Desperate situation: Arizona needed a new quarterback badly after suffering through a 5-11 season in 2010. Kolb was widely regarded as the best one available for trade. The Cardinals made an aggressive move to get him.
Other options: Arizona used the fifth pick of the 2011 draft for cornerback Patrick Peterson. Other teams selected quarterbacks Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder over the next seven picks. Given a chance to re-draft, I feel confident the Cardinals would not select one of those quarterbacks over Peterson. In that context, it's tough to fault the Cardinals for failing to select a quarterback fifth overall.
20-20 hindsight: How a contract turns out is one thing. What a team should have known in advance is another. The Cardinals should have known how well Kolb would fit in their offensive system. Circumstances such as the lockout and injuries did not help, but some of the issues with Kolb have been fundamental. The way Philadelphia coached Kolb to play has complicated the transition. Arizona wound up firing its quarterbacks coach after Kolb's first season with the team. That suggests the team could have done a better job evaluating Kolb and adapting him to their offense. He had been around a few years, after all.
Fitz factor: Receiver Larry Fitzgerald was nearing the end of his contract when the Cardinals made their move to get Kolb. Fitzgerald's contract prevented the Cardinals from using the franchise tag to keep him. There was also a no-trade clause. Moving aggressively to get a quarterback might have helped the Cardinals re-sign Fitzgerald. That shouldn't have been the driving force behind the deal, but it was a factor worth a mention, at least.
The price paid: Price for a quarterback is almost irrelevant (within reason) if the quarterback plays well. The Cardinals gave up cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was not ideally suited for their new defensive scheme. They gave up a second-round pick in 2012, which could have been used for an offensive tackle such as Mike Adams, the player Pittsburgh selected five spots later than where the Cardinals were scheduled to pick. Again, small price to pay for a franchise quarterback. Kolb has not played well enough or frequently enough, of course, and that makes price relevant.
The future. Kolb's deal included $20 million in compensation for the first two seasons. His salary is scheduled to be $9 million in 2013. The team must account for $6 million in future salary-cap charges related to Kolb whether or not he remains on the roster. That $6 million charge could be spread across more than one year. Seeking a reduced salary for Kolb could make sense if the team thinks he can still provide value in the future.
Implications: When the Cardinals acquired Kolb, there was a chance coach Ken Whisenhunt was betting his future on the quarterback. How quickly might that analysis be put to the test? The Cardinals are 4-3 this season and 11-5 over their last 16 games. They have also lost three in a row. Kolb is injured and out indefinitely.