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Sunday, June 5, 2011
Cards don't need franchise QB to win West

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Stephen from Allen, Texas wants to know why the Arizona Cardinals would rate Kevin Kolb over Kyle Orton as they consider quarterback options for the 2011 season. He would take Orton by a wide margin based on how well Orton has synced up with receivers such as Brandon Marshall and Brandon Lloyd.

Mike Sando: Marshall had 101 receptions for 1,120 yards and a career-high 10 touchdowns with Orton as his primary quarterback in 2009. Lloyd set career highs with 77 receptions for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns with Orton as his primary quarterback last season. His production remained strong over the final three games, when Orton was no longer the quarterback.

To answer your question, first we must acknowledge that no one knows for sure how the Cardinals rate the quarterbacks. Next, we must realize each player's appeal would change based on what those quarterbacks' teams demanded in return. The Cardinals might have Kolb rated slightly higher, but they might prefer Orton if the price were a bit lower.

The fact that Orton has played considerably more than Kolb should, in theory, make him the safer selection. In reality, teams routinely pay a higher price when a player's ceiling has not yet been established. Orton had a winning record as a starter every season until 2010. His starting records were 10-5, 2-1, 9-6, 8-7 and then 3-10 last season. He has nearly twice as many touchdown passes (41) as interceptions (21) over the past two seasons. The man he replaced, Jay Cutler, has 50 touchdowns with 42 interceptions and a 17-14 record over the same span.

Part of Kolb's appeal lies in the fact that he hasn't played very much, and that he's put together a couple of impressive performances when he has played. Spending his career under an accomplished offensive head coach, Andy Reid, also enhances Kolb's pedigree.

To me, Kolb is intriguing enough to consider for a reasonable price, but not appealing enough to acquire at any cost. And I think there are strong enough differences between the Eagles' system and the one Arizona runs to call into question the fit. That is a subject I'd like to hear Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt address once the Cardinals do make a decision at quarterback.

Unless another NFC West team vastly outperforms expectations, I do not think the Cardinals need another Kurt Warner to win the division this season. Becoming competent at the position would put Arizona back in contention. If the Cardinals can do that without mortgaging too much of their future, this offseason will stand as a success. Gaining long-term security at the position would be nice, but there is no reason to force the issue in the absence such a solution.