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Kolb isn't the only one who thinks he's a winner

Kevin Kolb, Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles (Getty Images)
Eagles coach Andy Reid has been watching over Kevin Kolb for years.
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John Czarnecki

John Czarnecki has been the editorial consultant for "FOX NFL Sunday" since its 1994 inception. This season marks Czarnecki's 32nd year covering the NFL. He is one of 44 selectors to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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BETHLEHEM, Pa

None of us really know the ending to this story, one that began as a debate. Do you keep the proven veteran quarterback or go with the kid with a lot of promise and poise? The best comparison to what Eagles coach Andy Reid did, mainly because he and Brett Favre remain good friends, was how the Packers moved on with Aaron Rodgers.

“The only thing I’d say about that is that I’d like to win more games than they did,” Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said of the Packers’ switch.

Today, the Packers are frequently mentioned as a Super Bowl contender, but in Rodgers’ first season, they went 6-10. Last season, Favre and Minnesota beat Green Bay twice and Rodgers failed in his only playoff game. Those are the facts, Jack!

And none of those results are acceptable in Philadelphia.

Reid knows that, and so does Kevin Kolb (pronounced Cobb), the man replacing Donovan McNabb. You can throw that learning curve out the window. There’s no place for that in Kolb’s world, and he totally understands that.

“We are groomed to win Super Bowls here,” Kolb told me. “We don’t set our bar any lower. So, we want to win right now. This is not a rebuilding year. We believe it as a team. The mentality of the team is that we expect more than just another 10-win season.”

There’s no question Reid’s one of the league’s finest coaches with a respectable history of winning in the NFC East, but despite those five NFC title game appearances, the Eagles won only one, then McNabb puked in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl loss to New England. Giants coach Tom Coughlin told me McNabb did the same thing in Jacksonville in 2002 when his Jaguars beat the Eagles, but that’s another story, although Coughlin still wishes Reid would have traded McNabb out of the division.

The other huge difference in this comparison was that Green Bay’s braintrust may have tired of Favre’s retirement antics, but they still feared him as a player. They didn’t have the guts to trade him to Minnesota for a first-round pick. Heck, they were afraid to trade him to Tampa Bay, where he would’ve been very happy with Jon Gruden. They banished him to the Jets, and we all know how that turned out.

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Reid showed no such fear. He traded McNabb, only 33, to the Redskins, who are coached by an offensive genius in Mike Shanahan. Unlike Mike McCarthy, Reid never wanted his players to know he could’ve made a better deal elsewhere. He wanted them to know he felt totally confident his players could beat McNabb’s Redskins this season.

“There are no doubts in that regard,” Reid said. “I want to be able to stand up in front of the players and be honest about it.”

What he meant was, why take a lesser trade deal for McNabb just to get him out of the division? If you’re going to make such a bold move, never tell the players you’re afraid to play him.

While we’re on the subject of fear, legend has it Kolb doesn’t have an ounce of anxiety in him. Being raised in Texas and a lover of the outdoors, he’s been known to hunt wild pigs and kill them with a 12-inch Bowie knife. Some Philly fans love his exploits so much that there’s a fake Facebook page titled “My Quarterback Hunts Wild Pigs with a knife. What’s Yours Do?”

Why he didn’t end up at Woooie Pig Soooie Arkansas instead of the U. of Houston is anybody’s guess.

But there’s more. Kolb once protected his soon-to-be-wife and himself by taking his boot off and getting a rattlesnake to attack the boot, allowing him time to take out his .38 and shoot the sucker’s head off. Like any brave hunter, Kolb cut off the rattlers for good luck.

“We’ve all heard those stories,” said safety Quintin Mikell. “And I think its part of what makes him real to the guys in the locker room.”

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There’s no doubt Kolb wants to be successful. He’s talked with Rodgers about what it’s like to replace a legend, and he’s also started a relationship with FOX’s Troy Aikman about what it takes to be great in the NFL. He’s watched plenty of Aikman tape because he wants to be as accurate as Troy was with the Cowboys.

“I have started talking with him,” Aikman said. “I was impressed with how he played at the end of last season. He has a quick delivery, and he showed me a lot of poise. I think he has a chance to be a real good quarterback.”

Reid first laid eyes on Kolb when he was a freshman at Houston. He was sitting in a hotel room on a Saturday watching college football and couldn’t believe how much Kolb could handle mentally as a quarterback. Reid told his personnel department to keep an eye on this kid. Consequently, it was no mystery the Eagles made him a second-round pick, 36th overall, in the 2007 draft.

Reid and Mornhinweg do have a lot of confidence in Kolb. The Eagles plan to use more offensive shifting this season, switching up things more than when McNabb was here, believing Kolb can handle the significant alterations, considering his limited starts.

There were rumblings that Kolb’s agent wanted to engineer a way out of Philadelphia if McNabb remained the starter. “I was telling myself when the (trade rumors) were in the air that this could be great for me,” said Kolb, the son of a coach. “I really believe in what we do here, and I totally believe that (Reid and Mornhinweg) are two of the very best offensive coaches in the league. I couldn’t ask for better support.”

The unspoken word among the Eagles was that it was time for a quarterback switch. A few of the veterans were still sore about McNabb’s treatment of Terrell Owens, plus a lot of the younger players simply didn’t understand why McNabb wouldn’t take full responsibility for his mistakes and why he thought he should enjoy favored treatment from management. His image hurt him in the locker room despite his accomplishments.

This is why explosive receiver DeSean Jackson said: “It was time for a change. We've got so many young players. It made a lot of sense.”

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“I don't believe it was so much that we were down on Donovan,” one player said. “It's just that we have a lot of confidence in Kevin and what he can do. He has a lot of talent, and it's time for him to play.”

If there’s one thing Reid loves about his current team, it’s that the youth movement (the final 53-man roster could end up being one of the youngest in the NFL) has energized him.

Reid’s training camps are typically more physical than most teams, and the Eagles were in full pads with plenty of contact on the first couple of days.

How young are the Eagles? Well, starting running back LeSean McCoy and receiver Jeremy Maclin are in their second season, while Jackson’s entering his third year while Kolb may be in his fourth season, but there’s low mileage on his body.

“Sure, I wanted to play when I first came here, but I also needed to get my feet underneath me and understand what the NFL is all about,” Kolb said. “And Donovan was a good one to learn from. The timing is good.”

But Philadelphia fans can be unforgiving. Poor performances will bring out the boo birds.

“The best thing is I’ve been here to see what Donovan went through,” Kolb said. “I’ve seen how he dealt with the highs and lows. I’ve experienced some of that, but I think I’ve learned from that. But I think you were right about the energy level here. Everybody is feeling it.”

Tagged: Packers, Vikings, Eagles, Redskins, Donovan McNabb, Aaron Rodgers, Kevin Kolb, DeSean Jackson

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