3 Big Reasons the Arizona Cardinals Cannot Trust Kevin Kolb at Quarterback
Arizona traded away cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and its 2012 second-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for Kolb. They then signed him to a five-year, $63 million contract extension that could potentially keep him in Arizona through the 2016 season—should things work out.
Should things not work out, as I suspect they may not, Arizona can get out of the deal following the upcoming season and owe him only the $6 million left in signing-bonus money (out of $10 million, at $2 million per season).
Packers linebacker Clay Matthews caught Kolb from behind, and, upon being tackled, the front of Kolb’s head slammed violently onto the Lincoln Financial Field turf.
Kolb then injured his foot last season during a Week 8 game in Baltimore. He finished the game with a noticeable limp but missed the next four after he was diagnosed the following week as having turf toe, a mid-foot sprain and a bone bruise.
While turf toe can reoccur, it is not as large a threat as the head injuries.
Kolb returned to action, but lasted only one game and three plays, as he sustained another concussion during the Week 14 game against rival San Francisco. This time it was at the hands—or the left knee—of Ahmad Brooks.
He sat out the remainder of the season.
Why Is Health a Problem?
Arizona’s offensive line was among the worst in the NFL last year.
While the team appears to have improved the line via the draft and free agency, there is no guarantee its play will improve—especially if Kolb can’t learn to move within the pocket and deliver throws without putting himself in danger by scrambling too early.
Kolb admitted after the season that it took longer than expected for him to recover from his second concussion in as many seasons:
“To be honest with you, when I first went home [after the season ended] it was still pretty severe,” he said. “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 [at team headquarters]. Within three or four days after that three-week period it was fine. I was glad to be feeling back to normal.”
One more ding to the brain and he may need to think about life after football. It will certainly be more difficult with every added concussion.
I posted a link to Kolb’s first concussion in the health history slide.
As a visual aid, click here and watch the highlight so you can follow along as you read this slide.
I'm going to break it down so we can understand why he was injured in the first place.
If you pause the video as Kolb sets to throw, you’ll notice a very wide-open Brent Celek streaking across the middle of the field. All Kolb needed to do is take two steps to his left to avoid the rush from Matthews and Cullen Jenkins—which he did—and make the throw to Celek—which he did not.
He kept his eyes down the field as he scrambled to his left, which shows he was trying to make a big play. But finding the safety valve five yards down the field is better than what ultimately resulted in the end of his career in Philadelphia.
Kolb failed to look toward Celek until linebacker Nick Barnett had arrived in coverage at the tight end’s back side. What to do, then?
Throw it away.
That did not happen, either. Instead, Kolb made the fateful mistake of attempting to pick up yards and make something out of what he originally turned into nothing.
Matthews reached Kolb; Kolb went down; Kolb’s career as the Eagles’ starting quarterback ended (he filled in for Michael Vick following Vick’s own injury later in the season, but his time had passed).
How Was That One Play Such a Problem?
Plays much like the one I broke down were the norm throughout Kolb’s first season as Arizona’s signal-caller.
One might argue that with no offseason, a set of new teammates and a new playbook, it’s possible he simply was too reliant on his playmaking ability to hide his unfamiliarity with his receivers and the plays which were being called.
Or, even, that he did not trust his offensive line enough to stay within the pocket and deliver the throw.
Or, it could be that Kevin Kolb has never possessed confidence in the pocket.
That mistake-filled play occurred during Kolb’s fourth year running the same offensive system. Familiarity should not have been an issue. While it’s true that the protection broke down quickly, there were multiple opportunities for Kolb to get the ball out and move on to the next play.
I don’t see a solution to this problem coming any time soon.
He has had his moments as a starter—for both teams—but these plays won’t just go away. They will continue because pocket presence is not something that is learned—you either have it, or you don’t.
Kolb does not.
As a member of one of the weakest quarterback draft classes in recent memory (JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn were selected before him), Kolb had an opportunity to stand out and prove he should have been a first-round pick.
He has failed to run with that opportunity, and has allowed an undrafted quarterback out of Oregon State to take the reins as the most successful of the 2007 class.
Matt Moore, of all people, is 13-12 in 25 career starts at quarterback between Carolina and Miami. He has averaged 146.8 passing yards per game, throwing 32 touchdowns and 26 interceptions over that time for an 80.1 passer rating.
Kolb is 5-10 in 15 career starts between Philadelphia and Arizona. He has averaged 149.5 yards per game, throwing 20 touchdowns and 22 interceptions for a 76.7 rating. (I left out the start and victory against San Francisco for which he was given credit, as he played three snaps and had zero impact before becoming concussed.)
How Does Kolb Possess Little Upside?
Both Kolb and Moore have seen limited action during their five years as professionals, yet the undrafted Moore has been better—though not much better—than the second-round pick, Kolb.
I will say this: There is a chance Kolb has an epiphany and turns his career around. He could emerge from training camp as the clear-cut starter over teammate John Skelton and dominate the NFC West, ultimately earning the remainder of his contract.
Given his growing track record of injuries and skittish pocket performances, however, that chance is small.