RENTON – One of the best to ever play his position, Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t had a quarterback who is able to consistently get him the ball since potential Hall of Famer Kurt Warner retired after the 2009 season.
Still, when asked about lack of production at quarterback for the Cardinals this week, Fitzgerald took the high road.
“I don’t think it’s really our position to be worried so much about that,” he said. “We have to do our job. My job is to go out there and to be able to get open against press coverage and be able to make my plays and do my job.
“Our quarterbacks have to make their throws, our offensive linemen have got to block, when the running backs get their opportunities to run the ball, they’ve got to make guys miss. That’s really what it comes down to. The game is won by individual matchups.”
But whether Fitzgerald wants to admit it, the Cardinals have failed to address the most important position on the field since Warner’s departure, while the Seahawks, their NFC West rivals, appear to have found a potential franchise quarterback in rookie Russell Wilson.
Since Warner retired, the Cardinals have drafted two quarterbacks and spent $24.25 million on two free agents – but none have come close to playing at the level Warner did when he led the franchise to its first and only Super Bowl appearance in the playoffs after the 2008 season.
Arizona drafted John Skelton in the fifth round and signed undrafted rookie free agent Max Hall in 2010. The Cardinals also drafted Ryan Lindley in the sixth round of this year’s draft.
Hall is no longer with the team after going 1-2 as a starter in 2010. Skelton has the best record of that group – 8-8 as a starter – but was replaced by Lindley against Atlanta last month because of poor performance with his team holding a 13-3 lead.
Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt has returned Skelton to the starting job for today’s game against Seattle after Lindley finished with an abysmal 40.4 passer rating in two starts, with no touchdown passes and five interceptions.
The Cardinals lost to the bidding war for Charlie Whitehurst to the Seahawks before the 2010 season. Instead, they signed Derek Anderson for a little more than $3 million.
Anderson finished 2-7 as a starter for the Cardinals, and is now the backup to Cam Newton in Carolina.
But Arizona’s major hiccup was trading for Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb before the 2011 season, giving up cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and this year’s second-round pick. The Cardinals then signed Kolb to a six-year, $65 million extension.
Kolb has never lived up to the lofty expectations that he would be a franchise quarterback. In 15 games with Arizona, including 14 starts, Kolb has thrown 17 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. He has lost 10 fumbles and been sacked 57 times with the Cardinals.
His record as a starter with Arizona is 6-8.
Kolb helped lead the Cardinals to a 4-0 start this season but has missed the past seven games with a serious rib injury. Meanwhile, Arizona comes into today’s game on an eight-game losing streak.
The Seahawks showed interest in Kolb before the 2010 season, but the draft capital to trade for him proved to be too steep, so general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll settled on a trade with San Diego for Whitehurst instead to provide competition for veteran incumbent Matt Hasselbeck before Carroll’s first season in Seattle.
After the 2010 season, Seattle offered a declining Hasselbeck a two-year deal to stay with the team before the lockout in 2011. However, Hasselbeck turned it down because he wanted to test the market. He wound up as Jake Locker’s backup in Tennessee.
The Seahawks once again played the market conservatively, signing Tarvaris Jackson in 2011 as a stop-gap and passing for a second straight season on drafting a quarterback.
But Seattle got more aggressive before the 2012 season, signing Matt Flynn to a three-year, $19.5 million deal in free agency – including $10 million guaranteed – and drafting Wilson in the third round, hoping that one of those two players could develop into a franchise quarterback.
So far, Wilson has proved that the Seahawks played their hand correctly.
Schneider always preached patience when evaluating quarterbacks, and his philosophy appeared to pay off for Seattle.
“Especially with that position, I don’t think you can panic,” Schneider said. “I think you’ve got to go through your evaluation process and have a feel for what you think of the guy and move forward.”
Carl Smith, who coaches Seattle quarterbacks, points to Wilson’s attention to detail as one reason for his consistent performances.
“I’m happy with his development,” Smith said. “He had a lot of things to work on when he got here. And part of that is normal with a new offense. He had a lot of things to work on when he went to Wisconsin, and he overcame those.
“He’s a very consistent worker. He knows what to work on, and he works on it until he fixes it.”
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell picked out another of Wilson’s strengths – his focus.
“He’s just very determined and very confident,” Bevell said.thenewstribune.com