Future Hall of Fame Quarterback Kurt Warner retired following the 2009 season, and Arizona have yet to recover from the loss
I don't like being wrong. Not at all. Who of us does? But when it comes to predicting what will happen next on the Arizona Cardinals QB Merry-go-Round, boy have I been wrong this year.
You see, during the pre-season, I wrote an article throwing my full weight behind Matt Leinart. I genuinely believed that he was the guy.
He wasn't the guy. He couldn't even beat out Derek Anderson, and was cut before he even had a chance to take a snap in the 2010 regular season.
But I was prepared to be wrong on that one. If coach Whisenhunt believed in the strong arm of Anderson, then why should I doubt him. He had seen much more than I had, so why not at least give the guy a shot.
And you know what, I was sold.
Sure he didn't perform great in week one, but Larry Fitzgerald was only about 50% prepared, and except for his dropped passes, he'd done okay throwing elsewhere, hadn't he? I wrote an article praising his performance. I believe I even said that Derek Anderson looked like he was back to his Pro-Bowl best.
How wrong I had been.
Within a matter of weeks Anderson would loose his starting place to un-drafted rookie Max Hall. Not exactly the hallmark of a pro-bowler.
But, after a solid performance in relief of Anderson against San Diego, and a win against the defending Superbowl champion New Orleans Saints, that was it. I was sold. Max Hall was the man, and I wouldn't trade him for anyone.
Keep your first-overall pick Sam Bradford. You can have your Tim Tebow's, Jimmy Claussen's and Colt McCoy's, un-drafted free agent Max Hall is showing us what it means to be a rookie Quarterback in the NFL.
That is how I started my article following our week five victory against the Saints. I went on to praise his toughness, tenacity, decision making, accuracy. I praised his rapport with Larry Fitzgerald, something Anderson never had. I even praised his fumbles and interception.
But that article never saw the light of day. I read it, and re-read it, I wanted to believe it, and tried to believe it, but I just couldn't post it. Deep down I knew that just as I had been wrong about Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson, sooner or later, I would be proven to be wrong about Max Hall.
I didn't have to wait long.
And here we are, 3-5 after watching both Max Hall, and Derek Anderson literally throw away leads which should have seen us dominating the soft NFC West, sitting atop the division at 5-3.
And therein lies the problem.
I had always believed that the Cardinals were more than one player, that loosing one or two was okay, because the whole team were strong. I had believed that fantastic receivers like Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston could elevate any QB, and that talented Running Backs like Beanie Wells could ease enough pressure off even the weakest passer for them to make things happen.
It seems that I was wrong about that too.
Eight games remain, and mathematically, being only one game back, and with an almost embarrassingly easy schedule, the Cards still look poised to to challenge for the NFC West title. However if they do, it will be in spite of, not because of, their quarterback.
Already, Arizona must be prepared to consider 2010 a rebuilding year, and prepare for 2011 by making securing a top flight QB, and bolstering their offensive line top priorities.
So how do you go about replacing future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner? I think that Arizona need to do three things.
Try out John Skelton.
I know, I know. But they obviously saw some potential in him before the draft, he looked okay in Pre-Season, and he can't exactly be much worse than our current options. At worse, he's going to be the one who will loose us another couple of games rather than Anderson or Hall.
And we already know that both Anderson and Hall look a lot better off the bench than they do as starters.
If the Cards are to do the sensible thing, and consider this season a learning opportunity, a rebuilding year, and give the kid from Fordham a chance to shine. Who know's what he'll develop into. However, assuming he doesn't, the Cardinals also need to...
Draft a QB in the first few rounds.
Arizona should definitely be targeting a top-five quarterback who fit's Ken Whisenhunts mould this year. Drafting high is, of course, no guarantee of success, as we learned with Matt Leinart, and some of the best NFL players will, undoubtedly go undrafted, but that is no excuse to assume that this is the rule, not exception.
I know that they say that you should always draft the best player on your board, regardless of position, but if the Cardinals board is not stacked with quarterbacks, then we have a very, very big problem. However, to expect a rookie QB to walk in and win games is a tough ask. He needs a mentor, someone to help him develop from a college stand-out to an NFL superstar. Until he does, Arizona should also aim to...
Bring in another potential Hall of Fame candidate.
No, not Brett Favre. Not even Arizona should be that desperate. Actually, there are a few candidates out there who the Cardinals should be targeting.
The name most often banded around is Donovan McNabb, and I couldn't agree more. McNabb reminds me a lot of Kurt Warner. Both are very good players, who have been unfortunate to land at teams with few recieving playmakers (Giants for Warner, Washington for McNabb), They play quite differently, but their drive, work ethic professionalism and lack of ego make McNabb as good a fit for the Cardinals as Warner was.
Donovan McNabb has played with some of the NFL's most notorious prima-donnas, like Terrell Owens, and always comes out looking good. He works hard, doesn't complain, even after being benched in favour of Rex Grossman, and watching 300+ pound JaMarcus Russell work out while hearing his coach complain about his conditioning.
But the best thing Donovan McNabb would bring to the table is his accuracy, something Arizona sorely miss today. At Washington, McNabb is regularly let down by sub-par receiving corps. Even with the loss of Anquan Boldin in the off season, Arizona are very strong at this position. Larry Fitzgerald is still pro-bowl calibre, Steve Breaston looks to me to be even better than Boldin was, and Early Doucet, Andre Roberts and Stephen Williams have all done an awful lot with the wildly errant passes they have been thrown.
Arizona have also lost more games because of turnovers than is even conceivable. Donovan McNabb doesn't throw that many interceptions. Coming into this year, McNabb had the lowest interception percentage of any QB, and the second best TD to Interception ratio. He doesn't fumble the ball too often either. And while 2010 hasn't looked as hot for him, the interceptions he has thrown have been as much, if not more, to do with his WRs than himself. He has been forced to throw the balls into traffic, and with to receivers with less than sure hands, who have bobbled far too many balls. That is a problem he would not face at the Cardinals.
He is not the only option. Another (future) ex-Eagle Kevin Kolb looks less than happy with his current position, and appears likely to be trade-fodder when trading begins again in 2011. 2010 pre-season target Mark Bulger signed only a one year deal and Joe Flacco looks firmly planted atop the Ravens depth chart, and, assuming Matt Hasslebeck returns to full fitness, and he returns to backup, luring Charlie Whitehurst, who was the Cards number one choice to back up Leinart for 2010, from division rival Seahawks should not cost the Cardinals too much.
But let's not forget, McNabb is close friends with Cardinals star receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and owns a home in the Phoenix area, in Chandler, less than an hours drive from the University of Phoenix. Stadium.Washington Redskins Coach, Mike Shanahan has already ruled out extending McNabb's contract during the 2010 season, and Shanahan does not seem to consider McNabb to be a long term solution to his problems.
McNabb signed only a two year contract, and, considering what Washington gave up to get him, it is unlikely that they will want to see him leave as a free-agent.
I'm not saying that Arizona will be his only suitors, and in spite of everything, it is impossible to rule out him re-signing with Washington, should the right deal present itself.
But if Arizona are not seriously considering him, then I fear for what the future holds for this otherwise talented Cardinals team.