Well, to heck with my scouting report on new Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb. Thanks to our friends at the NFL Network, we now have Kurt Warner's thoughts on the Kolb deal. Of course, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better authority on the subject of what it takes to come into a Cardinals team with some question marks and help turn it around. After a great time with the St. Louis Rams and a less-successful turn as Eli Manning's babysitter in New York, Warner joined the Cards in 2005 as a bit of an afterthought and absolutely blew up the NFL over the next five seasons. He led Arizona to a near-Super Bowl win at the end of the 2008 season and retired after the 2009 campaign as a sure Hall of Famer.
On Thursday, Warner talked about Kolb, and the $63 million deal Arizona struck to get him from the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cards also gave up a second-round pick and cornerback Dominique Rogers-Cromartie in the deal — it's a lot of currency for an unproven quarterback. What does the man with the franchise's best quarterback legacy think?
"My first impression is that I knew it was something that they were interested in for a long time," Warner said. "They were interested in obviously getting a veteran quarterback, a quarterback that they could build around. Kevin Kolb was number one on their list for a long time. Right now you look at the deal and you think they gave up a lot … but I think the first thought is they had to make a move like this. After where the organization was a couple of years ago, when I retired, having the struggles at that position last year and how they fell off, they had to go out and make a splash and get a quarterback."
True enough — the Cardinals failed to build in a contingency plan for Warner's retirement (though they knew it was coming, and he had been flirting with other teams before the 2009 season based on contract issues), and their 2010 season was a disaster as a result. With the three-headed QB monster of Derek Anderson, Max Hall and John Skelton, Arizona limped to a 5-11 record and suffered a point differential of minus-145.
However, the question remains — were the Cards destined to overpay for Kolb, based on that negative experience? Can Kevin Kolb really be that good?
"I don't think we know that yet because we've seen Kevin Kolb play really well, we've seen him make a lot of plays, we've seen him have some big games," Warner said. "And then in some of the other games he's started, we've seen him struggle a little bit. So to go out and give that much up and to pay that much money, I just think the verdict is still out on this guy. That's why it makes it a risky move, but at the same time the Cardinals had to make this kind of move. They had to go out and get a quarterback and say, 'At least we are trying to fill that position because that's a position of need for us.' And we know that in this day and age, you have to have a quarterback if you're going to win."
And in a league that is more and more about the passing game, you'll hear it far more often from executives, coaches and analysts — if you believe in that one particular quarterback, you'd best do what's needed to get him. In Arizona's case, there's another concern … superstar receiver Larry Fitzgerald is in the last year of his current contract, and he obviously wants to see some kind of commitment to a long-term solution at the position before re-signing with the team.
"I think that's a big part of it. Fitz is the centerpiece to everything that they do there. Letting certain guys go the last couple years, the one guy that they keep around, the one guy that they want to be in the middle of everything is Larry Fitzgerald. Knowing the frustration that he had last year with all of the different quarterbacks, knowing that they want to get back to getting him the ball, getting him the ball down the field, there is no question that this was a part of that plan. [They said], 'We've got to get a guy that Larry feels comfortable with, that can get him the ball in the positions where he can have the most success and ultimately can let us have success.' So, there is no question that part of this move was not just making the team better, but it was getting someone there that can allow Larry Fitzgerald to be Larry Fitzgerald again."
And that's the multimillion-dollar question. Expecting Kolb to match Warner's greatness is a bit much (especially at this point in time), but something had to be done to put Arizona's offense back on the map. Agree or disagree, that's what this deal was all about.