Phil Sheridan: Despite what Reid says, Kolb doesn't look like The Guy

Posted: September 14, 2010

We have seen Andy Reid's poker face in this situation before, so it was no surprise Monday when he said, flat out, that "Kevin Kolb is the No. 1 quarterback."

In the past, whether A.J. Feeley was winning games or Jeff Garcia was leading a late-season playoff push or Kolb himself was showing promise, Reid was just as adamant. Donovan McNabb was the starter. Period.

The problem with Reid playing his hand the same way now is that he is holding very different cards.

Kolb is not McNabb. He is not more proven or accomplished than his backup. Michael Vick is anything but the conventional No. 2 QB. And - perhaps hardest for Reid to realize - the coach himself does not project the same aura of sound judgment and calm certainty.

Where once he was the steady hand who guided his team through deep playoff runs every year, Reid is now the guy whose judgment calls resulted in expensive commitments to Shawn and Stacy Andrews, the trading of McNabb to a division opponent, the still unbelievable decision to sign Vick in the first place, and failing to retain or adequately replace safety Brian Dawkins last season.

It is not hard to imagine that Reid is simply wrong about Kolb, too. If he believed the Andrews brothers and Jason Peters were the anchors for a dominant offensive line (Reid's original area of expertise), or that Victor Harris could replace franchise legend Dawkins, or that using Vick several times a game would be effective - if he believed those things, then he just might have overvalued Kolb.

Let's be clear: It is still too early to reach any rational conclusions about the young QB. He was terrible before getting hurt Sunday, and he's been less-than-stellar throughout the preseason. But one half of play behind a wobbly offensive line, against a very good defense, is hardly a fair sample. Just as two starts last year against very poor defenses did not warrant the rush to portray Kolb as the Magic Texan who would cure every McNabbian ill.

The unknowable thing about Kolb was whether he could handle being The Guy. It is completely different from studying game plans and filling in occasionally. It requires a combination of on-field poise, physical toughness and resilience and the ability to manage outside pressure and criticism. McNabb proved he had that over the long term.

Vick has it, too. Whatever his limitations as a QB or a citizen, Vick has carried a franchise on his back.

The most alarming aspect of Kolb's abbreviated debut as The Guy was that he didn't look much like The Guy. McNabb, like every other QB, has had poor games during his career. He never looked as completely lost or lacking in confidence as Kolb did Sunday.

This is not career-defining. Not yet. But Kolb has to find his way toward being an authoritative, poised presence before things snowball on him. Reid's challenge is to manage the situation in a way that helps Kolb reach that point. That will be complicated by his concussion, which could keep Kolb sidelined for a game or two.

The coach did not help Kolb on Sunday.

"He knows exactly what he needs to do to improve his game," Reid said. "And I've mentioned it before, it wasn't just him. There were some other issues there. I will start it with me. You have a young quarterback. You put him in a better situation than what I put him into. And so, I'll go back and fix that."

Reid's first step should be to ignore his own stubborn streak and eliminate the Vick package from the offense, at least until Kolb has established some kind of presence. It was a bad idea last year when McNabb was here, and it's a bad idea now.

Kolb's first series began with Vick, lined up at wide receiver, drawing a penalty for illegal formation. Another series began with Vick at QB for a play on which there was a holding call. Kolb came in facing first and 20 in his own end. It is disruptive and it doesn't work.

The Eagles kept pointing to Green Bay's transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers as a model for the switch from McNabb to Kolb. The Packers didn't yank Rodgers in and out of the game, giving snaps to some former Pro Bowler. Frankly, it's impossible to name a single successful quarterback who was developed under such circumstances.

Reid created the dilemma he now faces. Vick, with his crowd-pleasing style, could win a game in Detroit next week. He could make some big plays in Jacksonville, whether as the starter or in his change-up role. By Oct. 3, the next home game, the atmosphere at the Linc could be toxic for Kolb.

The opponent that day? Washington, of course. McNabb is going to feel right at home.


Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.

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