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Sunday, September 12, 2010
Updated: September 13, 5:03 PM ET
An answer to Andy Reid's QB quandary

By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN.com

PHILADELPHIA -- The Kevin Kolb era began much the same way as the Donovan McNabb era did 12 seasons earlier: with boos as thick as the low, gray clouds that hung over Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon. They were the kind of boos that made Philly fans famous.

But not even McNabb, discarded in the offseason for a pair of non-first-round draft picks, had a Philadelphia Eagles starting debut like this. Kolb got booed, got a concussion and got replaced.

So what happens? Michael Vick, the guy who replaced the guy who replaced McNabb, almost -- almost -- got the win. And because of it, the Eagles have an instant quarterback controversy -- or not, depending on the severity of Kolb's concussion and the level of commitment of Philly coach Andy Reid.

What a bizarre, strangely compelling game this was. Just when you wanted to nod off, the Eagles made it interesting for us and way too interesting for the Green Bay Packers. What had been a 17-point Packers lead midway through the third quarter somehow morphed into the Eagles having the ball and a chance to tie the score in the final two minutes.

It didn't happen. On fourth-and-1 at the Packers' 42, Vick was stuffed like cheesesteak into a roll. Green Bay got the ball, and Aaron Rodgers genuflected three times before the clock ran out. The Packers left with a 27-20 win, but it wasn't anything Rodgers is going to put on his Facebook page.

Andy Reid, Michael Vick
Eagles coach Andy Reid (left) got 278 yards total offense from QB Michael Vick.

Green Bay could have blown out the Eagles, but didn't. The Eagles had a chance to send the game into overtime, but couldn't. Now Philly enters Week 2 with a quarterback question, all sorts of injuries and some explaining to do.

First, the quarterback question. Kolb played awful -- and that was before Packers linebacker Clay Matthews drove him into the turf like a tent stake. He completed 5 of 10 passes for 24 yards and was sacked twice. Had it been McNabb, he would have gotten a higher volume of quality boos.

"I feel real bad for the guy," said Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. "He was more excited than anybody to go out there and play. … We still have faith in him."

Kolb wasn't in a chatty mood afterward. As reporters approached his locker, an Eagles official made the universal hand gesture for, "He's not talking." But had Kolb talked, he would have been asked about the concussion, his future availability and, more importantly, why in the world he was allowed to return briefly to the game after the concussion.

In fact, both Kolb and Eagles linebacker Stewart Bradley re-entered the game after suffering concussions. Bradley's return was especially strange, given that he had collapsed on the field like a punch-drunk boxer immediately after his injury.

Reid said they were cleared by team doctors to play again. But it wasn't long before Kolb told Vick that he "wasn't seeing things very clearly." Bradley also was unable to continue.

Given the NFL's sensitivity toward concussion-related injuries, it will be interesting to see whether the league makes any inquiries about the Eagles' injury protocol. At the very least, Kolb's and Bradley's statuses for Week 2 remain uncertain.

So what do you think was going through McNabb's mind -- and you know he must have sneaked some peeks -- when Kolb got booed? Or when Vick almost pulled off the comeback? Or when the Eagles lost?

We'll likely never find out. McNabb wears a Washington Redskins uniform now and has yet to rip his former team. Airing dirty laundry has never been his style. But here's guessing he felt a certain satisfaction, a tinge of sadness and possibly a sense of relief.

This is Kolb's team now. At least that's what Reid said after the game. Asked point-blank whether Kolb was still the starting quarterback (if healthy), Reid answered, "Yes."

The Eagles and Reid have so much invested in Kolb that they almost don't have a choice but to stick with him. After all, Eagles management chose Kolb over McNabb. It wasn't so much that the Eagles didn't want McNabb. It was more that they didn't need him. They had younger Kolb fueled up and ready to go. And behind Kolb, they had Vick, the left-handed safety net/reclamation project.

Kevin Kolb
Packers LB Clay Matthews (52) helped make Eagles QB Kevin Kolb's day miserable.

As it turned out, the Eagles needed the safety net to keep Sunday's game respectable. Vick, little more than an accessory in Reid's offense a season ago and 30 years old, played the entire second half and played fairly well. He led everyone on the field in rushing (103 yards) and completed 16 of 24 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown.

"I think Michael did a phenomenal job today," Reid said. "He brought the team back; he kept his poise; and he had some big runs and he made some big throws. I'm happy as heck for Michael. I'm not looking to the future. I'm trying to get [the offense] fixed so that we can win some football games here."

In case you're wondering whether Vick thinks he should be the starter, he does. He was polite about it, but there was no mistaking his postgame message.

"Hopefully, like I said, I still feel like I can play at a high level," Vick said. "I feel like if I had been out there for four quarters, maybe we would have had a chance to win the game. But it's all hindsight now. I feel like I'm 25 or 26 again, even though that's not the case."

The Eagles need something or somebody. They lost Pro Bowl fullback Leonard Weaver to a torn ACL. So gruesome was the injury that Eagles players had to look away when it was shown not once, but twice on the stadium big screen.

They lost center Jamaal Jackson to a torn biceps and Kolb and Bradley to concussions. And they lost a game.

"I think we all had a piece of this [defeat]," Reid said. "And like I mentioned before, I need to make sure that I put all of them in the right position."

Here's an idea for the Week 2 game at Detroit: Put Vick in the starting quarterback position. After watching him Sunday, it's the only right thing to do.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.

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