Kevin Kolb: Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

kolbThe NFL is a funny place. Some players get no breaks yet still find a way to carve out a niche for themselves. Hall of Famer John Randle was an undrafted free agent who was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before latching on with the Minnesota Vikings.  Special teams ace Steve Tasker‘s story is well known in Buffalo. Tasker was pulled off the waiver wire by Marv Levy and the rest, as they say, is history.

Then there is the other end of the spectrum. Players who appear to be so talented, gifted and athletic that coaches, general managers and owners just can’t seem to stay away.  Like moths to a flame, GMs gravitate to these players, believing that this potential will finally translates into production on the field and victories in the win column. Players like quaterback Jeff George or Vince Young.  Over and over they are cut and resigned.  Given chance after chance to prove that they can, in the right situation succeed.  Players who with the right coach, team, situation or city will leverage all that potential into something useful on the field.

I am starting to believe that Kevin Kolb is about to join this long list of underachieving players who were labeled as can’t miss, franchise players who amounted to nothing more than a footnote in NFL history.

In Philadelphia Andy Reid bet on Kolb and thought so much of him that he let Donovan McNabb go play for the division rival Washington Redskins.  After decidedly mixed reviews in Philly, Arizona became so mesmerized by Kolb’s “potential” that they traded for him, installed him as their starter whereby he again played to mixed reviwes, battled injuries and was eventually released after two seasons.

This offseason Buffalo decided to see if they could some how tap into the potential that is Kevin Kolb and signed him to a two-year, $13 million contract. Before training camp started new head coach Doug Marrone said Kolb had the inside track as the starter.  It was Kolb’s job to lose.  EJ Manuel was the franchise’s future, but Kolb was clearly the present.

I even speculated about a scenario that kept EJ Manuel on the bench as an understudy and apprentice while Kolb finally realized that ever elusive potential.  I had visions of Kurt Warner leading a resurgent Arizona Cardinals team all the while Matt Leinart sat on the bench.  I had Kevin Kolb leading the Buffalo Bills in ’13 and possibly beyond, hoping he might do for the Bills what Warner did for the then lowly Cardinals.

Then camp opened.

Manuel came in and has impressed everyone with his ability, poise, and overall grasp of what it takes to be a quarterback in the NFL.  During two preseason games EJ has looked (at times) masterful directing the offense, and gave every indication that he could one day become a franchise quarterback.

And Kolb?

He opened camp showing inconsistency, inaccuracy and tons of potential that was not translating into anything productive on the practice or playing field.  He slipped on a floor mat, injured his knee and sat out the first preseason game.  This opened the door for an unheralded free agent from Washington State, Jeff Tuel to get his name in the discussion as a possible backup.

Despite all that, Marrone gave the second preseason start start to Kolb.  Friday against the Vikings, Kolb’s first two drives were abysmal, and he at times demonstrated little command of the offense as he finished the game with a quarterback rating of 55.9.  Manuel looked, well…like a first round, franchise quarterback.  As the Bills walked off with a 20-14 victory over Minnesota I thought, This competition is over, Manuel is the starter and I think Tuel just might be the backup and Kolb could be on the waiver wire.

Then the Bills told me and the rest of Buffalo that Manuel needed minor knee surgery and would miss the remainder of the preseason.

The door of opportunity is once again open for one Kevin Kolb.  It looks like he will get to finish the preseason as the starter.  Over the next two games he once again could win one of the 32 starting QB jobs available in the National Football League.  Or failing that, he might play well enough to solidify his status as a steady, reliable, and consistent veteran backup that every good team needs.

If the last five years are any gauge, then Kolb will show some flashes that keep everyone interested.  Beyond that, the last five years have also taught me that when it comes to Kevin Kolb don’t get your hopes up.