Kolb remains favorite to be Cardinals' QB

Arizona isn't worrying about QB Kevin Kolb's potential hurt feelings over the team's Peyton Manning courtship. The Cardinals are prepared to enter 2012 with Kolb as the starter.

The Cardinals won't spend any time worrying about quarterback Kevin Kolb possibly having bruised feelings over the team's pursuit of Peyton Manning.

After all, a healthy Manning is a far better option than a healthy Kolb. The Cardinals obviously thought they had a legitimate shot at Manning, and the quarterback visited Arizona over a weekend.

Manning and coach Ken Whisenhunt have known each other for some time, and the basis of that relationship is the main reason Manning visited the Cardinals.

Unlike the other finalists for Manning, the Cardinals were working under a deadline. Kolb was due a roster bonus of $7 million on March 17. The Cardinals had to make a decision by the previous day in order for the move to go through the league offices.

While Manning wasn't ready to name a specific team, he called the Cardinals by that time, letting them know they were out of the running.

So the Cardinals return to their original plan: Kolb enters the offseason as the starter but Whisenhunt will give John Skelton a chance to win the job.

Kolb kept a low profile during the Manning saga, declining comment. So did his agent, Jeff Nalley.

Watching your employer trying to replace you wouldn't be easy for anyone, however. Kolb is competitive and if anything, the Manning pursuit will motivate him. The Cardinals trust that will be the case.

"We sit here today in the same spot we were heading into the off-season," Whisenhunt said in a statement. "That's with two experienced quarterbacks who have both demonstrated positive things in the past and who we feel good about. Like we said at the end of the season when we won seven of the last nine games, carrying the momentum of that strong finish into 2012 is important and that remains unchanged."

While Manning powered through free agency, he left many unhappy quarterbacks in his wake. Denver, Tennessee, Miami, San Francisco and probably others wanted to make him an offer.

It's not as if Kolb had a solid hold on the job. He missed seven complete games and most of an eighth with injuries last season. When he did play, Kolb was inconsistent.

He had nine touchdown passes and eight interceptions and threw for more than 300 yards only once, in the season opener.

But there were signs of improvement. He played his best during the second half against Dallas on Dec. 4, and it was unfortunate he suffered a concussion after just one pass the following week.

Meanwhile, Skelton, in his second season, showed moxie late in games. The Cardinals went 5-2 in games he started.

But most of those victories can be attributed to a defense that greatly improved over the last half of the season. Kolb never benefited from that.

Most of his starts came in the first half of the season, when the defensive players were struggling to learn Ray Horton's new system.

The Cardinals have too much invested in Kolb to make him Skelton's backup for now. They traded cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second round pick to the Eagles to get Kolb.

Including the recent roster bonus, they have paid Kolb $19 million. Whisenhunt likes to create the feeling of competition, but it will take a horrible performance by Kolb, or another injury, to keep him from opening the season as the starter.

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