Hall of Fame: The Case for Donovan McNabb

1 Aug

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Donovan McNabb got a  huge ovation from the crowd last Sunday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Donovan McNabb got a huge ovation from the crowd last Sunday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA-It was an emotional Donovan McNabb who officially ended what was a tumultuous, enigmatic, oft-times controversial career in the City of Brotherly Love as a member of the Eagles.

McNabb, who is the Eagles all-time leading passer, will have his No. 5 retired in ceremonies on Sept. 19 at Lincoln Financial Field when the Birds play the Kansas City Chiefs, now coached by Andy Reid.

Ever since McNabb was traded to the Washington Redskins after the 2009 season, there has been debate about how should Eagles fans should remember him.  Some fans and sports media pundits will remember him as a player who choked in the big games.

The anti-McNabb crowd will tell you that he was a passive-aggressive crybaby who refused to take responsibility for Eagles losses.  They blame him for the losses in four of the five NFC title games and the Super Bowl.

There were some who were upset that he was too much of a Black quarterback and others who said he wasn’t Black enough.  Huh?  What? The anti-McNabb crowd questioned his accuracy as a passer as well as his heart and leadership. By the way, he completed 59 percent of his passes-sixth among quarterbacks who are already in Pro Football Hall of Fame.

To the anti-McNabb faction, I guess it didn’t matter that he played on what turned out to be a broken leg and threw four touchdown passes to beat the Arizona Cardinals in 2002. McNabb gamely tried to play with a broken rib in the 2003 NFC Championship Game against the Carolina Panthers.

“Those are the type of things that the average player can’t play through,” said former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins.  “He’s had other things that he played through that you would never know about because he would never let you know.

“(McNabb) was mentally tough not only to deal with those injuries but to deal with all the negativity that came across his table so many times.”

Meanwhile, the pro-McNabb crew said that he was a great quarterback who managed to win in spite of having mediocre receivers for the most part and a head coach who refused to utilize the running game, especially in the big games.

They also point the fact McNabb was a model citizen off the field who involved himself with a number of charities in the community.  He never got arrested or had any brushes with the law and he was a good family man.

This past Sunday at the Eagles training camp practice at Lincoln Financial Field, McNabb got a huge cheer from the 30,000 fans that came to see the Birds workout. That to me is an indication that maybe there were more people who appreciated him than those who loathed him.

I think the vitriol against McNabb is out of frustration because the team hasn’t won a championship since 1960.

I think with the passage of time people will appreciate McNabb in the same way fans like former Phillies Mike Schmidt, who was also disliked by fans when he was a player in spite of his success.

The anguish of coming so close to a Super Bowl win and not getting there is frustrating to fans and no one felt iit more than McNabb himself.

“My goal was to have that parade down Broad Street,” McNabb said Monday.  “Now the Phillies did it first, and I apologized to the fans because that was my goal.  I felt like I let them down.”

In the final analysis, I think McNabb, with the teammates he had, did everything they could on the field to win here.  If they had better personnel on both sides of the ball and maybe better coaching, who knows?

I do believe that there were times when I felt McNabb needed to just take over and dominate games with his ability to run and create on the fly. He did it at times, but not enough.

McNabb is the winningest quarterback in franchise history with 101 including the playoffs. He led the team to five division titles along with those five conference title games.

Is McNabb a Hall of Famer? It depends on whom you ask. There are a lot of people who say he falls just short.  I think you can make a case for him.

Well, if you like statistics, he has a good combination of numbers to get him there.  McNabb is one of four quarterbacks in NFL history to compile 30,000 yards passing, 200 touchdown passes, 3,000 yards rushing and 20 rushing touchdowns. He has the fourth lowest interception percentage in league history.

Only three other players have accomplished that John Elway, Steve Young and Fran Tarkenton.  Those three are in the Hall of Fame.

McNabb, Elway and Tarkenton are the only quarterbacks in league history to throw for 35,000 yards and rush for 3,000 yards.

In McNabb’s 11 years with the Eagles, he won 92 regular-season and nine playoff games.  Only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and Brett Favre have more wins and more Super Bowl rings. A huge sticking point for fans in this day and age who believe that McNabb falls just shot of having a place in Canton.

“If you’re talking about the top three of the era, Tom Brady, Peyton, and Don,” said former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook. “When you’re talking about Hall of Fame credentials, they’re there.”

But if you’re still not impressed, remember one thing—The Eagles could have drafted then Heisman Trophy winner Rickey Williams and his fondness for the whacky weed.  Ask yourself who had the better career.

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