When professional athletes inevitably give in to the notion it may be time to call it a career, the questions about legacy and retrospection are always sure to quickly follow. In the case of 13-year NFL veteran Donovan McNabb, the question was recently posed as to whether or not he thought he deserved to have his bronze bust enshrined in Canton, Ohio -- to which McNabb responded, ‘Absolutely.’
Although McNabb is not necessarily retired, getting cut by the Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins in consecutive seasons, coupled with the fact no team has signed him since, seems to indicate the decision may be made for him. But if this really is the end of Donovan McNabb the NFL quarterback, where does he rank among the all-time QBs?
Just looking at the numbers, McNabb’s 37,276 passing yards and 234 career TD passes are probably right over the edge of required Hall of Fame stats, but has he really had a Hall of Fame career?
The biggest caveat brought up when discussing Donovan McNabb is the fact he never won a ring. The made it to the NFC Championship five times, yet only managed one Super Bowl appearance (XXXIX). It probably does not help his chances either when considering teammates of his openly criticized his conditioning as being one of the reasons the Philadelphia Eagles lost their one title attempt. Still, McNabb does not think the lack of a Super Bowl victory should diminish his Hall of Fame status.
McNabb said, "Peyton [Manning] never won the big game until he won the Super Bowl finally. Dan Marino never won the big game. But does that mean his career is a failure? No. Not at all," McNabb told FOX Sports. "When you sit and look at the numbers -- and that's what it is when it comes to the Hall of Fame -- my numbers are better than Jim Kelly, better than Troy Aikman, better than a lot of guys in the Hall of Fame, but the one thing they do have is a Super Bowl."
Although it may be prudent to point Peyton Manning did eventually win a ring (Super Bowl XLI), and he and Dan Marino’s numbers are also in a completely different stratosphere than are McNabb’s. Also, Troy Aikman has three rings and a MVP for Super Bowl XXVII. Jim Kelly is his strongest argument, but Kelly did take his Buffalo Bills to four Super Bowl appearances, so it would appear they all have stronger resumes than Mr. McNabb.
Looking closely at the numbers, McNabb is surrounded on the all-time lists by a few other players with similar numbers. Let’s take a blind look at Donovan McNabb’s career stats compared to two other players ahead of him on the all-time passing list.
Donovan McNabb Player 1 Player 2
37,276 Passing Yards 37,920 38,147
234 Touchdowns 247 261
59.0 COMP % 57 59
Donovan McNabb has slightly worse numbers than these other two players. So who are they? They have to be Hall of Fame players with numbers like those – right? Wrong. Player 1 is Boomer Esiason and Player 2 is Dave Krieg – neither of which has made it to Canton.
In the end, Donovan McNabb should go down as a very good quarterback who never made it over that last hurdle for greatness. His biggest accomplishment in the annals of NFL history may eventually be his position as another stepping stone for future African American quarterbacks to find their own success in the game. McNabb has had a great NFL career, and will most assuredly continue to have a voice in this game from behind a microphone, but he simply is not transcendent enough in my book to validate induction into the Hall of Fame.