Kevin Kolb stood by his locker, the quarterback’s season over after a move to injured reserve earlier in the day, talking about the future.
His place, like many other teammates and even coaches, was far from certain for 2013. His position, meanwhile, will be the most important spot to sort out going into next season.
“My heart and soul is with this organization and I don’t want that to change,” Kolb said. “I really don’t.”
Strip away the team logos and personnel, and football – especially today’s NFL game – starts with the quarterback. There are always important roles for key defensive players, or offensive linemen or running backs who grind up yardage. Without quality quarterback play, however, even excellence at those other spots probably won’t lead to enough wins. With quality quarterback play, a team can even overcome deficiencies.
“You have to have someone there that can cover up other areas,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said following Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks.
Kolb was supposed to be that player, although his move to injured reserve Wednesday underscored that he has only played in 15 of 32 possible games since arriving in Arizona. Whisenhunt has praised Kolb, saying Kolb’s play this season gives the Cardinals hope and something off which to build heading into next season.
Whisenhunt wouldn’t say if Kolb’s health would play a factor into deciding what to do with him next season. But Monday, he noted “you know you’re going to miss some games, but you can’t miss a tremendous amount.”
Rookie Ryan Lindley instead moves back into the starting lineup, although his play has yet to prove he could eventually turn into a solid starter. John Skelton, set to become a restricted free agent after the season, might not even return after his struggles in 2012.
Settling the quarterback situation is ultimately a crucial part of any successful team. The Detroit Lions, who visit University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday, had to suffer through a 0-16 season in 2008. But it allowed them to choose quarterback Matthew Stafford in the following April’s draft, and Stafford has grown into one of the league’s better QBs.
“We don’t have the record we want this year,” said Lions coach Jim Schwartz, “but when you have a quarterback like Matthew, you are going to be in every single game that you play. Not every week does that guy play his best, but with a franchise quarterback you’re going to be consistent from week to week.”
What’s more, Schwartz said, having a quarterback in place allows for a staff to tailor the offense around that player’s strengths, and creates continuity.
The Cardinals are still searching for that and have been since Kurt Warner retired. Aside from Kolb, Skelton and Lindley, Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, Max Hall and Rich Bartel have all been considered at the position to varying degrees. There is a chance the Cards could look at recently claimed
Whisenhunt has mentioned multiple times that it isn’t easy to find a quarterback in the NFL, and Schwartz concurred. That’s why there was so much hope for Kolb to be the answer.
The Cardinals right now have a top 10 pick, but it’s too early to know where it will be and whether it would be best spent on a quarterback. Early reports are that there isn’t a quarterback like an Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III that will be available, although no position seems to gain steam as the draft approaches like quarterback.
Predicting who would be worth it on the free agent market is also premature, since some players could become available later if let loose by their respective teams. It’s expected, for instance, that Michael Vick or Alex Smith could be free agents, but both are under contract for next season right now.
The same goes for Kolb, who is due about $11 million total as it stands right now in 2013.
Kolb said he hasn’t yet talked to the Cardinals about next year. He said he wasn’t sure if the team will ask him to restructure his contract.
“If that time comes, we will have that discussion,” Kolb said. “Hopefully it won’t. Hopefully they’ll see what they have and we’ll move on to a good offseason.”
Kolb would like to know one way or the other. He ended up with a new contract three years ago in Philadelphia, two offseasons ago he was traded to Arizona, and last offseason he wasn’t sure what would happen as the Cardinals made an attempt to sign Peyton Manning.
“I would like for it to be settled, for my sake and for my family’s sake,” Kolb said. (My status) has been a hot topic for about three offseasons in a row now, so hopefully we will have some conversations. I made a commitment to this team, I want to be around a long time, I’d like to do big things here and I have confidence in what we have here.”
The Cardinals just want to make sure they find that quarterback they can lean on long-term. With how the position has played out, Kolb – if he returns -- figures to have some competition of some sort while the Cards attempt to find an answer behind center.
“That position,” Whisenhunt said, “hasn’t been as consistent as we’ve needed by any stretch of the imagination this year.”