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Eagles Nation Committed To Rebuilding As Long As Eagles Never Lose

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Less than five months ago, the transformation of the Philadelphia Eagles was well underway.kevin kolb sacked by clay matthews

After being bulldozed by the Dallas Cowboys two consecutive times, the Eagles closed the door on the 2009 season, and one of the most successful eras in franchise history.

Gone were Brian Westbrook, Sheldon Brown, Shawn Andrews, and of course, Donovan McNabb. And surprisingly, the team and its fans seemed uncharacteristically okay with the idea of rebuilding.

After all, many of the pieces were already in place. With each passing day, Kevin Kolb’s readiness seemed more absolute. Followers of the Eagles referenced Kolb’s accuracy, quick release and leadership potential as they ushered McNabb out the door.

The city was awash in optimism, and with good reason. The Eagles would enter the 2010 season with a roster whose average age was twenty-five, including a core of skill position players that were perfect keeper picks in fantasy leagues. Add to that a crop of nine defensive draft choices, and the team had kick-started the rebuilding of a defense that was recently more porous than an adolescent complexion.

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Eagles headed to Lehigh without the pressure of Super Bowl expectations weighing on every repetition of every practice.

And everyone in the front office, media, and fan base seemed okay with the reality that the Eagles would be a work in progress. When the inevitable growing pains happened, they would be respected as necessary steps in the team’s re-imaging process. After all, the team’s former identity was no longer acceptable, and the potential of this group was worth the wait.

Armed with this fresh outlook, fans and analysts took to the airways to proclaim that they were perfectly okay with the potential of a seven- or eight-win season. Eagles management spoke very clearly about their expectations by not speaking much at all. Jeffrey Lurie's usual “State of the Eagles” address included the very discussion of playoff and Super Bowl expectations.

After all, this was a team for the future, and everyone was happy to wait for the payoff.

Until the season started.

You have to hand it to Eagles Nation. Their patience for the rebuilding process lasted just over four months and a grand total of one quarter of one game.

It started with head coach Andy Reid, who most assumed would take every measure to help Kevin Kolb succeed. Not only would Reid’s support help Kolb successfully transition from backup to starting NFL quarterback, but it would also insulate Reid from the inevitable second-guessing of his decision to dump Donovan McNabb.

Unfortunately, everything Reid did in Kolb’s first game as the Eagles’ new quarterback either set up Kolb for failure or showed a complete lack of trust in him as the new leader of the offense. After Kolb posted a first down in his second series, Reid inserted Michael Vick at quarterback for a total of four plays during Kolb’s third, fourth and fifth series. Two of those plays came on first downs, which seemed an odd way for Reid to help Kolb find his rhythm and establish his presence.

Speaking of Kolb’s first game, it was cut short by a concussion in the second quarter and followed by a Vick-led rally that fell just short in a 27-20 loss to the Packers.

So, surely, Eagles fans could live with a close loss to one of the NFC’s rising powers in only the first game of a rebuilding season, right?

Wrong again. Kevin Kolb‘s honeymoon with the Eagles‘ faithful was more abbreviated than Britney Spear‘s first marriage (that one actually lasted 55 hours).

The next great Eagles quarterback is already being dismissed as another personnel blunder by Andy Reid and Joe Banner, while fans clamor for a backup in Michael Vick who owns a career passer rating (76.2) slightly better than those of Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn.

Apparently, all of that optimism about the future evaporated in the time it took Kevin Kolb to play 29 minutes and throw 10 passes.

Granted, Kolb looked a bit overwhelmed in those five offensive series, but could the legions of fans who gushed over the team’s newfound potential with Kolb seriously bail on him after just five series?!

What we will hear from fans over the next few weeks (and possibly months) is that Michael Vick gives the team a better chance to win. They will support this claim with evidence of the team’s brutal offensive line play, and the outside chance of a playoff berth.

Andy Reid, on the other hand, has voiced his support for Kolb, stating very clearly, “Kevin Kolb is the number one quarterback”. However, Reid’s infatuation with the Vick chapter of his playbook will continue to shift Kolb’s development into neutral in what is now the quarterback’s fourth year with the franchise.

In the end, Reid can continue to endorse Kolb as his starter and the leader of the offense. It’s already clear that his infatuation with regular season wins and the hollow hopes of a playoff run will cloud his judgement.

As for Eagles fans, their professed acceptance of a .500 season or worse seemed like the perfect sentiment during the summer of 2010. But, as fall approaches, and their Eagles play the games that count, they can’t help themselves.

Rebuilding sounded like such a promising plan. It’s the losses along the way that nobody seems okay with.

Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section. 

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net  

 

Photo of Kevin Kolb sack by Matt Slocum (AP)