Originally Published: November 2, 2017 10:50 p.m.
TEMPE — These are Drew Stanton’s Cardinals now.
The 33-year-old career backup quarterback will be at the controls when Arizona, sputtering at 3-4 and coming off an embarrassing loss in London, plays the winless 49ers in San Francisco on Sunday.
He takes over for Carson Palmer, who broke his left arm in that 33-0 London loss to the Los Angeles Rams and probably is out for the season.
Stanton has been here before. He started in the Cardinals’ win at San Francisco a year ago, when Palmer was out with a concussion.
And three seasons ago, Stanton went 5-3 as a starter when Palmer went down twice, first with a shoulder problem, then with a season-ending knee injury.
In his 10th NFL season, Stanton has cultivated his role as a backup and is not out to be anything flashy.
“He makes plays to win games, and he doesn’t beat you,” coach Bruce Arians said. “Some people call that a game manager. I call that a pretty good quarterback.”
So Arians said he really didn’t have to decide who would replace Palmer. Stanton has always been the backup with Blaine Gabbert the No. 3 quarterback. For the first time since he signed with Arizona in the offseason, Gabbert will be dressed on game day Sunday as Stanton’s backup.
Stanton says he has no idea what his career statistics are “except I have a whole lot more interceptions than I do touchdowns, which is not good.”
But the only stats he cares about, he said, are wins and losses. He is 8-5 as a starter in his career, 6-3 with the Cardinals.
“My main focus when I realized that I wasn’t going to get a chance to be a long-term starting quarterback was to try to win football games,” Stanton said.
“And that mentality transitioned into ‘OK, worry about winning the football game. Don’t worry about what your completion percentage is or your touchdown to interception ratio or your quarterback rating.
“I don’t even know how to compute a quarterback rating, so what does it matter.”
Stanton has completed 53 percent of his NFL passes for 3,231 yards and 14 touchdowns with 20 interceptions.
Last season’s 33-21 win over San Francisco is an example of how Stanton succeeds. He completed only 11 of 28 passes for 124 yards, but two of them went for touchdowns.
He was drafted by Detroit in the second round out of Michigan State and played in 12 games over three seasons with the Lions, four as a starter from 2008 through 2010.
Then he didn’t take a snap in an NFL game for three seasons. Such is the lot of a backup quarterback.
In 2012, Arians was offensive coordinator at Indianapolis when Stanton signed with the Colts and earned the backup job behind Andrew Luck.
When Arians became head coach at Arizona in 2013, he brought Stanton with him.
“Now being six years in the system, it’s great,” Stanton said. “I think I’ve taken as many mental reps as you can possibly take. Getting all that is fantastic and getting a chance to work on the nuances within the system has been great for me.”
Arians said Stanton “really doesn’t need anything but a few reps” to be ready to start.
“He’s another coach on the field,” Arians said. “That’s why you love to have those types of backup quarterbacks, guys that have been in your system so long.”
Stanton probably owes his career to Arians, and the two have developed a close relationship.
“He’s somebody that’s provided me an unbelievable opportunity,” Stanton said.
Stanton is on the second year of a two-year contract. He looked at other potential choices after the 2015 season, but said he really didn’t seriously consider anything but re-signing with the Cardinals.
“Really this community, the way that it’s embraced my family and being able to be a part of it, that is something that goes beyond football,” he said. “My life away from football and my family’s life is pretty darned good here. It was going to be hard to walk away and there were some other opportunities, but it just felt right here.”