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Shutdown Corner

Arizona Cardinals announce that John Skelton will be their Week 1 starter

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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John Skelton (r., with Kevin Kolb) was the lesser of two evils. (AP)

The only unsettled -- and perhaps the most comical -- quarterback controversy in the NFL has officially come to an end. On Friday, the Arizona Cardinals announced that John Skelton will start the regular-season opener against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Sept. 9 at University of Phoenix Stadium. The news was first reported by Adam Caplan of The Sideline View.

''I'm not going to get into the specifics of everything that was involved, but it's fair to say at this point going forward we feel like the quarterback that gives us the best chance to win right now is John Skelton,'' head coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

''This is truly the first offseason he's had to work, and I've seen progress from him. He's a guy that's believed in himself. At times, he's shown he could make plays. At times, he's looked like a young quarterback.''

It was the only intelligent decision for the Cards to make, but it's safe to say that this is not how Whisenhunt or general manager Rod Graves wanted this to go. The two men conspired to trade a second-round pick and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the Philadelphia Eagles for quarterback Kevin Kolb in July of 2011, and they then signed the former Eagles backup to a six-year, $65 million contract with $12 million guaranteed. Kolb has a $1 million base salary in 2012, along with a $7 million roster bonus earned in March.

"It's kind of a weight off my shoulders in a sense because finally the speculating and the waiting are over," Skelton told the team's official website. "At the same time, there is another weight placed on them."

[Michael Silver: Eagles boss Jeffrey Lurie gives Andy Reid justifiable ultimatum]

To say that Kolb hasn't earned that money would be a gross understatement. He played in just nine games in 2011 due to injury, and actually seemed to regress pretty seriously in the 2012 preseason. He finished with 22 completions in 37 attempts for 203 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in four preseason games, and insult was added to injury when the Cardinals played the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, Aug. 18. Kolb was 3 of 6 for 22 yards and an interception, but looked far worse than the stats indicated.

Late in the first quarter, Kolb followed an intentional grounding penalty deep in his own territory with a sack by Raiders defensive lineman Tommy Kelly that resulted in a safety. Kelly was heard to say that Kolb was "scared," and elaborated on that after the game.

"He is skittish," Kelly said. "He is scared back there. Anytime anybody gets close to him, he starts looking at the refs. As a defensive lineman you love a quarterback like that. He ain't even trying to look at the routes no more. He is paying attention to us and you ain't going to get nothing done like that."

Skelton's stats haven't been much better, but at least he can stand in the pocket and take a hit without running around and falling down, which is an upgrade when talking about Arizona's quarterback battle. In the 2011 preseason, Skelton completed 14 of 25 for 131 yards, one touchdown, and two picks. The upside is that Skelton at least provides some value for performance -- the fifth-round pick in the 2010 draft will cost the Cards just $540,000 in base salary.

''There's no guarantee going forward that Kevin won't be playing for us or won't be the starter for us at some point,'' Whisenhunt said. ''We're talking about right now and the process of evaluating this position and that's where we are right now.''

In 2011, subbing in for Kolb, Skelton completed 151 passes in 275 attempts for 1,913 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. Not exactly world-beating, but compared to Kolb's numbers (146 completions in 255 attempts, 1,955 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions), it's basically a push.

The season opener against the Seahawks provides an interesting story: Seahawks quarterback Matt Flynn, signed to a three-year deal in the offseason, will make $10 million guaranteed this year, and he lost the starting job to rookie Russell Wilson. So, if you're playing at home, that's almost $20 million in 2012 guaranteed quarterback money riding the benches -- and less than $1 million in base salary between the starters.

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