The Schein Nine  

 

Kevin Kolb's story takes another turn with Arizona Cardinals

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Matt York/Associated Press
Since entering the NFL in 2007, Arizona Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb's career has been anything but predictable.


 

The ultimate redemption could literally be in the Cards.

Plus, we get you set for Week 2 with upset specials, other predictions and juicy matchups.

Time for the Schein Nine ...

1) Kolb case

Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season was filled with so many incredible stories, specifically ones about quarterbacks. Perhaps you missed the first step in the Kevin Kolb redemption tour.

What a long, strange trip it's been for the Arizona Cardinals quarterback. Kolb was a surprise second-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007, and became a legit wedge in the relationship between coach Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb. Reid, who once told me he would spend Saturday nights in his hotel room watching college football, fell in love with the Houston product. He told then-general manager Tom Heckert that Kolb would one day be his quarterback. Reid drafted him, groomed him and felt good enough about him to make him the guy, trading McNabb to the Washington Redskins in April 2010.

It was the perfect plan -- until, of course, Kolb was hurt, and a backup named Michael Vick took his spot, never to give it back. After the 2011 lockout ended, Kolb was traded to the Cardinals for starting cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft pick, and he landed a megabucks deal with Arizona. However, thanks to the lockout, Kolb didn't have much time to learn the Cardinals' system. He flopped miserably, was injured, lost his job to John Skelton, watched the Cards flirt with Peyton Manning, and then played worse than ever in the 2012 preseason, losing out again to the kid from Fordham.

Talk about a wild, exhausting and deflating two years.

That journey was what made Sunday's scene so beautiful. With the Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks locked in a defensive tug-of-war and an injured Skelton lying on the ground in the fourth quarter, there wasn't a person on the planet who thought Kolb would lead Arizona to victory. But that's exactly what he did. "You gotta believe," Kolb said, channeling his inner Tug McGraw during a Tuesday appearance on SiriusXM Blitz. "I said to myself, 'I know I can do this thing,' and I let it rip. The coaches got me in things that I like."

After the game, teammates heaped praise on Kolb. It was noted, especially on the heels of summertime reports that the guys in the locker room favored Skelton.

On SiriusXM Blitz, we read Kolb some quotes given to reporters after the game by the three most important leaders on the team: receiver Larry Fitzgerald, safety Adrian Wilson and defensive end Darnell Dockett. Fitzgerald called Kolb's victory "impressive" and said he and the Cardinals were "all happy for him." Wilson said Kolb's triumph was "poetic." Dockett said he was "proud of Kevin Kolb to come in and really do something a lot of people probably didn't think he could do."

After hearing the quotes, Kolb took a deep breath and said, "You are giving me the chills right now, listening to you talk about it. You can't control the perception on the outside, media or fans. But to hear that from those guys means the world to me."

One reason to retell the story of Kolb's journey is to point out that if it weren't for bad luck, he would have none at all. So of course, the Cardinals face the New England Patriots on Sunday. That won't end well.

But Kolb has had a good week. There is a feeling, a sense of hope in the organization that he has shaken off the jitters. That he used the expression "let it rip" is noteworthy, because he needs to be more decisive and hang in the pocket. The Cardinals' offensive line is relatively weak. Last year, Levi Brown could be blamed for breakdowns; this year, the absence of an injured Brown is lamented. That says it all about this unit. Regardless, Kolb needs to have that "let it rip" mentality.

Kolb said he took a moment with his wife on Sunday night to reflect on the last two years. He is determined to make things work with the Cardinals. He said he is fueled by the "miserable moment" when he lost his starting job.

Arizona has a great defense. Dockett and fellow end Calais Campbell are stars. Linebacker Daryl Washington just got paid like a stud because he is one. Fitzgerald is an all-world player. Running back Ryan Williams and rookie receiver Michael Floyd add youth and spice to the offense. If Kolb ever puts it together, Arizona (which I picked to finish 8-8) is a playoff team.

Kolb has hurdles to overcome, but I'm rooting for him. And contrary to popular belief, so are his teammates.

2) Upset Special

The Seahawks are a different team playing in front of the rabid fans in the great Northwest. Jerry Jones isn't proclaiming that the Dallas Cowboys want a piece of the Seahawks. After all the fanfare that came with the season-opening game against the New York Giants, this must look to the Cowboys like a relatively innocuous matchup. In Seattle, I'll take the Seahawks and their underrated defense.

3) Upset Special, II

The New York Jets will go to Heinz Field and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers because Gang Green has the better defense (assuming Darrelle Revis plays). New York also has the better offensive line and run game.

4) NORV!

San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle agreed with me during his Tuesday appearance on SiriusXM Blitz that the Bolts' Monday-night victory over the Oakland Raiders was the type of game they would've lost in the past. From a San Diego perspective, the best thing about that contest was the result. That showed me something. The Chargers will take advantage of linebacker Colin McCarthy's injury and beat the Tennessee Titans.

5) Buc the trend

Coach Greg Schiano has changed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' culture less than a season after the team quit on Raheem Morris. A key part of Tampa's future, and the win over the Carolina Panthers, was the hard running style of Doug Martin. Appearing on SiriusXM Blitz, Schiano gushed that Martin "pulls people forward. If we have (to go three yards), he pulls for four. If there's a breakdown up front, he gets to the line of scrimmage." The Giants couldn't stop the Cowboys' DeMarco Murray in Week 1. Martin will be a handful for them on Sunday.

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6) Giant spot

New York couldn't run or stop the run in the season opener. I had no problem with coach Tom Coughlin benching rookie David Wilson after his first-quarter fumble. The moment was too big for the first-round draft pick. But Wilson needs to get out of Coughlin's doghouse. The Giants drafted him because they had the worst running attack in the NFL in 2011. Tampa Bay has an excellent defensive backfield. The Giants can't make the mistake that Carolina made by eschewing the run against the Bucs. They need to attack on the ground with Wilson.

7) Shake on it

There's surely no love lost between Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz and San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh after last year's "handshake incident." Harbaugh has the best defense in the NFL, which takes on his cocky persona. When the two teams meet Sunday, the Niners' D will limit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, and Alex Smith will shred Detroit's defensive backfield.

8) Simply the best

Every Wednesday, I have the honor of hosting the "Madden Football" show with John Madden and Rich Gannon on SiriusXM NFL Radio. Madden agreed with my take that, entering the season opener in the Superdome, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III appeared to be in a near-impossible spot. He then told us exclusively that on Sunday evening, after watching Griffin take down the Saints, Madden said to himself, "RG3 is the best player in the NFL today." That's high praise from the ultimate expert.

9) Survivor Pick

The Cincinnati Bengals aren't that bad. I love them against the offensively challenged Cleveland Browns. Of course, I'd also pick Clarkstown South High School against Brandon Weeden.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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