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Updated Mar 19, 2012 - 6:51 pm

Kolb must prove Cardinals were right to choose him over Peyton Manning

“Regarding today’s developments and our quarterback
position, acquiring Peyton Manning is no longer an option
for us.”

With those words Friday, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt
effectively put an end to the team’s pursuit of Peyton
Manning, ending months of speculation and a week’s worth
of effort to land the future Hall of Fame QB.

The Cards bowed out of the Manning sweepstakes largely
because of a roster bonus due to Kevin Kolb, a contract
stipulation that forced the Cardinals to make a decision –
one way or another – by Friday afternoon: either pick up
the option and keep Kolb, or cut him loose and hope for
the best with Manning.

They made their choice, and it was to stick with the QB
they acquired last summer.

This is a QB who completed 57.7 percent of his passes and
threw for just nine touchdowns in his first season in the
Valley. A QB who played in only nine games due to various
injuries.

A QB who the Cardinals decided they couldn’t lose on the
hope they’d be able to convince Peyton Manning to
come to Arizona.

So now Manning will be leading some other team, likely
the Broncos, and the Cardinals will lick their wounds and
head into the season with Kolb and John Skelton.

The prospect doesn’t faze Whisenhunt, not in the least.

“We sit here today in the same spot we were heading into
the offseason,” he said. “That’s with two experienced
quarterbacks who have both demonstrated positive things in
the past and who we feel good about.”

The decision to stop going after Manning, though, was not
about what the team has in Skelton. If Whisenhunt truly
believed the Fordham product was capable of being the
starter, the team would have saved some money and given
Kolb the boot.

That they didn’t is a sign that, while the team may like
Skelton, they still believe in Kolb – at least to the
point where they were too afraid to lose him just for a
slim chance at landing Manning.

And now it’s up to Kolb to justify that belief.

The 27-year-old will have a full offseason with the team,
with a chance to learn the playbook and work on
familiarizing himself with his receivers, as well as a
upgraded revamped offensive line.

What he won’t have is any more excuses.

If Kevin Kolb fails, it won’t be due to a lack of effort.
He’s proven to be a tireless worker and solid leader
though, as my colleague Vince Marotta points out, he may be a
little miffed at the team’s effort to replace him.

At any rate, Kolb, first and foremost, must stay healthy.
Quarterbacks who miss half a season due to injury are of
little use to a team, no matter how talented they are. And
then, if on the field, he must outperform Skelton, who
will have every chance to win the starting job outright
this summer.

For Kolb’s sake, he better win the job and open the season
under center.

The Cardinals could not continue in the race for Peyton
Manning because it would have cost them Kevin Kolb. They
may not have come out on top, but they wouldn’t have
excused themselves from contention, either, had it not
been for Kolb’s bonus. Now it’s up to Kolb to not only
prove they made the right call, but also prove that he has
a future as a starting quarterback in the NFL.

This is his team. It may be his last chance.

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