|Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt says Kolb and Skelton will both get a chance to win the starting QB job. (Getty Images)
By any measure, Kevin Kolb's first season as the Cardinals' franchise quarterback was a huge disappointment. He played in just nine games, threw for 1,955 yards, including 9 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, and had a completion percentage of 57.7. Not exactly what Arizona envisioned when it shipped a second-round pick and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to Philly prior to the 2011 season for Kolb, whom they promptly gave a $63 million extension, including $20 million in guarantees.
Put differently: Kolb and backup John Skelton had eerily similar numbers last year which wouldn't be so bad until you realize that the latter counted $450,000 against the salary cap while Kolb's cap number was $4 million (and it increases to $11 million in 2012). It's why head coach Ken Whisenhunt said in February that both players will get opportunities to earn the job next season.
Perhaps the biggest issue facing Kolb isn't whether he's a capable NFL quarterback but something much more basic than that: can he take a huge hit from a pass rusher after suffering serious concussions the last two seasons? It's a question put forth by the Arizona Republic's Kent Somers.
Kolb missed the final three games of 2011 after sustaining a concussion against the 49ers on December 11. It took more than three weeks after the season before he felt like himself.
"To be honest with you, when I first went home it was still pretty severe," Kolb told Somers. "It kind of worried me because I figured once I got away from the game it would clear up pretty fast. But it didn't and I stayed in contact with our guys here. Within three or four days after that three-week period it was fine. I was glad to be feeling back to normal."
As Somers points out, that's a seven-week recovery, which should further raise concerns about rushing players back onto the field after suffering a blow to the head. But the organization must think that Kolb is not only healthy enough to take a hit but that he will ultimately be successful. Last month, they picked up his $7 million option bonus after bowing out of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes.
Of course, even in announcing that the Cardinals were not longer pursuing Manning, Whisenhunt again hedged about who would be the team's 2012 starter.
“Since the end of last season," Whisenhunt said on March 16, "we made it very clear that our plan was to head into 2012 with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, let the process play out and -- like at every position -- go with the quarterback who gives us the best chance to win."
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