Both teams have had more failure than success in recent years in finding the right player to lead their offenses.
RENTON — The Seahawks and Cardinals have spent three years searching for the same thing.
That was true two years ago when they were side-by-side in pursuit of free-agent quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, and it will be true Sunday when each takes the field behind a young quarterback they drafted while a high-priced veteran acquisition serves as the backup.
There is something appropriate about the fact that these two teams were the last in the league to declare a starting quarterback. Seattle went with rookie Russell Wilson ahead of Matt Flynn, while Arizona will start its second-year quarterback John Skelton instead of Kevin Kolb. Those choices were more than just the results of training-camp competition, but the culmination of years of decision-making regarding the one position universally described as the most important in football.
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“It’s never easy to find a quarterback in this league,” Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
And sometimes it’s particularly difficult — not to mention expensive. The Cardinals discovered that as they’ve repeatedly tried to find a franchise quarterback.
That was the goal when they chose Matt Leinart 10th overall in the 2006 draft, the first time the franchise drafted a quarterback in the first round since picking Kelly Stouffer in 1987. It was also the reason the Cardinals gave up a second-round pick and starting cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie last year to acquire the right to give Kolb a whopper of a contract.
But just because you pick a guy to be the franchise quarterback or pay him like one doesn’t mean he will be. That was evident when Leinart was beaten out by Derek Anderson after Warner retired in 2010, and again when Skelton was selected ahead of Kolb this year, becoming Arizona’s fourth opening-day starting quarterback in four seasons.
“It just hasn’t worked out as efficiently as we would have liked,” Whisenhunt said. “So, it’s an ongoing process, and it’s one that we’re continuing to try to develop and get stronger at that position with our players. We feel good about John starting the season out for us, and we feel good about what Kevin brings to the table.”
Arizona paid Kolb $12 million last year in signing bonus and salary, and cut another $7 million check for a roster bonus in March, which the team might as well have set on fire for all the good it did in terms of securing a starting quarterback.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks are paying Flynn $8 million this year between his salary and signing bonus, and starting a rookie quarterback for the first time in 19 years.
While Wilson was the first quarterback Seattle drafted under Carroll, Flynn was the third one the team has signed to a multiyear deal, as both Tarvaris Jackson and Whitehurst signed two-year contracts.
While Flynn’s three-year, $26 million contract is the largest investment Seattle has made in a quarterback under Carroll, add it to the deals for Jackson and Whitehurst, it still wasn’t as much as Arizona spent on Kolb’s five-year, $63 million extension.
That doesn’t mean Seattle is against spending that kind of money on a free-agent quarterback, though.
“It was not with the mindset that we wanted to put a ceiling on the money or anything,” Carroll said. “That was not part of it.”
Seattle followed a different route in its quest to answer the same long-term quarterback question that Arizona is facing.
“You’ve seen us make strong commitments to get this position where it needs to be,” Carroll said. “And we’ve continued to do that. We’ll look every year. That has kind of been our mindset, and we’ll look again next year to try and always upgrade the most crucial position on your team.”
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @dannyoneil