THE WAY a lot of people see things after the first 2 weeks of the NFL season is that Andy Reid had two good choices and instead went with the third.

If you want to point out that the quarterback he shipped out of town, Donovan McNabb, is 1-1 with the Washington Redskins and just passed for more than 400 yards on Sunday, you can.

If you want to point out that the quarterback Reid labeled as the backup, Michael Vick, has led the Eagles to seven touchdowns in six quarters, you can.

And if you want to point out that most recent images of Kevin Kolb, the quarterback Reid anointed as his starter, aren't very good, I guess you can really do that.

But if you're looking for an explanation from Reid about why he does what he does, you haven't paid attention the last 11 years.

"Listen, I know I'm in the business where I can't please everybody," Reid said yesterday when the inevitable question arose of why Kolb is starting on Sunday against Jacksonville instead of Vick. "I know that; that's not what I'm here to do . . .

"I'm not here to justify one [quarterback] over the other. I'm not going to do that."

If you're not satisfied with that explanation, that's just too bad.

Still, take solace in that this is not one of those typical "need-to-know-basis" answers from Reid.

There is a legitimate quandary here with these two quarterbacks - one that does not yet have a clear answer because not enough data has been gathered.

If you want to tell me that Vick's performances in the second half against Green Bay and against Detroit are all you need to know he is the right choice to lead this team at this time, I'd disagree, but will concede the argument could be valid. I once argued in favor of A.J. Feeley over McNabb because of the "hot-hand theory," so you certainly can make a strong case for Vick.

But there is no way you can tell me you know enough about Kolb to say he can't get the job done. The guy played one half of football this season before getting knocked out with a concussion. Before that, he was the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300 yards in his first two starts.

Kolb did not play well in the season opener against Green Bay, but 30 minutes of football defines little of anything. Perhaps if he had not gotten hurt, the Eagles would have made adjustments at halftime that would have allowed Kolb to flourish as Vick did.

Perhaps, after a week of reflection and extra effort, Kolb would have played as well against Detroit or even better than Vick.

"I know I didn't play very well that first half," Kolb said. "Mike's done a great job.

"All I can do is deal with what's on the field, and that's me getting out there . . . I think if I just stay focused on those things and just play my game, then we'll be fine."

Kolb must start against Jacksonville - as much to see whether he will fail as to see whether he can succeed.

That plays into both finding out about the future and doing what's best to increase the chances of winning now.

If Kolb can't overcome one bad half of football and instead tanks again, then perhaps Reid and the Eagles severely miscalculated when they determined he had ability to take this team through the next decade.

Realistically, the Eagles cannot make a decision to re-sign Vick, who will be a free agent after the season, or look to next spring's draft for a quarterback until they know what they do or do not have in Kolb.

Even if it is about winning now - "I'm not sure what you mean by that, but we're always trying to win the game," Reid said when it was suggested the Eagles might look more to the future than the present - Kolb must start at Jacksonville and probably the following week against the Washington Redskins.

With the favored Dallas Cowboys 0-2 and everyone else in the NFC East 1-1, this division could be wide open.

The next two games with Kolb should be enough for Reid to decide whether he is a quarterback who can win now or whether the Eagles must turn back to Vick.

Even if the Eagles lose the next two, the worst they can be after Week 4 is two games behind the Redskins and Giants and one behind the Cowboys, who have a bye on Oct. 3.

If "The Michael Vick Experience" is truly back and can elevate the Birds, 12 remaining games will be enough to make a run at a playoff spot. It would be a lot easier to replace an ineffective Kolb with Vick in Game 5 than to replace an ineffective Vick with a still-unknown Kolb, whose confidence is shaky.

Kevin Kolb must start right now. It's the only way to begin to figure things out. *

Send e-mail to

smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/smallwood.