A Tale of Two Quarterbacks

Mitch

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"These were the best of times and the worst of times..."

The immediate translation and application of the famous Dickens quote is that it is the best of times for the Arizona Cardinals because they have never had a more talented roster...and potentially the worst of times because as of right now, the Cardinals have no idea who their starting quarterback will be. Quite a conundrum indeed.

Looking back to last season---the best of times was the team's 7-2 remarkable resurgence over the last nine games---the worst of times was the dismal 1-6 start. A tale of two seasons, for sure.

But that was then---and this is now.

The quarterback competition, no matter how unsettling the situation is---remains something straight out of a storybook.

It is a tale of two young Texans---

The son of a head football coach---who put up gawdy numbers at Stephensville High School (2 time UIL District 8-4A Offensive MVP) and was highly recruited by Division 1 colleges. He elected to stay in the state and play for the University of Houston, where once again he put up big numbers and was highly acclaimed (2006 Conference USA Offensive MVP)---so much so that he was drafted in the second round by the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that groomed him to be their quarterback of the future once the incumbent, Donovan McNabb, was traded.

The other played at Barges High in El Paso (his dad was an asst. coach) where he was named 1st Team All-District offensive MVP, but he was left out of the Division 1 college recruiting party...and rather conspicuously so...to the point where his best option was to sign on with Fordham University, an unheralded Division I AA college. This young man had a very successful career at Fordham (As a senior in 2009 led NCAA FSC in passing yards per game, at 337.1 and yards, at 3,708 and broke almost all of Fordham's career passing records)---but hey, after all, it was only Fordham, so it was no big deal, right? The Arizona Cardinals had just lost Hall of Famer-to-be Kurt Warner to retirement and was preparing to hand the QB keys over to Matt Leinart, their 2006 first round pick and former Heisman Trophy winner. But they needed a backup---a young "project-type" QB to groom, so they traded up in the 2009 draft to select him in the 5th round. And as horrendous as the QB situation was in Arizona during this young man's first year, and getting beat out on the depth chart by the diminutive Max Hall, an un-drafted college free agent, when there was no other choice but to start this young man in the 15th game of the season---he had never been given a single practice snap with the first team the whole season long---which, in addition, prompted the head coach to consider starting Rich Bartel instead, a street free agent who had just been signed on the Monday after Game 14.

Kevin Kolb versus John Skelton: The Prodigal Son versus Cinderella.

Contrast in Styles:

Kolb is a smaller, more mobile QB who likes to throw the ball on the run.

Skelton is a taller, thicker pocket passer.

Contrast in Demeanors:

Kolb mixes a little swagger with at times a tangible skittishness.

Skelton plays with a smile on his face and a calmness that may be too calm at times.

Contrast in Records:

Kolb: 6-11

Skelton: 8-4

Contrast In QB Productivity:

Kolb: 572/340, 59.4%, 4,037, 7.1 ypa, 20/22 td/int, 78.7 QB rating

Skelton: 401/211, 52,6%, 2,575, 6.4 ypa, 13/16 td/int, 66.8 QB rating

Contrast in Career Come From Behind Wins:

Kolb: 1

Skelton: 6

Contrast in Salaries:


Kolb: $10,500,000

Skelton: $495,000

What Kolb Must Overcome To Win The Job:

* durability issues: concussions---both of which forced him out of the starting lineup in successive years---that and a foot injury last year.

* the perception that he flushes out of the pocket too quickly

* some fans' disdain for the level of his play---i.e.---the boo birds

* the propensity to throw untimely interceptions

What Skelton Must Overcome To Win:

* the slow starts

* perceptions that he will always be inaccurate

* the perception that he is doofy

* the fact that national coaches, scouts and pundits have always had their questions about his ability to be an effective starting QB in the NFL

The Prodigal Son.

In essence Kolb has been given every vote of faith that Skelton hasn't. The Eagles, in Kolb's fourth year, after they traded McNabb and handed Kolb the QB keys, signed Kolb to a 2 year $12M contract which paid him more than $10M in the first year. After losing the starting job to Mike Vick, the Cardinals traded for him and could have had Kolb play out his contract at $1.4M for the last year of it---but instead, committed big money to him in the form of a 5 year $63M contract. make no mistake about it: both his teams in the NFL have laid out the red carpet for him and thus far he has done little more than trip on it.

As we know one of the biggest motivators for players in the NFL is to play at a high level in order to earn themselves the "big money" contract. Kolb has landed two big money contracts and has been paid well over $30M in the last three years. Kolb is set financially.

What needs to kick in his pride---because that is essentially what he is playing for now. Like the saying goes: "For whom much has been given---much is expected."

Add to pride---a sense of loyalty to the Arizona Cardinals for showing so much faith in him---not once, but twice in that after last year they could have cut ties with Kolb and not paid him the second year $7M bonus.

Kolb---who must still be understandably nervous about sustaining a third concussion in three years, especially when the symptoms of last year's concussion lasted nearly two months---needs to summon up the courage. moxie and resolve to shut the boo birds up.

In Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, how does Henry Fleming transform from a brooding, fearful soldier to a resolute and stalwart war hero?

The turning point occurs when he and his fellow soldier, Wilson (the loud soldier), are filling their canteens at the river one day and they overhear the colonel asking the lieutenant which regiment he can most easily spare---in other words, which regiment can they throw as a front line into the next fray. The lieutenant replies: "the 34th regiment---they're a bunch of mule drivers."

Henry and Wilson's reaction to hearing their regiment called a "bunch of mule drivers" is unpredictable and stunning. Where once they would have been the first soldiers to run away, especially if they knew they were going to be sent out for slaughter---now instead, they return to the regiment with the determination to show that lieutenant a thing or two.

So what kicked in? Pride and loyalty.

Therefore, maybe the best thing that's happening to Kevin Kolb right now is all the scrutiny and the booing. If his pride and loyalty kick up, we are apt to see the best of him---and we are apt to see what scouts have always liked about him. Like Henry Fleming who suffered through what he called an "eternal camp"---because it gave him too much time to think about whether he would be brave or run away in the face of battle, Kolb over the course of five seasons has had too much time to stand on the sidelines and think.

He now has to get angry---and all the more determined to live up to the expectations that his coaches and teammates have in him.

He has to feel especially angry that his own All-Pro WR Larry Fitzgerald has advised fantasy football participants to draft Calvin Johnson over him.

He has to feel angry that Willie McGinnest has stated that the Cardinal locker room is in favor of Skelton.

In essence, he has to show his teammates that he is just as tough as they are---and that he has their backs all the way.

Cinderella:

The story fits---no one has wanted to take this bumpkin to the ball. For whatever reason, in other people's eyes he has lacked the look of a keeper. And yet---to his credit---he has shown that when he has been able to attend the dance, that he can overcome apprehensions and early miscues and still manage to save the day by the stroke of midnight.

What Skelton needs to do is put a midnight curfew on every quarter that he plays. And in order to do that he needs to stop being so careful and cautious---he's got to take the reins of the carriage himself, much the way Kurt Warner did. He has to stand up to his detractors and stop allowing them too much authority and freedom to do with him as they will. This is his big chance---and he has to believe that he is the prince, and not the pumpkin.

Skelton will need his pride to kick in as well.

Skelton needs to remind himself that last year after leading the 1-6 Cardinals to a 3-1 record in his first 4 starts (with only one home game in that stretch)---that the coaches burst his bubble and started Kevin Kolb at home versus Dallas.

And Skelton needs to remember how he atoned for his one miserable loss at SF in that stretch, by coming in for the injured Kolb three weeks later and leading the Cardinals to a stunning 21-19 come from behind victory over the then 10-2 49ers.

He needs to remind himself of the streaks he broke:

1. Ended a 7 game losing streak in his first ever start in Game 15 of 2010.

2. Ended a 6 game losing streak in his first start in Game 8 of 2011.

3. Ended the East Coast losing streak to Philadelphia on the road.

4. Ending the 5 game losing streak to the 49ers.

5. Ended the 3 game losing streak to Pete Carroll's Seahawks.

John Skelton needs to remind himself: he has an uncanny ability to bust his rival's bubbles.

So---who will win the job?

Will the scrutiny be stifling for both QBs?

Once the games start will the fans be crying out for the other QB every time the starter makes a mistake?

Will these QBs be playing so carefully and cautiously that the offense will sputter?

Will the coaches ever learn to be confident in one of these QBs?

Will we be looking for a new starter again next year?

From what we have seen thus far---Skelton has shown an ability to believe in himself when no one else has, especially when the chips are down---and Kolb, thus far with two different teams, has shown that he has not been able to live up to the belief and impressive financial commitment the teams have had in him.

From here, however, anything can happen. We don't know how Skelton would respond if the expectations were switched over exclusively to him and we don't know whether Kolb has a self-belief that has yet to be manifested to the fans in Arizona.
 
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slanidrac16

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No need to read any other analysis.

I think Kolb will win the job.

I really don't care who wins it. I just want the guy thats going to give us a better chance to win. With an improved running game and a vastly improved defense all Kolb needs to do is play under control and not force anything. His accuracy will keep us a bit more consistant and alleviate a bit of pressure off the defense. Kolb needs to understand that we don't expect a touchdown drive every time he steps on the field. Sommetimes all we need is a couple of first downs to preserve field position.

We need to keep in mind that a big part of the so called "come from behind" wins last year was because of PP21.

Great job , Mitch.


One other thing I'd like to say to the fans. Do you really need to boo Kolb at this point? We should at least support the guy thru training camp.
 

Duckjake

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Not to be picky but neither Kolb nor Skelton won a Football State Championship in High School. Stephenville won in 1999 but Kolb was not the starting QB. Oddly enough both Stephenville and Grapevine, where Bartel played in HS, won a State Championship in 1998.
 

Duckjake

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We need to keep in mind that a big part of the so called "come from behind" wins last year was because of PP21.

Not to be picky but PP21 Only had one Punt return for a TD the last 8 games of the season.

:D
 

Seandonic

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No need to read any other analysis.

I think Kolb will win the job.

I really don't care who wins it. I just want the guy thats going to give us a better chance to win. With an improved running game and a vastly improved defense all Kolb needs to do is play under control and not force anything. His accuracy will keep us a bit more consistant and alleviate a bit of pressure off the defense. Kolb needs to understand that we don't expect a touchdown drive every time he steps on the field. Sommetimes all we need is a couple of first downs to preserve field position.

We need to keep in mind that a big part of the so called "come from behind" wins last year was because of PP21.

Great job , Mitch.


One other thing I'd like to say to the fans. Do you really need to boo Kolb at this point? We should at least support the guy thru training camp.
I agree totally with ^this^.
 

Reddog

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Great job Mitch. Love the Literary reference. Here is my question with Kolb; Does it matter to him? Unlike Henry Fleming, Kolb has $30M in the bank. I think his character might share a simplicity with Henry and by all reports Kolb lives a pretty modest lifestyle with little requirement for the limelight. After a half hearted effort to appease his pride and another hard hit, I can easily see him walking off into the sunset and retiring to his ranch to avoid the permanent physical damage the NFL poses. Henry might have done the same when facing certain death on the front, but he had no option. We only have the Cliff Notes on Kolb and there have been too few chapters written for proper character development.

Skelton on the other hand, like Henry has no options but to persevere or perish. The question with him is simply; He has the fight in in him but does he have the weapons to survive the front line?
 
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Mitch

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Not to be picky but neither Kolb nor Skelton won a Football State Championship in High School. Stephenville won in 1999 but Kolb was not the starting QB. Oddly enough both Stephenville and Grapevine, where Bartel played in HS, won a State Championship in 1998.

Thank you, Duck! I thought I read in each of their cases that they led their teams to state championships---but it might have been to state championship games---anyway thanks to you I put in other info about their high school careers instead.
 

Russ Smith

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I don't get mentioning untimely INT's with Kolb but not with Skelton. Skelton has thrown 211 passes in the NFL, and 16 picks. Kolb has thrown 572 passes in the NFL and has thrown 22 picks. So which one has the tendency to throw picks?

His last year in Philly Kolb threw 189 passes or almost the same number Skelton has for his career, and threw 7 picks. Near as I can tell from looking at the stats in his first 211 passes in the NFL Kolb threw at most 8 picks or at most half the number Skelton has thrown.

Skelton has a better TD pass ratio 13 in 211 compared to Kolb's 20 in 572, Kolb has the lower INT percentage.
 
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Mitch

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Great job Mitch. Love the Literary reference. Here is my question with Kolb; Does it matter to him? Unlike Henry Fleming, Kolb has $30M in the bank. I think his character might share a simplicity with Henry and by all reports Kolb lives a pretty modest lifestyle with little requirement for the limelight. After a half hearted effort to appease his pride and another hard hit, I can easily see him walking off into the sunset and retiring to his ranch to avoid the permanent physical damage the NFL poses. Henry might have done the same when facing certain death on the front, but he had no option. We only have the Cliff Notes on Kolb and there have been too few chapters written for proper character development.

Skelton on the other hand, like Henry has no options but to persevere or perish. The question with him is simply; He has the fight in in him but does he have the weapons to survive the front line?

Great points, Reddog---thanks for extending the metaphors! Way cool!

It will be very interesting to see where Kolb's pride will take him this year. I am not sure he's been in the organization long enough to feel loyalty---but, man, all he needs to do is look across at Adrian Wilson every day to see the personification of team loyalty. Does it seem right that Kolb will make more than three times what Wilson will? It is what it is.

I have been contending that John Skelton had more to do with the 7-2 record down the stretch than he gets credit for. His teammates like him because he doesn't play scared---he's tough and isn't afraid to hit someone even as a QB. This rubs off on everyone around him---as I thought it rubbed off on Beanie Wells the second half of the season---the toughest he has been and doing it while nursing a bad knee as well. The way Skelton defined the pocket allowed Levi Brown to settle down---there is no question about that, is there? The hardest QB for an tackle to protect is one who bolts the pocket. And I don't think it was a total coincidence that when Skelton arrived so did the far improved toughness on defense---at a time when 1-6 Cardinal teams usually throw in the towel.

One more point---the irony is---thanks to John Skelton as much as anyone else, Ken Whisenhunt's job appears safe for now---both last year and this, Skelton gave fans some great moments during otherwise dismal seasons. The win over the Cowboys on Christmas in 2010---and the win over the 49ers in 2011 come immediately to mind---8 of the team's 13 wins and only 4 of the team's 19 losses with Skelton taking the majority of the snaps under center. And I say irony because just as Whisenhunt went back to Kolb after Skelton went 3-1 in his first 4 starts, he is likely to do the same to start this year.
 
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Mitch

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I don't get mentioning untimely INT's with Kolb but not with Skelton. Skelton has thrown 211 passes in the NFL, and 16 picks. Kolb has thrown 572 passes in the NFL and has thrown 22 picks. So which one has the tendency to throw picks?

His last year in Philly Kolb threw 189 passes or almost the same number Skelton has for his career, and threw 7 picks. Near as I can tell from looking at the stats in his first 211 passes in the NFL Kolb threw at most 8 picks or at most half the number Skelton has thrown.

Skelton has a better TD pass ratio 13 in 211 compared to Kolb's 20 in 572, Kolb has the lower INT percentage.

Right, no question---what I meant, however was the interceptions Kolb threw during the six game losing streak in games the Cardinals had a great chance to win: the two at Seattle in a 13-10 loss---the egregious one in the second half at Baltimore when the team had a good lead and momentum---the 2 at Minnesota that gave a sub-par Vikings team all the momentum, etc.

6 of Skelton's interceptions came in 2 games---at SF and at CIN, both losses, so those ones hurt, no question. But, in other games obviously it did not cost the team a win. And at CIN Skelton almost atoned for it anyway.
 
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Mitch

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Another GREAT write up Mitch! Woo-hoo, football is coming.

Dare I cast Bartel as Pip?

Dems! Does Bartel have GREAT EXPECTATIONS???! Wouldn't that be wild if Bartel runs away with girl instead!:D

Whom do you cast Ryan Lindley as?
 

NashDishesDimes

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Nice read. That preseason game against New Orleans will be incredibly interesting for this QB battle.

As much as i like Skelton, Kolbs accuracy makes me feel a lot better at this point. Skelton has the Juevos but i hate seeing him overthrow recievers.
 

Shane

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Good stuff Mitch!
 

Reddog

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It will be very interesting to see where Kolb's pride will take him this year. I am not sure he's been in the organization long enough to feel loyalty---but, man, all he needs to do is look across at Adrian Wilson every day to see the personification of team loyalty. Does it seem right that Kolb will make more than three times what Wilson will? It is what it is.

I don't think it is about loyalty in this situation because as you said he hasn't been here long enough. I think it is about will and character. I really know nothing about Kolb but I tend to go on little gut feelings. I remember watching Lienart and USC play at Sun Devil Stadium and while I had been a fan of his, I saw something in him that day (when he didn't like getting hit near the sideline) that cemented my opinion that he was soft and temperamental. I have a similar gut feeling on Kolb. Not the same issues but I can't help feeling he doesn't have a desperate passion to succeed on the football field because he now has financial security. Again, don't know the man and have no basis beyond what I perceive as no appearance of urgency. I hope I am wrong because he has the physical tools.
 

Buckybird

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I've got a feeling with all the hurt RB's, the QB's get quite the workout throwing the rock against the Taints.
 

Cardiac

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Mitch, outstanding thoughts and high marks on style points. As fair and objective piece as you have written when you have a strong opinion on the individuals involved.

I agree with Russ that Skelton is far more interception prone and I'm not sure that Kolb's have worse timing.

It's my opinion that Kolb isn't afraid of getting hit but of not making a play successful. That's why we see him break out of the pocket too quickly too often. Based on his lack of full understanding in the offense and necessary reps he didn't where/how to get rid of the ball quickly to avoid sacks.

I fully agree that Skelton has a certain IT factor and he simply doesn't get rattled. If he could just get his accuracy fixed then he is Big Ben without the rape gene.

I can't buy into the D got tough because Skelton is tough theory. I agree that teams can emulate their QB's as there are plenty of examples but I think you are selling the defensive players and Horton short. Of course this is all a matter of opinion at this point.

Gun to my head I admit that I want Skelton as our long term solution but that would mean he is playing smarter (hopefully).

Again, I thouroughly enjoyed the article.
 

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Apparently Skelton looking pretty awful at practice today.
 

Shane

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Could you expound for the out of towners?

Theres a guy at camp on twitter that has said that Skelton's body language is as though he just isn't into it and has thrown 3 picks and throwing balls into ground. Posted a video of on e of the pics.
 

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