By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—For all of the slings and arrows that Donovan McNabb endured during his tumultuous 11-year tenure in Philadelphia, the one thing that seemed to stick in his crawl the most was the idea that he wasn’t “Black enough.”
Back in 2005, J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia NAACP and publisher of the Philadelphia Sunday SUN suggested that McNabb was playing the race card by moving away from being a running quarterback and turning into a drop-back passer.
Other local celebrities including boxer Bernard Hopkins also jumped on the “Are you Black enough?” bandwagon, questioning not only McNabb’s Blackness, but also his street cred and his toughness.
While he is the quarterback with the most wins in Eagles history, and went to five NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl, the lack of support from some verbal elements of Philadelphia’s African American community took some of the shine from those achievements, McNabb admitted.
“It was hilarious to me that you would be criticized not only by the masses, but by your own people. That right there is still funny to this day,” McNabb said to a group of reporters at Lincoln Financial Field on Wednesday. “That pissed me off more because of the struggles that [Blacks have] been through trying to play the position. To have a guy come out and say I’m not running because I’m trying to prove a point or you know, I’m not Black enough…. Well, I guess we have a lot more quarterbacks who aren’t Black enough.”
McNabb, who now works as a commentator on Fox Sports News, was in town to be inducted into the Eagles’ Ring Of Honor. The ceremony will take place tonight during the Eagles/Kansas City Chiefs game.
There are currently nine African Americans taking signals from center in the National Football League, which is the most in league history. Like former Eagles great Randall Cunningham and Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, McNabb, and his era of signal callers including Daunte Culpepper, Byron Leftwich, David Garrard and Aaron Brooks, made things a little easier for players like Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Colin Kapernick and E.J. Manuel to shine in a league that sometimes still has problems knowing how to best utilize their skills.
“What you’re seeing with nine African-American quarterbacks that are playing the quarterback position that people are truly looking into having a strong-armed, athletic, intelligent guy at the position who can not only make plays with their arm, but with their legs.”
But while the athleticism of this new breed of African American signal caller gets a lot of the attention, it’s often at the expense of acknowledging their intelligence, McNabb said. The West Coast offense comes from a playbook that could rival any encyclopedia. You have to be more than just a strong arm to master it, he said.
“Stop looking at the outer shell and focus on who the kid really is,” McNabb said. “What’s the difference between an RGIII, a Russell Wilson, a Colin Kaepernick or an Andrew Luck? Is it skin color or is one smarter than the other? I think if you look at the overall big picture of it all, they’re quarterbacks if they’re Black or White. They’re ask to do what quarterbacks are asked to do—protect the football, read the defense, dissect it and be able to get the ball to the open man and win football games.”
McNabb left his mark on the current Eagles squad by convincing former coach Andy Reid to bring current Eagles quarterback Michael Vick in 2009 after Vick was released from jail after serving time for his part in a dog fighting ring. Reid, who will be leading the Kansas City Chiefs into the Linc tonight, eventually followed his signal caller’s advice and gave the former Virginia Tech star a chance for resurgence.
Connecting Vick with the Eagles was about trying to help a friend, said McNabb, who has known Vick since he was a high school student and had tried to recruit him for his alma mater Syracuse.
“Mike and I had that tie together where I felt like bringing a brother in,” McNabb said. “Bringing a friend in to get back on his feet and continue to fulfill a dream.”
McNabb said he’s proud of Vick’s success, especially during these first two weeks of this season.
“I think he’s progressed and matured,” McNabb said. “I think the steps that he’s made is because Chip Kelly challenged him. The team saw the work ethic that he put forth. I think it showed on the football field. What you’re seeing is a guy who is a lot older than the guys on the football field and in the locker room, but he’s willing to do what it takes to win.”
Because Philadelphia was tough on him at times, one might think that McNabb would tell his friend Vick to rent, not buy, while he’s playing for the Eagles.
But as he looks back at his career as an Eagle, and the honor he’ll be receiving tonight, there are no hard feelings, McNabb said.
“I just dismiss it,” he said. “My Mom always told me that if somebody brings your name up, that means they’re thinking about you. It doesn’t affect me. It didn’t affect me when I played. I enjoyed playing here in Philadelphia. To see some of the fans that say they miss when I was playing and still wish that I was out there….”
“There are some people out there that truly respect what I’ve done…”