IF DONOVAN McNabb's broken rib hurts badly enough, Kevin Kolb's coming-out party will be Sunday.

Or, his burial as a Bird will be Sunday.

Either way, a pair of fellow Texans will be watching a portion of their legacy take another step - forward, or backward.

They both are pretty sure he will head in the right direction.

"Kevin's a very, very good quarterback," said Jerry Rhome, Kolb's quarterback tutor.

"He can handle the job. He'll take care of business," said Art Briles, Kolb's high school and college coach.

On the face of it, Briles and Rhome have every reason to glowingly endorse Kolb.

Rhome is a QB expert, a specialty coach for hire. Briles, now at Baylor, not only coached Kolb - he can use Kolb's successes as a recruiting tool - but his son, Kendal, remains Kolb's good friend. In the offseason, Kolb lives less than 2 hours from Waco.

Neither offers coaching advice lest they disrupt the Eagles' teaching track, but both routinely speak with Kolb.

And, really, neither needs to embellish his opinion of Kolb to further his own end.

Rhome was an All-America quarterback at Tulsa, played with four NFL teams and coached on 10 NFL clubs in a 25-year career. He has coached Troy Aikman, Warren Moon, Kurt Warner, Joe Theismann and Steve McNair.

Briles, an all-state quarterback and a wideout at Houston, developed a version of the spread offense that served him well through 20 years of success, including four state titles at Stephenville High, Kolb's alma mater. He took the scheme to college, where, with Kolb, he turned around Houston's program.

No, they don't need Kolb to play well in the Eagles' home opener against the Saints. They just believe he will.

"I taught him as much as I could teach him," Rhome said.

That meant endless predraft sessions in the winter and early spring of 2007, after Kolb had passed for almost 13,000 yards, then fourth in the Division I-A record books.

By the time Kolb went to the Senior Bowl in late January, he had distanced himself enough from the shotgun-only spread scheme to impress Andy Reid and Co. By April, Kolb had convinced them that they should spend their first pick on him. After trading out of the first round, they took him 36th overall.

As usual, they did their homework.

Like McNabb, Kolb's suitability for the NFL game was questioned, largely because other spread-offense quarterbacks such as David Klingler and Tim Couch failed to make the transition. Of course, the QB scrapheap is full of failed college option passers, too, and the Birds correctly believed McNabb would never end up among them.

They picked McNabb on ability and aptitude. They did the same with Kolb. He piled up yards at Houston as much because of his mind as his strong arm and a stat-friendly scheme.

"He's got a great intellect and anticipation, the ability to see things before they happen, an ability other people don't have," Briles said.

Kolb sees things clearly, too.

"It's not one of those things where he's seeing ghosts, making stuff up," Briles said.

It hasn't been easy. It hasn't been instant.

But things are getting clearer all the time. After all, it only made sense that Kolb would need some time to adjust to the pro game, whether he played quarterback in the spread, the single wing or the CFL.

He is a different passer today from what he was for Briles in 2006.

"What I've seen him do is adapt to the environment he's in," Briles said. "He's very comfortable in the pocket. All of his mechanics remain top of the line."

Good mechanics don't always result in good plays.

True, Kolb, replacing McNabb, took a lousy safety on his first play of the Eagles' third preseason game this season. It also is true he moved the team efficiently after that and won the game.

He then went 8-for-16 for 110 yards with a touchdown pass in the preseason finale - a start. Now that Kolb knows the road, said Briles, he can move forward.

"The things I've noticed are, he's a lot more relaxed," Briles said.

And, yes, Kolb understood the shocked reaction of McNabb and McNabb's fans when the Eagles drafted a quarterback so high. Then, McNabb had been injured regularly. A cost-cutting trade might have been in the near future.

Entering the 2009 season, with McNabb whole again and enriched by a reworked contract, Kolb appeared to be a luxury in a league where top young QB talent can reap precious draft picks.

That seemed doubly true in August when the Eagles signed Michael Vick, who will be used as an X-factor when he comes off his two-game suspension for his involvement with dogfighting and gambling.

It seems somewhat true today, 2 days after they signed accomplished veteran Jeff Garcia, who will be the third quarterback in the mix, at least for this week.

Briles chuckles when asked if Kolb might be a bit insecure about all of those machinations.

"He feels his place on the team is justified," Briles said. That, in turn, helps Kolb on the field. "He's approaching the game more relaxed, freer. He's not mechanical."

Mechanical is what you get, said Rhome, when you ask a young quarterback to replace a growing legend against Ray Lewis and Co.

It was against one of the best defenses ever, in Baltimore last season, when Kolb got his first lengthy chance. That defense forced Andy Reid to bench McNabb for the first time in his career.

Little wonder, then, that Kolb, who had thrown nine passes in his three other relief appearances, went just 10-for-23 with two interceptions.

Unfair under any circumstances, said Rhome; doubly unfair in that awful circumstance.

"You're a backup quarterback, you're trying to grasp things by osmosis," said Rhome, who once made his living that way.

Give Kolb this week of practice with the starting receivers, with running back Brian Westbrook as his compass, with a real offensive line to get used to; give him this chance, and maybe his performance will be better.

"Say you're a backup actor," Rhome said. "What, they get to do it, where, at home? In front of the mirror? Dream about it?

"Then, say, the main actor falls down. You say to the backup actor, 'Let's see what you can do!' "

With that cue, the curtain goes up on Kolb, really, for the first time. Two Texans in the audience will be watching with especially keen interest.