The man who helped Vince Young get ready for the NFL draft last season thinks the Eagles' first pick in the 2007 draft was a sage selection.
"I know there were a couple of other teams really very high on him," Jerry Rhome said yesterday by telephone from his Georgia home. "I think Philly made a good choice to get him when they did because there were a couple of other teams that wanted to take him."
Yes, Jerry Rhome is biased.
Rhome, a former quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys and a quarterback coach with an impressive list of clients, helped Houston's Kevin Kolb get ready for this year's draft, just as he helped Young the year before. He has also tutored Troy Aikman, Steve McNair, Warren Moon and a long list of other quarterbacks with impressive resumes.
That doesn't mean Rhome is incapable of providing an honest opinion about the Eagles' second-round selection in the draft.
"I think [Kolb] will develop very quickly," Rhome said. "Kevin, as far as the mental part of the game, is ahead of Vince. Vince has special physical talent and really had a great rookie season in Tennessee, but in the time I spent with Kevin, I was really impressed with his work ethic. He's a very, very hard worker on the field, and when we'd come off the field, he wanted to get into the meeting room, get on the chalkboard and draw plays up. He's a student of the game, and a coach always appreciates someone like that."
It remains to be seen, of course, whether Kolb's knowledge of the game translates into his becoming a quality NFL quarterback capable of leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl title that this team and this city so desperately seeks. In fact, Kolb has become the Eagles' wait-and-see quarterback, with the emphasis a lot more on the waiting than the seeing as long as Donovan McNabb is healthy and A.J. Feeley is around as the backup.
That's all right, according to Kolb, who made his first appearance at the NovaCare Complex yesterday, one day after the Eagles shocked the quarterback and their fans by taking him with the fourth selection of the second round, the 36th player chosen in the NFL draft.
"For me, I think I have a lot to learn," Kolb said. "I just wanted to be in a situation where I had good coaches and good players to learn under. Obviously, what better situation could I be in if I was looking for those two things? I want to soak it in for as long as it takes and I will be patient. I understand the situation I'm in. They have a franchise quarterback right now and he's a good one. He's better than me right now."
Kolb, who'll be 23 in August, does seem to have a terrific grasp of his situation. He said he understood the fan base's shock, if not dismay, when his name was announced as the team's first pick early Saturday evening.
"It didn't bother me at all," he said. "To be honest, I was a bit shocked, so why wouldn't they be? I think they just were not expecting to take a quarterback that high. I think they need to trust Coach [Andy] Reid's opinion and his decision. He senses something that will fit well. They had a plan for the future, and now it's time to move ahead with that plan."
If that plan has a few potholes along the way, it's entirely possible that Kolb could have to deal with some rather loud critics during his time in Philadelphia. This, too, he seems to understand.
"I sat everybody [in his family] down and said, 'Get ready for it, guys. Have thick skin and start growing it now,' " Kolb said. "I think we're ready for it, and if we're not, here it comes anyway."
McNabb, who was not available for comment, can teach Kolb as much about what goes on off the field around here as he can about what goes on between the white lines.
"I'm a bigger fan of Donovan's than anybody here," Kolb said. "He's the franchise guy. He's a stud, and he handles himself great off the field. He does everything right that you have to do in this football league to win. He's handled injuries. He handled Terrell Owens when he was here. As a quarterback, you just sit back in awe at how he did it all. For me to jump in here and demand things, that would be ignorant. I'm going to sit back and be patient . . . and compete every day."