Glendale, Ariz. -- It would be tough to really glean anything from the Cardinals' 16-13 loss to the Denver Broncos at University of Phoenix Stadium Thursday night.
Being each team's final game of the exhibition, starting-caliber players were as scarce on the field as points were on the scoreboard.
Still, anyone hoping to see Cardinals rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley show enough to make you believe he has a future in this league got exactly that.
The sixth-round pick out of San Diego State got the start and went on to complete 14-of-26 passes for 176 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Displaying the arm strength he's known for and the accuracy he's not, Lindley certainly did enough to make you think ‘hey, maybe this guy could be something'.
"I think Ryan did a pretty nice job," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said, noting that the interception was due to miscommunication with the receiver.
That may not seem like high praise, but given how the play of the team's other quarterbacks has been talked about this preseason, it sadly means quite a bit.
But if you are looking for someone to really wow you with a quote, you need only listen to Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald.
"He delivered the ball; he gave guys opportunities to make plays out in the field and he did a good job," the receiver said. "He is very confident; he's not lacking confidence.
"He's got a good huddle presence, has very good command, and a lot of poise for a young guy."
There you go.
For a player who was brought in as more of a project than anything, Lindley has certainly done a good job of making many think his time may come sooner rather than later.
"The one thing that's been consistent is his poise and how he's handled himself," Whisenhunt said. "And he's thrown the ball well; he's accurate."
Whisenhunt was especially pleased with how Lindley fared on third downs early in the game.
"Some of those third down throws, they were on the money, they were in the right spots and that was nice to see," he said.
What's encouraging is that accurate is not a word anyone used to describe Lindley coming out of college. His improvement shows he's taken advantage of his first NFL training camp, which is exactly what you'd hope to see a rookie do.
"Overall I felt pretty good," Lindley said of his effort Thursday. "I feel like I'm functioning better each week. That's all you can look to do is improve."
Lindley is not going to challenge for the starting job, at least not yet. He is certainly on the head coach's radar, though, and it's not exactly a giant leap from this point to the top spot on the depth chart - just ask Max Hall circa 2010.
But that's not something the quarterback is thinking about or worried about. In fact, the 23-year-old is just like the rest of us when it comes to the competition for the number one job.
"I think everyone is curious," Lindley said. "But I know that Coach [Whisenhunt] is going to make a great decision."
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Prater boots it through and this one is over. The Cardinals lose the game 16-13 and finish the preseason with a 1-4 record.
Time to head downstairs to hear from Coach Whiz and the players.
:02 left in fourth quarter
Weber kneels in the middle of the field for a loss of three yards. It was done to try to make this kick a little easier.
Prater on to attempt the 44-yard field goal. He makes it, Broncos win. He misses it, we all lose.
:07 left in fourth quarter
Some QB named Weber just completed a long pass to some receiver named Orton. It's good for 45 yards and now the Broncos are at the Arizona 23. Broncos look like they want to run one more play before kicking what promises to be a glorious field goal.
:52 left in fourth quarter
A trio of incomplete passes lead to the Cardinals settling for a 35-yard field goal and the tie. Given where the series began, that result would be upsetting enough. Given that it leaves this overtime game tied at 13 with just under one minute to go and, well, upsetting doesn't quite sum it up.
1:50 left in fourth quarter
First play is a 56-yard bomb from Lindley to Isaiah Williams. Ball was a little underthrown but still a very nice play. Cardinals have the ball at the Denver 13.
2:01 left in fourth quarter
Cardinals force a punt, and a fair catch interference penalty gives the Cards an extra 15 yards on the play. They'll start their drive at the 31, needing a field goal to tie and a touchdown to win. Guess what we're all rooting for.
3:48 left in fourth quarter
Cardinals get a good kick return from Powell but drive stalls. Lindley throws incomplete on three straight passes, nearly picked on a couple of them. Looks like he doesn't want OT, either. That Lindley, what a guy!
4:25 left in fourth quarter
Defense does a good job and forces the Broncos into kicking a 43-yard field goal. Matt Prater (who this guy has on one of his fantasy teams) boots it through to give the Broncos a 13-10 lead.
6:08 l eft in fourth quarter
A little miscommunication between Lindley and Isaiah Williams leads to an interception, and the Broncos have the ball at the Arizona 29. While no one here wants the Cardinals to lose, I'm betting there is very little desire for this game to go into O.T.
Take that how you wish.
8:14 left in fourth quarter
Osweiler drives the Broncos down deep into Cardinals territory bur is stopped just short of the goal line on a third-down run. If only he was 6-foot-8 and not a shrimpy 6-foot-7. Pity.
Broncos kick the field goal to tie things up here in Glendale. Why, John Fox, why?
End of the third quarter
The Broncos have the ball as we end the third quarter. Over the last 15 minutes we saw a field goal for the Cardinals, a touchdown for the Broncos, and a couple of Cardinals injuries.
Richard Bartel, who left with a shoulder injury, is questionable to return. Javarris James, who sprained his left knee, will not return.
Both reports would be more accurate if they ended with "to the team."
3:02 left in third quarter
William Powell returns the kickoff to the 20, add 15 yards for a facemask and the Cards begin at their own 35.
Looks like the coaching staff wants to see what else Powell can do, and given that he's on the roster bubble the more he can the better his chance of making the team.
Still 3:13 left in third quarter
Refs say the play stands as called, which means there wasn't enough evidence to overturn it. They probably got this wrong but whatever, it's preseason. Good for the ASU kid.
PAT makes the score 10-7 Cards.
3:13 left in third quarter
Former ASU star Omar Bolden returns the ensuing kickoff 102-yards for the score, but appears to have stepped out of bounds along the way. All scoring plays are reviewed so there is a good chance this one will come back.
3:28 left in third quarter
Drive ends with a 42-yard Jay Feely field goal, making him 1-for-3 on the night and giving the Cardinals a 10-0 lead. Nine more quarters like this and the Cards may match ASU's first-half total from over in Tempe.
4:01 left in third quarter
Bartel makes a great throw to Isaiah Williams for 50 yards, but is injured a few plays later. Lindley is back in at quarterback so yeah, that's that.
It's 3rd and 15 from the Denver 18.
5:40 left in third quarter
Osweiler's pass is picked off by Crezdon Butler, who made a nice break on the ball to step in front of the receiver. The corner-on-the-bubble picks up 13 yards on the return and the Cardinals take over on their own 35.
6:47 left in third quarter
Osweiler picks up some yards with his legs, giving this Wildcats fan flashbacks of that awful territorial cup game in 2010. He then hits Gerrell Robinson with a pass, giving Sun Devil fans flashbacks of that awful finish in 2011.
10:04 left in third quarter
Richard Bartel puts a drive together but Jay Feely misses another field goal and the Broncos will take over on their own 40.
Brock Osweiler is in the game at QB. He is very tall. Like, umm, 6-foot-7 or something like that.
Beginning of second half
Alright, Cards will get the ball and Bartel is in at QB. Some first half stats for your reading pleasure:
Beanie Wells: 5 carries for 35 yards
Ryan Lindley: 9/13 for 101 yards and 1 TD
That's it. Pretty uneventful half.
End of first half
Defense comes up big again, sacking not-Manning/Osweiler to end the half. Cardinals lead 7-0 and yes, this game is as exciting as the score would indicate.
:53 left in second quarter
Cardinals D holds and forces Broncos to punt. Ball spotted at the Arizona 18, but with two timeouts the Cards may try to do something.
Wait, check that. Lindley completes a pass to Demarco Sampson (former San Diego State teammate), who fumbles the ball. Broncos recover at the Arizona 21. Oops.
3:35 left in second quarter
That great pass was about the last good thing to happen on that drive. Lindley throws incomplete on third down (probably a good thing, would have gotten his receiver killed), and the Cards punt. Broncos take over deep in their own territory.
4:55 left in second quarter
Lindley hits LaRon Byrd on a beautiful pass down the seam. The QB let the ball fly before the WR was even looking, trusting his guy to make the play. He did. Very nice.
6:19 left in second quarter
Cardinals back at it on offense after forcing another punt. Lindley still under center, Powell still behind him.
10:04 left in second quarter
Lindley couldn't build off the drive.
William Powell, trying to make his case for a spot on the roster, has had trouble finding room to run. Couple that with some shaky pass protection (Lindley got absolutely crushed on one play) and you have a recipe for a stalled drive. Cards punt, Broncos take over
12:01 left in second quarter
Defense looks good again, sacking non-Manning/Osweiler on third down. Cardinals take over on their own 35 after the punt, let's see if Lindley can build off of that last drive.
14:14 left in second quarter
We have a touchdown!
Lindley avoids the rush, moves in the pocket and delivers a...ummm...good enough pass to Michael Floyd for the 22-yard TD. Rookie-to-rookie connection, Floyd makes the jugging catch between defenders. Nice.
End of first quarter
Lindley completing passes, Wells running strong...Arizona Cardinals, this is your offense!
OK, maybe not (yet), but it is nice to see a Cards QB get enough protection to be able to stand in the pocket and deliver the football. You think Seattle will leave its first stringers on the bench in Week 1?
1:57 left in first quarter
Cardinals pick up a first down but then Lindley is picked off going deep to Michael Floyd. Pass wasn't deep enough, so...
Good news! Lindley was roughed up on the play, meaning the Cards keep the ball and pick up 15 yards. Who knew having your QB get hit late could be a good thing?
4:11 left in first quarter
Cards defense comes up strong and forces the punt. Lindley and co. out for round two.
5:49 left in first quarter
Lindley completes pass to Jeff King, who is stopped short of the first down. Jay Feely can't connect from 40 yards out, and the Broncos get the ball back.
I feel like people would be more upset with that missed FG if the game actually meant something. Moving on...
6:34 left in first quarter
Ryan Lindley has the Cards driving, but they face a 3rd and 12 from the Denver 32. The rookie has been accurate throwing mostly short passes but hey, yards are yards.
Beanie Wells is also running strong so far, a good sign given that he's still working his way back from offseason knee surgery.
12:15 left in first quarter
Cardinals give up some yards but end up forcing the punt. Cardinals at their own 20, let the Ryan Lindley era begin!
14:47 left in first quarter
Not-Peyton Manning and not-Brock Osweiler gets the start for Denver. That's thrilling.
15:00 left in first quarter
The Broncos won the coin toss and will receive. Ladies and gentlemen, we're inching closer to real football.
9:00 to kickoff
Alright folks, it's time for another season out of me. Here at University of Phoenix Stadium for the first time since last season (unless you count Fan Fest), and excited for some football.
OK, maybe not. Being that this is the fifth preseason game and neither Kevin Kolb nor John Skelton are expected to play tonight, tonight may have little intrigue.
That said, there are still guys fighting for roster spots and it will be interesting to see how they fare.
Very light crowd so far, I figure everyone else is in Tempe to watch the Sun Devils take on the Lumberjacks.
Anyway the Cards are set up to run out of the tunnel and through the inflatable Cardinal thingy, so it's about time to get this thing started.
If the Arizona Cardinals learned one thing from their preseason game Thursday in Tennessee it's that their QB competition is far from finished.
If the Arizona Cardinals learned a second thing from their preseason game Thursday in Tennessee it's that while Kevin Kolb may have had his best effort of 2012 (which in itself isn't saying much), it's that the former Eagle is a poor fit for the offense Ken Whisenhunt wants to run.
Kevin Kolb completed 17-of-22 passes for 156 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions against the Titans. His best throw was a 53-yard bomb to Larry Fitzgerald, and his worst is a tie between two horrid interceptions.
For the sake of this argument we'll take all three passes out of the equation.
In that case, Kevin Kolb completed 14-of-19 passes for 103 yards and one touchdown. A completion percentage of 74-percent while averaging 5.4 yards per pass attempt.
Not bad, if you're Matt Leinart.
All of Kolb's strengths -- and all of Kolb's weaknesses -- were on display Thursday night at LP Field. The quarterback is accurate coming off short drops when throwing to his first read and mobile enough to move out of the pocket and buy time.
Unfortunately, he gets antsy in the pocket (who could blame him behind this O-line), doesn't go through his progressions and isn't built to take a beating.
In short, Kolb is perfectly suited for the West Coast Offense he used to run in Philadelphia, which is something he's even admitted is still tough to get out of his system.
"It's just the way they create the pocket, there versus here," Kolb told ESPN NFC West blogger Mike Sando. "They teach us to really push up in the pocket in Philly. Two, three hitches up in the pocket when you get up there. You can see that. If you watch Mike [Vick], he has got two really big hitches into his throws. If it's not there, it's go or throw, you know what I mean?
"Here, when you get to that 8-yard range [on a drop-back], they want you to hang in that vicinity and just stay there. It is just a different deal. A lot of it is rhythm. As a quarterback, you always want to be on rhythm."
The problem is that's just not how things work in Arizona, and it's tough to imagine Whisenhunt completely revamping an offense that was good enough to reach the Super Bowl.
Kurt Warner made the offense hum because he could read a defense, find the open man, and stay in the pocket long enough to make an accurate throw. That's simply not Kolb's game, and that should have been known long before the team gave up Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a second-round pick and a big contract for the guy.
But not everyone was sold on Kolb --- for various reasons --- and it appears Andy Reid has once again pulled a fast one on another team.
Well played, Mr. Reid.
It's tough to completely blame the Cardinals for this mistake. The Cardinals needed a QB in the worst way last season, and yes, many out there felt Kolb was the best available option.
But at this point it's safe to say the guy is a square peg trying to fit into the round hole that is the Cardinals' offense, and barring a miracle will not suddenly learn how to be the QB this team wants. So whether this was a scouting miss, a coaching failure or a player issue, the fact remains that this just isn't going to work.
This is not to say Kolb cannot be an effective QB. After all, he has moved the ball at times and does have talent.
So the Cardinals will likely start Kolb in the season opener against the Seahawks, with the idea that the team needs to see what it has in Kolb before deciding to part ways with him. That's not entirely accurate.
Though Kolb has played in fewer than a season's worth of games for the Cardinals, there's no sense in denying what he is:
The wrong QB at the wrong time for the wrong team.
Under most other circumstances the idea of the 24-year-old QB with the size, mobility and arm to succeed would be a good thing.
After all, what team doesn't want to see a young signal caller take the reins and lead?
The Arizona Cardinals. At least, they didn't.
We all know the hope was for Kevin Kolb to win the job. He was last summer's high-priced acquisition and it was thought that an entire offseason with the team would lead to him taking the next step in his career.
Unfortunately that step has been backwards, and it's tough to find anyone right now who genuinely believes the former Eagle has what it takes to lead a team.
That may not matter.
John Skelton earning the starting QB job could prove to be a turning point for the franchise. He's by no means a finished product, but he boasts the necessary physical tools and mental makeup to succeed in the NFL.
Until he does, though, there will be questions. And if he doesn't play well the Cardinals may very well turn to next April's draft in hopes of finding their next quarterback. And if that happens, the question shifts from wondering if the team should take a QB in the first round to asking if Ken Whisenhunt and Co. should be allowed to make the selection.
Let's be clear here: Ken Whisenhunt is an excellent football coach.
He's only had one sub-.500 season with Arizona, won four playoff games and took the team to that Super Bowl thing back in the day.
But one can only live off that for so long, especially in a cutthroat business like the NFL.
The 2012 campaign turning into a lost season because of continuing uncertainty at the most important position on the field would be a sign that Whisenhunt, for all of his ability, just can't find a QB. And given his background as an offensive coach, that very idea is puzzling.
All one has to do to understand is look at the list of QBs who have started a game for the Cardinals under Whiz's leadership:
Matt Leinart, Kurt Warner, Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb.
Six quarterbacks in six seasons, with five of them lining up under center over the last two years.
In comparison Dennis Green, who preceded Whisenhunt on Arizona's sideline, started five quarterbacks in three years on the job.
Green's inability to find a QB (though he thought he had one in Leinart) proved to be an issue, and it may very well be his successor's downfall, too.
Maybe it won't come to that. Hopefully it won't come to that.
In a perfect world Skelton -- or even Kolb -- will perform well enough to render this entire column moot. One of them will find a way to perform well behind this sieve of an offensive line and use the various weapons the team has at the skill positions.
If it's Kolb, great, as the Cards would have made the smart move in acquiring him. If it's Skelton that's cool too, as there would be no harm, no foul with the big whiff on Kolb. After all, the only thing that matters is the Cardinals finding a QB, the name on the back of the jersey be damned.
In the event that does not happen it would be tough -- if not foolish -- to go into next season with the same group of QBs. The team would have to add someone else, and you'd almost have to do it via the draft.
One of the reasons many feel Leinart and Whiz didn't mesh was because the Heisman Trophy winner was drafted by a different coach. Dennis Green called Leinart a "Gift from from heaven;" Whisenhunt clearly did not feel the same way.
Leinart being on the team was essentially a waste of time, coaching and a roster spot, as he wasn't a "Whiz guy" and never really stood a chance with the coach.
The Cards could not risk the same thing happening with their next QB.
If, you know, they actually have to draft one next year.
Whether you are really going "too fast" or not, you can fall victim to one at pretty much any time.
I annoyingly learned this the hard way over weekend coming back from California. The highway patrolman said I was going too fast and decided to give me a ticket.
Interestingly enough, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt deserves a ticket -- or at least, a warning -- for going too slow in naming a starting quarterback.
After all, he has one.
Let's pretend for a moment Kevin Kolb did not enter training camp as the starter. It was not "his job to lose" nor did he have an advantage over John Skelton. Put both QBs on equal footing and let them battle, with the best man winning the job.
Three games in Kolb has completed 5-of-15 passes for 47 yards with one interception.
Three games in Skelton has completed 10-of-15 passes for 90 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
They've each been pressured by defenses, yet Skelton is able to handle it and still make plays. Kolb, on the other hand, is not.
The former Eagle's struggles are so pronounced now that opponents are calling him out, saying he's "scared back there."
Not surprisingly, Kolb disagreed with the assessment.
Kolb was sacked three times by the Raiders; he's clearly not afraid to take a hit. He is, however, afraid to take chances in the name of making plays.
Yes, the offensive line deserves some blame, which is something Coach Whiz noted after the game Friday.
"Some of it, I will say, a couple of times Kevin's gotta get the ball out, but to be perfectly honest with you our protection has broken down a couple of times," he said.
It's broken down more than a couple of times because it's a bad offensive line. There's simply no getting around that fact (unless the line is trying to stop you, in which case it shouldn't be too difficult).
We've seen this exact same script play out before so we know how the movie ends.
Two years ago a Tennessee Titan was quoted as saying, "I got a buffalo nickel that says he checksdown" in reference to then-Cards QB Matt Leinart.
Leinart had gained a reputation for being unwilling to throw the ball downfield and reluctant to stand in the pocket behind a shaky line and take a hit, even if it meant trying to deliver the ball down the field. He would dump the ball off to a tight end or running back as soon as he could, completing the pass but gaining little yardage.
That -- among other things -- led Whisenhunt to demote Leinart during the preseason and releasing him a week before the regular season opener in a move that ended weeks of speculation.
Back then the coach may have waited to officially make the move because if it wasn't Leinart it was going to be Derek Anderson or Max Hall, neither of which were options worth getting excited about.
Now, though, he can turn to Skelton, a QB who not only shows promise, but an ability to make plays even when things are crumbling around him. He did it as an inexperienced rookie, he did it last season after Kolb went down with an injury, and he's doing it now in the preseason while trying to win a job he was never supposed to even contend for.
Coach Whisenhunt may not have expected a real competition and, to be honest, probably didn't want one. In a perfect world Kolb would have played well and earned the job, validating the organization's faith in him and setting the team up for what should be an exciting season.
But as they say, "the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry," and this one is no exception.
The Cardinals did get a competition, and it has determined a winner.
So it begs the question: why is Coach Whisenhunt slow to acknowledge it?
The last time Arizona Cardinals fans saw Kevin Kolb at University of Phoenix Stadium a good many felt it fit to boo his performance.
The team's presumed starter at Fan Fest, his struggles caused an uneasy fan base to let their displeasure be known.
Imagine if he struggles Friday against the Oakland Raiders in front of a sold-out-but-likely-not-all-there crowd not as the presumed starter, but a guy seemingly heading for a job as a high-priced backup.
As chances go, this may very well be Kolb's last. While a poor performance would not necessarily mean his days as a Cardinal are over (though stranger things have happened), it would likely be the final straw for a fan base that, for all the flack they receive, would be more than happy to see Kolb succeed.
There are no "Kolb Haters"; there are only people who want to see the Cardinals find a legitimate QB. It does not matter whether that guy is the former Eagle QB, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley or someone not yet on the roster. Just find a QB, and find him soon.
And in what could be a cruel twist of irony, the very reason the Cardinals are still struggling to find a quarterback in the post-Warner era will take the field for the Silver and Black Friday, as Matt Leinart will be in town for the first time since being unceremoniously dumped by the team that drafted him.
Had Leinart played better (or kept his mouth shut, or somehow impressed Whisenhunt) perhaps the Cardinals' search for a QB would have ended with the former Heisman Trophy winner.
Can you imagine the reaction if Kolb struggles while Leinart flourishes?
Double ruh roh.
Chances are good the home fans would not be kind to the 27-year-old, and whatever they said to him back in June will pale in comparison to what would occur here in August.
Is it right? Not really. Kolb's failures up to this point are not due to a lack of effort or desire. Contrary to what some fans may think, he is not content with struggling and does want to become a good NFL quarterback.
Sometimes, though, it just doesn't work out. Could that be the case here? Yes, and it probably is.
But blame for that should lie at the feet of the people who overpaid to bring Kolb in, not the player himself. Of course their saving grace may be an improved Skelton, who could have a big game and cement his status as the starter. And maybe the defense will actually put up some resistance and allow people to stop worrying about whether or not the second half of last season was a mirage.
But the reality is that's neither here nor there, as Kolb's performance will be what's scrutinized; Kolb's performance is what this game will be remembered for.
Maybe this will all be moot. Kolb may play well Friday, regaining faith from the fan base while getting back in the QB race.
Now wouldn't that be a sight for the sore eyes of Cardinals fans everywhere who just want to see someone -- anyone -- play well enough to make them believe the QB position won't be a mess for the third year in a row.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Tuesday that John Skelton is the favorite to win the Cardinals QB job.
This is the same Adam Schefter who first brought up the idea that the Cardinals may part with Matt Leinart in September 2010, so it's safe to say he may have a pretty good idea of what's going on in Arizona.
Skelton, of course, has outplayed Kolb in the preseason, if only by a small margin. He's shown improved accuracy, a good feel for the pocket and an ability to take a hit, get up and go again.
Kevin Kolb has done none of these things.
However, if Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt does indeed decide to go with Skelton September 9 when the season opens against the Seahawks, he will essentially be ending Kevin Kolb's career as an Arizona Cardinal.
At least, he should be.
Two years ago the Cardinals were in a similar situation, as Coach Whiz decided Matt Leinart was not the guy to lead the team into the future. The decision to go with Derek Anderson was bad, but the fact was once it was made there was no going back to Leinart.
The job was supposed to be his, and the second he lost grasp of it there was no way to even fake confidence in him going forward. Should Anderson struggle or get hurt the coach and team would have to profess faith that the former Heisman Trophy winner could do the very job no one thought he could do just months before.
It wouldn't work, which is why the coach decided it would be best to just sever ties with the QB rather than keep him on the roster as the backup.
The same would have to be done for Kolb, right?
As I wrote in my column Monday, going with Kolb first leaves the option of turning the keys over to Skelton should the need arise.
It would be easy to justify the move should Kolb struggle or get injured, and there would be no harm, no foul. However, go with Skelton and there is no backup plan that can involve Kolb.
It was his job to lose, and he would have lost it.
And if history is any indication, the starting QB role isn't the only job he's about to lose.
Quarterback battles are not won in the preseason; they're lost.
In 2008, by most accounts, Kurt Warner was outplaying Matt Leinart in training camp. The veteran was more accurate, more poised, and showing the skill that made him a Super Bowl champion and league MVP in St. Louis.
But it wasn't enough for him to take the starting job from the former Heisman Trophy winner, the guy who was drafted to be the team's QB of the future.
The competition between the two went into the preseason and through two games Warner, who would eventually lead the Cardinals to the Super Bowl, had not really separated himself from Leinart, who would eventually make a career out of holding a clipboard.
Leinart: 14 of 19 for 153 yards and 1 TD
Warner: 8 of 13 for 94 yards
In fact, one could argue that while Warner was having the better camp, Leinart had outplayed the veteran in the two preseason games. But that wasn't enough to secure the job.
Then came the all-important third preseason game in Oakland against the Raiders. The younger signal caller essentially wet the bed and completed just 4-of-12 passes for 24 yards and three interceptions.
He did just that and the rest, as they say, is history.
As fate would have it, the Cardinals' opponent Friday night in the all-important third preseason game is that very same Raiders team. And, just like four years ago, the Arizona Cardinals starting QB job may very well be lost against the Silver and Black.
While no one can honestly say John Skelton has outplayed Kevin Kolb over the last few weeks, it's no secret the former Eagle has struggled. He's completed just 2-of-9 passes for 25 yards with one interception, struggling to overcome poor offensive line plays as well as his own penchant for getting injured.
Skelton, on the other hand, has completed 7-of-12 passes for 67 yards with one interception. He's shown improved accuracy over last season and an ability to stand tall in the pocket and avoid the pass rush.
Is Skelton the answer? One cannot say that with any certainty, but he at least appears to be less of a question mark than the man he's competing with.
Which is why Friday's game is so crucial.
Kolb will most certainly get the start at University of Phoenix Stadium with a chance to not only make up whatever ground he's lost to Skelton, but prove once and for all that he is the guy who should be leading this team.
Fail to do so and the fans will turn on the QB in a way that will make him miss being in Philadelphia.
Coach Whiz has been reluctant to choose Skelton over Kolb because, quite frankly, there's no going back once that decision is made.
Go with Kolb and should he falter or get injured you can feel fairly confident turning to Skelton. Go with Skelton and should he falter or get injured you have only a player no one has any confidence in to give the ball to.
That player, of course, is the one who was supposed to win the job.
No doubt that is playing and will play a role in the coach's decision now, just as it did four years ago.
Back then Leinart made the decision for Whisenhunt, losing a job that was his to win.
You know what was weird about seeing Kevin Kolb lying on the field last Sunday in pain, injured?
Not the fact that the QB was hurt, as that happens far too often.
But the reaction from the media and Cardinals fans alike to Kolb exiting the game was more indifferent than upset, more understanding than scared.
The team's starting quarterback was injured in the team's first preseason game and yet there were no tweets about how the season was over and no commentary about how a Cardinals team without Kolb under center is one that can prepare for another top-10 draft pick next April.
The truth is the only thing Kolb going down led to were groans and thoughts of "here we go again".
That's what happens when you have yet to win anyone's confidence.
Kolb has been unable to stay on the field long enough to prove what kind of quarterback he is, and his track record is a mixed bag of competence, excellence and downright awful QB play.
Is the 27-year-old the QB who threw for 247 yards and one touchdown in a win over the Cowboys last year, or is he the guy who completed just half of his passes and was picked off twice in Minnesota against the Vikings?
Maybe Kolb is something in between, a decent quarterback who could be effective if there are quality pieces around him, especially along the offensive line.
But even though Kolb was the recipient of some tough hits -- including the one by Sedrick Ellis that knocked him out of the game -- the simple truth is this is a quarterback who needs to prove not that he's tough (seriously, can you make it to the NFL and not be tough?), but that his body can withstand the punishment of playing in the NFL.
Even QBs playing behind great offensive lines get hit. Should he win the starting job, Kevin Kolb will not be playing behind a great offensive line.
Just because a QB gets hit -- hard -- does not mean he should get hurt. While injuries do happen, the majority of contact does not lead to players exiting the game and missing time.
As it goes, no matter how good a player might be he is of little use to a team if he can't be on the field. Unfortunately for Kolb he's not a Peyton Manning, as he has no history of success to fall back on.
Sure there have been moments, but they have been fleeting.
Fortunately for Kolb his poor performance in Canton, along with his injury history, will not cost him the starting job. It was his job to lose in training camp, and it's still far too early in the process to assume John Skelton will be under center for the September 9 season opener.
But time is running out for Kolb to prove he should get the job. Sooner or later he'll run out of opportunities. Friday's game in Kansas City is another chance for the former Eagle to step up and claim the job he was handed one year ago.
It was thought last season that Kolb's lack of familiarity with the Cardinals had an adverse effect on his performance, and the various injuries he suffered prevented him from showing what he could do.
The truth is we don't really know what kind of QB he is; he hasn't played enough games to determine if he's destined for stardom or the clipboard.
Now familiar with the offense, it's up to Kolb to not only play well, but play.
The word "discipline" was rarely used during Dennis
Erickson's five years at the helm of Arizona State
That is, of course, if you don't count the many fans and
media members who said the Sun Devils' lack of it was
Nowadays, though, you cannot go anywhere near the team
without being told about how new coach Todd Graham has
brought the much-needed attribute to the program, ensuring
that the very things that cost the team its season last
year will not show up again anytime soon.
"I think it was just not being disciplined," junior
defensive end Junior Onyeali said of what caused the team
to lose its final five games of the 2011 season. "And then
when things went bad not pulling ourselves out of it.
"We just stayed stuck in the bad. We lost to teams that we
really should have beat like -- let's just say we lost to
teams that we should have beat."
Much of the excitement surrounding Graham has to do with
the fact that he's not Dennis Erickson. He does not come
to town with a reputation for letting the players run the
program, and he does not arrive with the type of baggage
that would make you question how he runs his program.
How he may leave a program is a different story, but even
that discussion has faded to be background because at the
end of the day no one cares about what you did in the
past, only that you win games now.
But with uncertainty at quarterback while trying to
integrate players into new offensive and defensive
schemes, that may not happen much in 2012. It would be
understandable to some and disappointing to many.
And while players talk about their appreciation for
Graham's approach right now, losing wears on even the most
ardent of supporters. Remember, everyone liked how
Erickson ran things when he was leading ASU to 10 wins and
the Holiday Bowl in 2007, with questions only beginning to
surface as the losses began to mount.
As Graham is still undefeated, everything he does is
looked at favorably.
"That's the thing that Coach Graham is trying to get into
us since the first day we came in here," senior receiver
Jamal Miles said. "He's just trying to get everybody
disciplined because the Sun Devils are known as an
undisciplined team from past experience."
Graham's style is one that likely came as a shock to some
players, especially those who were cozy under the Erickson
regime. Gone are some of the freedoms that were afforded
to the players. Gone is the lack of accountability.
In their place are rules, some of which are accepted now
because of where the program has been, but likely won't be
if things don't turn around.
"One of the first things he did coming in here is he wants
to ask us to take our earrings off when we walk into
the building, he also asks us to take our hats off in the
building and no headphones in the building," sophomore QB
Mike Bercovici said. "When he first came in here he asked
us to do it now he's telling us to do it because the way
we walk, talk and present ourselves, not only in here, but
outside the stadium is a representation of our football
None of the changes Graham has instituted have resulted in
a mass defection from Arizona State, and nothing he is
asking his team to do is really that unreasonable.
Carry yourselves as professionals; act like adults.
After losing 28 games over the last four seasons, any
change will be welcomed, and that the players are buying
what Graham is selling is as good as it is not surprising.
"He's bringing out the best in each one of us; he's a
really good coach," junior safety Alden Darby said. "He
knows what he's doing. He's a smart coach. What he brings
to the table is by far what we need."
Right now what the Sun Devils need and what the Sun Devils
want are synonymous.
Most people believe that however the Arizona Cardinals'
QBs go this year, so will the team.
The idea makes sense, but it's wrong.
While the QB position is indeed the most important
position in sports, the Arizona Cardinals will be
successful in 2012 for one very simple reason.
Or, rather, 11 or so simple reasons at a time.
Through just more than a week of camp so far the Cards'
defense has a decided advantage over the offense. Everyone
from defensive end Calais Campbell to head coach Ken
Whisenhunt have said that can be expected early on.
"It's been that case, been that way a lot of times because
defense is more reactionary where offense is more learning
what you have to do and being in the right spots,"
Whisenhunt said Thursday. "But it all ends up balancing
itself out, hopefully."
Arizona's defense, which finished 18th in the NFL for
total yards allowed, 17th in passing yards allowed and
21st in rushing yards -- while giving up 21.8 points per
game -- is going to be good. Damn good.
Ray Horton's group has dominated training camp not because
the offense is terrible (though that could very well be a
possibility), but because it is easily the most talented
group on the team.
Think about it: the defense boasts two players who have
made the Pro Bowl in Adrian Wilson and Darnell Dockett as
well as three more who will make it at some point in the
near future in Calais Campbell, Daryl Washington and
Patrick Peterson. Add emerging players Sam Acho, Dan
Williams and O'Brien Schofield as well as solid starters
in Paris Lenon, William Gay and Kerry Rhodes, and you have
a defense with far more depth than holes.
This isn't to say the Cardinals will have a top-10 defense
this year. Wait, yes it is.
Talent has not been an issue on the defensive side of the
ball for a while, and in Horton the team finally has a
coach who can get the most out of his players. We saw the
defense evolve from a confused group to a confident one
over the final nine games of the 2011 season -- seven of
which the Cardinals won -- by giving up an average of 18.3
points per game.
They had allowed an average of 26.14 points per contest
over the previous seven.
Improve much? Yes.
Room to improve even further? Absolutely.
For all the good the defense did in 2011, it created fewer
turnovers than just five other NFL teams.
That will have to change if the Cardinals are to go from
being a solid defense to an elite one. If it does, the
Cardinals will not only make the playoffs, but be a threat
to go deep into them.
The good news is it will change as the team's pass
rush improves (see Acho and Schoefield), leaving the
deep secondary (hello, Patrick Peterson) to
create more turnovers.
While Peterson would like to pick off more than the two
passes he did as a rookie, that's not exactly his goal.
"I want to get to the point where teams don't even want to
throw my way," he said.
While offense makes the highlight shows, the cliché
"defense wins championships" is around for a reason. After
people didn't have old-school beliefs that sound smart but
accurate to hang onto, what would they have?
Three of the last six Super Bowl winners did so with elite
offenses, but the Packers, Saints and Colts would not have
the Lombardi Trophy had their defenses not improved to the
where they could actually stop somebody. The Giants -- who
twice -- earned their rings via excellent defense, and the
Steelers, well, we're not going to talk about them.
A football team can win a lot of games with a good
defense or offense, but will not win a title unless the
of the ball is at least decent.
As of right now the Cardinals are halfway to where they
need to be.
For the 17 or so people who are avid readers of my column,
you'll know I was not a fan of the Cardinals acquiring
Kevin Kolb last summer.
Kolb had never proven himself to be anything more than a
backup, and I felt the team was set to give up way too
much in terms of assets and money for a player whose
numbers and history did not exactly scream "long-term
I was right.
But as Kolb enters his second training camp with the
-- and first after an entire offseason of work with the
team -- I'm reminded of a line from the movie A Few Good
Men, where Col. Jessep (played by Jack Nicholson) is
being interrogated, and just before he's about to fall
apart and incriminate himself, says:
"You want me on that wall; you need me on that wall."
Cardinals fans may not need Kolb under center, but they do
want him there.
When the Cardinals traded Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and
a second round pick for the right to sign Kolb to a five-year,
million contract, they telling all of us that
their coaching staff, scouts and management team all
thought the then-26-year-old was a franchise signal
caller, and was the right guy to lead the team
A whiff on Kolb would not leave the Cardinals in as
bad shape as they were in two years ago, when Derek
Anderson was named the starter and Matt Leinart was shown
the door, because at least now the team has a better
backup than Max Hall. However, even though John Skelton is
a viable alternative who could prove to be a good NFL QB,
Kolb losing the starting job after just one season would
bad look for the entire organization.
Sure, season one did not go according to plan, though many
blame a lack of comfort for the QB's problems. That likely
contributed to his issues -- as did struggles with injury
-- and now, healthy and with a complete offseason under
his belt, Kolb's chance to make a stand is right here,
Everyone knows it.
Which is why, of course, most feel the competition between
the two quarterbacks is a little slanted; it has to be. As
much as Coach Whisenhunt would like to say it's an open
competition, the truth is things would be much easier for
everyone if Kolb emerges as the clear-cut choice over the
next few weeks.
Something similar could have been said in 2008, when you
believe everyone was hoping the younger Matt Leinart would
outplay the veteran Kurt Warner, thereby giving the
Cardinals their QB of the present and future. He didn't,
the team went to the Super Bowl behind Warner, and now is
back in the same situation, minus the seemingly über-qualified
That fact isn't lost on the players.
"The dynamics were totally different," Pro Bowl receiver
Larry Fitzgerald said. "Matt was the Heisman Trophy
winner, high draft pick, coming in with all the hoopla,
and Kurt was your Super Bowl MVP, two-time league MVP, did
he still have enough in the tank to get it done?
"This one is kind of different because both the guys,
they're not household names, so to speak."
Clearly this wasn't the plan, as Kolb was supposed to
himself as a capable starter last season and head into
unquestioned leader of a playoff team this summer, not
a battle with a former fifth-round pick out of Fordham.
But that's exactly the situation Kolb finds himself in,
and while there are undoubtedly Skelton supporters among
the fanbase and in the
locker room, the truth is we should all be rooting for
Kolb to win the job.
The Phoenix Suns introduced the newest member of their
team Thursday, and it just so happens that the new guy is
an old guy.
So to speak.
"Many of us, I think, that had Goran not left he would
have never had the opportunity to spread his wings and
grow in the way he has," Suns President of Basketball
Operations Lon Babby said at a press conference Thursday
to re-introduce the point guard to the Phoenix media.
Well, Lon, he technically didn't leave, you traded
him (and a first round pick for 25 games of Aaron Brooks).
That said, there may be some truth to the idea that
Dragic would not be the player he is today -- the player
need -- had it not been for the original mistake
less than two years ago.
After all, the Dragic the Suns traded away was averaging a
disappointing 7.4 points and 3.1 assists per game, and the
one they brought back was scoring 18 points and sighing
out 8.4 assists per night as a starter in Houston.
However, just as the move to get rid of him was met with
questions, so is the decision to bring him back.
Can Dragic, a 26-year-old who has never led a team to the
postseason, be the team's answer at the point guard
position? Is Dragic, a lefty who has shown flashes but
never consistency, ready to take over for one of the
greatest point guards the game has ever seen on a team
that could very well struggle on a nightly basis?
The verdict on Dragic's second stint in the Valley will
not be handed down for at least a couple years; the
important thing is the Suns were willing to admit their
"There's an old expression that you have to be big enough
to admit your mistakes, strong enough to profit from them
and strong enough to correct them," Babby said. "Bringing
Goran back here, if that's what we're doing, I'm proud of
Indeed, the important thing is the Suns, for all the
negative press they've received over the last couple
years, took a big step in the right direction by taking
their mistake head-on and signing the Slovenian to a four-
$34 million contract.
The Suns were not too proud to do what was right, and as
much as they deserved to be panned for the original trade,
they should be praised for this move.
Because sure, Dragic returns with some question marks, but
he also brings potential to be the team's long-term answer
at a position where they've rarely had a question.
And he'll do that, provided no one expects him to be the
man he's replacing. That shouldn't be an issue, as Dragic
himself has no illusions of who he is or what he can do.
"I don't want to be like Steve Nash; he's one of the
greatest point guards in the league," Dragic said. "I'm a
different player; I play different basketball than him."
Sports fans have a problem, and nowhere has it been more
evident than right here in Arizona.
We don't like our best and most talented athletes.
Going back as long as I can remember, we've always had a
great appreciation for the less-talented, hard-working
It's why guys like Brian Henesey, Elliot Perry, Andy Fox,
Andy Stankiewicz, Craig Counsell and Louis Amundson, Ryan
Roberts and Max Hall gain a cult-like following.
We root for the underdog, the player who, despite his
physical limitations, tries as hard as he can and gets
what we think is the most out of his meager abilities.
And, conversely, it's why players like Amare Stoudemire,
Matt Leinart, Justin Upton and Trevor Bauer struggle for
support, have fans constantly questioning their effort
and, generally, waiting for the day the team can "rid"
itself of its biggest problem.
Except, you know, talented players are rarely a team's
We have a nasty habit of focusing on what a player can't
do, all the while failing to understand how much he
actually can do.
Ever wonder why our teams don't win?
If sports prove anything, it's that greatness generally
comes out on top. You need stars -- faults and all -- to
have a legitimate chance to win. While a group of
underdogs winning makes for a good story, the truth is
that only happens in the movies and my indoor soccer
Talent is a requirement, and it almost seems as if
Arizona, due to a lack of bona-fide stars, does not know
it when it sees it.
Sure, Stoudemire's defense was lacking and he wasn't a
great rebounder, but wow could that guy score points. And
yes, Upton has had a down year and made some questionable
comments about fans, but rarely do you find the blend of
skills he has in one player. While he hasn't been nearly
as successful at any point in his pro career as those two,
did Leinart really get a chance with Cardinals fans? Or,
maybe, were people ready to run the "golden boy" out of
town the second they saw photos of him in that hot tub
with a few ladies?
Oh the horror, young guys doing what young guys do, be it
on the field with some struggles or off it with learning
how to deal with their social status.
And now it's happening with Bauer, who has been sent back
to Triple-A just four bad starts into his career. Hell,
just three innings into his major league career people
were giving up on him, and ever since there's almost been
this anticipation of his impending failure.
It's almost as if people wanted him to stumble, possibly
because they didn't like his routine or feel like he's too
arrogant and needs to be humbled.
In sports the difference between arrogance and confidence
is success. It's that simple.
Fans have an idea of what their athletes should be like,
and if one doesn't fit into that mold -- be it style of
play, personality or something else -- they will not be
Sports fans don't like rooting for the player who tells us
he's going to be great, and then actually goes out and is
just that, nor are we fond of the player who fails to meet
what may very well be unrealistic expectations. They are
supposed to be great, after all, so why celebrate them for
doing what was expected? And, if they're not? That's
Good isn't great, and great isn't enough.
And until that changes our teams will struggle to be good,
and rarely be great.
Kevin Towers is about to enter dangerous territory.
The Diamondbacks GM, known to be one of baseball's biggest
wheelers and dealers, appears to be on the verge of
trading Justin Upton.
The rumors have been swirling for more than a week now,
and more and more does each report seem to contain a note
about how Upton doesn't listen to his coaches or how team
executives are "not convinced Upton is a
Those kind of rumors leak when a team is looking to unload
popular player in hopes that the fans will turn against
the guy, making a questionable trade seem like a no-
It seems to be working, as the fans have already begun to
turn against Upton.
You know, the guy who the D-backs selected first overall
in the 2005 MLB Draft, promoted to the big leagues in the
middle of a pennant race at the ripe old age of 19, went
to his first All-Star game at 20 and had a section of the
right field stands named after him, all before the 2011
season, where he finished fourth in the NL MVP voting.
To say the Diamondbacks were counting on Upton to be a
star would be an understatement, just as saying he's had
his share of struggles this season would be.
Upton, for all intents and purposes, has underachieved as
a professional. And yet, should Towers and the D-backs
decide to move him, they'll undoubtedly get some talent in
But the risk, as Towers himself noted on Arizona Sports
620's Doug and Wolf Wednesday, is that the 24-year-old
finally gets it and becomes the player everyone expected
him to be.
"I think anytime you're talking about players like Justin
Upton there's always that chance that if you end up moving
him it could backfire on you, but you have to have
confidence in yourself, in your evaluators."
Of course, because no team would ever make a deal under
the assumption that it would turn out to be a bad move,
and teams don't usually aim to hand over future hall of
But it has happened -- it does happen -- and Towers may
very well decide to take that risk over the next few
And if he does, the move will define his entire tenure as
the general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, because
this is a trade most feel he does not have to make.
Sure, Upton's batting average is nothing special, his
power numbers are lacking and his effort wanes at times.
His game is not where many thought it would be at this
point in his career, and his struggles seem to epitomize
all that is wrong with the 2012 Arizona Diamondbacks.
There's a chance Upton will not get better, and in that
case a move should be made to unload the guy while he
still holds great value.
Yet, for all his faults, he is still one of the
more feared hitters in baseball, is still capable
of getting hot and carrying the team, and is still
someone many believe one can build a team around.
And he's under contract at a reasonable price, too.
Towers has maintained that while he is not afraid to make
a trade, he will only pull the trigger if it makes the
team better in 2012 and for the future. The issue with
trading someone like Upton, though, is he could help in
2012 and in the future.
Is Towers willing to risk letting him do that for a
That's what he has to determine over the next few weeks.
This isn't Kelly Johnson for Aaron Hill and John McDonald,
which was a clear win, or Jarrod Parker and Ryan Cook for
Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow, which looks like a loss.
This is trading a guy who the Arizona Diamondbacks were,
once upon a time, going to be built around before he
reaches what should be his prime.
The up-and-coming shooting guard wanted to leave, but had
little say in the matter.
Whether because of a perceived slight by his current team,
the idea of becoming "the man" somewhere else, or simply a
desire to skip town, the plan was to sign an offer sheet
"It's a lot of things," the guard said. "How things were
handled last summer, how things have been handled this
summer. There's been some things going on that aren't
Of course, there was that pesky matter of the guy being a
restricted free agent, giving his current team (the
one he's trying to escape from) the right to match any
contract he signs with another team.
And if they did exactly that?
"I would come back and work as hard as I ever have," he
said. "If they match, all this stuff is behind me from
that minute on. I hope everybody puts everything behind
Back then, in the summer of 2005, the Phoenix Suns decided
not to match the contract Joe Johnson
agreed to with the Hawks, instead working out a sign-and-trade that
netted them Boris Diaw and a couple first round picks.
Fast forward to now and the Suns are once again involved
in the pursuit of a restricted free agent, only this time
they are on the other side.
And, like the Suns back in 2005, everything we've heard
out of New Orleans is that the team does intend to match
the contract Phoenix offered Eric Gordon, yet hope remains
something can be worked out that would bring the 23-year-old to
the Valley of the Sun.
Because, after all, if the Suns were willing to let a
budding star leave because he said he didn't want to be
there, maybe the Hornets will do the same?
Not likely, and the Suns themselves may serve as the
cautionary tale that keeps Gordon out of Phoenix.
Of all the mistakes Robert Sarver has made during his
tenure in charge of the Suns, the Johnson one may have
been the most costly.
Yes, he was fourth in the pecking order behind Steve
Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, and there's no
doubt signing Johnson to the deal he got from Atlanta
(five years for roughly $70 million) would have been a
strain on the team's finances, but it would have been
worth it. Especially, you know, since Stoudemire played in
a whole three games the following season and the team
could have used a go-to scorer.
On the cusp of a championship, the Suns let one of their
key players leave. Today's Hornets are nothing like those
Suns, as they are coming off a 21-win season and looking
to build, not maintain. Gordon is not looking to leave a
good thing -- he's hoping to find one.
Unfortunately, he has virtually zero leverage in the
Gordon has said all the right things (if you're a Suns
fan), talking about how his heart is in Phoenix and how
there are multiple reasons for his desire to leave the Big
Easy. However, even with all his talk about how the
disrespected him with a low offer during the season,
drafting Austin Rivers a couple weeks ago and then not
even talking to him in free agency.
"If (the Hornets) were interested, there wouldn't have
been no tour, there wouldn't have been nothing," Gordon told the
Times-Picayune. "There's been no negotiations. I was
right there in Indiana. I haven't received no calls, to me
personally. They've contacted my agent.
"As for now, I don't know what's going on. (If the Hornets
match) as of right now, I'd be disappointed."
Deep down, though, Gordon knows there is a good chance
he's not going anywhere.
"I'm a basketball player at the end of the day," Gordon
said. "Where I'm at, I've just got to play ball. But as of
right now, it's going to be for the Phoenix Suns. If they
match, I've got to play basketball."
The Suns know it too, which is why they're likely busy
preparing their backup plan(s).
Until Gordon signs the agreement with the Suns, though,
there will be some hope. Once that happens a sign-and-
trade is no longer an option, and from where we stand
right now, that may be the Suns' best hope to land their
shooting guard, even if the Hornets say they have no
intentions of letting their star leave.
It happened seven years ago, and it could happen again.
But as the philosopher George Santanaya once said, "Those who
cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Let's hope Tom Benson and the Hornets have a fuzzy memory.
The Phoenix Suns absolutely should have traded Steve Nash
at some point over the last two seasons.
Their refusal to do so left them in the precarious
position of possibly watching their star depart as a free
agent this summer, leaving the team with nothing but fond
That may have been better than sending Nash to the Los
Angeles Lakers, even if it was time to move on and
is nice to see the 38-year-old get a shot at that
Initially, I felt like the Suns should have called Nash's
bluff. Oh, you want to go to Los Angeles? That's nice,
sign for the mid-level exception -- or whatever you can
get from them as a free agent -- and have a nice day,
because we ain't helping.
After all, the Suns didn't owe Nash a thing, and they
certainly should not be interested in helping a division
But alas, the team acquiesced to the star's request,
shipping him to Hollywood in exchange for a quartet of
draft picks, some cash and a bunch of pissed off fans.
The good news is once things settle down, once the fans
realize that this was the front office's way of making
lemonade out of a bag of rocks, they'll come to understand
one, simple thing:
The Suns, for all their faults and all the speculation
that the front office did not know what it was doing, have
done a fantastic job so far this offseason.
Of course, much of the team's success this summer hinges
on Eric Gordon and whether or not the Hornets will match
the Suns' contract offer. A situation that could lend
itself to a sign-and-trade, which could then mean the
picks the team got from the Lakers prove to be useful.
Or not. Maybe Gordon ends up back in New Orleans and the
Suns are left with Goran Dragic and Michael Beasley to
show for their efforts.
Which, really, wouldn't be a tragic turn of events.
Dragic was signed for four years, Beasley for three, and
comes to town with question marks. For Dragic, it's about
whether or not he really took the "next step" in his
career last season and is now ready to lead a team. With
Beasley, it's about whether his head is finally ready to
catch up to his talent.
Each has the potential to be great, and each has the
potential to be total busts. While that's not exactly
ideal, it's the reality the Suns are in. No superstar free
agent is coming to the Valley, so the only way to acquire
one is via trade, draft or development.
The Suns are clearly banking on the latter option with
both Dragic and Beasley, and there's reason to have hope
for both. And hey, if they fail, the draft will be a
mighty fine option, too.
But I'm thinking both prove to be good signings.
Dragic, after all, averaged 18 points, 8.4 assists and 3.5
rebounds in 28 games as a starter last season, and Beasley
put up 19.2 points per game as a starter in 2010-11 with
The talent is most certainly there with both, and at 26
and 23 years old, respectively, each has time to improve.
And if Dragic continues his impressive play and Beasley
turns into the guy who many thought was a can't-miss
prospect when he was taken 2nd overall by the Miami
Heat in 2008, the Suns will have themselves a couple of
really good players. Add Gordon to that, and you have a
young trio that can learn and grow together while the rest
of the roster is filled out with the right role players.
Would they make the Suns a title contender? Probably not.
But they'd certainly be a playoff team, which cannot be
said for the last two squads led by a certain Lakers point
Point blank, the Phoenix Suns targeted three players when
free agency began, and as of now have landed all three.
Sure, they were convinced to let Nash head to Los Angeles,
but that could still work in their favor, especially if
any of those picks head to the Big Easy in exchange for
Gordon (and at worst it will be looked at favorably in
league circles, as they did right by their star).
Besides, now who isn't looking forward to seeing
Dragic blow by the two-time MVP or watch the purple and
gold's newest star get knocked on his ass by Marcin Gortat
or Robin Lopez?
Yeah, thought so.
The Suns have made a lot of mistakes over the years,
leaving quite a bit of rightly-deserved blame at the feet
of Lon Babby, Lance Blanks and Robert Sarver. However,
while they began this offseason with plenty of question
marks and little faith from fans, they certainly deserve a
round of applause for their moves over the last few days.
Fans got to Chase Field nearly 90 minutes before first
pitch Tuesday, all hoping to see the young phenom's pre-
game warm-up routine.
One inning into his home debut, Trevor Bauer looked every
bit the top prospect, as he struck out the side and gave
the fans something to be excited about.
Two innings into his home debut, Bauer had given up a pair
of runs. And sure enough, I received a text. The text read: "Bauer is not ready for the majors."
Bauer did not have a good night. The right-hander allowed
seven runs - six earned - on six hits. He walked as many
batters as he struck out (four), and was pulled after 3.1
innings of work.
The pitcher has allowed eight earned runs in 7.1 major
league innings -- a total that spans two starts -- and has
tallied a 9.82 ERA. He's struck out seven, which is nice,
but also walked seven, and in a word, has been
But the guess here is Bauer will be just fine.
"There's no reason to panic, it's a bad outing," Bauer
said after his start Tuesday.
Bauer said his struggles are magnified because this is the
major leagues, and he's right.
For a guy who has had success everywhere he's gone, the
fact that he's getting lit up for the D-backs has sounded
the alarm for some. Maybe his warm-up routine wears him
down. Maybe he needs to work on his control. Maybe he's
trying too hard to strike batters out, instead of just
throwing strikes and letting them hit.
That may all be true. Or not. Time will tell.
Bauer knows he has to get better, he said as much. But the
talent is there, and he'll get through these struggles.
"I've been doing the same thing for years and years and
years," Bauer said. "There's no reason to panic or
The only thing Bauer needs is experience, and it's the
kind he'll only get at the major league level. Sure, he
could go back to the minors and work on his command, but
Triple-A hitters are more apt to swing at bad pitches, to
not work counts, to make Bauer look great.
Which they did, as the 21-year-old went 4-0 with a 2.82
ERA in eight starts with the Aces. Yes, he walked 22 in
44.2 innings of work, but he struck out 56, too. Was he
perfect? No. But he was dominant, and has nothing left to
prove at that level.
"We know he's got great stuff, and we're going to try and
refine some things so he can have more success his next
time out," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said Tuesday. "It's
tough. There's a lot of pressure on him, there's been a
lot built up about him.
"It hasn't went well for him; it's part of being in the
Some of baseball's best players had rocky beginnings to
their careers, so the fact that Bauer has had a couple of
bad outings is no cause for alarm. Would it have been nice
to see him come out of the gates better? Absolutely.
Bauer was drafted third overall in 2011, and since the day
the D-backs called his name people have been eagerly
anticipating his arrival at Chase Field. Many had
unreasonable expectations for the rookie -- something
Gibson alluded to, and will soon settle down and be the
pitcher everyone thinks he'll ultimately be.
"He just has to keep his head up and keep battling; I
think he'll be fine," catcher Miguel Montero said. "He's
got to learn a little bit more about the big league
He'll do that only by remaining with the Diamondbacks, and
it would behoove the team to stick with the youngster no
matter how much he struggles. The pitcher is still
confident, so there's no issue there, and it's obvious he
has an impressive arsenal of pitches.
Bauer also has the type of work ethic that makes you
really believe he'll correct whatever issues he has. And
when he does, his pregame routine will not be the only
thing worth watching.
Over the last two seasons there have been many calling for
the team to trade Steve Nash, parting with the two-time
MVP while they could still get something of value in
return. To their credit (or detriment), they refused.
Instead, the Suns maintained that they wanted to give fans
a chance to watch one of the game's greatest point guards
continue to play at a high level. Sure, they missed the
playoffs both seasons, but Nash was still Nash and the
games were more entertaining with him on the court.
In truth, while that may have played a part in the team's
reluctance to make a deal, the real reason they didn't
make a move is because they were afraid of being looked at
as the bad guys, of being the group that traded Steve
Hell, Ken Kendrick still gets flak for how things were
handled with Luis Gonzalez, and that was absolutely the
right move to make.
The Suns almost pulled it off, too.
Bryan Colangelo, who convinced Nash to leave Dallas for
Phoenix some eight years ago, presented the 38-year-old
with an offer he can't -- or, at least, shouldn't --
For that price the Suns would be foolish to get involved.
After all, they're clearly rebuilding, just drafted Nash's
replacement and, for all intents and purposes, should move
on. And, lucky for them, another team stepped up and made
an offer that no one would blame Nash for taking, and no
one would be upset with the Suns for not matching.
The Suns almost pulled it off, too.
Unfortunately for the Suns, the parameters of their offer
to Nash leaked Monday.
source informs me that Phx Suns offer to Steve Nash
currently stands at = 2 years, $12 million.
Two years, $12 million. Or, put another way, $6 million
Or, in other words, less than what Josh Childress makes.
The offer is as offensive as it is ridiculous. It's
Steve Nash may have been willing to give the Suns some
sort of discount, but there is no way he takes a
50 percent paycut to play for a team that is closer to the
top five of the draft than it is the top five of the NBA.
Nash made roughly $11.5 million for his work last season,
a year where the team struggled but he did not. The
veteran averaged 12.5 points and 10.7 assists per game,
while shooting .532 from the field and .390 from three-point range.
In other words, while Nash may have lost a step or two,
the game has not yet passed him by. The Suns have to know
this, and while they may be finally ready to cut ties and
move on, but still, why the low-ball offer?
It appears the Suns, while saying they wanted to keep
Nash, never really had any intention of doing so. That, or
they seriously misjudged the market for the point guard,
and are unwilling to adjust. This would not be the first
time the Suns have low-balled key members of the
organization (Steve Kerr says hi, by the
way), though it is arguably the most shocking.
All along it seemed as though the Suns' plan was to come
out looking like the good guys. Or, at least, looking as
good as possible when the franchise has gone from
perennial contender to lottery stalwart within a span of
just a few years.
Nash was going to leave, they were going to move on, fans
would be understanding and no one would be upset.
Phoenix Suns GM Lance Blanks said one of the things the
team liked about Kendall Marshall was that "if you look in
his background, in his history, he's a winner."
Well, with the Suns likely to struggle for the next few
seasons, the theory is really going to be put to the test.
The Suns made the Tar Heel their first round pick, 13th
overall, Thursday, and the selection was not met without
some question marks. Sure, you're not likely to get a
consensus cheer for anyone you take that late in the
lottery, but going with a guy who is not much of an
athlete, defender or scorer is a little puzzling.
Sure, Marshall is an excellent passer -- he averaged 9.8
assists per game as a sophomore -- and there is little
doubt he'll be a good locker room presence and leader,
which is certainly a positive. He may be asked to backup
two-time MVP Steve Nash or, perhaps, replace him, and his
ability to dish the ball could rival that of the Suns
Unfortunately for the Suns, though, they also need
scoring, defense, rebounding and athleticism -- traits
Marshall, for all the good he brings, does not possess.
Think about it: what good is a great passer if his
teammates cannot put the ball in the basket, and how
effective can a point guard be if he is not a threat to
score the ball himself? Steve Nash forces defenses to
respect his shot, and thus they leave teammates open.
Marshall, who made 47 percent of his shots as a sophomore,
is not a scorer. He knows that, and he knows he has to
improve. He thinks he will.
"Obviously now, there's no school to get in the way,"
Marshall said. "This is my profession, this is my job. I
have no choice but to get better, so I'm not too worried
He might very well do just that, but it will all be moot
if the talent around him doesn't get better, and while
Marshall may ultimately be a solid player in the NBA, this
pick will only be a success if the Suns surround him with
enough talent to take advantage of his skills and mask his
You know, just as they did with Nash all those years.
And while Blanks maintains this pick has nothing to do
with Nash's impending free agency -- that whether he stays
or goes, Marshall was the guy -- this pick, and the team's
future, are certainly tied to what the Suns accomplish
over the rest of the summer.
The Suns have admitted they lack a "go-to" scorer,
someone who they can pencil into the lineup and expect to
get 20 points out of every night. While there is no
guarantee they would have found that guy at 13 -- in fact,
chances are they wouldn't -- they certainly don't have him
The Suns' newest player is a pass-first point guard, part
of a dying breed of floor generals who would rather dish
the rock than put in in the bucket. The game has been
taken over by scorers, as they've become far more valuable
than players who can set them up.
Blanks said the Suns took Marshall because of his brains
and ability to make those around him better.
"He is in perfect alignment with what we want to be about
as people and as an organization," he said.
That sounds nice, but it will all be for naught if
the people and organization around him don't improve.
I'm not a Daron Sutton fan, though his absence has me a
The D-backs broadcaster, apparently suspended by the team
due to "insubordination", has not called a game
since last week, and may not do so for a while -- if ever
Insubordination is an interesting word, one that is
defined by Dictionary.com as "the quality or
condition of being insubordinate, or of being disobedient
I'm curious as to what exactly Sutton did, because if the
ESPN article is correct, this suspension was the
culmination of a long series of transgressions, possibly
ranging from criticizing ownership, flirting with the
Dodgers, being too big a fan of Deadspin.com
(as if that's possible), not adhering to a dress code and,
well, basic buffoonery. (OK, I added the last one myself)
The truth is, we don't know what the real issue is or why
Sutton is no longer calling games; all we know is the team
decided to silence its voice of the last five-plus years
in the middle of a season with no "oh, yeah, you had to do
it" moment behind the move.
What's strange is that of all the ownership groups in the
Valley, the D-backs seem to have one of the best. Derrick
Hall is as good as it gets at the president position, and
Ken Kendrick -- while maybe needing to be muzzled a times
-- for the most part seems to stay out of the way and let
the people he
hired do the things they were hired to do.
Yet, this decision - with no statement other than the one
by Senior VP of Communications Josh Rawitch, which was
"We've made an adjustment to the broadcast lineup and
Daron is going to be taking some time off" -- is very un-
It is not a fan-friendly move and has not been made with
any sense of transparency. No doubt the truth -- or some
version of it -- will come out shortly, and the masses
will either accept the decision or they won't.
Really, they won't have much of a choice.
Sutton may return, or he may have called his final game
for the Diamondbacks. No matter what, though, we should
hope that he was not reprimanded for anything to do with
being a little critical of the team.
Because while the team's broadcasters must remember who
they work for, their job is also to educate the fans and
keep them abreast of what's going on. Simply sitting
behind a microphone and being a cheerleader -- minus the
pom-poms -- does no good for anyone.
Hopefully the Diamondbacks understand that while they have
every right to expect their employees to convey a specific
message, it's important to treat the fans with respect.
Bad is bad, good is good, and everything in between is
just that. No one wants to be fed a rosy picture when
things are going poorly, and at the same time who wants to
be dragged down with negativity when life is good? Tell it
like it is; there's not much need for more than that.
After all, we watch because we love baseball and
are Diamondbacks fans, not because of anything the
broadcasters say or do.
Daron Sutton is a polarizing broadcaster, as his style is
entertaining to some and similar to
nails on a chalkboard to others. People will tune into the
broadcasts whether he's calling the games or not, and
they'll remain Diamondbacks fans no matter who is in the
booth and regardless of what they're saying.
Because at the end of the day it's all about the product
on the field, not how it's being described on the
television. And fans, as a whole, should want it to be
described accurately and honestly.
While the results were expected, they were still a little
Following the Miami Heat's Game 5 victory over the
Oklahoma City -- giving the franchise its second title in
six years -- I asked people on both Twitter and Facebook to rank the
Valley's big four professional teams in the order in which
they have the most confidence in to win a championship.
Nineteen picked the Diamondbacks number one, nine listed
the Coyotes at the top and three had the Cardinals numero
Twenty-seven listed the Suns last. Fourth out of four. The
team least likely to win a championship.
The Diamondbacks, of course, are just one season removed
from an NL West title and, while they got off to a
miserable start this season, have shown signs of turning
things around. Add in some of the game's better young
talent and a promising farm system, and it's
understandable as to why people believe in them.
And the Coyotes, as we know, were just in the Western
Conference Final, losing to eventual Stanley Cup Champion
Los Angeles. They have a top-notch goalie and what appears
to be a bright future, you know, as long as they aren't
forced to leave town.
The Cardinals did not pick up too many votes, which may be
surprising given how they finished the 2011 season.
However, the uncertainty at QB undoubtedly played a role
in the voting, as well it should. No QB, no Super Bowl,
and until the Cardinals prove they have the former they
won't go anywhere near the latter.
But then there's the Suns. The crown jewel of the Valley
sports scene, our original professional team has been one
of the most successful in any sport, so long as a
championship isn't an indication of success. Going on 44
seasons and counting, the team is heading into an
uncertain offseason and, what most believe, an
The Suns move forward with zero pressure and zero
expectations. As Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall told
Arizona Sports 620's Doug and Wolf Thursday, that changes
how things are perceived.
"It really does come down to the expectations, too," Hall
said with regards to the early-season frustration. "Last
year there were none, this year there were very high
"That's why the fans get a little more restless, that's
why the executives are a little more impatient."
Seems like that won't be an issue for the Suns, though
that's nothing to be happy about. In fact, it's worth
wondering how the Suns went from the best team we had to
the one that no one believes in going forward.
Seven years ago the Suns were ousted by the San Antonio
Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, falling in five
games in a series they were not ready to win. Still, many
of us felt it was just the beginning for the team, as a
core of Steve Nash, Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion and Amare
Stoudemire would be a force in the league for years to
come, undoubtedly bringing Phoenix the Larry O'Brien
Championship Trophy for the first time.
But bad luck, bad trades, injuries, more bad luck,
suspensions, more bad trades, questionable signings and
some bad luck conspired to keep the Suns out of the NBA
Finals, which is something few would have predicted not
It made me think of the Oklahoma City Thunder, as they
walked off the court Thursday night, feeling defeated but
probably knowing this will not be their last shot at a
title. At least, they believe it won't be their last shot.
Like the Suns of yesteryear, they have a young core that
has gone through a playoff run and experienced the bitter
taste of defeat many believe is necessary in order to
finally come out on top.
But as Suns fans know -- probably better than anyone --
nothing is a given in sports.
Except, apparently, the Suns not doing so well. While an
informal poll, the fact that 87 percent of responders feel
like our NBA team is in such bad shape is a little
But that's what happens when a team consistently makes one
mistake after another. Sure, the Suns had a fantastic run,
filled with plenty of threes, dunks and wins. But there is
no trophy at the US Airways Center, no ring on anyone's
finger and no title for the fans to celebrate.
So here we are, with a future that is as uncertain as it
is, apparently, certain to not be much fun.
The team's fall from grace would not be as frustrating had
it not been for their time at the top, which resulted in
more disappointment than celebration. A friend once told
me a championship grants a team a five-year pass, where
fans cannot get mad no matter what their team does.
That's a luxury the Suns have never had, though now they
have a different, less desirable one: low expectations.
There's no "title or bust" mentality, no belief that the
team is one piece away from a ring. What there is,
however, is a somewhat blank slate, from which Lon Babby,
Lance Blanks and Robert Sarver can build a team they
believe can compete for a championship.
If there's one thing the Kevin Kolb/John Skelton QB
controversy has taught us, it's that Arizona Cardinals
fans are a fickle bunch.
And, as someone who grew up a Cardinals fan and suffered
the annual abuse that came with the jerseys and hats, it's
much better to be "fickle" than "non-existent".
When news came out about how some at the Cardinals Fan
Fest last week booed Kevin Kolb after some errant passes,
opinions were mixed. Some bashed the fans for piling on a
QB in a practice. Others said Kolb deserved every bit of
animosity, because the high-priced Kolb has been a high-
priced disappointment thus far.
Lost in all of it was the fact that by voicing their
displeasure, right or wrong, the fans showed they cared.
It's a relatively new development for the Arizona
Cardinals, and it's one that should be celebrated, not
Of course, no Cardinals fan wants to boo anyone wearing
red. Ask even the most ardent anti-Kolb fan and they'll
tell you they'd rather the QB succeed and prove them wrong
than flounder and prove them right. But that desire should
not - and does not - prevent them from voicing their
displeasure should they receive poor play from the most
important position in sports.
Which, unfortunately, Cardinals fans have received far too
No, not with his game, though he did misfire on his fair
share of passes Wednesday night.
Playing in front of fans for the first time since
last season, Kolb overthrew Larry Fitzgerald on a deep
ball, had a throw picked off by linebacker Reggie Walker
in the end zone and saw his final pass of the night batted
down at the line of scrimmage.
There were an estimated 15,000 fans in attendance at the
Fan Fest, and you have to figure most were simply excited
to be in the building and see their team for the first
time since January 1. Many of them booed the QB.
Kolb did not have a banner night, that's for sure. Still,
it did not matter that his misfires are no doubt but a
small sample of the work he's done this offseason. It did
not matter that it is the middle of June and no matter how
much someone may struggle in one practice, there is still
plenty of time to work out the kinks before the regular
season opens September 7.
All that mattered was the quarterback who was brought in
to be the guy last season has not earned the trust
of a fan base that is desperate to see a winner once
That's what happens when a player who the team bet heavily
on produces just nine touchdown passes in a season where
he played in just nine games (finishing eight). That
Kolb's backup produced a 6-2 record wasn't particularly
helpful to the former Eagle's cause, either.
In a way, though, booing Kolb Wednesday night was somewhat
unfair. Even someone who doesn't believe in the guy has to
understand that one off night does not a career make. Kolb
will have plenty more chances to prove himself -- likely
in games that count -- and will either show he's capable
of leading a team or is a bust.
To his credit, Kolb has consistently said he's aware of
what's at stake this season, and if he fails it will not
be due to a lack of effort.
And, to be fair, just because fans have no confidence in
Kolb does not mean his teammates feel the same way. Not
one player in the Cardinals' locker room has given any
indication that they lack faith in Kolb, and after
practice Wednesday rookie Michael Floyd said he likes both
Kolb and John Skelton, and has no interest in playing
"That's the coaches' decision," he said of who should
Then again, you can't really expect players to take sides,
especially not at this point. But that's neither here nor
We are a little less than three months from Week 1,
giving Ken Whisenhunt and staff plenty of time to make
their choice. Many feel Kolb is the favorite simply
because of what the team has invested in him, but the
coach has maintained the idea that Skelton, entering his
third year in the NFL, will have every chance to earn the
One of the two will be under center when the team hosts
Seattle, and it may very well be the man the fans booed
Kevin Kolb could emerge as the starter, and may turn into
the player the Cardinals thought they were trading for
last July. Or, he could struggle again and be out of the
league in two years. The truth is we just don't know, at
least not yet.
The fans, though, seem to have already made their
decision, and the only way for Kolb to change their
perception is to play well. Does he have it in him?
Would you rather be shot or stabbed? Run over by a truck
or choke on a breadstick? Drown or be eaten by a
Tyrannasaurus Rex? OK, maybe the last one is pretty
obvious (T-Rex, duh), but the gist is this:
Bad options are bad options, and what the city of Glendale
is facing right now, with regards to the Phoenix Coyotes,
are bad options.
Keep them by spending money they don't have or let them
leave and forego a chance to make money down the road.
Truth is, one of the choices is better than the other, and
it's the former. Keep the Coyotes in town and hope for the
best down the road.
The damage from the team leaving would be significant.
Westgate, for all intents and purposes, could shut down.
Civic pride would undoubtedly take a hit, as no one should
feel good about watching a team bolt town. And to top it
all off we'd be losing a hockey team -- a very good hockey
team, mind you -- right as they're looking like a
Of course, none of this has anything to do with the budget
issues that have befallen Glendale. The city has very
little money to spend, and any reasonable person would say
what is there should be used for first responders, civic
services and the like long before professional sports. But
letting the Coyotes leave will not fix their budget;
they'd have the same problems, just with one fewer hockey
The Goldwater Institute, which is best known for stopping
the NHL's deal with Matthew Hulsizer last summer, is
threatening to do all it can to stop this sale, too.
Whether it's a failed attempt to block last Friday's vote
or the idea that they'll sue over its result, the
organization who says its mission is to "advance freedom and
protect the Constitution" is really just trying to prove a
point, regardless of whether or not it actually benefits
Are their motives pure? No. Do they have a point? Yes.
Should we want them to prevail once again? Nope.
Anyone who says the deal the city is trying to make with
Greg Jamison and his group is a good one is lying, and the
fact that the vote was pushed through in a backdoor-deal-
kind-of-way only adds to the perception
that something is amiss here.
There probably is.
But how they get to the right decision does not matter so
much as they do, indeed, get there. While it is difficult
to justify giving money to a rich man so he can, umm, make
more money in these economic times, that's exactly what
needs to happen here.
Paper or plastic? Crunchy or creamy? With bacon or
without? OK, once again there's an obvious answer to the
third option (and, in case you were wondering, it's
with bacon), while none of the six choices would
lead down a disastrous road (except for not choosing
bacon, of course).
The city of Glendale is not so lucky, as they are forced
to decide between bad and awful.
And, as it pertains to the Phoenix Coyotes, the only
option that has a chance of working out for
Glendale is keeping them in town.