Tag Archives: Donovan McNabb

NFC Championship: A Matter of Luck For Two Snakebitten Franchises and Cities Starving for a Title.

20 Jan
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Can the Eagles rely on Nick Foles to take them to the Super Bowl? The Birds will take on the Minnesota Vikings in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo By Webster Riddick.

This weekend’s NFC Championship matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings pits two hard luck franchises against each other.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Sunday’s NFC Championship game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field will be a matchup of two franchises that have lost six Super Bowls in total and have had more than their share of post-season disappointments.

From 2001 to 2008, the Eagles went to five NFC title games, losing four of them. When the team did win the NFC Championship in the 2004 season, they went on to lose to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings haven’t won a NFC title game since the 1976 season, where they lost to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XI. Since then, they’ve lost four title games, three of which were lost in the final minute or in overtime.

(In other words, they know exactly how the New Orleans Saints, whom they defeated on Sunday on a fluke play with seconds left in the game, feel…)

CaseKeenum

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum looking to lead his team to a win over the Eagles.

Since neither team has won the Super Bowl—the Eagles won a pre-Super Bowl NFL Championship in 1960—something has to give, right? The football gods are going to reward one of these long suffering fan bases with a trip to the Super Bowl and another chance to win an elusive championship.

But now that we’ve talked about all that history, let’s talk about the game itself.

Neither of the quarterbacks participating in Sunday’s game is going to make anyone forget former Eagles great Donovan McNabb, Vikings Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton or even Vikings short-termer Brett Favre. But Nick Foles and Minnesota’s Case Keenum, two guys who didn’t distinguish themselves as part of the Los Angeles or St. Louis Rams squads in the early Oughts, have managed to get their teams to the conference final despite pronouncements to the contrary.

Foles is coming off a solid performance in the win over the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round in which he completed 23-of-30 passes for 246 yards with no touchdown passes, but also no interceptions.  He was efficient and kept the Eagles offense moving at key stretches, mixing passes to tight-end Zach Ertz, and wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor with screens to running backs Jay Ajayi and   Corey Clement and smash mouth running from running back LeGarrette Blunt.

That’s something the Eagles will have to do against a Vikings defense that ranks at the top of the NFL.

“The quick, short passing game obviously can help, the running game can help,” said head coach Doug Pederson. “Somewhere in there, if you can take a shot, you take a shot and whether you hit, like first play of the game, if you hit it or not, that kind of gets your blood flowing a little bit. And sometimes even tempo, hurry-up, no-huddle offense can get your quarterback into that kind of rhythm.”

It also helps that the Eagles running game, while not great, moved the ball well enough to keep the Falcons defense off balance. The Eagles as a group rushed for 96 yards including a couple of 10-yard plus runs on jet sweeps by Agholor.  Ajayi also averaged close to four yards per carry.

It kept the Eagles from being one-dimensional, Ertz, the tight end, said.

“Yeah, I thought we were really good on first and second down in the second half of that game last week,” he said “We kind had the RPOs (run pass options) early on first down that put us in those positions to be successful. I thought Doug [Pederson] a really good job. One of the things that stood out is that we never got in those third-and-really long situations, third-and-11-plus situations where you have to have the running back and the tight-end chip. You never want to be in those situations and we kind of stayed out of those, so that was definitely huge for us.”

Meanwhile, the Eagles defense is not taking Keenum and the Vikings offense lightly. This is an offense coming off the high of the “Minneapolis Miracle”, when Keenum hit Stefon Diggs on a 61-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left to defeat the New Orleans Saints.

Keenum, who was the NFL’s 12th rated passer, has been efficient. In the game against the Saints, Keenum was 25-of-40 for 318 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

But the Eagles defense is no slouch—they are the fourth ranked defense in the league and are first against the run.  The Vikings running game ranked seventh during the regular season despite the loss of rookie Dalvin Cook. Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon are averaging close to four yards per carry.

Defensive end Brandon Graham recognizes this and says the defense does as well.

“Oh, yeah, you can’t take nobody lightly and I think Case does a good job as far as moving in the pocket, being able to extend plays with his legs and you know just being able to trust himself going out there,” he said. “You know, going out there, making plays because he’s got the receivers. He’s got the running game that’s been helping him take a lot of pressure off of him.”

The Eagles, who managed to become the Number One seed despite a slate of injuries that includes MVP-candidate quarterback Carson Wentz, are once again the underdog despite this being a home game.

So expect the return of the Dog Masks. And a shoulder chip you can see from space.

“The disrespect continues,” said Eagles Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. “For us to be the No 1 seed and to have this championship run through the Linc, what more do you want? At the end of the day, respect is not given, we gotta go out and take it like we’ve been doing all year. I think we’ll go out and dominate.”

The NFC Championship game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings will be played on Sunday night at 6:40 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field in South Philadelphia. Tickets are sold out, but if you want to catch the game, it’ll be on Fox-29, beginning with the Fox NFL-Sunday pregame show at 6 p.m.

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McNabb Admits ‘Not Black Enough’ Comments Bothered Him During His Days in Philly

19 Sep

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Donovan McNabb will be inducted into the Eagles Hall of Honor Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo by Chris Murray

Donovan McNabb will be inducted into the Eagles Hall of Honor Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo by Webster Riddick.

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…”

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.

Stop Blaming Michael Vick: Benching Him Would be a Mistake

30 Oct

Former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb tells NFL Network  Birds should consider benching  the defense and the  offensive line

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Commentary

Michael Vick’s days as the Eagles starting quarterback might be numbered if they can’t turn things around.  Is Nick Foles ready? Photo by Webster Riddick

If the reports that have been circulating around on several websites are true that  Eagles head coach Andy Reid is about to bench quarterback Michael Vick in favor of untested rookie Nick Foles, you might has well consider the 2012 season over.

The benching of Vick would also be a sure sign that Reid is in lame duck mode which means the clock is ticking on his tenure in Philadelphia. It is nothing but a desperation move on the part of a coach who’s looking to cover his own rear end.

It’s nothing more than a public relations spin move to let angry Birds fans that he’s on top of what ails the Eagles—sort of like the firing of former defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. On Sunday, you saw how well that worked out as the defense gave up scores on Atlanta’s first six possessions. Vick did not turn the ball over, but his offense wasn’t on the field that often.

Don’t get it twisted, Vick has had his issues with turning the ball over, but it’s not all his fault given the number of times he’s been hit because of a porous offensive line that is starting two rookies and a third string left tackle  He has been sacked 20 times in seven games.

Even in the games where Vick has coughed up the football, he has managed to win three games and if the defense could have made a stop in the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh and against the Detroit Lions on at least one of their last three possessions, we are not having this conversation because Vick put them in position to win those games.

“If the defense of the Eagles were playing better, we wouldn’t be talking about Michael Vick so much, we’d be talking about what the Eagles can do to turn things around,” said former Eagles quarterback and NFL Network analyst Donovan McNabb.

McNabb, who knows a thing or two about being the brunt of criticism in Philly, told the NFL Network Tuesday instead of focusing on benching Vick, the team should look to bench some of the guys on defense.

“What if the offense goes out and scores 24 points, but the defense gives up 42 points, do we  talk about benching (Vick) and talk about Foles again?,” McNabb said. “Or do we start mentioning some of the defensive guys who need to be benched? Or do we say the offensive line needs to be benched? They’re other people in this situation besides Michael Vick.”

At the end of the day, all the Eagles struggles points back to Reid.  He, along with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, has not helped the offense with their playcalling. They under utilize their talented running back LeSean McCoy.

But then again this is nothing new during Reid’s tenure as coach of the team. During the McNabb years, Reid’s stubborn, oft-times arrogant refusal to give the running game a stronger role in the offense has been a thorn in this team’s side over the last 14 years.

In the first quarter of the loss to the Steelers, Vick drove the Eagles offense to the Steelers three-yard line. Earlier in the drive, Vick fumbled while running the ball, but the play was overturned by the replay officials.

But instead of utilizing McCoy or even backup Bryce Brown on a first and goal from the three, you allow your turnover-prone quarterback who came close to fumbling a few plays earlier to try an ill-fated quarterback draw. The ball was jarred loose and the headlines the next day in Philly said Vick’s fumble cost them game.

After further review, it was also another example of bad play-calling by Reid and Mornhinweg. Vick, as the starting quarterback, took responsibility for his own miscues.

Like a pitcher who has a couple of bad innings, Vick kept firing and eventually threw the touchdown pass that gave his team the lead with six minutes left. If the defense makes a stop late in the game that first-quarter fumble is a moot point.

When Vick walked off the field after hitting Jeremy Maclin with the TD pass in the fourth quarter against the Lions, the Birds had a 10-point lead with a little over five minutes left. But that became a moot point as the defense allowed Detroit to score on their final three possessions including overtime.

With the poor performance by the defense and the erratic play of his injury-depleted offensive line, Vick has not thrown anyone under the bus or yell at his teammates like Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler did earlier this season. When the subject of his benching came up during Sunday’s postgame press conference, he didn’t get angry and point fingers at his coach or his teammates,  he said he would support his coach’s decision.

Through all his horrific mistakes, Vick has had the heart to fight through them and give his team a fighting chance to win, something they won’t have if he is replaced by Foles.