Kevin Kolb is the No. 1 variable in the NFC West for the 2011 season.
Three teams in the division went into the offseason needing to sign starting quarterbacks. The Arizona Cardinals made a big play for Kolb. The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers made smaller plays for Tarvaris Jackson and Alex Smith, respectively. Both players were convenient under the circumstances.
If Kolb winds up flourishing while Seattle and San Francisco fail to land franchise quarterbacks, the Kolb acquisition in Arizona becomes a bigger storyline for the 49ers and Seahawks. Scrutiny will focus on Arizona if Kolb fails to produce.
The first week of the regular season offered mixed results. Kolb passed for 309 yards and two touchdowns. His passer rating was 130.0, easily the highest among starting quarterbacks in the division. Some of the non-passing aspects of his performance showed up in a relatively low QBR. Two sacks, one fumble and failures in the red zone contributed to Arizona's reliance on an 89-yard punt return to win the game.
The chart shows stats for NFC West quarterbacks in Week 1. The video at the bottom includes my thoughts on Kolb as a key variable in the division, plus thoughts from colleagues as part of our weekly "NFC 411" production.