Donovan McNabb: Looking Back at a Rotten Legacy

By Daniel Hartigan
June 27, 2012 4:39 pm
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Vick is embarrassed. As am I.
Donovan McNabb is eight months younger than Peyton Manning and is coming off of exactly four less neck surgeries.

McNabb holds every major franchise passing record (wins, TD's, completions, passer rating, etc.) in Philadelphia Eagles history.

He has been training like a madman on the beach Rocky IV-style for the past couple of months and appears to be in superior shape. 


Yet it appears that no team is going to touch No. 5 with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole, and sadly, I can't say I blame any of them.

As a die-hard Philadelphia sports fan, I whole-heartedly believe that McNabb's skill-set and resume more than qualifies him for a backup job somewhere in the league. However, in a twist of fate that has to have Terrell Owens smiling somewhere to himself, I believe that McNabb's baggage is what is preventing him from finding a job for the 2012 NFL season. 

McNabb dug this hole himself.  He just doesn't seem to be having fun in the same way that he used to. He shows up to camp wanting to wear a "C" on his jersey and then emotionally disengages when things don't go according to plan, forgetting that there is still a job to be done regardless of where on the depth chart he may be (See: Mark Brunell).

He acts as if he was betrayed by the same league that made him so beloved and successful in the first place. Somehow, McNabb's miserable disposition regarding his career status has turned him into The Grinch of NFL quarterbacks. Nobody wants to play with Donnie Downer. 

Obviously his play has suffered over the past couple of seasons, but more so his happy-go-lucky schtick on the field became tired. Back when he was a younger player, we would watch him underthrow a wide open receiver by eight yards late in the 4th quarter and then procede to clap his hands and laugh about it.

He would just stand there with a huge grin and laugh. I never got used to it. It made me question how badly he wanted to win and his actual capability of getting it done when it mattered. We always figured that as his career progressed, these fundamental mistakes would go away. They never did. 

Fast-forward to the 2010 and 2011 seasons. McNabb is laughing after yet another Redskins or Vikings three and out, pointing at his receiver, wanting a zig instead of a zag. Once Team Shanahan or Team Frazier had seen enough, McNabb alienated himself on the bench and pouted about having to watch Christian Ponder develop.

How did we let it get to this point Donovan??

When McNabb was drafted 2nd overall in the 1999 NFL Draft, I was 11 years old. He was THE quarterback of my entire teenage and young adult life. Think about that for a second. The influences and effects that his successes and failures have had on me are immeasurable. 

Right away, we (Philly fans) knew we had something special. This guy was lightning in a bottle and made plays all over the field. Think about a much less dominating version of Cam Newton's first season, but comparable in terms of excitement toward the future.

I was that kid at school ranting on about how Donovan McNabb was the best player in the NFL and that he was going to change the way quarterback was played forever. Needless to say, I was laughed at, but I still rocked my No. 5 jersey to school after every Eagles victory. 

On November 17th, 2002 in a game against the Arizona Cardinals, McNabb played (at the time) the best game of his career on a broken ankle, fully winning over the Philly faithful. We already believed, but for me, that game firmly planted No. 5 in my heart forever. Dude gutted it out and didn't make excuses, he just played the game and earned the W. 

His performance in the 2003 NFC Championship (against the Jake Delhomme-led Panthers) is forever etched in my memory as the most disappointed I have ever been after watching an NFL football game. Philadelphia scored only three points that day. At home. In the team's THIRD straight trip to the Championship round.

McNabb threw for 100 yards and was picked off three times by Ricky Manning Jr. I threw up all over my keyboard just typing that last sentence. Anyway, point is, after that game I remember being inconsolable. Now, I'm aware that 15-year-olds are supposed to suffer heartbreak and be pouty little brats, but it's supposed to be because of Susie Q, not because of Donovan McNabb!

When Philadelphia finally did make it to that elusive Super Bowl the following year, I wasn't as sad or affected after New England screen-passed us to death in the 2nd half. I was just sort of numb. And I feel like McNabb has been ever since as well. 

Oh, and let's not forget his last game played as a Philadelphia Eagle. Once Eagles fans saw that awful guitar-strut before the game in the tunnel, we knew McNabb had to go. The happy-go-lucky McNabb had become a mockery of himself. 

Despite these criticisms, I will always remember Donovan McNabb fondly. He was a very good player and he made spectacular plays every time you were ready to write him off. One second I'd throw my hat and take off my jersey and the next I'd be picking both items up off the floor. He was unpredictable. He was exciting. He was infuriating. And I loved him for it. 

It's really too bad that McNabb could never make the career shift from franchise player to reliable backup. It's just not in his DNA. He still believes he's that guy running around for 12 seconds against Dallas on Monday Night Football. He still thinks that players want to come to his intense, Arizona-based offseason workouts. He feels spited because of how much he gave to the game and how little love he gets back in return. 

I'll continue to follow his journey back to the NFL during the offseason. It's a long shot, but if he somehow manages to make a squad I will enjoy watching him overthrow Maurice Jones-Drew by 12 yards on a simple swing route in preseason.

I'll be just as baffled as the rest of us when he stands 40 yards from the rest of his teammates pouting about being benched while wearing an oversized parka. Nobody will be surprised when he doesn't know the new playoff overtime rules. And nobody will feel bad for him. 

The whole thing really is a bummer. Kind of like McNabb himself. 

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By Daniel Hartigan
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Previous Comments (7)

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2 years ago
Welcome to FN, Daniel.
2 years ago
Good article Daniel! I completely agree with your take, and welcome to FN!
2 years ago
So true...that smirk when all went to hell...so frustrating! All those years of waiting for a superbowl victory..for naught!
2 years ago
Nice piece Daniel, welcome to FN!
2 years ago
I think T.O. (playing on a brocken leg) was right ...The Eagles lost the Superbowl because #5 was tired and out of shape.....
2 years ago
Very nicely done Daniel and congrats. I look forward to reading more articles.
2 years ago
Good Article, as an eagle fan I never understood him laughing and joking on the sideline in the 4th quarter after making a costly mistake.That is why fans don't respect or miss him in Philly.

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