Some quarterbacks, such as Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, experience the love right away and start in Week 1 of their rookie seasons. Some quarterbacks, such as Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Donovan McNabb, end up starting at some point during their first year, either because the No. 1 guy gets hurt or because he gets benched. And some quarterbacks, such as Garcia, Aaron Rodgers and Kevin Kolb, have to wait their turn. And the wait can seem endless.
Unless McNabb miraculously recovers from a fractured rib, Kolb will make his first start for the Eagles on Sunday after watching from the sideline for the better part of three seasons. Although Andy Reid yesterday did not rule out McNabb playing in the game, Kolb took all of the snaps with the first-team offense, and Reid said that if McNabb can't play, Kolb will get the start.
With three quarterbacks on the Eagles sideline with 12 combined Pro Bowl appearances watching the one with no experience, the reaction from fans is likely to be mixed, and Kolb knows it. He's never started a game. He hasn't thrown a touchdown pass. He's thrown only 24 completions, and none longer than 16 yards.
Last week against the Panthers, Kolb struggled to complete anything. In his only other meaningful action, last season in the second half against Baltimore, he posted a 15.3 passer rating with 13 incompletions, two interceptions and zero touchdowns.
"I've gotten opportunities and haven't done the best job with them," Kolb said. "If I'd come out and had five touchdowns and zero interceptions and zero fumbles, this wouldn't be an issue. But, because I haven't had much success it's totally fair, and I look forward to the challenge."
The expectations on Kolb should be big, said one NFC general manager. He isn't like Ryan or Flacco last year. As rookies, those players were expected to make mistakes. They had zero NFL experience, were totally green. Everything was new. And therefore, they had a cushion.
The Falcons selected Ryan with the third pick in the draft. They were committed to rebuilding the franchise after Michael Vick was sent to prison, and with a new coach, a new general manager, and a rookie quarterback, Atlanta chose to ease Ryan into the offense.
In his debut in Week 1 against Detroit, Ryan's first completion went for a touchdown. As thrilling as that was, he also benefited greatly from the Falcons' game plan, which leaned heavily on the run. In the 34-21 win over Detroit, Michael Turner set a franchise record for rushing in a single game with 220 yards. Ryan finished 9 of 13 for 161 yards and one touchdown.
Ryan was asked to manage the game, and he did. As the weeks progressed, coach Mike Smith gave Ryan more responsibilities, and he had a stellar rookie year, leading the Falcons to an 11-5 record and completing 61.1 percent of his passes for 3,440 yards.
Kolb's situation is closer to that of Aaron Rodgers'. In 2005, Rodgers unexpectedly slipped to the 24th pick in the draft, then sat behind Brett Favre for three seasons. Finally, after Favre's first retirement after the 2007 season, Rodgers got his chance to start last season.
In the Packers' 2008 opener against Minnesota on Monday Night Football, Rodgers was sharp, efficient and poised. He completed 18 of 22 passes for 178 yards and one touchdown, which came when he had to check to his third option and threw the ball as he was being hit and off his back foot. The pass to Korey Hall was right on the money.
While there was immense pressure on Rodgers because he was following a Green Bay icon, he had the luxury of being the starter throughout the off-season and training camp. He got all the first-team snaps. Kolb hasn't had any until this week.
Still, that shouldn't be an excuse.
"Being in the same system, there's no question he should have his feet underneath him," the NFC general manager said. "The expectations are higher. . . . Put your big-boy pants on and operate quite efficiently here. You aren't learning on the fly. He should be that much more accelerated than Matt Ryan or Flacco."
But will Kolb be more accelerated? Or will the pressure be too much? And will Reid, who has a vested interest in seeing Kolb succeed, put him in a position to be successful?
Over the years, some quarterbacks have been able to handle the pressure, but plenty of others haven't. Alex Smith, Vince Young, and Matt Leinart all looked strong at one point, but none of them are starters now. For others, such as JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn and Jason Campbell, it's too early to know.
Even if Kolb plays well, it's only one game. Garcia played beautifully in his first start, a 24-22 win over Tennessee, completing 21 of 33 passes for 243 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Afterward, he thought, "Wow, this is going to be a positive thing."
"All of a sudden, the wheels fell off, and we went in another direction," Garcia said.
The Niners lost their next four games. Garcia got benched. His confidence was rocked, and his quarterback coach, Greg Knapp, knew it. Knapp made a tape of all of Garcia's positive plays, and showed it to him.
After sitting for three games, Garcia got another chance. He was lucky. Some quarterbacks get only one.
"You have to do your best not to think about the what-ifs or the difference scenarios," Garcia said, "but just take advantage of the opportunity, whether it's one start or two starts. Take it one day at a time and make the most of the opportunity, because you never know what's going to be in front of you. If this is his opportunity to present to the rest of the league what he's all about, hopefully he takes advantage of that."
Contact staff writer Ashley Fox
at 215-854-5064 or firstname.lastname@example.org.