Eagles' Kolb rolling with punches in unpredictable season

Quarterback Kevin Kolb says he realizes things can "change a lot" in the NFL and in Philadelphia.
Quarterback Kevin Kolb says he realizes things can "change a lot" in the NFL and in Philadelphia.
Posted: October 10, 2010

Kevin Kolb called it "the situation," as if being stripped of his starting job only to regain it - for however long - could be summed up so succinctly.

During the last six months, Kolb has rolled through the gamut of emotions. He was downright giddy when Andy Reid named him the Eagles' starting quarterback after trading Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins. He was crushed after losing the job to Michael Vick, who played dynamically in Kolb's stead after Kolb suffered a concussion in the second quarter of the season opener against Green Bay. And now, with Vick on the shelf with a chest injury, Kolb is back as the Eagles' starter this week against San Francisco.

It's not an easy thing, being yanked around. It can mess with a quarterback's confidence, his command of the locker room, and his psyche, and all of that can translate to the field, if the quarterback lets it.

Kolb has tried to keep it all in perspective. He made a conscious decision when Andy Reid went with Vick to be a team player, to not sulk, to still prepare as if he were the starter. Kolb knew how Vick plays, how his scrambling style opened him up, perhaps more than any quarterback in the National Football League, for injury. It was likely only a matter of time.

"Yeah, it's unique, the situation, but I think the one thing that I've come to realize about the NFL and realize about this city is things change a lot," Kolb said. "You're going to get thrown in situations you don't expect, and it's how you deal with them. Really the thing I've realized is people here respect you for how you deal with them, and so that just encourages me more to do it the right way and come back firing."

Nothing new

Kolb certainly isn't the only quarterback to endure controversy. The history of the NFL is littered with quarterbacks who had their starting jobs stripped away from them, sometimes because of their poor play and sometimes because of situations beyond their control.

There have been plenty of them this season. In Week 2 against Pittsburgh, Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher pulled Vince Young after Young's third turnover and went with Kerry Collins in the hopes Collins could provide the Titans with a spark. Collins threw an interception on his first series, and Tennessee ended up losing the game, 19-11. Young was back as the starter the next week.

Arizona has been through three quarterbacks already this season. After Kurt Warner retired following the 2009 season, Ken Whisenhunt named Matt Leinart as the Cardinals' starter. But Whisenhunt released Leinart before the season began because, as Whisenhunt said, Leinart wasn't a leader and his teammates didn't believe in him.

Whisenhunt turned to Derek Anderson, who in four starts threw three touchdowns and five interceptions and posted a 59.5 passer rating, the lowest in the league. Last week, Whisenhunt benched Anderson in favor of rookie Max Hall.

Buffalo switched from Trent Edwards to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Oakland pulled Jason Campbell for Bruce Gradkowski. And Carolina stuck with Matt Moore for all of two games before replacing him with rookie Jimmy Clausen, the 47th overall pick in the draft.

And so it goes.

"I would say it's harder for the guys now, because there's so much hyper-analysis, everything is so dissected, it's just unbelievable," said ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, who went through his share of drama during a 14-year career that included getting released after winning the Super Bowl. "Every move these guys make, there's eight billion different platforms talking about it. It's a little harder now to avoid.

"I guess I had a gift of ignorance. I never allowed myself to get wrapped up in it. I didn't read anything. I didn't watch anything. I didn't know what people were saying about it, and thank God. My wife always tells me I would be a mental midget if I did."

Behind somebody else

In 1999 in Tampa Bay, after Dilfer had started for four seasons, Buccaneers fans started calling for coach Tony Dungy to bench the quarterback. Late in the season, Dilfer broke his collarbone, and Shaun King finished the season as the Bucs' starter.

"The hardest thing was the team, the locker room aspect," Dilfer said. "Coaches sell it as what's best for the team, but when they say, 'What's best for the team,' they're saying, 'You're not best.' Players are so impressionable, all of a sudden the team looks at you like you're not best for the team.

"To me that was the hardest deal. I'd gone into so many battles with the quote-unquote my guys. Now they're rallying behind somebody else. There's a sense of betrayal."

Dilfer said that Kolb faces two challenges given the situation. First, he said Kolb needed to compartmentalize everything - each performance, what the team dynamic is, what the coaches are saying.

"If DeSean Jackson says something about Michael Vick, you have to store that in a separate compartment of, 'I don't care what people think,' " Dilfer said.

The second thing, which is more important, Dilfer said, is that Kolb can't try to please anybody on Sunday - not the people who question whether he can throw the ball downfield, not those who wonder whether he has the athleticism to elude pass rushers, not those who question whether he possesses the talent to be a starter in the NFC East.

"He just has to go out there and play and please himself," Dilfer said. "He knows how to play football. He just has to go out there and play his game and get totally wrapped up in his job. If somebody says he can't throw it deep, he doesn't throw it deep to prove somebody wrong.

"If he does his job, the rest will take care of itself. He's lucky he's in a quarterback-driven offense to start with. He's going to get opportunities. This is a lot harder if he was in an offense that didn't understand how to produce yards and points. If he goes and plays in the system, he'll be successful."

Plow through

Kolb is well aware of that. He is levelheaded and grounded, and said he has a large support group that includes his wife, Whitney, who Kolb said was instrumental in keeping him focused on the big picture. In recent weeks, Kolb also has heard from Drew Brees, Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers, three quarterbacks he leaned on during the off-season when he was preparing to be the starter.

"They've been through situations, and that's what you start looking at," Kolb said. "Everybody's gone through a situation, and probably more than once. Drew told me his story and what he'd gone through, and it helps. You realize you're not the only one who goes through something like this. And then other stories start popping up, and you realize how strong those guys were to push through it, and you want to do the same thing."

Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said he thought Kolb has handled the situation "about as good as you could handle it."

"He's a classy guy, great character," Mornhinweg said. "He handled it just like I thought, he would just plow through any adversity that hits him, and he's had more than his share, I think, right off the bat. So I think he'll just continue to plow through any adversity that hits him. He'll have some, and one of the keys is how well you react to it when it comes."

Certainly Kolb would like to improve on his performance last week, when he came in for Vick late in the first quarter against Washington. Kolb finished 22 of 35 for 201 yards, but he didn't have a completion longer than 18 yards and he missed several opportunities down the field.

But when asked what he wants to accomplish against San Francisco on Sunday, Kolb didn't talk about improving the situation or showing that he deserves another shot as the Eagles' starter.

"I want to win," Kolb said. "I've thought about it, you want to do this, you want to do that, but you look across the league. You don't play well week in and week out always. You want to. You prepare for it. You think about it, but as long as you win, that's all people care about, so that's our only objective this week. I'd love to give you a better answer than that, but that's the truth."

Contact staff writer Ashley Fox

at 215-854-5064 or afox@phillynews.com.

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