Bruce Arians: Carson Palmer to start next year if he returns, Blaine Gabbert signs

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals' quarterback situation is clear, for now.

Blaine Gabbert proved enough despite throwing two interceptions in Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams to earn another start this week, coach Bruce Arians said Monday. What has essentially turned into a tryout for him to be the Cardinals’ quarterback of the future will continue for at least another game.

While Gabbert likely will finish the season as the Cards’ starter, that is not a foregone conclusion. And as Arians added, how Gabbert finishes this season will play a role in determining his fate with the team in the future.

That, however, is where Arizona’s quarterback situation next season could get murky.

Should Gabbert (who is playing on a one-year contract) sign a long-term deal and should Carson Palmer (who’s currently on injured reserve after breaking his left arm in Week 7) decide to play another season, then Arizona could enter next season with the makings of a quarterback controversy.

But Arians put an end to any speculation about that.

“If that was the case, it would be some competition,” Arians said. “But to me, if Carson’s coming back, he’s coming back to be the starter.”

The possibility of Palmer and Gabbert entering next season as teammates has begun looking realistic. Palmer is under contract through the 2018 season. And Arians said he and general manager Steve Keim discuss the possibility of losing Gabbert in free agency “all the time,” which could lead to Arizona signing Gabbert to a long-term deal before he hits free agency.

“It could possibly happen, yeah,” Arians said.

The entire discussion could be for naught if Palmer decides to retire or asks for his release.

Until either happens, Palmer will be penciled in as the starter next season as Gabbert, who has yet to tighten his grip on the Cards’ quarterback job, continues to learn the intricacies of Arians' offense.

His inexperience in it was on full display Sunday.

“He’s a veteran quarterback that’s learning it for the first time, and that’s exactly what he is,” Arians said. “He’s spent one spring and three games in this offense. There were some things that were happening in the game that ... there are always things that you don’t practice, that you just have to know from knowing your offense, and he’s not quite there yet.”

He might be next season, though.

Arians said the jump that quarterbacks make in his scheme is “usually pretty big” between their first and second seasons in it. Gabbert did “pretty well” learning the offense from time he signed in May.

“There are always those nuances that you don’t know,” Arians said. “When you start working with different guys every week, that’s a problem for any quarterback.”

Yet during his three starts this season, Gabbert has continued to show Arians that he’s capable of being a starting quarterback in the NFL. He reinforced it Sunday, despite making a bad decision on his first interception.

Gabbert’s two picks were the first time that Arians had concerns about the signal-caller's decision-making. The first interception, when Gabbert threw across his body on the run, was “just really bad,” the coach said. Arians pinned all the blame on Gabbert for not setting his feet and throwing it to the area of the field he did. Arians chalked the second pick up to a “hell of a play” by Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree and “really good defense.”

But Gabbert has showed an ability to forget bad plays and move on.

“Talking with some of the guys, he’s great in the huddle -- really good in the huddle,” Arians said. “On the sideline, he’ll flat out tell you, ‘Man, I screwed that up,’ or ‘I thought I saw this,' and that’s what you want.

“You want him to tell you the truth and accept responsibility. He does that totally.”

Gabbert has four more weeks to continue to prove himself to Arians -- unless Palmer comes back from injured reserve. Arians hopes Palmer can come back for the final two games of the season, especially because Arizona is 3-0 at Seattle when Palmer starts under Arians. (The Cardinals visit the Seahawks on New Year's Eve.) But while talking about the possibility of long-snapper Aaron Brewer returning from injured reserve, Arians said Brewer “is about the only guy that looks like he’s going to be able to come off in two weeks,” which is when Palmer would be eligible to return.

But Arians is still holding out hope for Palmer.

“He’s working his tail off,” Arians said. “He doesn’t have a cast, so hopefully.”