By Joshua Bottomley
2008 was the year of the back up quarterback in the NFL. Tom Brady got nuked in the opening minutes of the Patriots first game and had to hand the keys to the car over to Matt Cassell in New England. Vince Young had a nervous breakdown in Tennessee and Kerry Collins led the Titans to a 13-3 record, the best in the league. Dante Culpepper found a short-lived gig in Detroit, and Brad Johnson saw time in Tony Romo’s slot in Dallas. Hell, Gus Frerotte got some starts over Tavaris Jackson in Minnesota and the list goes on. To be a back up QB in 2008 meant you had a shot in the limelight, however brief it may have been.
So far in 2009, that isn’t the case. Tom Brady is not 100%, but playing, the Vikings nabbed Brett Favre who plays injured all the time, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers are dissecting defenses with Pro Bowl precision, and the Manning boys are still going strong. But oh, poor Donovan McNabb. Poor, poor Donovan McNabb.
Donovan McNabb hasn’t brought the Philadelphia Eagles an NFL championship in his TEN years under head coach Andy Reid. Donovan McNabb championed the Eagles acquisition of free agent convict, Michael Vick. Donovan McNabb has a fractured rib. Donovan McNabb just watched his back up, 3rd year veteran Kevin Kolb throw for over 300 yards in his first two NFL starts. Donovan McNabb didn’t do that in his first two starts. In fact nobody ever has. Wait one person has. Kevin Kolb. Donovan McNabb should be worried.
The Eagles now have four, count them, one, two, three, FOUR quarterbacks. They re-signed journeyman QB Jeff Garcia off of the free agent scrap heap in case the Kolb experiment backfired, but he has yet see any action. Vick’s reassertion into society is an ongoing process and no playoff contender is going to let the wild man run wild until they are sure he can handle an offense, not like he ever could before his incarceration. But Kolb seems to have benefitted from the time on the sidelines and one cannot help but draw comparisons to Drew Bledsoe cheering on his replacement as the Patriots marched to their first of three Super Bowls on the back of a relative unknown.
Sure the home opener loss to New Orleans was ugly. But it was the kid’s first career start. And yes he threw two interceptions, but he was also 31 of 51 for 391 yards. 391 freaking yards! And that’s with two touchdowns. What did he do for an encore? He went 24 of 34 for 327 yards with 2 TDS and ZERO interceptions against Kansas City. By no means are the Chiefs the same opponent as the Saints, but still it is impressive, and now, the folks in the offices at Lincoln Financial Field have thrust themselves into an age-old tumult, the quarterback quagmire.
It is obvious that they have to stick with Kolb for the time being and see if he is just on a hot streak or is he prepped to be the second coming of Brady, but, the “what if” comment cards have got to be filling the suggestion boxes on Paddison Ave. What if Kolb breaks down, physically or mentally? Do they go with Garcia, who played well for the Eagles last season after McNabb was benched? Or do you have a go with Vick and see if he can provide the electricity that he has shown in years past? What about when McNabb is healthy? Do you start him even though he has failed to produce consistently and is so susceptible to injury with increasing regularity? Is Andy Reid going to survive this season? Literally. This might kill him. Coach Reid has been under tremendous pressure to return his team to the Super Bowl after a devastating loss to the Patriots in 2004, but has not had the personnel to get there, and the majority of the blame must be laid at McNabb’s feet.
Poor, poor Donovan McNabb. We will have to see which of these FOUR quarterbacks is jettisoned first. Will it be the ex-con who is in his own rebuilding and attrition phase, the over the hill has been in Garcia looking for a league minimum paycheck, or the over paid wash out in Donnie M? One thing is for certain, Kolb is on the job, for the foreseeable future in Philly.
UPDATE 10/19/09: Donovan McNabb is on his second week back behind center and just lost to the Raiders. That's right. The Raiders.