There are some blueprints that go so far off track that is impossible to rein in the original design. The Eagles put together a plan to handle the transition of the quarterback position from one generation to the next, and those carefully-orchestrated steps were blown to kaplooey minutes into the 2010 regular season. Kevin Kolb knows that one Sunday night game in San Francisco isn't going to all of a sudden adjust the sights of the vision that seemed so clear not that long ago.
Kolb is in line to start at quarterback Sunday night at San Francisco (8:20 p.m. kickoff, NBC) as Michael Vick recovers from a rib injury suffered in the loss to Washington. The opportunity means that Kolb can build on his performance against the Redskins, when the Eagles came within a Hail Mary catch -- and the pass Kolb thrown landed in the hands of wide receiver Jason Avant, who would have had to make an incredible leaping grab to bring it in -- of manufacturing a classic comeback victory.
Instead, the Eagles lost, and in the eyes of many the quarterback position was again thrown into chaos. Kolb, named the starter when the Eagles traded Donovan McNabb in April, lost his job after suffering a concussion against Green Bay and having Vick go bonkers in the second half of that game and in the 35-32 win the next week in Detroit.
Three weeks later, though, the picture changes again. And Kolb is keeping his perspective very much grounded, very much tunnel-visioned, if that is a term.
"Win. That's all I care about and that's the truth," said Kolb.
He's right. Kolb went on to say, when asked if he sees this potential start -- and, officially, Vick has not been ruled out for the game -- as a chance to win back the starting job, that "if I get into all of that, then I'm focusing on the wrong things."
In his four seasons as an Eagle, Kolb has said and done all of the right things. He played the role of understudy perfectly, and when it was time to step up and play, he delivered. With Donovan McNabb out for two games last season, Kolb manned the offense and became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for more than 300 yards in each of his first two starts. The Eagles were 1-1 in those games, and Kolb's performance inspired great confidence among the coaching staff and front office and, yes, everyone.
When Kolb became the starter after McNabb's trade, he matured quickly into the leader in the locker room, the accessible and analytical quarterback who had his next steps under control. It would be a process, a progression of successes and challenges that, in the end, would lead Kolb down the road of excellence.
Well, hey, things have gone off-stride quite a bit. Kolb's intention is to be the starter once again and to lead this team to the Super Bowl and to have it all. First things first, though. Kolb came in to relieve Vick against Washington and came within a great Avant catch of being a hero.
"We're all behind Kevin because we know what he can do. He gets on the field and the offense goes and that's the way it is for us," said tight end Brent Celek. "He has handled everything great from the first day he was here. That isn't going to change. If he is the quarterback on Sunday night we're going to go out and run the offense and execute."
Kolb's 2010 has already been extraordinary. His opening-day start lasted two quarters before he was sent to the bench with a concussion. Last week, Kolb got the call when Vick was injured and led a scoring drive to end the first half and a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Two other drives into scoring territory came up dry -- once when LeSean McCoy fumbled at the Washington 21-yard line and once when the game ended a highlights-film catch away from a victory.
The process takes another step this week. Kolb is working on his timing with his receivers and his chemistry with the entire offense. We'll see what happens when the game is live, if there is no chance with Vick's health. Kolb will have a chance, on national television, to get his game back in sync and, more importantly, get the Eagles a much-needed victory.
This isn't how the Eagles planned for the post-McNabb quarterback scenario to play out, but what do you do when the stars aren't aligned and the blueprint goes up in smoke? You make the most of it, that's what you do. And in Kolb's case, making the most of it means he has to hone in on the 49ers and find a way to defeat a very fine defense playing in a desperation game.