Now you see it, now you don't: Reid's offensive genius

No con job: Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb is looking more and more like the kind of player Andy Reid said he would be.
No con job: Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb is looking more and more like the kind of player Andy Reid said he would be.
Posted: October 20, 2010

When Andy Reid made the stunning decision to bench Kevin Kolb in favor of Michael Vick, a prevailing feeling among some observers was that he was just like one of the con men in his favorite film, The Sting.

For months, the Eagles' coach and his lieutenants sold the idea that Kolb would step effortlessly under center and run the West Coast offense as it was originally intended. The quarterback would take a three-step drop and zip the ball to one of his "young gun" targets, or he would play-action pass and heave a bomb skyward to his speedy receivers.

Scoreboards around the league would need two operators to handle the explosion of points from the Eagles' offense.

But just like that - after one lousy first half out of Kolb and a tremendous three from Vick - Reid hooked his starter, promoted his backup with a sleight of hand, and left many Eagles watchers wondering whether the cards had been marked.

Some even became accomplices when they came to the premature conclusion, after 19 snaps, that Kolb couldn't play.

Reid, of course, didn't feel that way, although the move seemed to initially suggest as much - as did his reluctance to say definitely that Kolb would not be dealt before the trade deadline.

Meanwhile, everyone else in the organization, from the front office to the ball boys, insisted that they still believed in Kolb. And in the end, that confidence paid off because, well, Kolb can play. When he got his chance the last two games, the offense ran as Reid predicted it would with the Texas slinger at the commands.

In his last two starts, Kolb has completed 73.3 percent of his pass attempts. He has thrown for 579 yards, four touchdowns, and just one interception. A balanced offense piled up 58 points and 826 total yards. It was, as Reid has described his escalating quarterback controversy, a "beautiful thing."

Two games, though, is a relatively small sample. The two opponents were the horrid 49ers and the not-as-good-as-believed Falcons. And Vick, in his two previous starts, was equally as good if not better than Kolb in his.

But with Kolb set to start again Sunday at the Tennessee Titans and Vick still nursing a rib injury, the argument can be made that Kolb is better suited to start for the Eagles the rest of the season - or at least until Reid changes his mind again.

Vick may pose a unique challenge for defenses and give them an added element to prepare for, but Kolb is better suited to run Reid's offense. When it comes to priorities, every coach will say his offense is more important than an opposing defense.

In three areas, the offense is different under Kolb, partly because of the quarterback's skill set, the game plan, and circumstances such as the improvement of the offensive line.

"I think [there's] a little maturation with the offensive line taking place," Reid said Monday. "So everybody kind of grows together with a young quarterback. It's not just him, but it's the whole group doing their thing. I think that the guys feel very comfortable with him."

Looking specifically at the two starts in which Vick and Kolb each finished, there are several noticeable disparities.

In the passing game, Vick threw out of the shotgun more often that Kolb. Of the 123 times he was under center, Vick took the snap from the shotgun 51 percent of the time. Kolb, by comparison, was in the shotgun 39 out of 128 times for 30 percent.

This is notable because Kolb, who used the shotgun almost exclusively in college, was supposed to struggle with the drop. Employing the drop allowed for more play action and freed up Kolb's receivers.

The Eagles were able to get the 49ers and Falcons to bite on play action because they made a point of establishing the run early. Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg favored the run slightly in the early going when Vick was starting. But there wasn't as much of an overall commitment.

In Vick's two starts, the run-pass ratio was 33-66 percent. With Kolb, it was much more balanced - 47-53 - even though the Eagles took double-digit leads in all four games.

Kolb, as one would expect, also tossed a larger percentage of short passes, although the disparity was not a big one.

Even after DeSean Jackson left Sunday's game with a concussion, the offense chugged merrily along. It was as Reid declared it would be from the start.

Reid may be many things - certainly not a Robert Redford or Paul Newman look-alike - but he's not a swindler.

Robinson fined. Atlanta's Dunta Robinson was fined $50,000 by the NFL for knocking out both himself and Jackson Sunday with a helmet-to-helmet hit in the second quarter. Jackson is not likely to play Sunday.


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Jeff_McLane

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