Does John Skelton deserve to hold on to the Cardinals' starting QB job over the injured Kevin Kolb after leading the team to a come-from-behind win for the second week in a row? That has become a very valid question in the wake of Arizona's unlikely 21-17 upset victory over the Eagles Sunday that snapped a grotesque 11-game losing streak on the road and moved the Cardinals a baby step closer to respectability at 3-6.
"You know, I think I'll have to look at this tape and just see where we are," a very relieved Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt said after the game when asked if Skelton has earned the right to remain the starter even if Kolb's right foot injury is sufficiently healed. "Right now, we haven't won on the East Coast in forever, so I'm just going to enjoy this. We'll worry about that later."
Skelton's 4-2 record as a starter for the Cardinals is becoming hard to ignore, even though he makes you cover your eyes on occasion, as was the case on his two interceptions Sunday that led to 10 Eagles points, including a 20-yard return for a TD by Eagles CB Asante Samuel. But the big, strong-armed second-year pro out of Fordham also delivered three TDs, including a pair to star WR Larry Fitzgerald, and managed to come up huge down the stretch in hostile territory.
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A debate over the Cardinals' starting QB job could be much ado about nothing if Kolb, who hasn't practiced a lick the past couple of weeks, isn't back to full strength. His injury affects his ability to plant his leg, which limits his arm strength, and until he is able to deliver the ball with his customary zip, Kolb should continue riding the pines under any circumstances.
Should Kolb stay on the bench even if he's good to go this Sunday in a suddenly much more attractive matchup against the NFC West-leading Niners in San Francisco?
If it was my call to make, I'd stick with the hot hand. Yes, Skelton can look really ugly. And it's definitely worth noting that the extremely overrated Eagles were not playing with a full deck — WRs DeSean Jackson, who sat out the game after oversleeping and missing a team meeting, and Jeremy Maclin, who went out early with a shoulder injury. But the kid has poise, which is something Kolb hasn't displayed too often in a Cardinals uniform, and Skelton's teammates appear to be clearly responding to him, on both sides of the ball.
Make no mistake: Kolb is the future. But all of the sudden, the Cardinals appear to have awakened from a season-long siesta. Skelton will make mistakes, but he just keeps on grinding, and his resilience and clutch play has made him increasingly popular with the Cardinals' fan base. After spearheading an eye-opening upset along with Fitzgerald, who looked like the league's best receiver bar none on Sunday, Skelton has earned a shot at really making a statement this Sunday against a Niners team that kicked the Cardinals' butts last season despite being terrible against just about every other team they played.
If Skelton's balloon bursts in the Bay Area on Sunday, then so be it. The hot hand cools off, Kolb re-enters the fray and the Cardinals continue to try making any kind of progress.
After all, considering the Niners' five-game lead in the NFC West, that really is the only realistic goal moving forward this season.