PHILADELPHIA (Sports Network) – Before one can succeed, someone else has to fail.
Great comebacks are the counter result of epic collapses. Opportunities have to be missed for others to seize the moment.
Love him or hate him, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has constructed a regular season paved in success and redemption.
For that to have happened, Kevin Kolb first had to fail.
In Sunday’s meaningless matchup with the Dallas Cowboys, Kolb ended the regular season the same way he began it: under center as the starting quarterback.
However, there was a big difference this time as he stepped onto the wet field at Lincoln Financial Field. When he did so under a cloudy sky back in September, Kolb had the Eagles’ future in his hands. He had two excellent wide receivers on either side and a shifty playmaking running back behind him.
He had the entire city of Philadelphia behind him.
Three and a half months — and one career-changing concussion — later, and Kolb had none of that.
With the Eagles already locked into a third seed in the NFC, they opted to rest their starting offensive weapons in Vick, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and running back LeSean McCoy. That left Kolb to take the field in front of an uninspired crowd with throwing options named Chad Hall, Clay Harbor and Riley Cooper.
But that is what Kolb has become. The former heir to Donovan McNabb is now a forgotten backup, called upon only when absolutely needed, but at least he learned what a cruel mistress the NFL can be.
“The first thing [this season] tells you is you have to be ready in every situation,” Kolb said. “It’s taught me how to prepare better as a backup, making sure you’re mentally focused. It’s taught me how to block out outside things sometimes and focus in on just the game.”
It didn’t start out that way. When Philadelphia traded McNabb, the club’s longtime franchise signal-caller, to Washington, head coach Andy Reid was handing the keys to the castle to Kolb. That is until a Week 1 concussion versus the Green Bay Packers, who incidentally the Eagles will host this weekend in the opening round of the playoffs, opened the door for Vick’s comeback story.
Originally expected to sit out just one game, Reid reversed field and named Vick the Week 3 starter despite Kolb’s return to health. The now-backup would see the field again on Oct. 3 due to a Vick injury and go on to start the next three games, but he couldn’t do what Vick did. He couldn’t regain the starting role from the man who was taking the NFL world by storm.
Sure, there were some highlights. Kolb, the first quarterback in NFL history to post 300-yard passing games in his first two career starts, had consecutive victories over the 49ers and Falcons in which his QB rating was over 100. His three-touchdown game against Atlanta was accompanied by 326 passing yards.
But forced the throw the ball 48 times on Oct. 24 in Tennessee, Kolb couldn’t deliver in a 37-19 defeat. He returned to the sidelines for the next game with Vick fully healed.
Sunday’s game versus the Cowboys featured both Kolbs. He did a great job of keeping the play alive with his feet in the second quarter before finding Hall on a four-yard touchdown pass. There was also a well-placed 48-yard bomb to Hall in the fourth quarter.
However, there was also three interceptions and six sacks as the Eagles’ backups went up against the Dallas starters. In the end, Kolb finished 18- of-36 passing for 162 yards in a 14-13 loss, but his teammates understood what he was up against.
“I thought he did a good job. With the circumstances, he had a lot of pressures and different things like that,” said wide receiver Jason Avant. “He made decisions on the run. It was a hard day.”
The city of Philadelphia could care less, even after a setback to the hated Cowboys. The Eagles have bigger fish to fry and it will be Vick casting the net this weekend.
“It’s tough,” said Kolb afterwards. “You get limited opportunities and you want to make every one of them count. I just go back to I’ve always been a team guy so we have to forget it. I have to forget it and everyone else who was out there has to.”
Under Kolb, the Eagles would have been forgiven for a down season, one that would have been viewed as a transition to the new quarterback regime. Under Vick, it has become one of high expectations.
Kolb is signed through 2011, while Vick is slated to be a free agent, but the Eagles don’t figure to let the latter walk after the season he has posted so far. A Super Bowl title and Vick will likely be mayor at the next election.
That leaves Kolb’s status in doubt. At just 26, the 2007 second-round pick will probably draw some interest on the trade market if the Eagles go that route. Or, he could return as Vick’s backup if the Eagles bring No. 7 back.
If there is no football in 2011, then who knows what Kolb’s future will hold.
“I want to be a starter, obviously,” Kolb said. “I feel like I can be and I feel like I’ve played at this level for a long time. I’m not sure what everybody else’s opinions are but I have confidence in myself and if the situation calls again in the playoffs, I’ll go in and do my best.
“Again, we are focused on the Super Bowl, not my future.”
If certain events unfold for the Eagles this January, Kolb may just get a chance to walk his own path of redemption.
Of course, that would mean that Vick would have to first fail.
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