Commentary

Kevin Kolb definitely knows the drill

After living both sides of starter-backup shuffle, he's going one game at a time

Originally Published: September 21, 2012
By Ashley Fox | ESPN.com

Kevin Kolb has a bit of a problem. His wife, Whitney, is nearly 38 weeks pregnant. She is so close to giving birth to the couple's third daughter that Kevin asked Whitney to postpone Friday's doctor's appointment until Monday, he said, to avoid accelerating the process.

Kolb has an important football game to play Sunday, one that's not about revenge against the team that traded him or anything superficial like that. But it is a meaningful game, for him and the 2-0 Cardinals. It is another chance for Kolb, who is expected to start with John Skelton nursing a sprained ankle, to make a positive impression. It is a chance to improve to 3-0. And yes, all things being equal, he would like to beat the Philadelphia Eagles.

But if things start happening and baby girl No. 3 won't wait, "I'm not going to miss the birth of my child," Kolb said. "If it happened Sunday morning, I'm not missing it."

While driving to the Cardinals' practice facility Tuesday afternoon to go over Sunday's game plan with coaches and his fellow quarterbacks, Kolb paused. He doesn't expect there to be an issue, but …

"It would be fitting," he said, "the way things have been."

Yes, it would.

[+] EnlargeKevin Kolb
John David Mercer/US PresswireKevin Kolb knows all too well how easily a starting quarterback can be supplanted by his backup.

Nothing in Kolb's six years in the NFL has been easy. Kolb was a side note in the most surprising story of the 2010 season: Michael Vick's return to prominence. Had Kolb not suffered a concussion in the Eagles' opener against Green Bay, Vick might never have had the chance to become an NFL starting quarterback again. Kolb might not be in Arizona now. His story might be that much different.

But Kolb did, and although the quarterback switch was more Andy Reid elevating Vick than benching Kolb in 2010, Kolb still is proof that, no matter what coaches say, a player can lose his starting job in the NFL because of an injury.

Kolb did.

And now he is in another precarious position, the backup who could supplant the injured starter. It is poetic, the symmetry of it all. Kolb went to Arizona because of Vick. He was supposed to be the guy, got hurt last season, made way for Skelton, battled him throughout training camp, lost the job and then boom. Skelton hurts an ankle in Week 1. Kolb leads the team to a fourth-quarter comeback win over Seattle and then, go figure, leads the team to a victory at New England, which hadn't lost a home opener since Tom Brady has been the starting quarterback.

So here Kolb is, a starter again, for now, for another week, maybe for longer. He gets to face his old team, a coach he admires, a quarterback he remains close to and a team filled with friends. One more chance. One more week. There may be more, but there may not be. Nothing in the NFL is guaranteed. Kolb knows that better than most.

It is his experience in Philadelphia that Kolb has drawn from during these past few weeks. He was naturally disappointed when he lost the starting job to Skelton at the end of the preseason. Kolb hadn't played well. Some of the reviews were rough. Some said he played scared. Others said his teammates privately wanted Skelton. And then, when he jogged onto his home field in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks after Skelton went down, although he claims he didn't hear it, there was a smattering of boos.

Kolb had taken maybe 10 practice snaps that week. He thought to himself: "Here we go again." To that point he had led one game-winning drive in his NFL career, against Dallas last season.

"'Believe you can do it. Believe you can do it. Here we go.' That's what I told myself," Kolb said. "This is all happening for a reason. 'Believe you're right here.' That gave me a sense of confidence going into it."

Kolb came in with the Cardinals trailing 16-13 and on their 32-yard line. His first pass was an incompletion to Larry Fitzgerald. He had two other incompletions nullified by penalties. Overall, he was 6-of-8 on the drive operating the no-huddle offense, and his 6-yard touchdown pass to Andre Roberts ended up being the game winner.

Last week against the Patriots, Kolb was 15-of-27 for 140 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions. He also rushed for a touchdown.

If Ken Whisenhunt has given Kolb a clue what he's thinking down the line, Kolb wouldn't reveal it. He said he is trying to stay in the moment, to focus on each practice, each snap, each day. But he knows what could happen. He could give Whisenhunt a reason to not switch back, the way Vick gave Reid a reason two seasons ago.

Crazy things can happen. And a win Sunday would help.

"People ask me how have my last six weeks been? Look at my last four years," Kolb said. "Get Mike here [in Philly]. Trade Donovan [McNabb, to Washington]. I'm the starter all offseason. Mike takes over. I come back in. It was crazy.

"There's been some awkward things that have gone on in the last three weeks. What's next? Are we going to go win the Super Bowl? The way I look at it is, there are some great things in store down the road. I have to stay as positive as I can about everything. Right now I'm having a lot of fun."

Kolb hopes that fun continues, baby willing.


INSIDE SLANT


There have been many tributes to the late Steve Sabol this week. The co-founder of NFL Films died on Tuesday, two weeks shy of his 70th birthday after an 18-month battle with brain cancer. The entire NFL community is mourning the loss of Sabol, but nowhere will he be missed more than at NFL Films, a close-knit family of people dedicated to telling the NFL's story out of a glistening office in Mt. Laurel, N.J., where rows of Emmys line the wall of the foyer.

Sabol
Sabol

Of all the statements about Sabol, maybe none was more eloquent than the one from Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who worked with Sabol as chairman of the NFL's broadcast committee.

"It is impossible to measure, or truly comprehend, the impact that Steve Sabol and NFL Films have had in the growth and popularity of the NFL. He was a true visionary. It was Steve and his father, Ed, who first had the idea of recording professional football's greatest moments and blending them with words of poetry and music. Steve was an artist who loved telling stories about the game of football. As a result, he brought generations of fans closer to the game by exposing them to the sights and sounds in a way that no one else ever has.

"I know a lot of passionate football fans, but I never met anyone who loved the game more purely, or was more passionate about preserving its history, than Steve was. He spent his life preserving the legacy of the National Football League and its many legends. In doing so he became a legend in his own right and leaves a legacy that football fans will enjoy for generations to come."

Well said.

•  •  •

The replacement officials continue to be an issue, and on Thursday came word that Las Vegas casinos think this weekend's games will be the highest-scoring ever thanks to the replacement officials. Casinos also could start altering betting lines if the home teams continue to win at a record pace.

In Week 2, 14 of 16 home teams won, tying Week 13 of 1982 for the most wins by home teams in NFL history. If that trend continues and the replacement officials seem to essentially provide the home team with an advantage, that is going to be a big problem for the NFL, which prides itself on protecting the integrity of the game. That integrity is taking a beating with replacement officials on the field. Games are longer, and players are growing increasingly chippy and trying to influence calls in their favor.

Word is the NFL and the regular officials are no closer to resolving their dispute, which is a shame. It is past time for the two sides to find a reasonable compromise and get the regular officials back on the field.

•  •  •

When he got back to the Ravens' practice facility after the AFC Championship Game in January, Joe Flacco peeked at a couple of plays from the game, and that was it. He didn't watch the full tape. Didn't need to. He knew what happened. The Ravens lost to the Patriots 23-20. They could have won. With 22 seconds to play, Flacco threw the perfect pass to Lee Evans in the end zone that would've given Baltimore the lead, except Evans dropped it. Then Billy Cundiff missed a game-tying field goal. That was it.

[+] EnlargeJoe Flacco
AP Photo/Gail BurtonJoe Flacco and the Ravens look to get a measure of payback against New England and avoid a 1-2 start.

Flacco and the Ravens will face New England at home, where they have an 11-game winning streak, on Sunday. It isn't a redemption game -- that would come if they meet again in the playoffs -- but it is a big game nonetheless. Since Flacco arrived in 2007, Baltimore has played New England four times, including twice in the playoffs. The Ravens are 1-3. The lone win came in the 2009 playoffs, when Flacco completed four passes for 34 yards and Ray Rice ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns.

In the AFC title game last season, Flacco had his best game yet against the Patriots, completing 61.1 percent of his passes for 306 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He told me in August that he didn't dwell on the loss because he knew he and his teammates had done everything they could to win the game, but it definitely stayed with him.

"It was definitely tough," Flacco said. "It had to be that close. When you lose a game, you lose a game. But when you lose a game and you can taste it, you really say, 'Man, we should be there.' That definitely makes it harder. If we were to go there and get blown out 40-7, you can't really complain too much or be too devastated. But when we were as close as we were, it definitely stung for a period of time."

There is a lot on the line for both teams. Each is coming off a loss. Each is 1-1. Neither has had a losing record in a long time -- the Patriots not since early in 2003 and the Ravens not since 2008. This is a matchup worth watching because we very well could see it again in January.

•  •  •

Scoring was up last season to a record high, and this season it is up even more. Teams combined to score 1,556 points in the first two weeks of the season (791 in Week 1, 765 in Week 2), the most points ever in two weeks and 54 more than the record set last season. If teams combine to score 602 points in Week 3, that would be the most points ever through the first three weeks of the season. That record also was set last season.

In another example of how the league has evolved into a quarterback-driven passing league, there have been 18 300-yard passing games in the first two weeks, second most ever behind last season, when there were 23. The 18 300-yard games would tie for fourth most through the first three weeks, and after Carolina and New York played on Thursday night, there are still 15 more games to go.

•  •  •

Reggie Bush has been saying since the offseason that he wants to lead the league in rushing this season, and he's off to a strong start. Bush is second behind Buffalo's C.J. Spiller with 241 rushing yards. Spiller has 292. Spiller also is averaging a ridiculous 10.1 yards per carry, while Bush has a respectable 6.0.

Spiller gained 169 of his yards in the season opener against the Jets on 14 carries, including a 56-yard touchdown run. That bodes well for Bush, who will see the Jets and their 22nd-ranked rushing defense Sunday.

Rex Ryan this week said they will try to "put some hot sauce on" Bush, who has been consistent and tough running both between the tackles and outside. Against Oakland last week, he had 26 carries for 172 yards and two touchdowns.

Through two games, Bush is on pace for 1,928 rushing yards, which would obliterate the career high he set last season of 1,086 rushing yards.


ALL-22


Peyton Manning has thrown three or more interceptions 16 times in his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and his record the following week isn't stellar: 8-7. The Texans hope to make it 8-8 on Sunday when they play the Broncos in Denver.

The Texans lead the league in several significant defensive categories, including total defense (196.0), passing yards per play (4.38), third-down efficiency (2-for-19) and points allowed in the red zone (10). Houston will get Manning coming off of his three-interception performance in the first quarter of a 27-21 loss at Atlanta.

Of the three interceptions, the one that most surprised Greg Cosell, executive producer of ESPN's "NFL Matchup" show, was the second. The Falcons were in quarters coverage and rushed only four. Manning faked a handoff and then sailed a ball to tight end Jacob Tamme that Thomas DeCoud broke on after backpedaling for eight yards. He returned it 15 yards.

"Manning did not account for a quarters safety; that was really not a difficult coverage to read," Cosell said. "I've probably seen every throw he's made in the NFL, and I was just surprised he didn't account for a safety in that coverage. It's easy to say that with a clicker in your hand and watching it 10 times, but that was uncharacteristic of Peyton Manning."

Two things stood out to Cosell: Manning was fooled on a number of defenses in the first quarter, and the football wasn't coming out of his hand quickly. His throws have been wobbly and, Cosell said, "He's not spinning it well."

Houston has a veteran defense that can do what Atlanta did and try to confuse Manning before the snap. Manning is 16-2 lifetime against the Texans.

"The Texans are predominantly a dime team in their sub package," Cosell said. "They have two excellent outside pass-rushers. I don't think they'll necessarily do anything different. Everybody tries to confuse him. Everybody tries to move as late in the play clock as they can because Manning is a before-the-snap quarterback, and he'll tell you that. If he wins before the snap, he wins. You try to move as late as possible. You need veterans to do that, and I think [Texans defensive coordinator] Wade [Phillips] will try to do that."


STATS & INFO


The NFL loves parity, and so far this season it has parity like never before. Twenty teams are 1-1, the most ever after the first two weeks of a season. Six teams are 2-0, and six are 0-2. According to ESPN Stats & Info, since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, 75.7 percent of teams to start a season 3-0 have made the playoffs, and just 2.7 percent of teams to start a season 0-3 -- that's three out of 113 -- have made the playoffs.

Who are they? The 1998 Bills, the 1995 Lions and the 1992 Chargers, who started 0-3 and won 11 of their last 13 games.

The odds are against it. After this weekend, either Kansas City or New Orleans, who play in the only matchup of winless teams, will be 0-3. The previous 18 times the Saints started a season winless through Week 3, they made the postseason only once.


#theytweetedit



Indeed. Sabol also is credited with coining the phrases "America's Team" and "The Catch."



Kiffin, the former Raiders coach, threw his USC quarterback, Matt Barkley, under the bus earlier this week for mistakes Barkley made in a 21-14 loss to Stanford last week. On Wednesday, less than a week after barring a reporter from practice for reporting on an injury, Kiffin walked away from a post-practice news conference 28 seconds in, after a question related to a player injury.



The No. 3 overall pick in the 2006 draft, Young reportedly is broke and in legal disputes with his former agent, former financial planner and a New York lender that lent Young $1.9 million during last year's lockout.



Young had a string of tweets on Wednesday afternoon addressing the situation, including one that said, "Yes, I want to be out there playing the game I love and earning a paycheck, who wouldn't?"


PICK 'EM


All games Sunday unless otherwise noted. All times Eastern.

Cincinnati (1-1) at Washington (1-1), 1 p.m.: The Redskins' defense has yielded 56 points in two games. Not good. Now they will be without outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive end Adam Carriker for the rest of the season. Bengals 24, Redskins 21.


San Francisco (2-0) at Minnesota (1-1), 1 p.m.: To get to 3-0 for the eighth time in franchise history, the 49ers will have to win somewhere they haven't since 1992. Shouldn't be a problem. 49ers 24, Vikings 10.


Tampa Bay (1-1) at Dallas (1-1), 1 p.m.: Given that Tampa Bay has allowed 801 passing yards in two games, Tony Romo might throw for 500 yards. Note to Dallas: Just don't get in the victory formation. Cowboys 24, Buccaneers 17.


Jacksonville (0-2) at Indianapolis (1-1), 1 p.m.: Andrew Luck got his first signature win in Week 2. He should get another, with adequate protection from his offensive line. Colts 17, Jaguars 14.


Buffalo (1-1) at Cleveland (0-2), 1 p.m.: The Browns are making strides. But they're not likely to make more against this defense. Bills 17, Browns 10.


Detroit (1-1) at Tennessee (0-2), 1 p.m.: The Lions are developing a defensive identity. And they have an explosive offense that is in bloom. Lions 24, Titans 10.


St. Louis (1-1) at Chicago (1-1), 1 p.m.: Jay Cutler has gotten killed all week for complaining. His teammates will back him up. Bears 23, Rams 14.


New York Jets (1-1) at Miami (1-1), 1 p.m.: The Dolphins put up 35 points last week against the Raiders. Who thought they'd be able to do that? Jets 27, Dolphins 24.


Kansas City (0-2) at New Orleans (0-2), 1 p.m.: Yes, one of these teams will be 0-3 after this one and in full panic mode. Playing at home, it won't be New Orleans. Saints 35, Chiefs 13.


Philadelphia (2-0) at Arizona (2-0), 4:05 p.m.: Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick, friends and golfing buddies during their days in Philadelphia, come full circle. Both are 2-0. The Eagles' D-line will tee off on the Cardinals' shoddy offensive line. Eagles 24, Cardinals 20.


Atlanta (2-0) at San Diego (2-0), 4:05 p.m.: Short week? Emotional Monday night win over the Broncos? Traveling across three time zones? It all points to a Falcons loss, regardless of how good the team has been out west under Mike Smith. Chargers 35, Falcons 27.


Houston (2-0) at Denver (1-1), 4:25 p.m.: Will it be just like old times, Peyton Manning sitting in the pocket shredding the Texans' defense? Or is Manning still not totally there yet, as looked to be the case on Monday night? Texans 24, Broncos 21.


Pittsburgh (1-1) at Oakland (0-2), 4:25 p.m.: The Raiders need a win, now. They've got mounting injury issues, and subsequent depth issues. Steelers 31, Raiders 14.


New England (1-1) at Baltimore (1-1), 8:20 p.m.: The Ravens buried their 23-20 loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game awhile ago, but their first regular-season win over New England in seven tries would be sweet. Baltimore 30, New England 27.


Green Bay (1-1) at Seattle (1-1), 8:30 p.m., Monday: Who said Green Bay can't play defense? The Packers had seven sacks and four interceptions against Chicago. And they've had three extra days to prepare for Russell Wilson. Packers 37, Seahawks 24.


Last week: 7-8   Season: 18-12.


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