In the dying days of the Ken Whisenhunt-Rod Graves era, there was some considerable effort made to explain the state of the Arizona Cardinals franchise and, more importantly, why it was where it was.
“No quarterback, no chance,” might be a fair précis of their appraisal, and the name “Kevin Kolb” in no way included in their solution. Since then, the incumbency suffered two significant losses to its ranks, leaving the surviving member very motivated to pull the plug on the experiment that ended the long tenures of his predecessors.
New general manager Steve Keim’s decision to release the Cardinals former “franchise quarterback” will undoubtedly reinvigorate the type of debate that helped secure Kevin Kolb’s services in the first place. After all, a year of laughable quarterback play (vide Derek Anderson, Max Hall and John Skelton’s collective 2010 output) can do more than just ensure a top 10 draft selection; it can lead to a hasty solution.
Desperate to secure Kolb’s services during an already frenetic 2011 post-lockout offseason, the Cardinals met Andy Reid’s demands very quickly. Probably too quickly. Among those questioning the move or, more precisely, the “market price” for an unproven starting quarterback was (then) NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi:
“I don’t know how you can be sold on Kevin Kolb…You’ve got seven games to sell yourself on. Three he played well. Four not so good. He’s a prospect. You’re buying him on potential. Which is fine. You’ve got to be able to do what he does well. That starts with protecting him.”
And while the Cardinals certainly did little to protect their investment (Kolb was sacked 57 times in two years), Lombardi’s initial criticism remains his most salient one. During Kolb’s two seasons in Arizona, he started 14 games, doubling the sample size referenced by Lombardi. Kolb’s record as a starter went from 3-4 in Philly to 6-8 with the Cardinals. His quarterback rating went from 81.8 as Eagles starter to 82.1 as Arizona’s. For some statistical context, an 82 QB rating would place Kolb 19th among qualified passers during that three-year span. But this assumes too much — namely the type of durability it takes to make such a comparison. For example, the minimum number of attempts for a qualified passer from 2010-12 was the Colts’ Curtis Painter with 243 in 2011. Kolb averaged 208 pass attempts per season during that span, and 218 during the last two years in Arizona. (Kolb was healthy about 44 percent of his time as starter in Arizona.)
The final returns from the Kevin Kolb era reveal a quarterback who was fairly serviceable when he played, and unavailable fairly often; a résumé as overrated as the decision to be rid of it.