TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Kevin Kolb seems firmly at the controls in Arizona, riding high with a Cardinals team off to a 3-0 start for the first time in 38 years.
For now, it appears the only thing that could bench Kolb is the fact that his wife is expecting the couple’s third child, with the due date Thursday of next week. The Cardinals play at St. Louis that night.
Childbirth notwithstanding, there is a decision looming on whether he remains the starter, or the job goes back to John Skelton, who beat out Kolb in the preseason but has been sidelined by a sprained ankle since late in the season opener against Seattle.
Kolb came on to direct the winning touchdown drive against the Seahawks, then played well enough for the Cardinals to knock off the Patriots in New England.
Last Sunday against the Eagles, his former team, he completed 17 of 24 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-6 victory. For the season, Kolb has completed 38 of 59 passes (64 percent) for 428 yards and four touchdowns. He hasn’t thrown an interception.
Asked after Wednesday’s practice if he thinks he has proven he should be the starting quarterback not just Sunday against Miami, but going forward from there regardless of Skelton’s health, Kolb demurred.
“I’m not getting into that,” he said. “Just like I said before, every time I look to the future it proves me wrong, so I’m just going to keep pounding game by game.”
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said that until Skelton is healthy, “there is no decision” to be made.
The coach acknowledged that Kolb “has played well.”
“He played in a tough environment in New England and did a good job and then played a really good game last week against Philadelphia, which is a really good team,” Whisenhunt said, “so that’s what you like to see. He has worked hard and you wanted to see it pay off for him on the field, and it’s done that.”
It’s the kind of performance that Cardinals expected when they invested so much in Kolb, sending cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft pick to the Eagles to get the quarterback. Then the Cardinals signed Kolb to a five-year, $63 million contract, with $21 million guaranteed.
Kolb wanted out of Philadelphia after his chance to start there fizzled. He was named the starter for the Eagles’ opener two seasons ago, but went down with a concussion. Michael Vick replaced him and has been the Eagles’ No. 1 quarterback since. Kolb did get another chance when Vick was hurt, but went back to the bench once the quarterback was healthy.
In a twist of fate, as Kolb excelled Sunday, a battered Vick had one of the worst games of his career.
Kolb came to Arizona with much fanfare, then struggled mightily as the Cardinals won their 2011 opener, then dropped six straight. Kolb went down with a turf toe injury, and Skelton came on and engineered some late-game heroics. Kolb was back for an overtime victory over Dallas, but on the first series the following week against San Francisco, he took a knee to the head and left with yet another concussion. He didn’t play again last season.
Skelton was 5-2 last year as a starter, 6-2 if you count the 49ers game, and Whisenhunt declared an open competition at quarterback this year.
Nine days before the season began, Whisenhunt announced that Skelton would start.
No wonder that Kolb is taking nothing for granted now, no matter how well he or his team is playing.
“You can’t get too high or too low,” he said. “It’s nice to enjoy these times, but it’s the time where you can’t let yourself get too high, not only as a player, but as a team.”
Skelton, in his third NFL season after being drafted by Arizona in the fifth round out of Fordham, practiced on a limited basis Wednesday.
“It gets better every day,” he said. “On Monday I came out here and did some drills with the training room (staff), but doing drills with those guys is different than going out and practicing again. It’s not quite there but it’s getting there. `’
As Skelton works to get back, he can’t help but hear the praise heaped on Kolb, who was booed by the home crowd when he came into the game against Seattle, but has been cheered pretty much ever since.
The critics, for now, have been mostly silenced. Many are now praising him, a turnaround that Kolb insists he has not noticed.
“The only accolade I know of right now — you know I don’t read anything — is that we’re 3-0,” he said, “and that’s the big thing. That’s what I said from the very beginning.”