Kevin Kolb has endured a long road during this Eagles season

Posted: January 02, 2011

Nine days after Clay Matthews drove his head into the ground, Kevin Kolb was blindsided by his coach.

On Sept. 21, the Eagles' starting quarterback walked into Andy Reid's office on the second floor of the NovaCare Complex and, after a long conversation, exited as the backup quarterback.

"That," Kolb said more than three months later, "was a tough, tough day."

Reid had decided - after an off-season of building up Kolb, a half-game of football in which the quarterback was ineffective and then concussed, and 11/2 games with a new and vastly improved Michael Vick - that it was time to make a switch.

It was a stunning decision at the time, one that eventually altered the expectations for the season and one that would forever change the course of the franchise. But while Vick went on to have an MVP-caliber season and lead the Eagles to an NFC East championship, Kolb mostly became a forgotten man.

The long road to oblivion began when he walked from Reid's office to his truck; drove back to his South Jersey home; and called his wife, Whitney, to deliver the bad news. He called his parents, Roy and Lanell. He called a few other confidants. Never did he imagine he would be the one defending Reid.

"My family and friends were so upset and hacked off," Kolb said. "And I just kind of said, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa. I'm going to support Mike. I'm not going to be a turd about this thing.'

"They're not here every day. They don't see how it works. They don't see how close Mike and I are. You know how family is - biased one way - and I try to take an unbiased approach to things even if it is myself. I was saying, 'Trust Andy in this thing. It may work out. Just wait and see.' "

True to his word, Kolb never publicly griped about his predicament. He did not try to divide the locker room. Even when he jumped back into the starting spot after Vick was injured two games later, and Kolb won his first two starts, he never lobbied for his old job.

"How hard would it be on Mike if I was out there wishing him bad on every play?" Kolb said. "It would be hard to have the success that we're having."

And when Vick returned, the Eagles won six of their next seven and there was hardly an argument to be made.

"Everybody's styles are different," Kolb said. "And you see a lot of guys make it work a lot of different ways. I'm not saying we wouldn't have been in the same spot, but I definitely wouldn't have done it in the manner he's done it."

Coincidentally, Vick's worst outing has led to Kolb's return to starting. The Eagles' loss to the Vikings last week rendered Sunday's game against the Cowboys meaningless. The game has meaning for Kolb, however, even if he is playing without a full complement of starters. With Vick virtually assured of returning next season, Kolb could be auditioning for other teams willing to trade for the 26-year-old.

"There is something at stake for myself," Kolb said. "But I feel like if I start thinking about those types of things or worrying about that . . . I don't want to put any added pressure on myself."

Kolb has one year remaining on his contract. The Eagles gave him an $11 million signing bonus in April after they traded Donovan McNabb and named him the starter. But with Kolb slated to earn only $1.4 million next season - a pittance for a backup quarterback - it could be reason enough for the Eagles to bring him back.

Could he handle yet another season watching from the sideline?

"I try not to read it, listen to it, but family and friends and people are asking about it," Kolb said. "They're asking and they want to know what I think."

Reid said he knew he wasn't going to have many fans from Kolb's side after the demotion.

"That's why I talked to him first and foremost," Reid said. "I made sure we put it all out there and talked. He knows how the business is."

Still, three days later, Kolb was restless. Reid could tell that the combination of the concussion from Matthews and the benching were taxing the Texan.

"I needed my rest and he could tell I wasn't sleeping," Kolb said. "And I'll never forget he called me and told me, 'I know how you are. Quit worrying about it and get some sleep.' Right after that I took a four-hour nap."

The rest didn't help much.

"I kept telling myself during that week, 'Make sure you're ready,' " Kolb said. "But I was just so exhausted. I was happy not having that game because I'm thinking I would have had a tough time going in there."

He was not needed. Vick played marvelously, throwing for three touchdowns and running for another in the Eagles' 28-3 victory over Jacksonville. And each time Vick came off the field after a score, Kolb was there to greet him with congratulations.

"He was definitely down," Eagles guard Todd Herremans said. "Of course, he wanted to play. But there really wasn't much [he had to do with] the decision. . . . So he just had to roll with the punches, and I think that showed a lot of guys on the team what kind of character he had."

So when Vick went down the following week against the Redskins, Kolb still had the huddle. More important, he said, he had his confidence back after watching Vick do his thing for three games.

"I said, 'Man, he's just out there playing the game,' " Kolb said. "And then when I went in against Washington I said, 'All right, that's what I'm going to do. Boom, boom, boom.' "

Kolb fell short of rallying the Eagles past the Redskins, but he was very good the next two weeks in wins over the 49ers and Falcons. He wasn't so good in start No. 3, and the Eagles lost at Tennessee.

At the start of the season it was expected that Kolb would have the occasional blip, learn from it, and come back the next game. But Vick was healthy again, and Kolb had to go back to the bench. Still, after those three games, he came away convinced that he could start in the NFL.

The question now is, for whom?

"I truly believe God has a plan," Kolb said. "Those things were supposed to happen. Although it was at my expense, I can't be any happier for Mike and the season he's had."


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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