“During a training camp in which the news of the day is often that August can be warm in Bethlehem, there was a minor stir on Wednesday when a fan with a sideline pass was asked to remove his official Washington Redskins jersey bearing the name and number of someone named McNabb.
There followed the predictable muttering about the Eagles being thin-skinned or overbearing, but if someone with special access decides to be a look-at-me jerk, it seems the team has the right to call him on it.
For better or worse, both physically and symbolically, the Eagles have finally moved past the best quarterback in franchise history. The tale of the 2010 season will largely be about whether the timing of the transition is, in fact, for better or worse.
When Kevin Kolb steps in as the starter this season, the least of his worries will be faux McNabbs sitting in the stands wearing their jerseys of defiance. He can change those wardrobe patterns with a few wins. What Kolb will have to deal with, however, is the very real effect of the roadblock McNabb was to his early career and the shadow McNabb’s legacy still casts on him and the whole team.
Since drafting Kolb in 2007, the Eagles maintained that it serves a young quarterback well to learn the game slowly during an apprenticeship period in which he studies at the feet of a veteran master. Few debaters hold onto a line of reasoning more tenaciously than Andy Reid, and the head coach was particularly consistent on this point.
Look around the NFL at the top quarterbacks and there is, however, a wide range of paths to that position. Like Kolb, it took until the fourth seasons in the league for Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub and Tony Romo to get their shots. Brees and Schaub had to change teams to get opportunities, Rodgers had to wait out Brett Favre, much like Kolb had to wait out McNabb, and Romo, who wasn’t even drafted, was almost viewed as a last resort by the Cowboys.
On the other side, Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger were all starting at some point of their rookie seasons – as was McNabb; so much for a dominant franchise philosophy – and Tom Brady and Eli Manning each sat one season before getting in there.
Even Reid, now that Kolb’s delayed arrival is no longer an issue, agrees there is no firm schedule a quarterback’s development must follow.
“I think they’re all different,” Reid said at Lehigh earlier this week. “I think the college game has changed a bit, in particular defensively for quarterbacks. When Donovan came out, [college defenses] were just figuring out . . . fire zone blitz schemes, and in the National Football League, they were rampant. Now you get these quarterbacks that come in and they’re seeing a lot of blitz fire zone schemes and it’s not quite as difficult. That’s probably the toughest thing to figure out.”
Whether a young quarterback has an aptitude for recognizing blitz packages designed to confuse him (and the offensive line) is not going to be determined in the film room or at practice, however. That was particularly true with the Eagles during the McNabb era. The backup quarterbacks typically got zero reps with the first team in practice – a situation that flabbergasted Jeff Garcia, among others – and usually just ran the scout team that mimics the favorite sets of the next opponent.”
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