Just as expected.
No one will say the competition between Kolb and Skelton is fake or unfair. But to be surprised that Kolb is starting the race with an advantage is being a bit naive. In fact, to bank on Skelton winning a close battle is probably even a little foolish.
The truth is, head coach Ken Whisenhunt has stated in the past that if he had to lean one way or the other, he’d lean with Kolb. The team traded cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick just to get Kolb from the Philadelphia Eagles a year ago, and proceeded to hand him over a fat contract worth $65 million dollars.
You can’t forget about Kolb’s struggles, though. He got off to a hot start as Arizona’s starting quarterback, winning in week one of last season and throwing for over 300 yards and two scores. Unfortunately, he’d throw just seven more touchdowns in just eight more games due to head and foot injuries, while his record was a forgettable 3-6 as the starter when all was said and done.
Skelton doesn’t boast the talent, contract or hype, but there is something that needs to be said about his impressive 5-2 mark as the main man under center in 2011. His numbes weren’t sexy (just 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions), but he won much more than he lost, and was a big part of a late resurgence by a young and feisty Cardinals squad.
Then again, you could say Arizona just got off to a rough start and that the team as a whole finally started to pan out once their young defense started playing more consistently. After all, it wasn’t like Skelton was averaging 300 yards per game and winning blowout after blowout. In fact, all five of his wins were decided by less than a touchdown.
Maybe that shows he was clutch. Maybe it shows he’s a solid game-manager. Or maybe it shows his supporting cast helped him and he just barely got the job done.
After all, Kolb was also involved in several close games, and they just happened to go the other way. Four times Kolb led the Cardinals in tight games (decided by less than a touchdown) and all four times he and the Cardinals came up short.
It could be the luck of the draw. Or maybe it’s just as simple as last year’s quarterback records lay it out: that Skelton is the better leader and a more reliable winner.
Maybe, but it’s not really all that likely. And even if you can make a strong argument that Skelton is the better option, you don’t have great odds that anyone will listen.
Ultimately, these guys both carry some pros and cons. Kolb is erratic and fairly unproven still. His work ethic has been called into question. He’s struggled to stay healthy when he’s had a starting job. And he hasn’t proven he can be a winning quarterback. But for all his faults, Kolb has a lively arm, has shown flashes of pure brilliance, and is the better pure talent in comparison to Skelton.
Skelton, on the other hand, is taller, younger, and has shown an ability to come up relatively big in tough situations. He had some of his best outings against arguably tough competition. But along with his strengths, he has issues with accuracy, consistency and turnovers.
So, if these two guys with a lot of good and a lot of bad meet up in preseason and one fails to blow the other out of the water – what happens?
Nothing. Kolb stays at number one, and Skelton sticks as a very competent, reliable and ready number two. Probably exactly as it should be. If Kolb once again isn’t able to stay healthy or play efficient ball, there will be a new answer at some point in 2012, and we’ll get another crack at seeing if Skelton is the real deal.
But not until Kolb implodes or gets hurt. He’s too talented and he’s owed too much money. This is a business, after all. And the Cardinals know Kolb is capable of putting fans in the seats. He’s capable of putting up big numbers, and he’s certainly capable of winning games. At least, that’s what they’ve paid him $65 million to do.