Drew Stanton, starter? For rebuilding Cards, it’s the best way
“Drew knows the offense, he’s more than capable of doing it and if he’s our guy, I’m comfortable.”
That’s what new Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had to say to the NFL Network about recent free-agent pickup Drew Stanton, who served as Andrew Luck’s backup QB in Indianapolis last season. While that remark is good news for Stanton, it also highlights just how massive a rebuilding task Arians is facing.
Stanton flashed some potential during a four-year stint with the Lions, posting a 2-2 record in four spot starts and averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He is a nice player to have on the roster, part of why the Jets signed him last offseason (pre-Tim Tebow) and why the Colts traded for him.
What he is not is a quarterback around which you build a team.
Certainly not at 28 years old, after throwing exactly zero regular-season passes over the past two seasons.
This is Arians’ reality, though, with the QB depth chart that has now added Stanton to Brian Hoyer, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley. The Cardinals also hold the No. 7 overall pick in April’s draft, so another quarterback could jump into the mix.
But this team might be better served to look elsewhere — either by selecting a rookie QB later in the draft or holding off until 2014 free agency. If the Cardinals learned anything during their wheel-of-doom quarterback rotation last year, it’s that it really does not matter who is under center if the rest of the roster cannot stay competitive.
The Cardinals need to find a player they can stick with at quarterback eventually, but an overhaul is needed on the offensive line, with running back, linebacker and multiple other positions also in need of improvement.
Breaking the bank to sign a free-agent quarterback right now or throwing a rookie into the fire might only hinder the rest of the renovation.
Stanton, if nothing else, buys the Cardinals a little time. As with Hoyer, Skelton and Lindley, he’s a quarterback with a little starting experience. What may position him as the leader in this race right now is the time he spent with Arians in Indianapolis last season.
Stanton knows the offense Arians wants to run, so the new Cardinals coach may tab him as the No. 1 guy simply to help implement the system — Arians may employ a similar tact with recently signed running back Rashard Mendenhall, who received a one-year deal and gained extensive knowledge of Arians’ approach while the two were together in Pittsburgh.
This may not be an exciting way for the Cardinals to approach things, especially as St. Louis improves and San Francisco and Seattle engage in an arms race for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
It looks to be a wise approach, though. The Cardinals’ problems are not set for an overnight fix. Arians is a long way from the situation he inherited with the Colts, when Chuck Pagano had to leave for cancer treatment.
With Andrew Luck in place among a roster of talented players, the Colts always had the look of a possible upstart in 2012. Arizona, on the other hand, certainly stands fourth in the NFC West pecking order right now and has the feel of a team destined for another top-10 pick next year.
Rather than panic and keep this franchise reeling, Arians and GM Steve Keim are staying the course and laying the groundwork for the future.
Which, in the present, could put Stanton in the spotlight.