Player Points - Kevin Kolb
By Chase Stuart
May 17th, 2010

Kevin Kolb is an oddity for the following reasons:

  1. He (barring injury) will be the game-1 starter for his team
  2. He has fewer than five career starts
  3. He was not a first round pick
  4. He's not playing for a bad team (.500 or better record last season)
  5. #1 was not an accident

It shouldn't surprise you that this makes Kolb unique. It's very rare for good teams to intentionally insert inexperienced, non-first round quarterbacks into the starting lineup. Here's a look at all QBs in the past 15 years to meet the above criteria:

  • Kelly Holcomb, 2003: Holcomb went undrafted in 1995; he got his first NFL action in 1997, starting one game for the Colts. He backed up Peyton Manning before heading to Cleveland in 2001, where he sat behind another former #1 draft pick, Tim Couch. Ironically, Holcomb was the week 1 starter in 2002 when Tim Couch's elbow prevented him from starting the first two weeks of the season. Couch then started the next 14 games for the 9-7 Browns, but broke his leg in the season finale. So how did Holcomb end up being the starter come 2003? In the Browns playoff game against Pittsburgh, Holcomb threw for 429 yards and 3 TDs, joining Dan Fouts (and since, Peyton Manning) as the only player with so many yards and so many touchdowns in a playoff game. Unfortunately for Cleveland, Holcomb's success was not indicative of his ability: he managed only three starts before missing three straight games with his own broken leg. Holcomb and Couch were mired in a QB controversy for the remainder of their Cleveland careers (similar to the more recent but equally repulsive Brady Quinn/Derek Anderson battle), but Holcomb never again resembled the star he played like against the Steelers in the 2002 playoffs.

  • Chris Redman, 2002: The Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000 with a suffocating defense and Trent Dilfer at quarterback. Seeking an upgrade, Brian Billick acquired Elvis Grbac to guide the team in '01, but Grbac retired after an underwhelming first season in Baltimore. The Ravens were in the midst of a roster overhaul thanks to significant salary cap issues, and Billick made Redman the center of the rebuilding effort. Like the '10 Eagles, Baltimore was very young at all the skill positions: RB (Jamal Lewis, 23), WR (Taylor Taylor, 24; Brandon Stokley, 26) and TE (Todd Heap, 22). Redman had been a star at Louisville, winning the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as the nation's top QB; but Redman rarely resembled Unitas, despite following him at both Louisville and in Baltimore. Redman was a product of the Bobby Petrino offense, and his college numbers belied his true ability. Will we one day say that Kevin Kolb is a product of the Houston system, where he played under a Mike Leach style of offense under spread coach Art Briles?

  • Jay Fiedler, 2000: The Miami Dolphins didn't have much of a contingency plan for life A.D. -- After Dan. Fiedler beat out Marino's backup, Damon Huard, in training camp and was Miami's week one starter in 2000. Prior to that, Fiedler had just started one game. In 1999, Fiedler won his first career start for the Jaguars when he threw for 317 yards. In the post-season, Fiedler came in during the Jaguars 62-7 blowout over Miami -- in Marino's last game -- and had 172 yards and two TDs on 11 passes in relief of Mark Brunell. Fiedler was a success in Miami with a lower case 's': he never put up Marino-like fantasy numbers, but he was a solid QB for the Dolphins from 2000 to 2003, going 35-17 over that four year stretch.

  • Brian Griese, 1999: Griese was drafted by the Broncos in the third round of the 1998 draft. He spent most of his career in the shadows of his Hall of Fame father Bob and his Hall of Fame teammate his first season, John Elway. Griese sat for nearly all of the 1998 season, but was handed the keys to a Super Bowl champion when Elway retired. Griese started week 1 of the 1999 season, a year that turned out to be a disaster for both him and the Broncos. In 2000, Griese led the NFL in QB rating and interception percentage, but he never again played at such a high level. He eked out an eleven year career, but was never a star quarterback in the NFL.

  • Todd Collins, 1997: Like Griese (and Kolb), Collins was drafted as the heir apparent to an elite QB. Jim Kelly was the Bills QB in 1995 and 1996, but Collins took over after Kelly retired. Collins had already started four games prior to 1997, and he had guided Buffalo to a 2-1 record in '96. But the former Michigan Wolverine disappointed in his first season as a starter, and Buffalo quickly ushered in the Doug Flutie/Rob Johnson era in 1998.

  • Kordell Stewart, 1997: Stewart played as "Slash" for Pittsburgh in 1995 and 1996. With playoff seed locked up, the Steelers let Stewart run most of the offense in week 17 against the Panthers; Slash had poor passing numbers but rushed for an 80-yard touchdown and provided a spark no other quarterback could match in Pittsburgh's offense. In the Steelers' first playoff game, Stewart rushed for 48 yards and two touchdowns; in the loss in New England the next week, Stewart tied a modern record for most attempts (10) in a game without a completion. Still, Stewart became Pittsburgh's #1 QB the following season. That year, he was the #2 fantasy quarterback and appeared to revolutionize the position. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, except for a brief reemergence in 2001, Stewart never again played like an above average NFL quarterback.

  • Jim Miller, 1996: Miller, Mike Tomczak and Kordell Stewart were the backup QBs for the Steelers on their AFC Championship team in 1995. When Neil O'Donnell went to the Jets, Miller beat out Tomczak during training camp to become Pittsburgh's new quarterback. That lasted all of a half, as he went 9/17 for 83 yards and was benched for Tomczak. That was the end of Miller's career in Pittsburgh. He had a brief stretch in 1999 playing for the Bears and Marcus Robinson where he threw for 779 yards and 4 TDs in two games; he later guided Chicago to an 11-2 record. But a separated shoulder against the Eagles in the Bears opening playoff game ended that season, and marked the beginning of the end for Miller.

I like Kevin Kolb. He put up crazy good numbers at Houston (playing in a weak conference) and then put up very good numbers last year (against the Chiefs). Perhaps most importantly, in the Eagles offense, it seems like any quarterback can succeed. Some of the quarterbacks on the above list weren't as talented as Kolb (or so I think, with the partial benefit of hindsight) and some weren't on as pass-friendly offenses as the 2010 Eagles look to be; but trips down memory lane like this can still serve as a useful hedge on how difficult it is to predict the future.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to stuart@footballguys.com.