Birds Backups – Quarterbacks in the City of Brotherly Love

With former backup QB Kevin Kolb marking his less than memorable debut Sunday as the first new starting Eagles signal caller in 11 years, only time will tell what his Philadelphia legacy will be.  The history of quarterbacks in the City of Brotherly love has traditionally been a love/hate relationship, with Eagles fans notoriously quick to pull the plug on their affections after a few losses.

It will be an interesting social experiment to see how this city’s fickle fans support Kolb as the season progresses. If he is cleared and ultimately returns to play for the remainder of the season, but quickly takes a downward turn, I have to wonder if it will take a 1-3 start before a Kolb-pocalypse situation occurs.

Questions abound: Will he be allowed an 8-8 season with more than 15 interceptions and be given a guaranteed starting spot next year? Will he be given time to develop and grow with this young, rebuilt team? Will he become what the Eagles brass has pinned their and the fans hopes on — the enduring face of the franchise for the next decade, ushering in his own era of winning in the parity filled NFL?

With big shoes to fill, and even bigger expectations from a championship starved city, he faces an extremely challenging schedule, with tough road games at Chicago, San Francisco, Tennessee and Jacksonville.  As he was on Sunday against Green Bay, Kolb will be tested early and often.

In between former long term starting quarterbacks Randall Cunningham and Donovan McNabb, there were the likes of Bubby Brister, Koy Detmer, Bobby Hoying, Doug Pederson, Jeff Kemp, Mark Rypien and Rodney Peete.  Signal callers Ty Detmer and A.J. Feely had a bit of their own special place in history, endearing themselves to the fans in the process.

Who could forget the Ty Detmer cowboy roping dance that was routinely struggled to be imitated by decidedly non cowboy types in the stands at the Vet? Or AJ Feeley with his boyish smile and catchy youthful exuberance winning improbable game after improbable game after McNabb went down in 2002?

Or in one of my personal favorite moments in backup quarterback history: Jeff Garcia, after an incredible road win on Christmas Day versus the reviled Cowboys to secure an inexplicable playoff spot, turning to the camera, goofily grinning from ear to ear, and intoned with a slight lisp, “Merry Christmas Philadelphia.”

While we anxiously wait for the season to unfold and see where Kolb falls in the scale of backup quarterbacks turned starters, here are a few observations on past number two QBs:

Rodney Peete – He was a career backup who called Philly home from 1995 to 1998. He exasperated fans to no end in ’97 and ’98, suffering through 6-10 and 3-13 seasons respectively. His one and only shining moment was in 1995, in the highest scoring playoff game in history against Detroit at the Vet.

Bubby Brister – Who nicknames their kid Bubby???  How can anyone with that name be successful in the National Football League, and not a tree logging wilderness competition?

Mark Rypien – A bona fide winner in the NFL with an actual ring and Super Bowl MVP to his credit from the Skins 1991 season, five years later he was a journeyman backup. Once he arrived in the City of Brotherly Love as the third string behind Ty Detmer and Rodney Peete, it was apparent that his arm strength and game reaction time had greatly diminished. In the one game he played, a blowout loss in 1996 to the Colts, he threw his last touchdown before he officially retired.

Bobby Hoying – A third round draft pick in ’96, he was painted in the press and by Eagles brass as a white knight, coming to save the team, although he never saved anything. Slow footed and just slow in general, he was quickly shown to be a bust when he was benched midway through his second season, without winning a game.

Jim McMahon – Of the sunglasses at night, black reflector lines under his eyes and the ’85 Super Bowl shuffle fame, McMahon may have brought a bit of Hollywood glitz to a blue collar, town but the super knowledgeable Philly fans accurately surmised he was brittle, no longer qualified for prime time and more interested in sponsorship deals for his own personal brand than winning football games.

Jeff Kemp, Brad Goebel, Mike McMahon – Who???? Exactly.

I hope Kevin Kolb is ok after his concussion on Sunday, and if so, will be allowed to blaze his own trail and establish himself as a fan favorite by winning games in our fair city. I for one am rooting for him to join his mom in a national Chunky Soup television commercial.

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