BETHLEHEM, Pa.

There's no telling how many games Eagles first-year starting quarterback Kevin Kolb will win this season leading a young team in a division with the Giants, Cowboys and the Mike Shanahan-coached Redskins.

But I'll go out on a limb and predict that Kolb won't be a victim of the Philly factor.

In a football-crazed city that shows no mercy to its quarterbacks - even the great ones - Kolb won't fall prey to the chew 'em up, spit 'em out mindset that is as much a part of being a quarterback here as finding a receiver on a hot read.

Why give Kolb the benefit of the doubt in a city that routinely turned on Donovan McNabb, who was traded to the Redskins in April? For one thing, Kolb closely studied McNabb as he endured the fans' "love 'em when you win, can't stand 'em when you lose'' cycle. But more than that, it's Kolb's background as a high school quarterback in Texas - where his taskmaster coach was also his father - that figures to inoculate him from the intense scrutiny in Philadelphia.

"My dad was tough on me, so he built up a thick skin when I was a young kid," said Kolb, who grew up in Stephenville, a town of about 18,000 located 70 miles south of Fort Worth. Not the kind of place that gets you ready for Philly? Andy Reid begs to differ.

"High school football is a big, big thing in Texas, so Kevin's been under the gun since he's been a little kid," Reid said. "There is tremendous pressure playing high school football in Texas. He's been around it, and his dad's a coach. I think that will help him handle the pressures it takes to play quarterback here."

Reid believes it will allow Kolb to deal with the pressure by taking it away. Allow him to explain.

"It helps you eliminate the pressure, so you're able to focus in on the things you can control, and you're able to kind of blank it out," Reid said. "It's like 'OK, I'm not going to take anything too personally. I'm just going to worry about my game and the things I can take care of and my football team.' So it's a mentality of 'Let's go. Let's get better and win games.' "

OK, so Kolb has yet to experience a devastating loss to the Giants or Cowboys with the playoffs on the line. And he hasn't gone through the torturous apprenticeship all young quarterbacks endure. He is about as popular as a player can be in Philadelphia: one who has engendered lots of enthusiasm but has yet to sully his reputation.

He knows that could change based on how the Eagles do on his watch. But he also believes he has the right temperament to deal with whatever comes.

"When I first got here, Donovan warned me how tough it can be at times, but also how good it can be," Kolb said. "So I think the one thing I learned is that you can't get too high or too low. You can't get too down on yourself in bad times, but don't read all the good stuff, either, because you're probably not as good as they're saying. For me, I just want to be even-keeled and consistent with our training and our thoughts and our play."

The Eagles took a calculated gamble that Kolb was ready to take over, and made the controversial decision not only to trade McNabb but also to deal him within the division. Consider it a going-away present for McNabb, who led Philadelphia to only its second Super Bowl appearance. The Raiders also were interested, but he didn't want to play for that struggling franchise.

That puts even more pressure on Kolb, especially with a retooled roster with young players at virtually all the key positions. No worries, the 24-year-old with the Texas drawl insists.

"I've been through times where all the eyes are on you, coaches getting upset with you," he said. "My dad was on me with those types of things when I was a kid, so when I got here, I don't have to think about those types of things. It's a huge advantage where I don't have to go through the learning curve, so I can just focus on what happens on the field."

The kid's as ready as he'll ever be. Bring on the boos.

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