If this were a normal NFL off-season, we'd be awash in Kevin Kolb trade speculation by now, since the Eagles are about to franchise Michael Vick. And since the upcoming crop of QBs in the NFL draft seem weak, hope springs in Philadelphia that the town team can pull off another Donovan McNabb or Better coup by moving the Texan to a QB-desperate franchise with high draft picks. (This assumes, of course, that the team actually wants really high draft picks, rather than the cap-conscious thrill that is a second-round selection. But I digress.)
Unless, of course, you are one of those people that think Vick can't stay healthy or isn't as good as he showed in the middle of last season. Then, you are hoping that the carousel turns again. For the purposes of this argument, we're going to ignore the dwindling but eternally yowling crew that believe Vick needs to suffer punishment, preferably at their own hands, for the dog fighting. As their opinion has not changed in over 18 months, I think we can safely say they've been heard from.
NBC Philadelphia writer Brian Solomon does a reasonable job here of assessing Kolb's value to the team as a backup, by running the numbers on how many games back up QB can be expected to play. The short answer is that the average back-up QB can be expected to play three games a year, and a better than average one can deliver as much as a half-win of value; not inconsiderable, but also not too huge. But what he misses is in the following small but telling point:
If he were as good as Vick, the Eagles probably wouldn't have demoted him in the first place.The problem with that statement is that the team had the entire off-season and training camp to determine who the better QB was. They chose Kolb. The demotion wasn't a matter of which guy they liked more; it was an indictment of the offensive line, which might have been the worst of the Reid Era. (They gave up 49 sacks, the fourth most in the NFL, and the vast majority of them were Not Cheap.) Had they kept Kolb back there, even though the man is reasonably mobile, they don't win as many games just by dint of his skill set, rather than his overall quality.
I'm assuming that Reid, a coach who has always been good at addressing areas of weakness, isn't going to suffer with a turnstile line again in 2011, assuming a season happens. He was able to lure the legendary Howard Mudd and his 36 years of coaching magic out of retirement, and Mudd's basically the man responsible for Peyton Manning staying upright so much. Despite the Colts never being a particularly ground and pound team, they never ranked above 10th in sacks against, and only finished out of the top 4 twice in the 12 years that Mudd ran things. That's pretty good.
Consider this play, in particular, from the Houdini win that more or less wrapped up the division and ended the Giants.
So it's possible -- not likely, but possible -- that while the 2010 Vick was a much better idea for this team than the 2010 Kolb, that the same won't be true in 2011. You'd almost hope so, if only because when good teams have free runs at the QB, bad things happen.
Getting down to brass tacks... I think Kolb's worth more than a half a game a year. But even if he's worth four times that, it's probably not what they really need, because I doubt he can win a Super Bowl with this roster. Given where Reid is in his career, and the sudden influx of coaches without much tread left on the tires, in a division that's in shambles... Well, a rebuilding effort isn't really going to cut it. That was this year, and it ended when Vick gave the team the sense of a higher ceiling. The fact that they came closer than any other team to beating the Super Bowl champions won't do anything to quell that.
So Kolb should be dealt, not because of any fault of his own, but from the offensive line this year, and where the team is now. And if he goes on to have the better career than Vick, or wins rings somewhere else?
That's just the risk you run when you go from rebuilding to contending. The Eagles are a contender; that changes the rules.