I can say this with some degree of certainty: No NFL coach has made a major roster decision based on how a player performed in the Hall of Fame game. The annual (save for 2011's lockout-induced absence) exhibition comes painfully early in training camp and usually features about three quarters or so of action from players buried deep on the depth chart.
So, on the one hand, you don't want to read too much into Kevin Kolb's miserable performance in Sunday night's Arizona loss to New Orleans -- 1-for-4 for four yards with an interception, before he left due to an injury.
"It’s a little bit unfair to Kevin, because we weren’t doing as good a job up front early in the game and then we settled down," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "He’ll get his opportunities as we go forward so that’s why you have to be careful about making judgments on that first experience."
Try telling that to Cardinals fans, though. They've seen this act before from their $65 million man. The errant passes, the poor pocket presence and, of course, the injuries.
That dreaded injury bug struck again Sunday night, ending Kolb's evening. As Kolb dropped to throw on a 1st-and-10 play-action, the offensive line completely vanished, leaving Kolb running for his life. He got a pass away to Anthony Sherman for his only completion of the game, but Sedrick Ellis buried him into the turf, resulting in a rib injury.
The Cardinals do not believe the injury is serious, and Kolb could be back practicing sometime this week. But he lasted just nine games in 2011, missing time with a toe injury and then later with a concussion. For his sake, it's imperative that he stay on the field this preseason -- so Sunday was a poor start.
His effort when he was out there certainly wasn't much to write home about. Kolb's first pass attempt made him look like a rookie; he locked on to Andre Roberts on a cross-field out route and was picked off easily by Malcolm Jenkins.
If the Hall of Fame game is generally irrelevant in roster battles, then why does any of this matter?
It matters because there are plenty of people (probably including a few inside the Cardinals organization, if you looked hard enough) who feel that Kolb is the second-best QB option this team has, behind John Skelton. Skelton posted a 4-for-6 night Sunday, but his finest work came last season as he guided Arizona to a 5-2 record while subbing in for Kolb.
Kolb only has 16 NFL starts under his belt (five more than Skelton), so it may be too soon to write him off. And yet, how long can Arizona afford to wait for him to turn the corner? The Cardinals were left in the dust last season by NFC West winner San Francisco, and we've yet to see any evidence that Kolb is capable of helping close that gap.
Maybe Skelton is not that guy, either. His 68.9 QB rating only landed him 32nd on the league's list last year, well off Kolb's 81.1 mark. Plus, of Skelton's five victories, just one (Week 14 vs. San Francisco) came against a team that made the playoffs. Regardless of those numbers, the reality is this: Arizona cannot keep waiting for Kolb to stay healthy and flip the switch as a No. 1 quarterback. Kolb will get every opportunity this preseason. He'll need to show a lot of improvement going forward for Arizona to enter the season with any measure of confidence in him.