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Saturday, February 19, 2011
Mailbag: Case against Kevin Kolb

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Greg from Seattle writes: Hey Mike, as a dedicated 49ers fan, I have spent a fair bit of time considering Kevin Kolb. Personally, I think the seventh pick is too much for him.

Here's my problem with Kolb: He's been in the same system -- a very QB-friendly system -- for four years. This year, he had a good offensive line, great receiving options at WR and tight end, and one of the most versatile running backs in the league. He had Andy Reid calling the plays. And he was arguably less effective than Alex Smith.

Kolb had a 76.1 rating and .333 winning percentage. Smith had an 82.1 rating and a .300 win percentage. Kolb played two playoff teams, and was 1-1 against them (beat Atlanta). He was 1-3 against non-playoff teams (beat the 49ers). Kolb was 2-4 on a team that Vick led to an 8-2 record. He's hanging his hat entirely on the win over Atlanta.

Now, I tend to think Kolb may be an upgrade over Smith, particularly in a West Coast offense, but that's not enough to justify giving up so much for him. This guy struggled on one of the better teams in the league.

I would propose Kolb's value this offseason is lower than it was last offseason given his struggles, and especially because of the labor issues. As you point out, the seventh pick is a crapshoot. But I personally would take a shot at the next Bryant Young or Champ Bailey over a guy I view as a middle-of-the-road QB in Kolb. Anyway, my two cents.

Mike Sando: Your two cents were well spent. You made fair, compelling points and stated them clearly. Making a play for Kolb would require, at least to a degree, trusting the Eagles' initial judgment -- the one they made in paying Kolb an eight-figure bonus and naming him their starter to open the season.

Vick's emergence worked against Kolb, most likely. It made it impossible, in the end, for Kolb to take hold of the team the way a starting quarterback should. You can't fool veteran players into thinking a lesser quarterback is the best option. Reid relented to this grudgingly, it seemed, but he did commit to Vick ultimately. Smith has discovered this at times during his career.

Kolb might have a better chance at flourishing under Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco, where he wouldn't be living in Vick's shadow. But I also think the seventh overall choice is a high price. This is a good discussion and one we'll continue as the offseason progresses.


Paul from San Francisco writes: I think it's hilarious that St. Louis is starting down the same path with Sam Bradford that the 49ers traveled with Alex Smith.

After watching the Niners waste the last five years or so by going through coaching changes like toddlers go through toys, you'd think an organization with such a good view of those events would be more protective of its franchise quarterback.

The Rams might not have been able to prevent their offensive coordinator from leaving -- the NFL is a business, I know -- but maybe they could have brought someone in with a similar offensive scheme to that of their departing offensive coordinator?

Instead, they bring in Josh McDaniels, who has a totally different system and is widely believed to be a two-year rental. I'm going to laugh in a few years (or sooner) when the Rams' fans are scratching their heads and starting to sweat as Bradford's third offensive coordinator comes dragging the third offensive system into town, after McDaniels leaves for another job.

McDaniels reminds me of Lane Kiffin for some reason. Maybe there is something in the water in the NFC West.

Mike Sando: Bradford was far superior to Smith as a rookie, so the comparison could break down at the most important level. Smith finished his rookie season with one touchdown and 11 interceptions. Bradford was offensive rookie of the year. Smith had a poor supporting cast, but Bradford took over a team that had gone 1-15 the previous season.

Other aspects of your comparison line up. I also could see McDaniels leaving in another year or two. The Rams must be prepared for that possibility. Pat Shurmur's departure as coordinator this offseason came as a surprise. There is no surprise element if McDaniels has opportunities down the line.


Kevin from Sylmar, Calif., writes: I know it is nit-picking a bit, but when you talked about the 49ers' draft needs and Vic Fangio's draft history and pointed out that Jason Babin didn't work, well, he didn't work out for the Texans, but he sure has found a home in Tennessee. He is coming off a 12.5-sack/Pro Bowl season. So, Fangio did something right because he saw Babin's potential, and although Babin didn't do it for the team he was for drafted for, he has found success in the NFL.

Mike Sando: There is some truth to that. Babin played for Seattle, Kansas City and Philadelphia without distinction before catching on with the Titans. He wasn't the player the Texans thought they were getting, however, and that makes it tough to credit Fangio or Houston much.


Mark from Chandler, Ariz., writes: Mike, from your interaction with scouts, what was the chief cause for the Cardinals not being able to run the ball? Offensive line? Running backs? Play calling?

Mike Sando: The Cardinals ran the ball pretty well under the circumstances. They broke some long runs and had a healthy average per carry. They simply didn't have a quarterback good enough to force defenses into difficult decisions. Previously, teams that put an eighth defender in the box risked having Kurt Warner exploit a favorable matchup in the passing game. This past season, defenses could play the run without consequence. Also, the Cardinals didn't score enough points or play good enough defense to put themselves in more favorable running situations. It's tough to commit to the ground game when the other team is winning handily.


Wiley from Portland writes: Like any optimistic fan, I see a lot of upside to the Seahawks. I want Matt Hasslebeck back. I also think we need to spend our early draft picks on our offensive line. There is no point in grabbing a young quarterback if they are going to be pressured every play.

What do you think of Matt Lienart? Is there anything there? If not, then is there any other free-agent quarterback that we can grab cheap with upside if they sat behind Hasslebeck for a year or two?

Mike Sando: Yes, the offseason carries much allure. There is almost always hope. My sense on Leinart is that the Seahawks or any team that wanted to help him succeed would have to commit to him fully and tailor the offense to him pretty strongly. I just haven't seen enough from Leinart to justify making that level of effort to help him succeed. And so if I were the Seahawks, I'd be reluctant to make a significant investment in him. It will be quite telling if Pete Carroll makes no effort to sign him for the second time in as many years.


Mike from San Diego writes: Mike, thanks for all of the updates. Reading about the NFL in the offseason is still more exciting than reading about the NBA or MLB! Can the front offices of teams discuss trades before there is a new collective-bargaining agreement? As an example, if there is not a new CBA before the draft, can the 49ers draft players in the second round and third round for the Eagles, and then once a new CBA is signed, execute a trade of those two players for Kevin Kolb? Thanks, and keep up the great work!

Mike Sando: Thanks, Mike. Teams cannot make trades without a new labor agreement. I see nothing stopping them from talking about what might happen once a deal falls into place, but the example you gave would be extreme and highly unlikely, in my view. As for whether the rules would allow for such maneuvering, I'm like a lot of people in the NFL right now -- not entirely sure what might be possible in the absence of an agreement.