Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb came into his team's third preseason game with a quarterback rating of 0.0, which would lead one to assume that there was nowhere to go but up.
One would be wrong. Kolb seemed to regress even further from the player the Cardinals hoped they were getting before signing him to a huge contract before the 2011 season. In little more than a quarter of work against Oakland's first-team defense, Kolb completed 3 of 6 passes for 22 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. However, raw stats don't really give the flavor of the epic horribleness that was Kolb's performance. He completed all three passes on the first drive of the game -- all short passes -- and failed to do anything even reasonable productive for the rest of his time with his starters.
The worst series happened late in the first quarter. On second down from his own 11-yard line, Kolb "tried" to throw a pass across his body under pressure. He was busted, quite rightly, for intentional grounding, and the ball was placed at the Arizona 1-yard line. On the next play, Kolb danced around the end zone, held on to the ball so long, I suspected he was going to take it to a desert island and start calling it "Wilson," and was sacked in the end zone by Raiders defensive lineman Tommy Kelly for a safety.
Per the Raiders' play-by-play guys, when Kelly ran to his sideline following the safety, he was heard to utter about Kolb the worst possible words one football player could say about another: "That boy's scared."
After the game, Kelly had more thoughts on the matter, per the Associated Press. "He is skittish," Kelly said of Kolb. "He is scared back there. Anytime anybody gets close to him, he starts looking at the refs. As a defensive lineman you love a quarterback like that. He ain't even trying to look at the routes no more. He is paying attention to us and you ain't going to get nothing done like that."
"Scared? Scared of what?" Kolb told Darren Urban of the Cardinals' official website in response. "Taking a hit? I have never been afraid of anyone on the field and that will never change. That includes Number 93 [Kelly]. There's a fine line between holding in the pocket and trying to escape to make a play. Tommy Kelly is too clueless to know the difference. I don't mind people criticizing my play. Don't ever question my toughness."
It's easy to blame Arizona's offensive line, and it's true that Kolb's protection was iffy at best. But he continued to show the traits that have always made him a risky version of a franchise quarterback -- he kept alternating between balkiness under pressure and killer indecision when faced with people in his face. He took three sacks during his time under center, and he has to take a lot of the blame for not knowing how to get rid of the ball in a way that isn't an obvious (and illegal) bailout move.
Amazingly, the Cardinals were up, 24-11 on the Raiders at halftime despite Kolb's worst efforts. Kolb's temporary (and possible permanent) replacement, John Skelton threw a touchdown pass, running back Ryan Williams scored a touchdown exactly 365 days after suffering a torn patellar tendon that ended his 2011 season before it began, and rookie cornerback Justin Bethel returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.
The Cardinals have some impressive talent on their team -- their young defense is especially interesting and opportunistic. But as much as teams don't like to admit sunk cost, the Cardinals may have to realize, sooner than later, that the rather expensive Kolb experiment is a failure, and that it's time to turn the page.
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