So Kevin Kolb will be back under center for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in Jacksonville.
Ultimately, this decision makes little sense. The quarterback balance of power has changed in Philadelphia, and coach Andy Reid doesn’t seem to grasp it.
Two weeks ago, Michael Vick(notes) was seen as an aging Wildcat backup while Kolb was a sure-armed sniper who could grow up with a young receiving corps. Now, Kolb is a crapshoot and Vick is a dual-threat vet who no NFL team can adequately prepare for in a week’s time. Reid took a gamble on Vick last season, and it has paid off big time. But now, he’s taking a gamble by going back with Kolb.
Just look at the Lions’ approach during Sunday’s 35-32 home loss. They went with the “zero blitz,” which basically takes out a safety to allow for an extra rusher to go full-throttle at Vick. More than a few times, Vick found himself staring at a runaway blue train coming his way. Does anyone think Kolb could have survived that kind of attack – assuming Detroit utilized the same strategy against him? Vick did, side-stepping the extra Lions defender and creating an 11-on-10 power-play for the Eagles.
A run-first quarterback would still have issues in that situation, because he cuts down his options with every extra step he takes to one side of the field or toward the line of scrimmage. The best quarterbacks always have the entire field to work with, which is why the all-time greats have always stayed in the pocket as long as possible. But now Vick is no longer a run-first quarterback. Now he’s a throw-first quarterback who can handle a pass rush. That makes him twice as valuable as Kolb.
The zero blitz may have been specifically picked by the Lions to force Vick into quick decisions. Kolb may have faced a more traditional Cover 2 in Detroit. But that defense would allow Vick more room to run – not an ideal situation. And Green Bay put tons of pressure on Kolb in Week 1 and it worked. So it’s safe to say most defenses will bring the house against whomever Reid starts. That favors Vick.
It would be different if the Eagles had a top-notch offensive line, because that would give someone like Kolb time to go through progressions and read coverage. But the Eagles’ front is a struggling unit that lost offensive tackle Jason Peters(notes) at different points Sunday. As a result of their shaky line, the quarterback must get out of the way and keep his eyes down the field. Not easy. Vick has shown he can do that – both in his glory days with the Falcons and over the past two weeks against the Packers and Lions.
As receiver Jason Avant(notes) says of Vick, “He makes the play longer.”
And no matter how great your young receivers are – DeSean Jackson(notes), Jeremy Maclin(notes), Avant, Brent Celek(notes) – they can’t be fast enough to get open before an unblocked rusher takes the three steps needed to arrive in the airspace of a quarterback.
But what about the future? Kolb backers offer this argument: Vick is 30. Like a running back, his speed will decline over the next two or three seasons. Kolb is 26, and in two or three seasons he’ll have chemistry with Jackson and the others.
Sounds good on paper – and on an abacus – but right now Kolb looks like he’s 30 and Vick looks like he’s 26. Kolb is younger, but in football years they are much closer to the same age since Vick hasn’t gone through a full season since 2006. Now factor in the experience Vick has, which includes Pro Bowl seasons and playoff victories, and you have a nice blend of honed instincts and tire tread. Kolb can’t claim either the reps or the knowledge yet.
Is it worth delaying Kolb’s progress for one or two years under Vick? Of course it is – if it works. As long as the Eagles score and contend under Vick, Kolb can wait like Aaron Rodgers(notes) did. And if Vick bombs out in Jacksonville, Reid can put Kolb back in with impunity.
Of course the irony of Reid’s choice is that he made it months ago. He got rid of a running quarterback who molded himself into a great pro-style passer: Donovan McNabb(notes). Now Reid has decided to double-down. That’s fine if Kolb wins right away. But if he doesn’t, the Eagles will look twice as bad.