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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Donovan McNabb to Retire an Eagle: Where Has the Time Gone?

by: Ryan Waldis
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As you can tell by the tweet above, Donovan McNabb, perhaps the best quarterback in Philadelphia Eagles history, will officially retire as an Eagle this season. It has also been confirmed that he will retire during the Eagles Week 3 game against Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs. The last time McNabb was under center for the Eagles was 2009; the last time he was an NFL quarterback was 2011, as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.

McNabb was booed relentlessly when the team selected him with the second overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, and some fans never stopped. Throughout his 11 year tenure with the Eagles, the blame for bad losses was often placed on McNabb and his critics pointed out that he could never win the big game or come up clutch when called upon.

True, McNabb never won the Super Bowl Philadelphia fans have been craving for decades, and he did make a few questionable decisions in crucial spots. However, McNabb should not be remembered for these flaws. He should be remembered for giving Philadelphia fans something to cheer about, especially during the early part of the 2000s. In my opinion, he's the best quarterback in Eagles history. Lets take a trip down memory lane, and examine the career of Donovan Jamal McNabb.

First, let's go back to to late 1990s, more specifically, 1997. After rattling off two consecutive seasons in which they went 10-6 (making the playoffs each year) under new coach Ray Rhodes, the
Photo Courtesy: Washington Post
Eagles went into a complete downfall. In 1997 and 1998, the team won nine games combined (six in '97 and only three in '98). After the horrendous '98 season, Rhodes was fired, and the front office brought in a young quarterback's coach from Green Bay by the name of Andy Reid.

No one really knew who Reid was, but that wasn't the problem at the time. The Eagles had a major need at quarterback, as the three they had, Koy Detmer, Bobby Hoying and Rodney Peete , simply weren't cutting it. The approaching draft seemed like a good opportunity to snatch a quarterback, but Eagles fans were more focused on the running back out of the University of Texas, Ricky Williams.

With the second overall pick in the draft, fans thought the team was going to select the extremely talented Williams. The front office surprised everyone when they selected a young man named Donovan McNabb, a quarterback out of Syracuse (the Cleveland Browns selected Tim Couch, a quarterback out of Kentucky, with the first overall selection). The fans were not confused, they were enraged. McNabb was introduced with a plethora of boos coming from Eagles fans (see the video below).

McNabb wasn't affected, putting on his best smile to pose for a picture with the commissioner. Despite all of the boos, McNabb welcomed his role as the new quarterback for the Eagles, hoping to one day show all of the Philadelphia fans that the front office made the right decision selecting him.

McNabb had an uneventful rookie season, to say the least. He wasn't the starter from day one, which is odd for a quarterback that was drafted so high. Regardless, he did end up appearing in 12 games and starting six. He passed for 981 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Eagles finished 5-11 in 1999; this wasn't the record some fans were hoping to see, but it was an improvement nonetheless. It wouldn't be until the next season that McNabb would become a star in Philadelphia and earn the respect of much of the fan-base.

He completed 330 of his 569 passes, finishing with 3,365 yards, 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He led the team to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. McNabb took the Eagles to the NFC Divisional Game and lost to the New York Giants 20-10. It was a heartbreaking loss to the rival Giants, but fans were starting to see just how good McNabb could be. In 2001, he more or less performed the same, completing 285 of his 493 passes for 3,233 yards, 25 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. He led the Eagles to an 11-5 record once again, but the Eagles advanced to their first NFC Championship Game since 1980. The Eagles lost to the St. Louis Rams 29-24, but the fans could see the improvements that were taking place.

McNabb experienced his first injury in 2002 during Week 11 against the Arizona Cardinals. He missed the next six games of the season, but returned in time for the playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons, one in which the Eagles easily won 20-6. However, the good times would not last, as the Eagles were upset by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-10 in the NFC Championship Game (the last Eagles game played at Veterans Stadium).

Overall, McNabb finished the year with 2,289 yards passing, 17 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He played a full season in 2003, starting all 16 games once again. Finishing with 3,216 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, McNabb led the Eagles to a 12-4 record and a third consecutive NFC Championship Game. The Eagles, as they did the previous year, were upset at home (in their new stadium), this time by the Carolina Panthers, 14-3. With the loss, McNabb became the first QB since Danny White of the Dallas Cowboys to lead his team to three consecutive conference title games and not win one. The loss propelled McNabb's critics to conclude that he choked in big games.

He finally won the NFC Title Game
Photo Courtesy: The Wiz Wit
In 2004, McNabb had arguably the best season of his career. Starting all 15 games he appeared in (Andy Reid rested him during the team's final game as they clinched a first-round bye), McNabb passed for 3,875 yards, 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Eagles finished 13-3, which was the best record in franchise history. After defeating the Minnesota Vikings 27-14 in the Divisional Round, the Eagles appeared in a fourth consecutive NFC Championship. Oh no. However, McNabb had Jacksonville, Florida on his mind and defeated Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons 27-10, punching their ticket to Super Bowl XXXIX.

McNabb had finally won the game that eluded him the previous three years, and critics could no longer say that he choked in the big game. As nice as the victory in the NFC Title game was, the Super Bowl was a different story. Although he passed for 357 yards and three touchdowns against a fairly decent New England defense, McNabb also threw three interceptions (two inside New England territory). The Eagles lost 24-21 in only their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, and McNabb's critics said again that he could not win the big game.

Beginning in 2005, McNabb's Eagles career took a turn for the worst. The Terrell Owens saga took place in '05, and every Eagles fan knows how that turned out:

Photo Courtesy: Spike
A year after reaching the Super Bowl, McNabb and the Eagles would finish a measly 6-10. McNabb only started nine games before being placed on the injured reserve with a sports hernia, a sore thumb and a groin injury. The next season was better for the Eagles, but not for McNabb. The Eagles started the '06 season 4-1, but went 1-3 in their next four games. During a Week 11 game against the Tennessee Titans, McNabb tore his ACL diving out-of-bounds, and missed the remainder of the season. The Eagles made the playoffs thanks to a great performance by Jeff Garcia over the final month and a half, but lost to the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional Round.

The Eagles 75th anniversary, the 2007 season, could be described as average. The Eagles went 8-8 and McNabb failed to stay healthy for a third consecutive season, missing two games due to a sprained ankle. Critics, and by this point he had plenty, wondered whether or not McNabb was capable of leading an offense as he had several years before. However, McNabb would soon prove that he had a couple more years left in the tank.

McNabb had a rebirth of sorts in 2008, starting all 16 games and finishing with 3,916 yards passing, 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He led the team to a respectable record of 9-6-1. That one tie was both a confusing event and a gift. McNabb, in his postgame press conference, said he was unaware of the overtime rules during the regular season, and assumed the teams would continue playing even if there was a tie after the first overtime. As most NFL fans know, that rule only applies in the playoffs. Due to McNabb's slight blunder, the Eagles-Bengals game became the first tie in the NFL in six years. That tie would also prove useful during the last week of the season. Had the Eagles lost that game, they would not have made the playoffs.

The tie gave them a better winning percentage than the Buccaneers and Cowboys, thrusting them into a Wild Card spot. McNabb took the Eagles to their first NFC Championship Game since 2004-05 after victories over the Vikings and Giants. In the end, it wasn't meant to be, as the Eagles performed miserably against the Cardinals, losing 32-25. The score makes the game seem closer than it actually was. The Eagles found themselves down 24-6 going into halftime and never recovered. Many wondered whether or not number five would be back for another season. It would eventually be confirmed that McNabb would return for the '09 season.

He had a decent season, passing for 3,553 yards, 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, leading the Eagles to a 10-4 record (Kevin Kolb started two games early in the season due to a rib injury). Overall, the Eagles would clinch another Wild Card spot. They had a chance at clinching the division on the last week of the season. All the team needed to do was defeat the Cowboys. The Birds were humiliated, 24-0, and they fell from a top two seed to the six seed. They would face Dallas again the following week, and get blown out, 34-14 on national television. McNabb had a sub-par performance, passing for just 230 yards, one touchdown and an interception. With Kolb waiting in the wings, many assumed that the humiliation in Dallas would be McNabb's final time donning a midnight green uniform.

On Easter Sunday 2010, Donovan McNabb, the man who spent 11 years as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, was traded to the Washington Redskins in exchange for nothing more than a couple of draft picks. McNabb performed well in Washington considering the circumstances, starting 13 games, passing for 3,377 yards, 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The lowest point of the 2010 season came in a game against the Detroit Lions. With the Redskins trailing late in the game, Mike Shanahan opted to bench McNabb and put in Rex Grossman to run the two-minute offense. On the first play of the drive, Grossman fumbled the snap, and Ndamukong Suh recovered it and scored a touchdown, essentially ending the game.

In late December, Shanahan relegated McNabb to the third string QB role. McNabb would get a shot with the Vikings the following season, going 1-5 in six starts before Leslie Frazier opted to play rookie Christian Ponder for the remainder of the season. McNabb had respectable numbers in his six starts, passing for 1,026 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, but it was not enough to keep his starting job. McNabb requested that the team release him, and the Vikings obliged. McNabb was hoping to latch on to a contending team who's starting quarterback got injured. The Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears were ideal locations. With Houston and KC having already signed a QB, the Bears were McNabb's lost hope. Many thought the team would give him a chance considering Chicago is McNabb's hometown. However, the Bears opted for Josh McCown, and McNabb was left jobless. At this point, it was safe to say the McNabb's career was about complete.

When it all comes down to it, he is number one
Photo Courtesy: News4USOnline
Donovan McNabb had, in my opinion, an excellent career. His introduction to the Philadelphia fanbase was not one to be remembered. However, McNabb never let that day deter him from his goal. McNabb wanted to be a NFL-caliber starting quarterback, and over his 13 year career, he proved that he could be a great one. It could be argued that injuries caused his production to steadily decline each year, starting in 2005. It could also be argued that Father Time simply caught up to Donovan. Regardless, Philadelphia fans need to realize something. Sure, McNabb never won a Super Bowl. No quarterback that has ever played for the Eagles has. Not Jaworski, not Cunningham, not Jurgensen. Sure, McNabb made some questionable decisions in crucial spots during a game; every quarterback does at one point or another. McNabb gave this city an entertaining sports team to watch every weekend for the better part of 11 years.

Of course, there are some years that didn't go according to plan, but that's beside the point. He brought the Eagles to five NFC Championship Games and did lead the team to a Super Bowl. McNabb gave his heart and soul to this city, but people seem to think of McNabb as second tier. Oh, sure, they'll clap for him during that Week 3 ceremony, just as they did when he returned to Lincoln Financial Field donning a Redskins uniform back in 2010.

"But there is no way he's as good as Jaworski or Cunningham." 

That's where those fans are wrong. McNabb is the best quarterback in franchise history. Should the Eagles retire his number? Personally, I believe they should. Is he a Hall of Famer? Perhaps; although it would be pretty difficult for him to become one considering he never won a Super Bowl. I didn't grow up watching Ron Jaworski or Randall Cunningham; I grew up watching McNabb, so my bias towards him may be stronger than some of yours.

When it all comes down to it, it's a personal opinion as to whether McNabb is the best QB in franchise history. That is why I will leave you with his career statistics, that way you form your own opinion as to why Donovan Jamal McNabb is the best quarterback this franchise has ever had, or why he isn't.

Year Age G GS QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Y/G Rate 4QC GWD
1999 23 12 6 2-4-0 106 216 49.1 948 8 7 79.0 60.1 1 2
2000* 24 16 16 11-5-0 330 569 58.0 3365 21 13 210.3 77.8 2 3
2001* 25 16 16 11-5-0 285 493 57.8 3233 25 12 202.1 84.3 2 2
2002* 26 10 10 7-3-0 211 361 58.4 2289 17 6 228.9 86.0 0 1
2003* 27 16 16 12-4-0 275 478 57.5 3216 16 11 201.0 79.6 3 5
2004* 28 15 15 13-2-0 300 469 64.0 3875 31 8 258.3 104.7 2 2
2005 29 9 9 4-5-0 211 357 59.1 2507 16 9 278.6 85.0 0 2
2006 30 10 10 5-5-0 180 316 57.0 2647 18 6 264.7 95.5 0 1
2007 31 14 14 8-6-0 291 473 61.5 3324 19 7 237.4 89.9 1 1
2008 32 16 16 9-6-1 345 571 60.4 3916 23 11 244.8 86.4 2 1
2009* 33 14 14 10-4-0 267 443 60.3 3553 22 10 253.8 92.9 2 3
2010 34 13 13 5-8-0 275 472 58.3 3377 14 15 259.8 77.1 2 2
2011 35 6 6 1-5-0 94 156 60.3 1026 4 2 171.0 82.9
Career 167 161 98-62-1 3170 5374 59.0 37276 234 117 223.2 85.6 17 25
11 yrs 148 142 92-49-1 2801 4746 59.0 32873 216 100 222.1 86.5 15 23
1 yr 6 6 1-5-0 94 156 60.3 1026 4 2 171.0 82.9
1 yr 13 13 5-8-0 275 472 58.3 3377 14 15 259.8 77.1 2 2
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/21/2013.
Year Age Att Yds TD Lng Y/A Y/G A/G
1999 23 47 313 0 27 6.7 26.1 3.9
2000* 24 86 629 6 54 7.3 39.3 5.4
2001* 25 82 482 2 33 5.9 30.1 5.1
2002* 26 63 460 6 40 7.3 46.0 6.3
2003* 27 71 355 3 34 5.0 22.2 4.4
2004* 28 41 220 3 28 5.4 14.7 2.7
2005 29 25 55 1 11 2.2 6.1 2.8
2006 30 32 212 3 37 6.6 21.2 3.2
2007 31 50 236 0 40 4.7 16.9 3.6
2008 32 39 147 2 17 3.8 9.2 2.4
2009* 33 37 140 2 27 3.8 10.0 2.6
2010 34 29 151 0 36 5.2 11.6 2.2
2011 35 14 59 1 23 4.2 9.8 2.3
Career 616 3459 29 54 5.6 20.7 3.7
11 yrs 573 3249 28 54 5.7 22.0 3.9
1 yr 14 59 1 23 4.2 9.8 2.3
1 yr 29 151 0 36 5.2 11.6 2.2
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/21/2013.