The season opener did not go so well for the Eagles or Kevin Kolb, to put it mildly. This has Eagles fans in panic mode and the media in a feeding frenzy over all the juicy story angles. Fans range from "Kolb sucks" to "Reid is now firmly on the hot seat". The media has covered every possible angle. Will Andy Reid now choose Michael Vick over Kolb? Will Kolb's teammates now prefer Vick? What do opposing defenses think? Does Kevin Kolb even have an NFL future?
All of this lunacy is based on one half of football. Think about that. One half. Wow. Let's try to put things in some context.
First up, let's talk about Kolb. I've heard crazy stories about him since he was drafted. Some Eagles fans think Reid and Tom Heckert panicked when the guy they wanted wasn't on the board. Kolb was the fallback choice. Some fans think he was brought here to be Donovan McNabb's backup. Other fans think he was some kind of pawn in a power struggle between Reid, Heckert, Howie Roseman, and Joe Banner. Where was he on November 22nd, 1963? After all, Kevin is from Texas. Think that's a coincidence? Hardly.
The truth is so boring. Back in 2003 Andy Reid was watching an ESPN college game on a Friday night. He noticed the freshman quarterback for Houston and the kid sorta caught Reid's eye. Reid then followed that kid for the rest of his career. That kid, obviously, was Kevin Kolb. Eagles scouts studied Kolb at Houston and then saw him up close and personal at the Senior Bowl. Reid brought him to the NovaCare complex for a visit before the draft. Kolb was one of the Eagles primary targets in the 2007 draft. They knew they valued him more than other teams so the Eagles decided that they would go after him in the 2nd round, possibly needing to trade up. When safety Brandon Meriweather went off the board in the late 1st, the Eagles decided to trade back into the early 2nd round and take Kolb there. They didn't want to risk losing him.
In the 2007 preseason Kolb led the NFL in passing attempts and yards. Reid and Marty Mornhinweg played him a lot. They didn't need to give Donovan McNabb a ton of snaps and the other quarterback was veteran A.J. Feeley, who also didn't need much work. When the Eagles destroyed the Detroit Lions early in the year, it was Kolb that came in for mop-up duty. Reid had not been this aggressive with other rookies. He had a lot of trust in Kolb and wanted to constantly push him to speed along his development.
When Kolb got to start a couple of games in early 2009, Reid didn't try to protect him with a conservative gameplan. He gave Kolb a chance to show what he could do. In the first half of his initial start, Kevin was 14 of 22 for 196 yards. Drew Brees was 16 of 21 for 213 yards. We lost that game, but Kolb threw for more than 300 yards in each of his two starts. The offense moved the ball and scored points in both games.
The point of all this is that Kolb is Reid's guy, just like McNabb was.
Think about the other starters we've had over the years. Koy Detmer was a backup that Reid liked and kept around as long as he could (too long). Feeley was a late round pick that the Eagles developed into a solid backup and occasional starter. Mike McMahon was a reclamation project that failed. Jeff Garcia was a solid veteran who played well when called upon. Enter Michael Vick. He also is a reclamation project. Unlike McMahon, Vick appears to be ready for his opportunity. He played well last Sunday and gave the offense a real spark.
Vick and the other guys did play quarterback for the Eagles, but they aren't the same as Kolb and McNabb. Being a backup or project just isn't the same thing as being a high pick that is brought in and developed to be the future of the franchise. A coach has a special relationship with his starting quarterback. Not only do you invest a high pick and lots of money, you put a lot of time, energy, belief, and trust into a franchise quarterback. That's the guy you make plans around. Reid had ultimate faith in McNabb. He feels the same way about Kolb.
Sunday's game wasn't pretty. The offense struggled mightily in the first half. Kolb played poorly. The offense committed dumb penalties. There was no flow. Heck, there was nothing. Then Kolb got sacked and suffered a concussion. The second half was a different story. Vick played well. The offense clicked and we moved the ball. We lost 27-20, but made a good game of it.
Suddenly a lot of people expect Andy Reid to reassess his quarterback position. Kolb had a bad half. Isn't that enough for him to lose his job. Shouldn't one half of football outweigh three and a half years of preparation and development? Heck, why is Kolb still on the team? Why is he still allowed in Philadelphia? He's a bum. Get him a one-way ticket to Anytown, USA, but get him out of Philly. Right?
I understand that people are frustrated with the loss and Kolb's performance. Sunday was miserable. I don't understand why people are ready to give up on him so quickly. I'm a big Kevin Kolb fan. Sunday's game got my attention and has made me nervous, but I'm anxious to see him get his next start. Kolb has excellent potential. Kolb showed us what he can do in his two starts last year. There is a reason Reid liked him so much.
And that is the key point to remember. Kolb is Reid's guy. Big Red is going to stick with his player for a long time before he makes any changes. Reid understands the big picture. Fans are caught up in Vick having a good half for us.
Let's talk a little bit about that. Vick led us to 17 points in the second half. He was 16 of 24 for 175 yards. He did play well. Vick also had some things working in his favor. The Packers didn't have a specific gameplan in place for him. They planned for Kolb. Vick also benefited greatly from his receivers. Go back and watch some highlights. There were a number of shoestring catches, including one for a touchdown. Those passes could have just as easily been incomplete and we're looking at a different game. I'm not trying to say that Vick didn't play well. We just have to keep it in perspective. Getting hot in the second half of a game when you're losing by 17 points is not the same thing as making a scheduled start and playing well. That's a test Vick hasn't passed since early December of 2006.
Shouldn't Vick's performance have some serious impact on Reid's thinking? History says no. Go back to 2003. We started 0-2. The offense was dreadful. McNabb was struggling and had a bad wrist. The whole world, including me, was calling for Reid to play Feeley. After all, A.J. had just led the team to a 4-1 record the previous year. We did win in week three at Buffalo, but McNabb was pedestrian. The team was up and down for the next few games. McNabb struggled in all of them. It wasn't until a game in Atlanta in early November that McNabb got hot and the offense came alive. Reid stuck with him despite a ton of pressure from fans and the media to make a change. Big Red never flinched.
People might argue that McNabb was an established player and that makes 2003 a different situation. That's the wrong way to look at it. Reid stuck with his guy then (McNabb) and he's going to stick with his guy now (Kolb). Reid is incredibly loyal. And stubborn. Time will tell which quality sticking with Kolb is bringing out.
Vick will probably start the game at Detroit. Let's hope he plays well and we win. That will only ramp up the talk about Vick staying the starter. Won't happen. Reid will put Kolb back in the lineup the second he's cleared by the medical staff. That's the right thing to do. You don't make plans and spend time developing a player to cast him aside at the first sign of trouble. You stick with your guy. You give him a chance to play.
People have asked me what happens if Kolb struggles down the road. That changes things. He doesn't just get a free pass to play as long as he wants no matter what happens. This is the NFL. No one is guaranteed anything. Kolb has to be given plenty of time to show what he can do, good and bad. Four games? Eight? 10? I don't know what the exact number is. Reid will handle the situation according to how it goes. If Kolb is wretchedly bad, he won't keep the job too long. If he's inconsistent, he probably remains the starter. You need Kolb to play so we can find out how he handles being the full time starter. Reid also has an obligation to his team to make sure the other 52 guys aren't being held back by a young quarterback.
People want exact timetables or numbers. It doesn't work like that. Football is a fluid situation. Reid will stick with his guy as long as he can, but Kolb has to deliver. Kevin will get every chance in the world to show that Sunday was a fluke and that he's got what it takes to be a good starting quarterback. My bit of advice to Kolb...hurry up. The barbarians are at the gate.