Rodgers serves as mentor to new Eagle starter
Kolb began studying Rodgers before he replaced Donovan McNabb as the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. He closely watched how Rodgers handled taking over for Brett Favre in Green Bay, took mental notes and prepared for his time.
That arrived when the Eagles traded McNabb to Washington in April. Naturally, Kolb reached out to Rodgers for some advice. They spoke several times in the offseason, communicated during training camp and even exchanged text messages this week—a little unusual considering the Eagles will host the Packers in the season opener Sunday.
“The big thing I pull from him is how he handled everything, the whole picture, that’s with Brett leaving, similar to me with Donovan,” Kolb said Wednesday. “Also, it’s taking over a good team. It’s not like young guys who come in and they’re doing a rebuilding thing. We both had good teams coming in, too, so success is demanded right off the bat, and it’s no different here.”
Rodgers had no reservations about sharing his thoughts with Kolb.
“I was just honored that he would seek my input-slash-advice, whatever he wanted,” Rodgers said. “Definitely have been a fan of his since he got his opportunity, and being in a similar situation he’s definitely a guy I want to pull for 15 weeks out of the season. He’s a very talented guy, so I think he’s going to make the transition very smooth as I think was witnessed in his two games last year when he threw for over 300 yards.”
Rodgers, a first-round pick in 2005, sat three full seasons before he got his chance. Kolb, a second-round pick in 2007, also waited three years for his opportunity.
Both had to fill big cleats.
Favre went to nine Pro Bowls, won three MVP awards and led the Packers to a Super Bowl title in 16 seasons with Green Bay. McNabb went to six Pro Bowls and led the Eagles to five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl loss in 11 seasons in Philadelphia.
“I looked at the situation in Green Bay. He’s done a phenomenal job taking over for an obvious legend,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said of Rodgers. “I feel that way about Donovan, that Kevin is having the opportunity to take over for a legend. I looked at a lot of different situations. Most of all, I looked at Kevin and the way he handled things last year and really since he’s been here.
“Aaron Rodgers is tremendous. I think he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.”
Rodgers didn’t get any starts playing behind ironman Favre. However, he filled in nicely when Favre got hurt during an important game at Dallas on Nov. 29, 2007. Rodgers was 18 for 26 for 201 yards and one touchdown in a 37-27 loss.
“That was a game that had playoff implications on it and when I put Aaron in the game, we didn’t back off schematically,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
“We stayed right on the call sheet. He did a heck of a job and gave us an opportunity almost to win the game. That was a very important day for our football team.”
Kolb started two games last year after McNabb got hurt in the opener. He put up impressive numbers, becoming the first player in league history to throw for 300 yards in his first two starts.
“I think it helps that he’s had an opportunity to prepare himself as a starter last year and I think that will help him this year,” Reid said
There’s one major difference between Rodgers and Kolb. Packers fans didn’t embrace Rodgers. Eagles fans are excited to see Kolb.
Favre was revered in Green Bay. Fans wanted him to stay, even though his waffling on retirement put the team in a tough spot. When Favre was traded to the New York Jets in 2008, Packers fans took out their disappointment on Rodgers. They booed him during an intrasquad scrimmage.
But Rodgers never showed any resentment and quickly made them forget about No. 4. Rodgers threw for 4,038 yards and 28 TDs in ‘08. Last year, he had 4,434 yards passing, 30 TDs, only seven interceptions, made the Pro Bowl and led the Packers to 11 wins.
In Philly, many of the die-hards were ready for a fresh start and they’ve welcomed Kolb. Though McNabb is the best quarterback in franchise history, he didn’t win a Super Bowl and his personality rubbed some people the wrong way.
If Kolb struggles, however, he’ll certainly hear plenty of criticism. He can draw from Rodgers’ experience in Green Bay.
“I watched him when he got real tough when everybody was expecting him to say something,” Kolb said. “I know that time will come for me and he handled it with great poise and that’s what you have to do as a quarterback. You look now at where that’s taken him.”