It doesn't take a football genius to understand that the Arizona Cardinals' quarterback situation is very unsettled going into the 2012 season. Before the 2011 campaign, Arizona gave former Philadelphia Eagles backup Kevin Kolb a six-year, $65 million deal with $12 million guaranteed to be its quarterback of the future.
It didn't quite work out as planned. When Kolb wasn't injured, he was balky at best, and he finished his first season with the Cards with unimpressive numbers — less than 2,000 passing yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions in nine games. For the most part, John Skelton, a fifth-round pick out of Fordham in 2010, looked better than Kolb on the field, but his stats weren't spectacular, either. Skelton threw 11 touchdowns and 14 picks in eight games last season, but at least he gave the Cards more value for their dollar as he enters the third year of a four-year, $1.972 million contract.
Kolb and Skelton go into the 2012 preseason as equals in a quarterback battle that looks a bit like a demolition derby with two Yugos, and Larry Fitzgerald, the team's best player, has warned all fantasy football players that they may want to go elsewhere for their high draft picks. Specifically, Fitzgerald pointed fantasy players in the direction of Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson.
"Megatron and Matthew Stafford have a great connection up there in Detroit," Fitzgerald said on Wednesday's "SportsCenter."
"They put together a phenomenal year — 5,000 yards by Stafford — so I would definitely take Megatron and Matthew Stafford. They've got it going. We have some questions right now in Arizona. We've got to work training camp out to figure out who our starting quarterback is going to be. So as of today, I think that's the safe choice."
We would agree. While Fitzgerald may be the best receiver in the game from a pure talent perspective, Megatron may be the best option from a production standpoint. The Lions pass far more than they run, they do it a lot out of the shotgun (an NFL-record 68 percent of the time last season, per Football Outsiders), and Stafford is one of the best young quarterbacks in the game. We know what Fitzgerald can do with a great quarterback at the helm. We saw that when Kurt Warner led the Cards a few years back. It's been slim pickings at the position since Warner's retirement following the 2009 season.
It showed in the stats. While Fitzgerald's game tape revealed him to be every bit the threat he's ever been, he caught just eight touchdown passes in 2011, half as many as Johnson dragged in. The two players were closer in yards — 1,681 for Megatron and 1,411 for Fitzgerald — but you know how it is in today's NFL. If you don't have the quarterback, you don't have enough.
Even in an equal situation, Fitzgerald has said that he believes Megatron to be the game's best receiver. "He's at the top of the game right now," Fitzgerald said in February. "He's an extremely, extremely impressive talent."
Asked again on Wednesday, Fitzgerald backed off a bit, but came to the same conclusion. "A better receiver? I don't like to get into all that. Is he tops in the game right now, as of today? I believe so."
It's good of Fitzgerald to warn us about his own quarterback problems (and very gracious to say such nice things about Megatron), but you just know this has to be killing him. Hopefully, either Kolb or Skelton can provide him with a clear path back to fantasy greatness.