Whisenhunt insists QB competition is open

John Skelton (Getty)

Kevin Kolb and John Skelton will both have a fair shot at being the Cardinals' starting quarterback.

Since Kurt Warner retired two years ago, Ken Whisenhunt has had trouble picking a starting quarterback. In fact, he's had five of them.

Not one of them seized the job, which is why there is "open" competition now between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. Those two split the starting job last year, mostly because Kolb missed seven games with injuries.

In 2010, the starters were Derek Anderson, Max Hall and Skelton. Asked this week if "ideally" he would like to pick a starter soon, Whisenhunt joked: "If it was up to me, I'd prefer we had a quarterback resolution two years ago. But obviously that hasn't happened."

And that's the main reason the team won just 13 games over those two years, missing the playoffs after winning two consecutive division titles and making it to the first Super Bowl in franchise history.

Whisenhunt seems serious that the quarterback job is actually up for grabs. Salary figures and cynicism suggest otherwise.

The Cardinals already have paid Kolb $19 million since trading for him last July. They sent cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick in the 2012 draft to the Eagles for him.

It's hard to believe that after giving up all that for Kolb, the team would replace him with Skelton, a fifth-round pick in 2010.

Like most coaches, however, Whisenhunt is big on creating a competitive atmosphere. And he doesn't want to just give the job to Kolb, who struggled last season even when he was healthy.

"It usually works out -- and I'm not just talking about the quarterback position -- that somebody distinguishes themselves in that period," Whisenhunt said of the preseason. "You got to let this competition play out honestly. It's got to be a fair competition. I'm excited to see how it goes."

Whisenhunt took a similar tack in 2008 when Warner and Matt Leinart competed for the starting job. Leinart, the 10th overall pick in the 2006 draft, was believed to have the edge. But near the end of training camp, Whisenhunt picked Warner.

Asked if he might take that long to name a starter this year, Whisenhunt joked: Matt Leinart. Whisenhunt said: "If you can guarantee me that we will go to the Super Bowl, I'll say, 'O.K., we'll go to the last minute,'" he said, referring to the Cardinals' only Super Bowl appearance. "It's all speculation right now. It's going to be a process and when it seems to define itself, we'll make that decision."

Skelton and Kolb alternated working with the first team during OTAs and the mandatory minicamp. They took almost an even number of snaps, and given that the practices were in shorts and helmets, it's hard to say who has the advantage.

"I'd have to go back and chart the plays," Whisenhunt said when asked recently how snaps had been divided. "It might be 51 (percent) for one and 49 for the other. I don't think there is a great discrepancy."

Skelton struggled at times with accuracy, and his main attribute is hard to see in practice. He has shown a lot of moxie in games and has the ability to bring a team from behind.

Kolb looked more comfortable in the offense, but he also missed open receivers at times, especially in the one minicamp practice that was open to the public.

So the competition continues, and Whisenhunt isn't likely to pick a starter until midway through the preseason, at the earliest.

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