It’s been a long, strange ride for Eagles Quarterback Donovan McNabb. This year alone McNabb went from having one foot out the door in Philadelphia (after being benched for rookie Kevin Kolb against the Ravens the week before Thanksgiving) to being just one game away from going to his second career Super Bowl.
The McNabb turnaround (eleven touchdowns to just four picks since his benching) has been amazing to watch. But then again, McNabb has faced adversity before and has always, ALWAYS, come back from it.
Let’s start with what happened on Draft Day in 1999. I was at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden when Eagles fans stormed the place, hoping and praying their beloved Iggles would take Ricky Williams with the second overall selection. When McNabb was announced as the pick, those same fans booed. Loudly. McNabb was not the favorite of a fan base that once cheered when Michael Irvin was laying on the turf at The Vet motionless. The same fan base that once booed Santa Claus.
It didn’t take long, but McNabb turned those boos into cheers. The Eagles made the playoffs in McNabb’s second season. He was the toast of the town, and continued to be through the Super Bowl he helped get the Eagles to a few years back.
The next season was when adversity struck again. In case you forgot, he and Terrell Owens got into a very public feud. The Eagles chose him over Owens, but as a result of the feud McNabb took a little bit of a hit to his image.
He saw his numbers go down in 2006 without Owens by his side. The detractors came out again in full force, saying that Owens made McNabb, that McNabb wasn’t much without #81 catching his passes. Then he got hurt and people jumped on him for that.
The injury bug (knee) struck again in 2006. There were a lot of people who thought McNabb’s best days were behind him. The Eagles went so far as to draft the man they thought would be his eventual successor (Kolb). They wrote McNabb off.
The McNabb bashers were dead wrong. It normally takes a full year before a knee injury like McNabb’s is fully healed. Yet, McNabb led te Eagles to an 8-6 record in the fourteen games he played in ’07. He threw for over 3,300 yards and 19 touchdowns, with just seven interceptions. Instead of being impressed, there were Eagles fans who wanted to move on from the McNabb Era.
And then came the 2008 season. Even though he was benched, McNabb threw for a career high 3,916 yards with 23 TD’s and just 11 picks. He took the benching personally and has played like a man on a mission ever since.
It’s time to give McNabb the respect that he is due. Is he a Hall of Famer? That’s up for debate. But if you look at the numbers, you see a quarterback who deserves serious consideration. Nearly 30,000 yards, 194 TD’s, a 73-39 record in the regular season. Five NFC Championship Games, and (to this point) one Super Bowl.
Now, consider who he’s had to throw the ball to over the years. Sure there was Owens, but the rest of McNabb’s receivers were forgettable. Torrance Small, Charles Johnson, James Thrash, Todd Pinkston, Chad Lewis, and Fred Mitchell. Is there a Hall of Famer in the bunch? Nope. Is there a Pro Bowler in the bunch? Nope. McNabb has not had the kind of weapons that some of his peers were fortunate to have.
Brian Westbrook is a fabulous running back, but he is really the first bigtime back McNabb has played with. Duce Staley was good but got hurt, and the Eagles really didn’t have anyone else until Westbrook came along.
The point is, McNabb, for most of his career, was a one man show. Could you imagine the kind of numbers he could have put up had he had the likes of Randy Moss and Cris Carter as his top two targets? He would have been a monster.
Is McNabb partly to blame for his lack of a championship? Yes. There’s no doubt about that. But, there are a lot of reasons he doesn’t have that ring, the main one being the lack of a quality supporting cast.
McNabb’s Eagles are a road favorite to beat Arizona and reach the Super Bowl. Don’t count them out. They needed a bunch of things to go their way just to get into the playoffs. They got those bounces and McNabb led a rout of the Cowboys that sealed the deal. The bet here is that McNabb leads the Eagles to a win over the Cards. The bet is that McNabb gets that second shot at Super Bowl glory.
And, maybe, just maybe, if that happens, an underappreciated quarterback will finally get the respect he so richly deserves.