As much as Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt doesn't want any kind of quarterback controversy between John Skelton and Kevin Kolb, one exists. Skelton's play against the St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles demands as much.
If you simply look at the stat lines, there's not much difference between the two quarterbacks. Over six games Kolb completed 56.8 percent of his passes, while Skelton has completed 54.7 percent the past two weeks. Kolb has an 8:8 touchdown, turnover ratio and Skelton is at 4:2. Both quarterbacks have thrown for over 300 yards in one game.
On paper, they're pretty much the same. But this game isn't played on paper.
On the field, Skelton has shown much better poise in the pocket than Kolb; that all-important intangible is what separates these two quarterbacks.
Arizona's Achilles heel is their offensive line. This group has NFL offensive line stats given up 31 sacks on the year—tied for second worst in the league with the Pittsburgh Steelers. And things aren't going to improve any time soon. It's a personnel problem; they just don't have the talent to protect the quarterback.
With that as the backdrop of this offense, the quarterback, whoever he is, will be forced to make up for the offensive line's deficiencies.
The group of matadors posing as Arizona's offensive line requires a quarterback who can remain calm in the pocket despite constantly being pressured, hit, knocked down, sacked, etc. etc.
Skelton's that guy; Kolb's not.
As Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic noticed earlier in the year, Kolb has happy feet in the pocket. Somers specifically noted on one of Kolb's misfires to tight end Rob Housler that "Kolb took a normal drop, then hopped a time or two at the end of it." Those happy feet are surely the result of being pummeled repeatedly.
The result of those happy feet, however, is Kolb panicking, not looking to his second or third read and bailing out on plays all too often.
Whatever Kolb's issue, there can be no excuses in this league. A quarterback is required to stand his ground, make the throw and take the hit.
Against the Philadelphia Eagles, Skelton lofted a picture perfect 37-yard ball to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Take a look at the video. If you pause it at the :03 second mark you can see a blur at quarterback. That blur is Skelton being clobbered by one of the Eagles' front seven.
Despite that insane pressure, Skelton hung in the pocket and put the ball where only Fitzgerald could catch it. And what a beautiful catch it was.
That's the pedigree of quarterback demanded by this offense. The second year quarterback already possesses the veteran-like quality of having poise in the pocket. Whisenhunt sees it. “He was mad and upset when he missed a couple of things,” he said. “But he is calm. He’s got that look and it shows in his demeanor on the field.”
The same can't be said about Kolb; he hops a couple of times before he throws. That's fear, not fortitude.
Skelton also has to learn diplomacy. His response if he should supplant Kolb as the starter: “That’s not for me to say” he said on ProFootballTalk Live. “I think that’s for the coaching staff to determine through film study, but ultimately Kevin is the starter and I’m the backup and I came in and filled my role as the backup.”
He won't say it, but I will. Skelton deserves to be the starter for the Cardinals.