Les Bowen: Eagles' further review: Taking issue with Reid's 'maturation process'

It's tough to figure out Eagles' plan for Kevin Kolb now.
It's tough to figure out Eagles' plan for Kevin Kolb now.
Posted: October 12, 2010

FOR ME, the most interesting thing that happened Sunday night, amid the Eagles' frantic, frazzled outlasting of the San Francisco 49ers, was Andy Reid's lecture to the media about Kevin Kolb's maturation process.

Reid started out taking issue with a questioner who stated the premise that we saw a different Kolb Sunday night than we'd seen previously. I sort of understood why Reid bristled; some of the Kolb criticism, particularly after the Redskins game, was way over the top (more on that later). Reid was rejecting the notion that Kolb suddenly stopped being "scared" or even overwhelmed, in calmly leading the Eagles to victory, despite King Dunlap offering up the worst left-tackle performance in recent memory and Brent Celek frequently fighting the ball and losing.

"With a young quarterback, that's what you're going to see - I mentioned that from the beginning," Reid said. "There's going to be a maturation process that takes place when he plays. You just don't step in, in 1 year, and set the world on fire. That's not how this thing works. That's the reason why Michael [Vick] moved into that spot - it cuts that maturation process down when another guy is playing as well as Michael is playing."

Except, just about everybody crowded into that dreary little room under the stands at Candlestick Park understood there was going to be a maturation process when the season started. This year was going to be about finding out whether Kolb could play, and if returns on that were encouraging, about getting him experience toward a Super Bowl run next year and thereafter. It was Reid who changed the parameters by making Vick the starter. Now, we really don't know what the season is about, especially with Vick still unsigned past this season.

What is Kolb maturing toward, exactly? A trade somewhere after the season? (And how does Vick playing well cut that maturation process down? Kolb matures from watching Vick?)

What we do know is that when Reid casually benched his hand-picked Donovan McNabb successor, he opened the floodgates. The people who wanted to see Kolb fail, because they were angry about how McNabb was treated, or something, were given validation from the head coach. Suddenly, in the popular discourse, Kolb wasn't just struggling with inexperience and a porous line, he was "scared." This was as hateful and unfair as all the "puking" scorn directed at McNabb.

Funny, Kolb didn't look real scared to me when he tucked the ball and sprinted 19 yards up the middle on third and 18 Sunday night. Or in completing the first nine passes of his first-ever road start.

Everybody heard Reid declare afterward that Vick will remain the starter, but Vick is unlikely to play this week against Atlanta. If Kolb plays well and wins again - huge "ifs" - and he still can't get the job back, the mystery of what this season is supposed to be about will only deepen.

Maybe Andy can explain that in his next lecture.

DEVELOPING STORY LINES

* This Bobby April experience just gets stranger. April talked at length last Thursday about how dangerous returner Ted Ginn Jr. is. We have to assume that was a focus of preparation. Then Ginn returned kickoffs 61 and 44 yards, setting up scores both times. Special-teams play is hurting the Eagles more now than at any time in recent memory.

* Stewart Bradley talked in the postgame locker room about how the defense's focus going in was stopping the run, and the Eagles did that. Well, yeah, Stew, but you let the great Alex Smith throw for 309 yards and three touchdowns, and Vernon Davis abused you personally for four catches and 101 yards in the second half. Let's not hang any "Mission Accomplished" banners, please.

* Todd Herremans took holding and false-start penalties, but he also made the play of the game, recovering Shady McCoy's fumble and keeping alive the fourth-quarter drive for the field goal that ended up being the final margin.

* Andy Reid indicated last night that the Birds probably won't be bringing back DE Antwan Barnes, after all. Makes sense. Chad Hall's first NFL reception Sunday was a clutch 9-yarder converting third-and-2. You might need a fifth wideout more than you need yet another 250-pound defensive end.

WHO KNEW?

That giving Eldra Buckley his first carry of the season on a Wildcat snap, trying to convert a crucial third-and-1, was a bad idea? Oh, wait. It seems perhaps a few million people who were left screaming at their flat screens might have known that. Never mind.

OBSCURE STAT

The Eagles are 1-0 in games in which both Trevard Lindley and Dimitri Patterson intercept passes. The Eagles have won the interception battle 8-1 over opponents so far, by the way.

EXTRA POINT

Sean McDermott is a Philly guy, a decent guy, intense, hard-working, earnest.

Is he an effective defensive coordinator?

Evidence thus far is not in his favor. Last season raised questions. Now two of the Birds' three victories this season have been achieved despite what you'd have to call defensive collapses down the stretch, against the Lions and the 49ers (!). Both games, the opposition went into hurry up and the Eagles went into wet paper towel. Adjustments aren't getting made; huge coverage gaffes pile up. This speaks to coaching.

There were very few points Sunday night when the Eagles' defense really seemed to have the upper hand, despite the 49ers' five turnovers, and despite the Birds achieving their primary objective of stopping the run. They dared Alex Smith to beat them with his arm, and he nearly did. SF converted eight of 13 third downs, some of them from ridiculous distances.

I guess there was talk on the game telecast of Andy Reid being involved in defensive discussions Sunday, very unusual for Big Red. Couldn't hear the audio, didn't know that until yesterday, didn't notice anything during the game.

People are speculating about some sort of midseason change, with Dick Jauron already on hand. I really don't see that, given that McDermott goes all the way back to the beginning with Reid. But stranger things have happened.

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