The case for keeping Kolb with the Eagles

A valuable Eagles backup, Kevin Kolb is worth keeping around just in case Michael Vick gets hurt.
A valuable Eagles backup, Kevin Kolb is worth keeping around just in case Michael Vick gets hurt. (MATT SLOCUM / Associated Press)
Posted: July 15, 2011

Do not trade Kevin Kolb.

Repeat: Do. Not. Trade. Kolb.

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 At this point, asking Eagles coach Andy Reid to reconsider his all-but-set-in-granite decision to deal his backup quarterback is like instituting Pig Latin as the nation's official language.

It's not going to happen.

But Reid and company still have time to put the Arm & Hammer back in the tube - likely at least a week before a labor agreement would start the new league year. And keeping Kolb in tow would be brush-two-times-a-day advice.

Michael Vick might not get hurt next season, just like you and I might avoid cavities. But why mess with a possible root canal?

Vick missed 31/2 games last season because of injuries, and another to rest his aching body. By the time the Eagles had their rematch against the Packers in the playoffs, Vick was a shell of the video game-like character who replaced the woozy Kolb in the season-opening first meeting.

There is little reason to believe Vick won't be as exposed to possible injury in the coming season. Vick may have altered some of his off-the-field habits, but his run-when-the-rush-is-on instincts remain. His 100 carries last year, projected over a full 16-game season, would have been 133, the highest total of his career.

And then there is the Eagles offensive line, which at last gander still had tackle Winston Justice protecting Vick's blind side.

So Vick will do his thing, and he will likely be sidelined for some stretch. And that's where Kolb should come in. The value of a strong No. 2 cannot be overstated. How many eventual Super Bowl title runs stayed on track because a team had a capable backup?

Well-known substitutes such as Earl Morrall, Jeff Hostetler, Steve Young, and Tom Brady either held the ship afloat when the starter went down or took over the wheel full-time.

That isn't to say Kolb is any of the above. But he's certainly the equal of Joe Gilliam, Mike Rae, and Charlie Batch, three backups who did yeoman's work in midseason.

When the Packers' Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion last season and missed the game against the Patriots, backup Matt Flynn took over. Green Bay lost on the road, 31-27, but Flynn threw for three touchdowns. He certainly has his team confident about the future of its second-string quarterback.

Second-year Eagles QB Mike Kafka is not at that level yet and could use another year of seasoning.

Reid can't afford to have a promising season hijacked by injury. With three years left on the coach's contract, he needs to win. Like now. And the "beautiful situation," as he is wont to say, of having two starting quarterbacks under contract gives him his best shot at a championship.

A trade involving Kolb will almost certainly include a defensive player in return. There are holes to fill on that side of the ball, most notably at cornerback and on the defensive line. But those holes can just as easily be plugged via free agency.

And how many starting-caliber quarterbacks who are OK with being No. 2 are on the market? Marc Bulger? Tarvaris Jackson? Vince Young? How many will be able to step in and learn the Eagles offense in a lockout-shortened offseason? Uh, none?

There's also the argument against trading Kolb within the conference, which the Eagles could do in a deal with Arizona. With one addition, the Cardinals will become instant playoff contenders.

The Eagles, of course, could point to shuffling Donovan McNabb off to Washington and how that move never came back to haunt them. But they knew McNabb was on a steep downward curve. They actually believe Kolb will become an all-pro quarterback.

If that is the indeed the truth, then why not make Kolb the starter? There is a case to be made.

Vick's disparate start and finish to last season strengthened the argument. In his first six games, he had zero turnovers, averaged 8.8 yards per pass attempt, and was sacked 2.5 times a game. In his final seven games, including the postseason, he had 10 turnovers, averaged 7.7 yards per pass attempt, and was sacked 3.1 times an outing.

Kolb, not without his own flaws, has proved he can win, although the sample is small. Nearing age 27, he's also four years younger.

Reid is committed to Vick for this season, however, at least to start the campaign. (We know how that goes.) But he has some room to wiggle out of trading Kolb even if he had planned on granting the Texan's wish to start elsewhere.

Kolb's happiness will have to be sacrificed for a season - unless Reid can lure old friend Brett Favre out of retirement to be his backup. Even that may be too much of a distraction for the coach.

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Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com, or @Jeff_McLane on Twitter.

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