Let's be clear.
I like John Skelton, a lot. I championed Skelton throughout our 2010 campaign, calling for him to be started much sooner than he eventually was.
I have thought, and still do, that had the Cardinals signed a veteran QB to mentor him, Skelton has the skills necessary to succeed in the NFL and would have taken over the team within a season or two.
I think that, had a different quarterback been leading the Cardinals thus far, I would likely have been calling for Skelton's start just as I did in 2010.
So it may seem odd to hear me calling for Richard Bartel, and not John Skelton, to start tomorrow in place of the injured Kolb.
It's odd to me, too; yet here I am doing just that. Let me explain.
First and foremost, it's not that I am giving Kolb a pass for his terrible performance thus far.
While I hope he can turn it around, I am not an out-and-out hater of Kevin Kolb, as some Cardinals fans are quickly becoming. I am not satisfied with either his performance over his first seven games as a Cardinal, nor do I accept many of the excuses made about him.
I'm also not a major lover of Richard Bartel. I was pleasantly surprised by his limited performance in preseason, and believe that he is a serviceable backup if called upon, but I do not rate him above Skelton.
The problem is simple.
Skelton is a fan favourite.
If Skelton gets the nod and performs well, fans will expect to see more of him. Starting against a Rams team which are arguably even worse than the Cardinals, it's hard to imagine Skelton—or any other QB, for that matter—not performing well.
While a win is far from guaranteed—given the Cards' propensity to fall apart and hand over the game at a moment's notice—facing the Rams at home is as close to a sure thing as the Cardinals will get this season.
Do you still believe Kevin Kolb can lead the Cardinals?
Worse still, if Skelton plays badly and the Cardinals win, the temptation will be to look past his performance and attribute the win to his leadership skills, play-calling abilities or other intangibles and call for the team to give him a chance going forward.
Had the Cardinals not bet the farm on Kolb being the quarterback of the future, this may be an acceptable play.
If Kolb had played for a season or more and found himself in the same position, again, I would understand it. But to do so now appears devastating, frankly, for the development of Kevin Kolb.
The season is already out of reach—that much is clear. The San Francisco 49ers appear to have the season all but locked up, and for the Cardinals, even a .500 season appears out of the question.
However to say that there is nothing left for the Cardinals to play for couldn't be more wrong.
Now, each and every game, each and every snap, is a chance for the Cardinals to right the wrongs of their first games.
Every snap Kolb takes gives him a chance to get more familiar with his receivers and the playbook, and even losses provides him with a chance to catch up on those snaps lost through the lockout and to give the Cardinals a better chance in 2012.
Missing a game to injury is a blow to a quarterback like Kolb, who is already in many ways behind the rookie starters, at least in terms of snaps.
Missing three or four to the "quarterback carousel" that dogged the Cardinals in 2010, in the vain pursuit of a couple of wins this season, would be devastating to his development.
No matter what, the Cardinals will likely have a top-10 pick in the 2012 draft. The team will doubtlessly be improved in 2012; therefore, since 2011 is out of reach, it is imperative that the Cardinals take time to figure out which areas needs to be improved, and what is working.
They need to give Kevin Kolb as many snaps as possible to develop his rapport with his receivers, and to decide if they currently have is a valid number two or if they need to find whoever will be lining up opposite Larry Fitzgerald elsewhere.
I'm a Cardinals fan. I want to see us win games as much as anyone, but not if it means sacrificing yet another season and another run at the playoffs while we chase a couple of wins which, ultimately, don't matter this season.
The Cardinals have bet that Kevin Kolb is their future, and barring injury, that should give him the chance to develop into a No. 1 QB. Kolb may not be the future, but given what the Cardinals paid for him, swapping him for a fan-favourite like Skelton at this point in the season is not a great move.
If we're 1-6 at this time next year, I'll take it all back, but at this point, like it or not, we need to give Kolb more time, and fans calling for Skelton is not going to help anyone.