True, McNabb became a polarizing figure throughout his career and often rubbed Philadelphia fans the wrong way. But it’s perplexing that the “City of Brotherly Love'” was reluctant to embrace him warmly, considering he was the greatest quarterback in franchise history.
The debate will now shift to the unavoidable question of whether McNabb belongs in the Hall of Fame.
And the arguments against him will focus on the one major omission from his resume:
He never won a Super Bowl,[If this is your argument, I’ll just say that Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl ring, and the only way he’s getting into the Hall of Fame is if he buys a ticket].
If you look at McNabb’s body of work from 1999-2009 only three quarterbacks — Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady — recorded more than the 92 wins McNabb had over that span.
If you look at McNabb’s body of work from his entire career, he’s one of seven quarterbacks to complete 59 percent of his passes while throwing for over 35,000 yards. Favre, Manning, Brady, Joe Montana, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino are the others — and that’s some pretty exclusive company.
And if you want to add some nuance to those numbers, he probably played with the worst wide receiving corps of any great NFL quarterback, but managed to make lemonade out of the lemons that were Reggie Brown, Todd Pinkston, Kevin Curtis, James Thrash, Hank Baskett, Antonio Freeman, Na Brown and Freddie Mitchell.
The true comparison here would be Kelly, the Buffalo Bills’ Hall of Famer, whose career trajectory was eerily similar to McNabb’s. That their teams were never able to win the big one, is far from an indictment of their individual brilliance.
Instead of focusing on what he didn’t achieve, let’s look at what he did accomplish:
- Over 37,000 passing yards.
- 234 touchdowns.
- Six Pro Bowls.
- One NFC Player of the Year award.
- One Super Bowl appearance.
Our microwave society will probably now run what has become popularly known as 4th and 26, over and over, force feeding that one play down our collective throats as an encapsulation of Donovan’s career. Yeah, it was one of the most famous plays in NFL playoff history, when in 2004 against the Packers, in the fourth quarter of the divisional game and trailing 17-14, he completed a remarkable strike to Freddie Mitchell with no timeouts that eventually led to a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation.
But the game that is a true reflection of McNabb came in week 11 of the 2002 season, when he broke his fibula in three places on the Eagles’ first drive as he was being tackled. McNabb picked himself up, had his ankle taped, and returned for the next offensive possession.
He completed 20 of his 25 pass attempts over the course of the game for 255 yards and four touchdowns. It is, still, one of the gutsiest performances in league history.
He never acted a fool or embarrassed his franchise off the field. He always acted with class and dignity. And from a talent perspective, he was on par with some of the greatest quarterbacks of his era.
Those are the makings of a great football player.
Those are the makings of a Hall of Famer.