I always figured Donovan McNabb was the overly-sensitive type.
Now I wonder how he put up with so many obvious and unwarranted provocations across the last decade.
If ever a quarterback had cause to feel unappreciated, it’s McNabb.
Consider his history in Philadelphia, which began with a round of boos from all those Eagles draft experts who had their hearts set on a stoner out of Texas, Ricky Williams. McNabb is coming off his sixth Pro Bowl season, and has won more games and thrown for more yards and touchdowns than any quarterback in Eagles history. Oh, and by the way, he’s led the team to five NFC championship games and a Super Bowl.
By all accounts, McNabb is a good husband and father. He’s never been arrested for slapping a woman or killing a dog, offenses that have inspired demonstrations of support for lesser men and much lesser quarterbacks.
What a curious case is McNabb: no gun possession, no DUI, no respect. From the right, he’s attacked by Rush Limbaugh, the noted expert on black quarterbacks.
From the left, the president of Philadelphia’s NAACP chapter charges that McNabb “played the race card.”
A distressingly high number of his teammates sided with Terrell Owens. In keeping with the prevalent locker-room metaphor, that’s like siding with cancer.
Coming off a Pro Bowl season — a campaign that saw Philadelphia finish tied for first in the NFC East — the Eagles are looking to trade him. McNabb is the guy a team needs to contend. If he’s not a superstar like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, he’s the next best thing: a legitimate, experienced franchise quarterback. He’s 33. He’s healthy. And for reasons that don’t quite add up, he’s trade bait.
The Eagles have three quarterbacks under contract through this upcoming season. Michael Vick, the most handsomely compensated third-stringer in football history, is a mistake to which they cannot admit. Kevin Kolb is the sudden savior.
He may be that. But with only two career starts, he also represents an extraordinary risk. Everybody loves the backup quarterback — until he’s no longer the backup. For every Aaron Rodgers, there’s a bunch of Brian Grieses or Glenn Foleys or Rob Johnsons.
First-year starters, as Kolb would be, typically throw a lot of interceptions. McNabb, for all the criticism, is startlingly good when it comes to picks, with only 100 in 4,746 career attempts. According to STATS Inc., that’s the third-lowest interception percentage in NFL history among players who’ve thrown at least 1,500 passes.
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Which team will start Donovan McNabb at QB in 2010?
As best I can tell, the only real offense in McNabb’s 11 pro seasons is not winning a championship. For the record, his line against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX — a game that that saw Philly as 7-point dogs — was 30 of 51, 357 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions, and one ill-timed, if unproven, case of gastrointestinal distress.
So he didn’t win the big one. Recall some of those who did: Jim McMahon, Jeff Hostetler, Mark Rypien, Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, Eli Manning. None of them is in McNabb’s league.
I’m not saying he’s perfect. I’m not saying there aren’t guys I’d rather have in a big game. But he’s not the reason Philadelphia was humiliated by Dallas last season. Used to be McNabb had no receivers. Now with Brian Westbrook gone, he has no running game. Whatever the case, he threw for more than 3,500 yards last year, 22 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. Whatever the Eagles' needs, franchise quarterback is not among them.
McNabb hasn’t demanded a new contract. He didn't shoot off his mouth. Still, a team is looking to trade a proven quarterback to make room for an unproven one.
Has there ever been anything quite like this? This isn’t Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. McNabb hasn’t retired, much less contemplated it. He’s not coming off an injury, like Warren Moon in his last season with the Vikings. There’s been no contract squabble like Bert Jones once endured with the Baltimore Colts. There’s no regime change, no trade demand as was the case with Jay Cutler in Denver. Nor is there a long-standing personal beef, as Al Davis had decades ago with Kenny Stabler.
Did I hear someone say Joe Montana? No, McNabb is not to be confused with Montana. But two starts don’t make Kevin Kolb into Steve Young, either.
Then again, what do you expect? By most statistical gauges — yards, touchdowns and wins — McNabb has had a great career. But there’s another, less quantifiable measure. And it's a wonder that Donovan McNabb has never qualified among the league leaders in respect.