John Skelton Instrumental in Cardinals Win vs. 49ers: Is Kolb's Time Finally Up?

Luke BungerCorrespondent IIIDecember 16, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 11:  Quarterback John Skelton #19 of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the 49ers 21-19.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Kevin Kolb has not had a good season.

So when he started this past Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, he had a lot to prove.

A win against the NFC West Champions would have silenced his critics, ended a five-game loosing streak against their division rivals, and, with back-to-back solid performances, cemented his position at the top of the Cardinals' depth chart. The Cards got the win, upset the 49ers and saw some spectacular play from their quarterback.

For Kevin Kolb, however, there was a problem. John Skelton took over late in the first quarter as Kolb left the game with a concussion. It was Skelton, who once again got credit for the win.

The game was hardly an offensive masterclass from either team, but in the end, John Skelton's three touchdown passes were enough to secure victory against a playoff-bound 49ers team for whom a win would have helped ensure a first-round bye, which may now be in question. Skelton, like fellow second-year player, Tim Tebow, seems to possess the uncanny ability simply not to lose. 

Skelton looked shell-shocked early, unable to sustain drives and contributing to a huge time of possession deficit of around 15 minutes at one point in the game. However, as the game progressed and the Cardinals managed to adjust once again to Skelton's style of play, the team managed to rally late to secure the victory.

Skelton threw a season high three touchdowns to three separate receivers, and he completed a season high 67.9 percent passes for 282 yards and a season high 10.07 yard per completion average. What's more, he also rushed for 25 yards and a couple of first downs. He showed poise and presence in the pocket against a 49ers ferocious front seven. When the chips were down, he managed to thread the needle and hit his players mid-stride, with inch perfect passes which resulted in big gains.

But let's not forget the two interceptions from overthrown and tipped balls, and a fumble on a run where he should have slid for the first down and kept the drive alive.

In his early possessions, Kolb was also ineffective, and the concussion only cements the belief in the mind of many that he is not dependable, is injury-prone and is not worth the sizable salary paid him.

It's something of a quandary for the Cardinals. Some no doubt believe that Kolb should be given the chance to prove he is the Cardinals' future, and earn his salary. Others would argue that, so long as the Cardinals still have an outside chance of a playoff berth, then they should roll with the winning QB—Skelton.

I would argue that it is more important to know if Skelton—not Kolb—has what it takes to lead the team, and should be given the chance to prove himself. After all, the Cardinals can't jettison Kolb unless they are confident in his replacement. Whether Kolb improves or not over the last three games is somewhat inconsequential. Kolb can only be replaced if Skelton proves he is able to lead the team successfully. The Cardinals do not have the luxury of early picks to spend on a QB in the draft, as they must address their pass protection difficulties, and a second blockbuster QB trade in as many seasons may well be too big a sell to the Cardinals owners.

If Skelton isn't the guy, then the Cardinals are stuck with Kolb and, regardless of how he plays to close out this one, he will start next season. But if Skelton can prove himself, then the Cards can cut or trade Kolb, and free up some valuable cap space, and possibly even get some much-needed picks in return.

So...has Skelton won the job away from Kevin Kolb? Unfortunately for Skelton's fans, like myself, It still seems somewhat unlikely

Though Skelton may get the nod against the Browns, due to lingering concerns surrounding Kevin Kolb, who has once again been very limited in practice, once healthy, Kolb will likely continue to get the call. However, with Kolb's durability, as well as passing prowess now called into question, Cardinals fans may not yet have seen the last of John Skelton.