Count Justin from Phoenix among those Arizona Cardinals fans seeking direct, honest opinions on the team's quarterback situation.
"Don't be vanilla here," Justin wrote via the NFC West mailbag. "I know you have to be leaning one way. Which is it?"
My advice would be to go with Kevin Kolb early, then switch to John Skelton if Kolb isn't performing well enough to keep the job. First, though, Kolb must do enough during the exhibition season to emerge as a plausible choice for the starting job. He hasn't done that yet, but four exhibitions remain, so there is time.
In retrospect, I wonder if the Cardinals would have been better off declaring Kolb the starter outright coming out of last season. They could have written off 2011 for the unusual circumstances associated with it. The lockout and injuries made it tough to evaluate Kolb. Skelton was inconsistent and, despite showing some late-game moxie, needed heroic efforts from Patrick Peterson to win narrowly against St. Louis.
The team went ahead and paid a $7 million bonus to Kolb this offseason, so why not support him fully?
One reason could be that Kolb simply hasn't earned enough respect in the locker room. That would be a problem, if true.
"I am a Skelton guy," Justin wrote. "He looks the part and the team seems to really respond to him when he is in the game. ... Most importantly to the discussion, he can take a hit. I read that in the locker room following the Hall of Fame Game, Darnell Dockett came up to Skelton and gave him a pat on the back in front of cameras as Skelton was giving an interview. This means a great deal. Skelton has gradually improved. Kolb has not."
Is there any advantage to the team making that declaration after one exhibition? I think not. Is Skelton the answer simply because Kolb might not be? That's a question with far-reaching consequences for the organization. From what I've seen, there appears to be a good chance the organization will be looking for a new starter after the 2012 season.
I was in the Cardinals' locker room when Dockett approached Skelton, shook his hand and said something about Skelton being his boy. Kolb wasn't in sight at the time. Had anyone come up to him and given him encouragement following the game? What did it mean? Does the impression Dockett left represent a majority opinion for the team? Tough to say, but I will admit the scene reinforced the perception that teammates have responded better to Skelton. To be fair, Skelton has been with the team longer. Further, the injuries Kolb suffered took him away from the team for stretches of the season. Skelton then benefited from an improving defense and a couple soft spots in the schedule.
Justin wasn't the only Cardinals fan reaching out with pro-Skelton commentary.
"Mike, Kevin Kolb cannot absorb punishment and should not be the Cardinals' QB," Edward from Tempe wrote, using all-caps to emphasize his point. "There, I said it. It's obvious he can't take a hit without being knocked out of a game. It's like a boxer not being able to take a punch. He just shouldn't be playing."
It's too soon for the Cardinals to return a verdict. Coach Ken Whisenhunt seemed relaxed and unconcerned following the game in Canton. He was taking a big-picture view, it seemed. We should do the same for another exhibition game or two, at least.