The best team in professional football right now is the Arizona Cardinals. They host one of the better teams in pro football right now in the Detroit Lions coming up on Sunday. Ironically, the guy who will start at quarterback for the Cardinals actually spent most of his career in Detroit.
My how things can change in the National Football League.
Drew Stanton now finds himself at the helm for the second time this season but this time it’s different. This time it’s for good because Carson Palmer went down on Sunday with what appears in all likelihood to be an ACL tear. This ends the season for the veteran.
Stanton has seven career starts in the NFL. Three of come this season when he started in place of a dinged up Palmer and went 2-1 during that stretch. Stanton’s other four career starts took place over a two-year period in Detroit where he went 2-2.
His overall career stats are not very good. His completion percentage is just 53.6% and he has thrown eight touchdown passes to nine interceptions. There are a couple of glimmers of hope here for Cardinals’ fans though.
In his three starts this season, he has thrown three TD passes and has zero interceptions. That’s a good thing but the bigger thing is that he’s being tutored by Head Coach Bruce Arians who has a very good track record of working with quarterbacks.
From Ben Roethlisberger to Andrew Luck to Carson Palmer, Arians has made each guy just a little better than he had been previously. This is all that the Cardinals need from Stanton too. He just needs to be a little bit better than he typically is.
The situation in Arizona is very similar to what happened with the 1990 New York Giants. For those not old enough to remember, the Giants were 11-2 and were playing Buffalo in the old Meadowlands in their 14th game of the season.
Phil Simms, who had already won a Super Bowl four years earlier, was marching the Giants towards a second when he broke his foot against the Bills.
Most assumed the Giants could not survive with a back-up QB entering what was sure to be a rough road through the playoffs. Jeff Hostetler was that back-up and he would lead the G-Men to an improbable 5-0 stretch that included a win at San Francisco (led by Joe Montana) and then a one-point win in Super Bowl XV over the Bills.
What strikes me as similar is that both the Giants of 1990 and these Arizona Cardinals are built on defense. That doesn’t mean they don’t have offensive weapons because they do, but their success starts with defense.
In most cases, both Hostetler and Stanton would be referred to as “game managers” whose only job was to make sure the offense didn’t make mistakes and turn the ball over. I think there was truth about that with “Hoss” and there will be some truth about that with Stanton but don’t expect Arians to just abandon the passing game.
He will ride Andre Ellington’s legs for certain but he will not strip Stanton of his ability to throw the ball deep as he did on Sunday.
Will the Cardinals follow the steps of the ’90 New York Giants? It’s hard to say because these really are different eras of professional football. You can be sure though that the fans in the desert are hoping for the same exact result.