TEMPE, Ariz. - Perspective comes with time, and in Kevin Kolb's case, it's come from time away. He spent 4 years in Philadelphia as a backup, a starter, the quarterback of the future and the quarterback of the past. He unseated a Pro Bowler and was usurped by one.
So as Kolb took a moment to reflect on his new role - as an injured franchise quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals who have lost six of seven games he has started - he also considered what he left behind. Kolb is happy where he is. He makes that much clear. But in preparing for his return to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday when the Cardinals play the Eagles, Kolb also wanted to make clear how appreciative he is for his 4 years in Philadelphia.
"Once it's gone, you realize how great it was," Kolb said. "Everybody knows the reputation of the fans in Philly . . . Once you get outside and look, you realize it's not always just a negative thing to have fans boo when you're bad. Because there is passion there. And the fact that they care that much, it says a lot about how much you mean to that town and you come to work with a purpose every day and that's a pretty special thing. Not every fan is passionate in that way."
Kolb, a second-round pick by the Eagles in 2007, backed up Donovan McNabb for three seasons. He was made him the starter to begin 2010, but a concussion in the season-opening loss to the Packers opened the position for Michael Vick, and Vick was spectacular, prompting coach Andy Reid to make him the starter and again leaving Kolb holding a clipboard.
Cardinals linebacker Stewart Bradley, another former Eagle, said it probably worked out best for both parties. Kolb found his own team without Vick looking over his shoulder, and Vick earned the chance to start and got the big contract he needed. But even Kolb admitted that he sometimes considers what would have transpired had he not suffered a concussion, had he been able to develop as a starter in the system he knew with the players he trusted. He added that doesn't let his mind "wander there too much," going back to his continued stance: He's thrilled to be where he is - even if his designs were always to be the quarterback of the Eagles for the next decade.
"In my mind, in Philly, I was training to be there for a long time," Kolb said. "I was like, 'OK, this is going to be the system for life. We're going to be great here.' DeSean [Jackson] and [Jeremy] Maclin and LeSean [McCoy], those are going to be my guys. [Brent] Celek. And you got to reframe your whole mindset. That's a difficult thing."
Complicating matters was that the offseason trade for Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second-round pick didn't actually occur during the offseason. The lockout forced a truncated transition period, and Kolb became Arizona's starting quarterback - complete with a 5-year, $63-million contract extension - a week into training camp.
He didn't know his coaches nor his teammates, didn't have the benefit of minicamps nor offseason workouts, didn't even have a playbook to decipher until the season was just little more than 1 month away. Kolb called the offense a "different animal altogether" and had to readjust from how he learned to play quarterback during the past four seasons. Whereas the Eagles' system is derived from West Coast-offense principles, the Cardinals' offense includes different route concepts that change depending on the coverage.
"As a competitor you want to say I can jump in there and do it, but it is going to take a little more time than I thought," Kolb said. "A lot of it is also I knew my coaches and knew our staff and knew our personnel [in Philadelphia] and just understood what and why we were trying to get the ball to this guy, what he's good at, what are his attributes, how my coaches thought, the way they wanted me to handle each situation. Now with these guys, I'll figure these things out as we go."
That's part of the transition Kolb is enduring in Arizona. He has completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 1,706 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. Of the six losses he's quarterbacked, four have been by four points or fewer; the Cardinals lost fourth-quarter leads in each game.
Kolb suffered a turf toe injury in an Oct. 30 loss at Baltimore. He missed last week's game, when backup quarterback John Skelton led a fourth-quarter comeback to defeat the Rams. That didn't help calm criticism of Kolb in Arizona, although playing behind a shaky offensive line does not aid what was already a steep learning curve.
Kolb said it was not until his third season in Philadelphia that he felt truly comfortable with the scheme and the personnel. And it's worthwhile to remember that Aaron Rodgers, who won a Super Bowl and is on pace to break multiple records this season, went 6-10 in his first year as starter in 2008.
At least publicly, Kolb's teammates have not lost faith in him.
"It's not even a question," said Bradley.
Kicker Jay Feely, an 11-year veteran who has played for five franchises, said Kolb's "moxie" separates him from other quarterbacks, and that he admires the way Kolb understands the "long-term" process involved in leading the franchise.
"Guys like him. He's a guy who's outgoing, which I think you need in the quarterback position," Feely said. "And I think that breeds guys being confident in you. But obviously, winning is the determining factor. It's been tough for everybody. I'm sure it's been tough for him. But he's really like a rookie. He had [seven] starts before he came in here. He had no offseason, a new offense."
Feely has faced former teams and understands what Kolb is thinking this week.
"Whether you say the politically correct thing or not, there's an element in you that wants to beat that former team," Feely said.
The NFL Network reported yesterday that Kolb is still struggling with the injury and is not expected to play against he Eagles. Coach Ken Whisenhunt was not ready to say one way or the other when asked on Monday.
Kolb wants to play every week, but he acknowledged the Eagles game is one he's been pining to play. He speaks with Vick every other week and occasionally texts other players on the team. He keeps an interested eye on the Eagles and said that his familiarity with the personnel will benefit him in preparations, although he acknowledged the Eagles' familiarity with him could help their game plan.
Of course, the point is moot if Skelton starts over Kolb. Either way, seeing the Eagles on the other sideline will mean something to Kolb. So will hearing the Eagles fans.
"When you sit back and look at it, now that I'm out of there, just very appreciative of the support my family and I had in those 4 years I was there," Kolb said. "Coming out of college, it made me a man. It made me a lot better football player and a lot better person. I have a lot of good memories from that part of my life."