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Tough act to follow…but Kevin Kolb is Eagles’ new QB#1…

Post-draft minicamp ends today…and with it, the Kevin Kolb era begins in Philadelphia. Having to follow Donovan McNabb’s decade of overall success as a winning QB for the Eagles puts a lot more pressure on Kolb to succeed—and to do it right out of the gate.

Kolb (pronounced “Cobb”), 6-3 and 225,  is a good ole boy from Texas who speaks in “yes sir” and “yes ma’am” deference to his elders and who is likely more comfortable working on his family farm than being center-stage at a press conference. He has a quiet confidence about him which makes me believe him when he says he’s ready to take over the Eagles offense. His head coach and OC certainly believe he’s ready. And as much as I believe McNabb is a Hall-of-Famer when all is said and done, I find myself liking Kolb and wanting him to do well early and take this team to the next level.

I’m reminded of a similar situation from a different sport. Remember Doug DeCinces? Doug was a fine major league player for 15 years and contributed mightily to a bunch of titles and championships for both the Orioles and the Angels.  But DeCinces will forever be remembered as the young guy who replaced the great Brooks Robinson at 3rd base…and for a time in those first two seasons (1973-74), Doug was villified by many Orioles’ fans for the simple reason he wasn’t Brooks— and that he got off to a slow start.

That’s a potential scenario festering beneath the psychic surface of Philadelphia which will erupt only if Kolb gets off to a slow start…or if the team as a whole falters with a not-out-of-the-realm-of-possibility losing streak in this upcoming season of transition.

It’s somewhat comforting that Kolb is not a true rookie like DeCinces was during his trial by legend and fire. Kobb is 26 years old, and has been McNabb’s backup QB since 2007, when the Eagles drafted him  in the 2nd round.  Kolb had started as a true freshman at the University of Houston in 2003 and put up huge passing numbers during his four years there, where he also majored in Business. His best year was 2006, when he threw 30 TD’s and only 4 INT’s.  Kolb ended up as the 5th-leading all-time collegiate passer with 12,964 passing yards. Clearly, the guy has the pedigree, the head and the arm to play quarterback in the NFL. The wild card facing any young prospect in the league will be how he handles the inevitable adversity that is unique to the NFL game…and that’s where the jury is still out on Kolb.

He’s played so little in his three years behind McNabb that it’s hard to put real credence in his current body of NFL work, which includes a bunch of preseason games, the infamous loss to Baltimore in 2008 when McNabb was benched, and a couple of 300+ yard-passing games early in 2009 when Kolb relieved McNabb after #5’s rib injury suffered in the opener against Carolina.

But certainly the Eagles Front Office believed enough in him to extend his contract to 2011 at a value of about $6 million for each of the next two seasons, with a large chunk of that money guaranteed. In view of the current mess in the NFL revolving around the CBA (collective bargaining agreement between players and owners), Kolb’s new contract represents a huge commitment to his ability by the Eagles.

If Kolb does what the Eagles want him to do, we should expect a pure West Coast Offense with even more 1st-down throws, short passes and roll-out plays — a concept of offensive possession that’s straight out of the unwavering philosophy of Bill Walsh, Mike Holmgren and their apostle, Andy Reid.  And for those of you out there who want the Eagles to call running plays more than 40 percent of the time…sorry. We’re back to the West Coast Offense, now more than ever. Kolb is a perfect fit for it…McNabb no longer was, due to the slowing of his mobility from accumulated injury and age.

I for one will miss McNabb’s superior athleticism and his stronger downfield arm…but the Eagles tell me Kolb will more than make up for it with better timing and accuracy on his short-to-medium throws.

As for leadership in the huddle? Despite the urban legends you may have heard, McNabb had the respect of his teammates and was also well-liked…which translated to a leadership factor not always visible to TV viewers. Too often the cameras focused only on McNabb’s joking and smiling mannerisms, or his seemingly passive-aggressive reponses to losing — which gave him the appearance of accepting losses too graciously.

But the fact of life for the players was — McNabb was their leader, and he bailed them out with a bunch of incredibly dramatic big plays over the years.

Kolb will be a leader in a different way, in a more business-like manner. His players will respond to him more as an extension of their coaches on the field…and not as a charismatic Messiah —which in the end, I believe, is how McNabb’s leadership style will be acknowledged.

Kolb is the quiet, unassuming corn-and-wheat farmer from Stephenville, Texas who will follow orders and stick to the script. He lit it up  Friday nights in high school and on Saturday afternoons at Houston by faithfully running the plays by the book.  He will succeed to the degree that Reid’s playscripts are sound. He will expect his teammates to follow the script, too, and if they don’t they will hear about it from Kolb in the huddle.

We’ve gone from the era of Charisma to the era of The System. In Kolb’s case, his future in Philly will be less about his own individual leadership and athletic talents, and more about the success or failure of Andy Reid’s System.