In the hopes of making my otherwise hopelessly incoherent ramblings more understandable, I’ve organized my thoughts into 10 separate takes.
1. Eagles know how to coach up quarterbacks.
It’s a point I’ve been making from time to time, both here and in other contexts. Under Andy Reid, the Eagles have gotten the absolute best out of every quarterback they’ve put on the field.
From Donovan McNabb to Mike Vick to A.J. Feeley to Koy Detmer to Jeff Garcia to any other quarterback who has played in any game since 1999 for the Eagles, they have performed better in Philly than anywhere else.
For that reason, any team should have been leery about Kevin Kolb. Regardless of anything Kolb can or can’t do, the smoke-and-mirrors impact of excellent coaching makes guys look better than they are.
Given the deal the Cardinals have done, both via trade compensation and contract, they surely assume they’ll get as much or more out of Kolb than Reid did.
We’re not sure that’s a safe assumption.
2. Kolb remains unproven.
Apart from the fact that the Eagles can get more out of a given quarterback than anyone else, Kolb hasn’t played enough to know whether the Eagles actually have gotten anything truly good out of him.
He has started seven games in four years. In 2009, after McNabb suffered a broken rib in Week One against the Panthers, Kolb became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300 or more yards in his first two starts. In his first game, he fell nine yards short of 400 — primarily because the Saints scored 48 points against the Eagles in Philadelphia and Kolb and company were constantly trying to keep pace. (Despite the yardage, Kolb’s passer rating for the game was 53.2, a number low enough to make even Derek Anderson laugh.)
Last year, Kolb entered the season as the starter, got Wally Pipp’d by Michael Vick after a concussion in Week One, and had a chance to turn the tables when Vick missed three games but couldn’t.
Kolb’s passer rating for the season? 76.1.
The best measure of whether a quarterback will be able to thrive at the NFL level comes after about six or seven games of his first season as a full-time starter. By then, opposing defenses have enough tape to break down his strengths and weaknesses, his tendencies and tells. If he can still thrive even after the men charged with stopping him know his game inside and out, he’s the real deal.
Kolb hasn’t played enough to get to that point. And a career passer rating of 73.2 hardly constitutes “thriving” during the time that he has played.
3. Limited time.
In a normal year, we could better understand a blockbuster trade and a big-money contract for a new quarterback. In 2011, with a month or so to slap together preparations for a season, it will be harder than ever for a team to get the most out of a new quarterback.
Kolb had no offseason training program. He has limited opportunities to get to know the system, his teammates, and the coaches.
Put simply, in the all-important first year of this relationship, Kolb will have a harder time than usual providing any sort of a return on the team’s investment.
4. Cheaper alternatives.
Though the Cardinals would have had the problem of compressed prep time with any quarterback they brought in, why not treat 2011 as a self-contained year and get a proven veteran who would be better suited to getting the job done with limited time to prepare?
Matt Hasselbeck knows the NFC West like the contours of his hairless cranium; it would have made much more sense to sign him to a two-year deal as a free agent than to make a Hail Mary pass for a guy who may or may not ever becomes what Hasselbeck currently is.
As a bonuses, Hasselbeck could have helped groom guys like John Skelton and Max Hall, who were rushed into service prematurely last year — and who would benefit from some mentoring from a guy like Hasselbeck.
5. Why the new contract?
Last year, when Kolb became the starter in Philly, he signed a two-year deal. He had one year to go.
So why give him a new contract, reportedly with more than $22 million guaranteed, before knowing what he’ll do in Arizona? Why not wait at least until October, to see how he performs?
Another option would have been to let him play out the season, and to use the franchise tag to keep him for 2012. Sure, it would cost more to lock him up next year if he becomes a star — but if he becomes a star, don’t you think he’s going to want to rip up a contract that doesn’t quite equate to star-level compensation?
6. The pressure’s on Whisenhunt.
I personally like Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt. And this move makes me worry about his long-term job security.
In many respects, he has pushed his chips into the middle of the table. If Kolb turns out to give Whisenhunt a winning hand, he’ll be set for life in Arizona.
If it blows up, Whisenhunt could get blown out of town.
7. Fitzgerald’s future.
Greasing the skids for Whisenhunt could be a decision by receiver Larry Fitzgerald after the season to go elsewhere. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent, and given the terms of his contract the team won’t be able to restrict his movement.
The importance of giving Fitzgerald a quarterback about whom he would feel good both this year and beyond probably influenced the organization to opt for something other than a one-year solution.
But if Kolb’s first year isn’t a good year, the Cardinals will be in even worse position than if they’d signed a veteran like Hasselbeck.
8. Eagles need a backup.
Let’s not make this all about how the Cardinals potentially screwed up. The Eagles have put themselves in a delicate position at the most important position on the field.
Mike Vick’s style suggests that, at some point this year, he’ll get hurt. If he does, will the Eagles rely on Mike Kafka?
Given the team’s ability to coach up quarterbacks, maybe they will. (And if he does well, maybe they can get a second-round pick or more for him, too.) Eagles fans will rest much more easily, however, if they know that the team has a guy who has been around the block a few items.
Even if that guy is Brett Favre.
9. The Sting, Part 3.
The Kolb trade marks the third time in seven years that the Eagles have gotten at least a second-round pick in trade for a quarterback. In 2004, they conned the Dolphins out of a second-rounder for A.J. Feeley, who would be traded a year later to the Chargers. A year after that, Feeley came back to Philly as a free agent.
Last year, the Eagles got a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick for McNabb from the Redskins. And the Redskins just gave McNabb to the Vikings for a carton of smokes.
Apart from all the points made above, the Cardinals should have been leery based simply on the fact that the Eagles know when and how to sell high.
10. What was the next offer?
The question to which we may never know the answer is whether the Eagles could have sold Kolb that high to anyone else. Usually, trade value is determined by the alternatives.
So what alternatives did the Eagles have to the Cardinals?
It could be that the Eagles sold the Cardinals on the notion that the alternative to a second-round pick and Rodgers-Cromartie was to keep Kolb. If so, the Cardinals should have called their bluff.
Look, I realize that Kolb could end up being the next Joe Montana. If so, the gamble will have paid off.
What bothers me is the gamble itself. The Cardinals are taking too much of a risk with too few tangible reasons to assume there will be a reward — and plenty of reasons to fear there won’t be.