Kevin Kolb’s divisive Arizona stint conjures Leinart flashbacks

Mar 15, 2013, 4:05 PM | Updated: 4:42 pm

So the Kevin Kolb era has come to an end in the Valley of the Sun — if two injury-plagued seasons can constitute an era, that is.

Give the Arizona Cardinals credit, though. Knowing they had to bring in a franchise quarterback on the heels of a disastrous 2010 season that saw Derek Anderson and Max Hall stink up the joint, they targeted Kolb, traded for him and signed him to a fat five-year, $63 million deal.

And from the minute the ink dried on the contract, Kolb’s mere presence divided the Cardinal fan base. Supporters of the team split like a group of teenage girls waiting in line to see the latest Twilight Movie. “Team Kolb” and “Team Skelton” became keywords for the next two seasons of Cardinals football.

Hell, Kolb got booed in a mini-camp practice. By his own team’s fans!

Many who denounced Kolb while he was here will relish the opportunity to sum up his Cardinal tenure in two words — “Kolb sucked.”

Here we go again.

Kevin Kolb didn’t “suck” as the quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. In games that he started, Arizona went 6-8. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was a respectable 17-to-11. His passer rating was 83.2 — again, very respectable. In fact, of the 40 NFL quarterbacks who have started ten or more games over the last two seasons, Kolb is 21st in quarterback rating. That’s a figure better than Chicago’s Jay Cutler, Philadelphia’s Michael Vick, Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman, St. Louis’ Sam Bradford and Minnesota’s Christian Ponder, just to name a few.

What did “suck” was his luck. Turf toe injuries, like the one that sidelined Kolb for four weeks in 2011, happen. Freak concussions, like the one he suffered when the back of his head was struck by San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks’ knee, don’t happen often.

Another freakish injury — this one to his ribs — ended a once-promising 2012 season for him and his team. The Cardinals were 4-1 at the time of the injury and finished 5-11.

I certainly don’t believe Kolb “sucked” while he wore Cardinal red, but there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding his future in the league. The above numbers do indicate that when he’s healthy, Kolb is more than serviceable. And that’s all the Cardinals really needed to win games in 2012 — a serviceable signal caller who wouldn’t cripple the team with turnovers and mistakes. After his injury, the Cardinals were saddled with John Skelton and Ryan Lindley, who crippled the team with turnovers and mistakes.

Kolb is, in a lot of ways, Matt Leinart Part II.

Leinart, of course, was the Cardinals’ quarterback of the future when he was drafted back in 2006 and enjoyed a pretty solid rookie campaign on a bad football team. He struggled to maintain control of the starting position — but then again, Kurt Warner was on the roster.

The former USC Heisman Trophy winner was cut following Warner’s retirement in 2010 by then-head coach Ken Whisenhunt despite completing 78.6 percent of his passes and posting a quarterback rating of 104.61 in four preseason games.

Leinart wasn’t Whisenhunt’s guy. It was former head coach Dennis Green who was instrumental in nabbing the quarterback with the 10th overall selection of the 2006 NFL Draft. Whisenhunt had a built-in excuse not to choose Leinart as his starter, and ultimately cut him.

Kolb is not Bruce Arians’ guy, so he too has a built-in excuse to jettison the quarterback. Plus, Kolb’s salary cap figure made it a lot easier to cut him. The Cardinals offered a revamped deal, but Kolb balked.

And like Leinart, Kolb will leave Arizona with question marks surrounding just who he really is as a quarterback. The reasons are different — Leinart was never granted an opportunity while Kolb was often injured — but the result is the same. The Arizona Cardinals still need a quarterback.

Step on up, Drew Stanton. Bring your four career starts in five seasons and see if you can be the answer to the question that has puzzled the Cardinals organization for three years and counting.

Here we go again.

Arizona Cardinals

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