards with five touchdowns and nine interceptions in his career. That's a career stat line that looks like the clunker John Skelton posted under center for the Cardinals last season.
Stanton has failed to have a game with multiple passing touchdowns in his career, and he's never thrown for more than 252 yards in a game. He hasn't had his last start since 2010 when he was a member of the Detroit Lions.
That was the same Lions team that was caught in the throes of an NFL-record, 26-game road losing streak that was broken during that season. Calvin Johnson got voted to his first Pro Bowl and Jahvid Best was healthy.
Let's breakdown his last three starts from the 2010 season. They came in Weeks 13, 14 and 15 against Chicago, Green Bay and Tampa Bay, respectively. Stanton posted a 2-1 record in those games, but the win over Green Bay came with Aaron Rodgers getting knocked out with a concussion. The win over Tampa Bay required overtime.
This slate of games will show why Stanton is not a quarterback to be trusted.
Against Chicago, Detroit has 2nd-and-goal on the Bears' 3-yard line. Johnson has a one-on-one matchup on the bottom of the screen while tight end Brandon Pettigrew (red arrow) will come off the line and roll to his right. The Bears will bring pressure right up the middle (orange arrows).
The blocking broke down and this could be an eerie premonition to what Stanton could be doing a lot of in Arizona: running for his life.
Israel Idonije of the Bears (circled in orange) is the closest defender to Stanton, who has already retreated 12 yards off the line of scrimmage. Three of his offensive lineman (yellow box) are basically looking back at him to try and figure out what to do next as three other Bears are trying to chase Stanton down.
Idonije catches up with Stanton at the 20-yard line, and Stanton has to throw it away to avoid the sack or an intentional grounding call. Notice how the closest Lion to him is an offensive lineman eight yards away on the far hash mark.
Stanton throws it away but does so in a very dangerous manner. He fires a rocket through the end zone that hits at the base of the wall behind the photographers. Notice the six Chicago defenders in the picture (orange), and the closest possible receiver for the Lions, Pettigrew (red), is out of bounds.
In this case, Stanton is able to get enough on it to throw it away. If he doesn't, however, it becomes an interception and a disaster of a possession for the Lions. That pass needs to be going up in height, not coming down as it goes through the end zone.
Stanton makes mistakes when he tries to do things with his feet. Detroit had an adequate line that gave him time to try and run; Arizona's line is not as good, and Stanton could cause more harm if he tries to make plays with his feet.
Against Green Bay, Stanton makes a huge mistake with a deep ball. The game was scoreless six minutes into the first quarter, and Detroit has 3rd-and-5 at the Green Bay 27-yard line.
Stanton tries to hit Bryant Johnson in the end zone for an early touchdown, but he has problems.
Four of them to be exact. There are four Green Bay defenders between the 5-yard line and the goal line. Two of them are just out of the frame on the right side. Tramon Williams is able to get in front of Johnson and come down with an easy interception in the middle of the end zone.
In the second quarter against the Packers, the Lions line up in a four-wide set with tight end Tony Scheffler split out to the right. Scheffler runs the route in red, heading towards the sideline and the first-down marker. Calvin Johnson runs down the numbers on the blue route, and Green Bay safety Charlie Peprah fades back in a Cover-2 look shown in the yellow arrow.
Stanton is late with the throw, and we see the result.
The ball is about eight feet over Scheffler's head as he has a step on the cornerback. Scheffler also has seven yards of open field in front of him (blue box) as Peprah drifted back. The ball is late, overthrown and picked off by Peprah who practically stands there.
Had the pass been on time, Scheffler would have had one man to beat, room to run and Johnson as a blocker 25 to 30 yards downfield (green arrow).
Stanton also has issues with decision-making when he's facing the rush, as shown here against the Packers.
On this 2nd-and-6 play, Stanton operates out of the shotgun with a three-receiver set and a running back alongside him. Clay Matthews of the Packers (black arrow) is going to rush straight at Stanton, and note the line of scrimmage is the Green Bay 43-yard line.
Stanton drops back to avoid the rush and is already 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage and facing pressure up the middle. Matthews (in the red box) is working on his man to the right of Stanton, so now should be the time to get rid of the ball.
But Stanton ties to make a play with his feet and it fails. Matthews breaks away from his offensive lineman and winds up planting Stanton back near the Detroit 40-yard line. Stanton gets dropped for a 16-yard loss, and the field-position battle shifts towards the Packers.
Against Tampa Bay, the lack of confidence shows again on a 3rd-and-21 situation in the second quarter of a tie game.
Stanton has two receivers to the left, one to the right and split backs. Notice the amount of cushion the cornerback is giving (pink lines) since the Buccaneer defense knows Detroit needs 21 yards to convert. The three-down linemen will rush Stanton and everyone else drops back in coverage.
On this play, Best is running a route towards the sidelines. Meanwhile, it is taking the Lions six men to block three Tampa Bay rushers. Downfield, that leaves three Detroit wide receivers against eight defenders.
Stanton takes off running. Instead of running up towards the line to draw some of the linebackers up and then throw, he takes off trying to scramble for 21 yards. Stanton was seven yards behind the line of scrimmage so he needed to run for nearly 30 yards to convert on the play.
He gets dropped shy of midfield, but notice how many other Tampa Bay players are right there to provide additional support in case Stanton was able to continue downfield.
While he had plenty of room to run, there was no way he could get a first down on that play. With Johnson lined up at the bottom of the screen outside the numbers, Stanton should have thrown a high, outside-shoulder pass to his big-play receiver.
Johnson might have been double-covered, but he can make plays in those situations, so the effort should have been there. At best, it's a first down. An incompletion would have been understandable since Stanton at least tried.
If it wound up getting picked off, it could have covered the same distance as a punt and not necessarily hurt the team in terms of field position. A long pass attempt could also have drawn a pass-interference penalty, but Stanton doesn't even try for that.
Stanton doesn't throw the deep ball unless necessary and looks uncomfortable doing so.
In those three games, Stanton threw deep eight times which resulted in one touchdown and two interceptions. In the pass-happy NFL, the deep ball is critical to success, and Stanton doesn't have it. Keep in mind that the definition of a deep pass is a pass that travels 15 or more yards through the air.
The puzzling part is that Stanton had Johnson to work with and he's arguably the best receiver in the league. Coming to Arizona, he will have another top-notch wide receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, but the question remains about whether Fitzgerald will be used properly.
Arizona receivers will have to break tackles and make plays themselves if they want to start piling up big chunks of yardage in the passing game.
Stanton is nothing more than a dink-and-dunk passer with no proven ability to make the big plays. The Cardinals opponents will see this and realize they don't have to defend much downfield, and it will limit Arizona's offensive production even worse than it was in 2012.
The Cardinals were the worst team in the league when it came to converting third downs last season, and Stanton's inability to make plays deep down the field will not do anything to help that.
With Stanton under center, Arians' offense in Arizona will likely stink in 2013.
Just like that sushi.
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