TEMPE, Ariz. -- Bruce Arians is faced with another next-man-up quandary.
This one, however, isn’t as simple as tapping the next guy on the depth chart or promoting a practice squad player.
With quarterback Drew Stanton not requiring surgery on his right knee, his return this season has yet to be determined. Arians said he'd be surprised if Stanton played against the Seahawks on Dec. 21, leaving the Cardinals head coach figuring out who will replace him on Sunday Night Football. He has two choices: Third-year veteran Ryan Lindley and rookie Logan Thomas.
After Stanton went down Thursday night in St. Louis, Arians turned to Lindley because of his prior experience. Arians wouldn’t commit Friday to starting either Lindley or Thomas against the Seahawks, but said the staff will put together game plans for both quarterbacks.
But Arians said he’s not conducting an open quarterback competition.
“I’ll just sit down and think about which one I want,” he said. “It has nothing to do with Logan and what I think about him as a player. I think he’s going to be a great player.
“It’s just the timing of it.”
There’s never a good time to lose a starting quarterback, but with two games left in the season and Arizona in the thick of a playoff race, the timing of Stanton’s injury might be harder to overcome. At stake is home-field advantage but to hold onto to it, the Cardinals would either need to win out or Green Bay would need to lose a game or two of its final three. After that, the situations get confusing, except for this: As long as Arizona finishes with a better record than Seattle, regardless of what happens Sunday, the Cardinals will likely end up with the first or second seed.
Equal records means Seattle owns the season matchup and the tie-breaker, likely propelling it into one of the top two seeds and dropping the Cardinals to the fifth seed and a date in the Wild Card round.
That can be a lot to handle for Lindley, a third-year quarterback who’s started just four NFL games and never thrown a touchdown, or Thomas, who has eight career pass attempts. Regardless of who Arians chooses, getting them comfortable is his main priority next week.
“Whether it’s 10 plays or 50 plays, the menu doesn’t have to be large, as long as he understands where the ball should go and why it should go there,” Arians said. “So, it could be a very short menu of 10 pays that might have four formations that could add up to 40, or it could be a list of plays, depending on what they’re comfortable with.
“You don’t want them going into the game not comfortable. Making sure they can handle all of the dogs and blitzes -- that’s the main thing, know your protections. I think whichever one we go with will have that plan in place for this game.”
Arians said he’ll likely make a decision on a quarterback by Sunday. Whoever gets the nod gets an extra day of practice with the team working on Monday because of the 10-day break. There’s a chance, depending on the prognosis for Stanton’s absence, that Arizona might sign another quarterback to its practice squad, Arians said.
The Cardinals have taken all their injuries in stride this far en route to an 11-3 record. But, and it seems like this question is asked every week now, how much more can they withstand?
“Whatever it takes,” Arians said. “Whatever it takes. I don’t think there’s a doubt in anybody’s mind in that locker room that we can win every game.”