The regular season is two weeks away, Arizona Cardinals fans. Time’s almost up.
So who ya got?
Don’t wait for Kevin Kolb or John Skelton to grab the starting quarterback position and run with it — unless, of course, they are being pursued unmercifully by a pass rusher unabated by the left tackle du jour.
Don’t expect either player to make this easy on you. May we have your final answer please?
What started as a quarterback controversy is now, after a month of watching football between your cupped hands, an unadulterated mess. With each passing week, the race between them gets tighter, for all the wrong reasons.
Prior to Thursday night’s fourth preseason game in Tennessee, insiders felt Skelton had nudged ahead of Kolb as the lesser of two evils, probably because he had played less and therefore had less opportunity to underwhelm. That changed quickly in Nashville.
After one series, he had thrown an interception which wound up in the Arizona end zone.
Maybe Skelton will play better after a little adversity, Cards radio analyst Ron Wolfley opined.
One series later, he had improved to a three-and-out effort where the team went backward.
Maybe it’s time to run the ball, Wolfley offered up.
A few series later ... well, Skelton was done for the night and Kolb was back in the ol’ race.
Two Kolb interceptions later ... well, you see where we’re going here.
You can’t rely on the fifth and final preseason game — which is supposed to decide the 52nd man on the roster, not the nerve center — to provide an answer. So without throwing the names into a helmet or playing eeny, meeny, allow me to offer my two cents and take a stand in the pocket.
The first thing we have to do is take contracts out of it. Kevin Kolb has $28 million of guaranteed money and he’s not giving it back. Neither would you. Deal with it and move on.
Now you look at Skelton’s 6-2 stretch run from last season, where he had his moments but was little more than a caretaker. Then you realize that Arizona’s defense did much of the heavy lifting against an inferior schedule - and realize the “all he does is win” argument doesn’t hold much water.
And then you close your eyes and make Kolb the starter. At least until he proves, once and for all, unfit for the job.
Kolb had two horrible, unforgivable, unforced throws against the Titans. The interception in the first half was a hopeless, on-the-run heave into coverage. The first pass of the second half was drilled right into the arms of a linebacker for a pick-6 - the kind of throw that just can’t happen. He still looked unsure of himself at time and still vacated the pocket too quickly.
But there were also moments where he found a rhythm and controlled the offense. He closed the first half with a no-huddle drive where he went 5-for-5 and looked like the quarterback the Cardinals thought they were getting. There were also some good moments in the second half. Not enough of them, but some.
Kolb has a lot to prove. He has a huge chip on his shoulder. Whether you are a loudmouthed Oakland Raiders lineman or a frustrated fan at University of Phoenix Stadium, your disparaging messages have reached his ears. It’s on him now.
Kolb is healthy, He’s on the spot. It’s a long year and Skelton will get his chances, and with Kolb’s unfortunate injury history, they might come sooner than later. But in a race with no winner, Kolb should get a chance to reset the disaster of 2011.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.