The Arizona Cardinals are undefeated, having won two of their three games with a backup quarterback. But there is absolutely no quarterback controversy in the desert.
This is not remotely a reactionary "hot take." In fact, it is rather consistent on my part.
I've always liked Stanton over Carson Palmer. I liked him over Palmer before Arizona traded for Carson last offseason (shortly after signing Stanton). I liked him over Palmer when Carson was interception-happy throughout last season. In last Thursday's Schein Nine, I wrote that Stanton is a better option for Arizona and would lead the Cardinals to a huge statement victory at home over the San Francisco 49ers.
It's all rather simple.
For the first time in team history, the Cards start a season with three straight games without a pick. Credit Stanton for the last two.
For Stanton, I think, it stems from his familiarity with head coach Bruce Arians. Stanton was with Arians in Indianapolis as a backup to Andrew Luck in 2012, and the coach brought Stanton over to Arizona as a free agent last year. Talking to Stanton last week on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," the 30-year-old QB chuckled when I asked what made him a "Bruce Arians guy" -- before raving about how aggressive and quarterback-friendly Arians' system is. In his eighth NFL season, the former second-round pick is a natural leader who says his leadership style is "by example, setting a tone for hard work in meetings and the practice field."
Stanton showed fantastic comfort and precision in Sunday's 23-14 defeat of San Francisco. He was cooking with Michael Floyd, as the two hooked up five times for 114 yards. He tossed a pair of touchdown passes to third-round steal John Brown. (Cardinals general manager Steve Keim told me this past spring the rookie wideout would be akin to T.Y. Hilton in Arians' system -- certainly looked that way on Sunday.) And when needed late, Stanton found Larry Fitzgerald for a big-first down. Arizona has a diverse and dynamic trio of receivers, and Stanton knows how to use it.
Arians did a great job establishing balance with the run and pass, but Stanton was the on-field maestro. He completed 18 of his 33 passes for 244 yards against a stout San Francisco defense. And here's the beauty of this situation: Stanton's only going to get better as he continues to get in a rhythm.
The quarterback has been craving this opportunity. Stanton giggled while recounting some great stories with me last week. When he was with the Detroit Lions in 2008, one year after the team had drafted him 43rd overall out of Michigan State, Stanton said offensive coordinator Jim Colletto told him that he wouldn't put him in because he didn't want Stanton to embarrass himself. That was the 0-16 season when Dan Orlovsky ran out of the back of the end zone. Four years later, he signed with the New York Jets to back up (and compete with) Mark Sanchez. Five days later, Gang Green traded for Tim Tebow. Two days after that, New York traded Stanton to Indy.
Long story short, Stanton's been waiting for a real opportunity. And here's the great part about this particular one: The Arizona Cardinals are such a complete team.
Defensively, Arizona is incredibly strong, even without LB Daryl Washington (suspended for at least a year) and DT Darnell Dockett (shelved by a torn ACL in August). The linebackers are playing well, despite also losing Karlos Dansby in free agency. Patrick Peterson is a star corner. Wait until Tyrann Mathieu starts looking like the Honey Badger again.
The Cardinals are not a fluke. They are the result of a fantastic design by Arians and Keim -- and they are only going to get better.
In talking with Stanton last week, the quarterback didn't shy away from underlining the significance of this game against San Francisco, with the Niners having accomplished things the Cardinals aspire to do. And on Sunday afternoon -- with a raucous, sea-of-red crowd giving the Cardinals the home-field advantage they richly deserve -- there seemed to be a changing of the guard.
That's just being fair.