"I'd shoot him a text every once in a while to get his attention," Reid says. "I just wanted to remind him he was quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles and give him a little zing."
In truth, Kolb's success or failure is serious business for Reid. His coaching career has been defined by his relationships with his quarterbacks. His work with Favre in Green Bay put him on the radar for the Eagles' job, and his first major move in Philly, more than a decade ago, was to draft McNabb. Some thought Reid wouldn't be able to let McNabb go, even as the Eagles got younger. "I love Donovan McNabb," Reid says. "He helped our franchise become what it has become. On the other hand, I'm looking forward to starting anew with Kevin Kolb."
Lots of NFL players are big outdoorsmen. The Vikings' Jared Allen, the Browns' Joe Thomas and Kolb's teammate Trent Cole even have their own hunting or fishing shows. Asked which player has the best outdoor skills, Kolb says, "Me, by far."
In fact, Kolb is developing his own fishing program, and he competes in bass tournaments in the off-season. Ask his friends about him, and the anecdotes often end with Kolb inflicting bodily harm on a potentially dangerous animal. He has raised eyebrows among coaches and teammates with stories about killing wild hogs with a bowie knife. "They're a big deal here in South Texas," Briles says of the hogs, "and lots of people hunt them. I couldn't figure out why my quarterback was killing hogs with a knife instead of a gun like everyone else. But that's just Kevin. He's pretty well grounded in who he is. That's one of the reasons I don't think the pressure of being an NFL quarterback will get to him."
Kolb's off-season home in Granbury, Texas, sits on a lake about an hour southwest of Fort Worth—and light years from Chickie's & Pete's and the other Eagles hot spots in South Philly. Three days before he left for his first training camp as a starter, Kolb began his day at 5 a.m. on a private lake off a road that doesn't register on GPS. Kolb doesn't fish for leisure. He finished 17th out of 288 in a tournament earlier this summer. "You would not believe how competitive this sport is," Kolb says. "At a little local tournament just a few weeks ago, I saw two guys almost kill themselves racing to get to a good spot. That's why I like it. Right now it's just for fun and a way to take my mind off football for a few hours. But if I did this full time—that would be interesting."
This particular morning Kolb has no competition as he reels in and releases 15 decent-sized largemouth bass in 2½ hours. But as the temperature climbs into the mid-90s, he starts getting antsy. It's becoming too hot for the fish to strike, and he's worried that his workout partners at nearby Glen Rose High won't stick around once it gets over 100.
That's another thing Kolb has in common with Favre. Between OTAs and camp he keeps in shape by throwing to local high schoolers. Kolb's routine also includes weight work, parachute-resistance training and hurdles. He's been spending summers practicing under the Texas sun since he picked up the game. "The heat at training camp bothers some guys," Kolb said. "I don't even notice it."
His high school receivers don't feel the same way. He suspected they might not show up because their coaches were in San Antonio for a convention, and like anyone who didn't have to be on a practice field, they were either in an air-conditioned room or off on a lake.
Problem is, someone locked up the net Kolb throws into when no one is around. So he tells a reporter to suit up and goes through a choreographed workout of about 200 throws. For a quarterback known for his accuracy underneath, it's actually the long and intermediate passes that come easier. One throw he struggles with this day is moving up in an imaginary collapsing pocket and finding a safety valve close to the line. Kolb keeps repeating—drop, scramble, toss—and he just can't get it right. He explains that each receiver wants the ball in a precise spot. "We have a lot of athletes [on the Eagles]," Kolb says. "Get it to your playmakers. Understand who's around you. My job is to deliver the ball to them on time and give them the best opportunity to make plays."
For years Philly fans questioned McNabb's ability to master the short-passing game in Reid's offense. While few QBs could match his long ball, he was inconsistent on touch passes. In Kolb's two starts filling in for an injured McNabb last season—a Week 2 loss to New Orleans and an easy Week 3 win over Kansas City—he completed 64.7% of his passes and became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 300 yards in each of his first two starts.