Former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, appearing at the NFL 101 All-Access event in L.A. earlier this week, said it will be tough for any quarterback in a new situation in 2011.
In 2004, free agent quarterback Kurt Warner didn't sign with the New York Giants until June 3, deep into the team's offseason work.
While Warner was the starter coming out of training camp, he was eventually benched for rookie Eli Manning and "I never got comfortable with the offense the whole time I was there."
Warner relays the story standing on the field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, at an event meant to highlight the city's viability as an NFL town. But the NFL is in a different place this year, with players unable to have their normal offseason work. Warner, famous for his preparation when he was playing, knows perhaps better than anyone what the missed time will mean to any quarterback – and specifically, whatever quarterback ends up arriving to play for the Cardinals.
Veteran or not, it's a difficult place to be. Warner just remembers back to his Giant days to underscore that reality.
"You can go out and you can function, and do some things well, but it's the nuances of the offense that make players great," Warner said. "The Peyton Mannings, the Tom Bradys, why are they successful? They have been in the same system for eight, nine, 10 years and they know the ins and outs of it and how it works."
Hoping whoever steps in – whether it is Kevin Kolb or someone else – and does well right away may be asking too much. Kolb, in an interview this week on The Dan Patrick Show, said he knows transitioning to a new team with such a short timeline will be "hard" and that because he doesn't know where he will be playing, it's impossible to even get a jump-start.
"You can't put yourself in that situation mentally because if you do, you're liable to be disappointed," Kolb said. "I just know when this bell does ring I have a lot of work to do mentally."
That would stand to reason for any new quarterback. The conventional wisdom across the NFL since the labor trouble started were veteran teams – and more importantly, with quarterbacks in place – would be in a better place than those who weren't.
The Cardinals are in a better position than a team trying to break in a rookie, of course, like Carolina with Cam Newton or Minnesota with Christian Ponder or Tennessee with Jake Locker. "Anytime you can bring in a veteran with experience and the more experience the better, in another system or systems, even a guy comfortable in a pro huddle, that is an advantage," offensive coordinator Mike Miller said.
Limitations exist, however. Kolb, the most popular topic of Cardinals' speculation, has been playing in Andy Reid's West Coast Offense derivative, which doesn't exactly parallel what coach Ken Whisenhunt likes to do. Any new quarterback will also have to create a chemistry with wide receivers that usually begins in the offseason, and learn about his offensive line. In the latter case, the Cards still have to build their group of blockers too.
The Cardinals aside, Warner hesitates in endorsing any quarterback walking into a new situation this fall.
"I don't know how realistic it is to have these guys come in and make an immediate impact," Warner said.
John Skelton is still a possibility for the Cards. The second-year QB started the last four games for the team and, unlike anyone coming in, he is familiar with the playbook and what Whisenhunt and Miller will want to accomplish.
The second offseason for a player, however, is usually his most important. Skelton likely lost the momentum he might have had from the last month of the season once he wasn't able to work at the facility with the coaches.
"The one thing I know about the Cardinals' situation is that they have proven the best player will play," Warner said. "If that's John Skelton who has played a little bit and they feel comfortable with him playing even if they have signed another guy, it wouldn't surprise me for them to say, 'Hey this other guy is still our guy for the future and he just needs some time to get up to speed.'
"But you know it's hard if you go out and make a big splash in free agency or a trade, to then sit that guy on the bench. I think they will get someone who they think can be serviceable early, and he'll be around long enough to hopefully they can hit their stride around midseason."