We've been talking about it since last season... and it looks like this competition is all but over. I understand the frustration many fans feel about either QB "not getting a fair shot" in terms of opportunities/ plays etc. Many feel Skelton has clearly outperformed Kolb, others (including some on the staff here) post that neither deserve it or that "no one wants the starting Job." Nonsense. These two QBs have each shown plenty this preseason. While the starter could still use more time with the first team offense, they've each received an opportunity. And I think it's fair to say that we've seen enough from either player to know where they stand on the roster. I will address specific fan concerns with the realities we've seen so far, and make a case for why, unless Kolb pulls some kind of miracle finish and Skelton has the scoreboard fall on his head, Skelton will be our starter this season.
1. Kolb/Skelton had not seen enough time to call who should be the starting QB (too few number of pass attempts)
It's true that each quarterback has had relatively few pass attempts. Heck, Lindley has more than 1/2 of all the pass attempts for all our QBs. But it would be false to assume that that the few pass attempts seen is indicative of anything other than poor play. I will try to show that using the fact that Kolb and Skelton have only had 15 pass attempts each this preseason is NOT an indication that the coaching staff is undermining any one player. Several fans have pointed out that Carson Palmer had more pass attempts in the last game than Kolb and Skelton for the entire pre-season, and that this was somehow evidence that the coaching staff was doing something wrong. Let me put this out there plainly: The number of pass attempts is associated and directly proportional to QB play. If you play well and pick up first downs, you get another set of downs and can have more pass attempts. If you play well and avoid sacks/fumbles, you get more pass attempts (sacks don't count as pass attempts). If you go 3 and out: you can get a maximum of 3 pass attempts per drive (assuming you punt). Palmer drove down the length of the field many times in the first half while Kolb more often than not went 3-and-out. That's why there is such a disparity in pass attempts, and for relatively few other reasons.
Let's look at what's happened this season. From my basic calculation, Kolb has played for 42:24 this season. That's almost an entire 60 min game. Let's not forget that there are only 60 min in a game. I calculate this based on when they a player a put into a game, and when they are relieved by another player. In the first game, Kolb was the starter, and did not come off the field (Skelton went in) until 1:29 in the first quarter. So he basically played the entire first quarter. Skelton started game 2 and played the first quarter, and more than 4 minutes of the second quarter because he was in the middle of a drive. Then Kolb came in and played the remainder of the first half, until 0:30 were left and Lindley came in for a hurry-up drill. Game 3 had Kolb play almost the entire half- where Skelton came in with roughly 11:00 to go in the second (after some terrible play for Kolb). I doubt many starting QBs in the entire preseason have had as much playing time as Kolb or Skelton. This is in part because they've had an extra game. Bottom line is that:
Pass attempts is a poor measure of how much a QB is playing/how much of a chance they are getting.
While Kolb played 42:42 this season, Skelton played roughly the same amount of time: 40:34. What are the coaches supposed to do in this situation? They cannot create time for the players to be out there with the starting offense. The back-ups need to play in the second half, and there is little point in putting out the starting QB with the back ups to potentially get hurt. So far, Kolb and Skelton have roughly been in the game a similar amount of time. However, Kolb has actually had more opportunities to show what he can do (more on this below).
2. Skelton is inconsistent, and lacks accuracy
The statement above is not reflective of what's happened so far this preseason. Yes, Skelton showed some inaccuracy and indecision last season. He couldn't read defenses (maybe). So far THIS season I don't think you can make this case. Skelton has done WELL this preseason, even though he has not lead to TD passes on every single drive. A decent way of measuring accuracy is completion percentage. Of course, receivers can drop balls, and mental mistakes can lead to throws that are accurate but to covered receivers, but generally, if you have an accurate pass, it gets caught. This season Kolb is 5 of 15 passing for 47 yards, with 0 TDs and 1 INT. He is completing 1/3 of his passes (33.3%). This is a small sample size, so it's difficult to say there is any real difference with Skelton, who is 10/15 (67%) for 90 yards with 1TD and 1 INT. However, he has been on target in basically all but 1 throw this season that I've seen. He's had a couple of drops, plus a nice pass/catch that was inexplicably erased from the records in the KC game. The INT was a poor throw on a 3rd and 14 after evading a sack. His numbers in 3 games have been: 4/6, 3/6, 3/3. That doesn't look like "inconsistent" to me.
3. Neither QB has played well/ "wants to be starter" (Mann's article)
It's hard to argue that Kolb has played well. He has been pretty terrible this preseason. He has lead AZ to one TD drive in 3 games (he looked good that drive!!!). Skelton has only led 2 TD drives. Somehow, some people equate these two things as roughly the same. This is understandable, but there is one KEY difference. As I mentioned before, Kolb has actually had MORE opportunity this season than Skelton. Not in terms of pass attempts or time occupied in a game. They key difference between these 2 QBs is this: Kolb has been given the ball to lead 9 offensive drives this season, and Skelton only 5*. That's almost twice as many opportunities to win this QB competition. Unfortunately, Kolb has done just about everything wrong.
What is important for the offense to do to be successful? Well, for starters, you need to score points. But just because you don't score points doesn't mean a drive has failed. Just moving the ball and controlling the clock are equally important. You need to give your defense time to recover. 3-and-outs can kill your team. Turnovers are also bad. Unfortunately, the relative importance of these two is sometimes overblown. What is the difference between driving the ball down to the opponents 20 Yd line and turning the ball over, vs. going 3-and-out and punting to the opponent's 20? Well, aside from the "lost points" of not scoring from FG range, the latter means your defense is probably famished and may likely get steam rolled as the game continues. Yet virtually everyone cites turnovers as the key no-no for the offense. I think this is laziness and due to the fact that it's easier to track TO's. Anyway, let's look at how these 2 QBs have done this season controlling the offense:
Kolb- 9 drives:
1 TD scoring drive (11%)
sacks given up: 4
3-and out: 7 (78%)!!
That's right, 7 of Kolb's 9 drives have been 3-and-out. Forget about him being scared or indecisive or having "happy feet". Those may explain why Kolb has been terrible- but the bottom line is that Kolb has been terrible. Kolb has had 9 drives, which is a fair number, and he's gone 3 and out roughly every time. But he did have that one nice drive to start last game!!! let's not forget about that!!! he still has promise!!! Please. It's over.
Compare that to Skelton, who'se only had 5 drives.
2 TD scoring drives (40%)
sacks given up: 1
3-and out: 1 (20%)
Maybe Skelton has not been lights out. But he's been consistent, he's moved the ball, and he's lead the team to TDs drives. I would call it a successful preseason so far. He will get another game to solidify his position. If anything, Kolb has played himself OUT of the starting role, and he DESERVES to be demoted based on his play. The * denotes that Skelton had a drive last game I omit because he was only asked to kneel down to run out the half.
In conclusion, I feel that the number of pass attempts per QB has blinded a lot of fans from the remaining indications of QB performance we've seen so far. I also feel fans expect to see Favre out there slinging TDs and throwing 300 yards per preseason game... it's not going to happen. So far, Skelton has had a GOOD preseason. He's moved the ball, and lead to some scoring drives despite ONLY having 5 drives played. Kolb has definitely had more of chance getting 9 drives, but has played absolutely terrible virtually every time. Sando called it "a mix of good and bad." This is inaccurate. It's wholly bad with a little sprinkle of good on top.