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Updated Mar 19, 2012 - 11:51 am

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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