Should the Cardinals start QB Joshua Dobbs or rookie Clayton Tune?

Josh WinfussESPN staff writerAugust 28, 2023 at 09:31 PM ETRead 7 minutes

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Tempe, Arizona – There is never a dull moment in the NFL. the The Arizona Cardinals made sure of that on Monday.

A day before teams are required to trim their rosters to 53 players — and less than two weeks until the Cardinals play the Washington Commanders in Week 1 — Arizona made waves when it cut veteran quarterback and presumptive starter Colt McCoy. Also Monday, Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon said that Kyler Murray, who has been sidelined since December after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, will start the regular season on an incapacitated list, meaning he will miss at least the first four games. .

That leaves the Cardinals with a choice between Joshua Dobbs — who Arizona just acquired from the Cleveland Browns in Thursday’s deal — or fifth-round rookie Clayton Toon as the starting quarterback. However, the Cardinals will wait as long as possible to reveal their player of choice.

“I’m not going to name a primary because I think going to Washington is a competitive advantage for us,” Gannon said. “But we will know who is the initiator.”

Why did the Cardinals make these moves and what’s next?

Why did the Cardinals cut McCoy?

McCoy, who has played in 12 games with the Cardinals over the past two seasons, wasn’t let go because of something he didn’t show the staff, according to Gannon. All the head coach will tell reporters Monday is that Arizona decision-makers have looked at McCoy’s “full work package” — from OTAs to minicamp to training camp to the preseason — and believe the best decision is to move forward without him.

Gannon also stated that production played a role in the decision to release McCoy, who will soon be 37.

McCoy’s lack of mobility may have worked against him. Gannon has referred to this trait as one of the things he liked about Dobbs. McCoy also dealt with an elbow injury in camp, and Gannon restricted McCoy’s pitching to basically every other day in an effort to conserve McCoy’s arm. But in the past two weeks, McCoy’s arm has seemed alive and capable.

QB Clayton Tune will start in the fifth with either the Cardinals or newly acquired Joshua Dobbs back up.Adam Beecher/Getty Images

Why should Tune be the start?

The tune has been around the Cardinals’ new offense since May. So he was learning and growing in it just as everyone around him was, regardless of experience. All those actors in the scheme, and there were hundreds of them this season, gave him a kind of instinct to attack that only comes with time.

“In general, there is a belief that more reps are better for a youngster,” offensive coordinator Drew Petzing said. “I think there is definitely some truth to that.”

Tune seems to be getting better every day and has been open about knowing how to fix bugs as they come up. He has also demonstrated a lively arm and the ability to scramble, which catches the eye of Ganon. He’s a capable and willing scrambler — he’s rushed for 1,253 yards over five seasons for the Houston Cougars — but that’s not a huge part of his game, Tone said.

“I like that he plays fast,” said Gannon. “He has the drive when he gets into the rally. You see his talent with the arm. So he has a long way to go, just like everyone else does, but he’s doing a good job.”

Tune, who was drafted 139th overall, will be the first quarterback drafted in the fourth round or later to start a season opener since Dak Prescott, who finished 135th in 2016. Tune will also be the last quarterback drafted to start the season inaugural as a junior since Randy Hedberg (No. 196) in 1977.

Why isn’t Tune the start?

There is a clear answer: he is a beginner. Is it valid? maybe. But a lack of experience can be the argument for not starting Tune, especially if you come from a college system that doesn’t run a professional-style offense, which the Cardinals are now running.

“There’s also a lot of value in sitting back and watching players do it, who’ve done it at a high level, who really understand the game,” said Petzing. “And I think he’s done a great job of balancing the two.”

There are parts of his game that still need to be fine-tuned – no pun intended – and throwing him into the fire as a rookie could be a huge risk, both in the short and long term. There were a few throws during the preseason and training camp that would have been easy to complete if he hadn’t sailed them. If Tune does this in a game, it could be the difference between first strike and pick six.

Why should Dobbs start?

Dobbs has experience learning an offense similar to what the Cardinals are now running. He spent part of the 2022 season in Cleveland, where Petzing was the linebackers coach and Israel Wolffork, now the Cardinals’ linebackers coach, was a coaching buddy—an experience Gannon described as “valuable.”

“I think his knowledge of the system, the verbosity, and those two guys are actually the two main guys who coach[Dobbs],” Gannon said. “I think that clearly helps him a lot.”

Outside of his stints with Pitzing and Woolfork, Dobbs already has experience in the NFL – though not much. He’s played in eight games in six seasons, including two last season with the Tennessee Titans, when he threw for 232 and 179 yards in two losses. Dobbs also has the kind of skills Gannon would want in his first quarterback as head coach.

“He’s a mobile guy who understands the system, but he’s a mobile guy who can make throws and play in the pocket and play out of the pocket,” Gannon said. “So, this is what we’re looking for.”

Joshua Dobbs is familiar with OC Drew Petzing and QB coach Israel Woolfork from their time in Cleveland last season.Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

What is the case against starting Dobbs?

Yes, he knows top coaches, and yes, there are some legacies from the Browns’ learned offense to what he’s managing in Arizona, but Dobbs has yet to shine for the Cardinals. He will likely get his first snap on the run on Tuesday and then his first real practice on Wednesday, but he has no experience working with center Hgalti Froholt and the rest of the offensive line, nor has he developed timing with wide receivers and tight ends.

“It’s never easy for a new guy to come onto a new team, but he’s familiar with the system, he’s familiar with Drew and Geese, and we feel good about where he is in that,” Gannon said.

What does this mean for Murray and the Cardinals season?

Who starts the first week means nothing to Murray. Unless the team gets off to an extraordinary start, he will return to QB1 when healthy.

It’s a different story for the Cardinals season. Arizona State has committed to rebuilding throughout the offseason, and the decision to move on from McCoy and have either Dobbs or Tune initiated continues with that. There will be a learning curve no matter who falls under the position. With Dobbs, the command will be modified to adapt to the new offense and new teammates. With Tune, you will adapt NFL football.

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