With the retirement ceremony reportedly set to take place at halftime of the Eagles' Week 3 home game against former head coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs, I hope that Eagles fans will take a step back and appreciate what McNabb was able to accomplish in his career.
I say this for one reason: As a quarterback, McNabb is criminally underrated and underappreciated. He deserves better.
The underappreciation began on draft day in 1999, when a group of Eagles fans famously booed the selection of McNabb (see the video below), wanting their team to draft Texas running back Ricky Williams instead.
Just look at where the Eagles were in the years before McNabb's arrival in Philly.
From the 1982 season following their first Super Bowl berth through 1998, the Eagles made the playoffs six times. They only won two of those postseason games and never reached an NFC title game.
Compare that with 1999-2009 when McNabb was at quarterback. The Eagles won the NFC East six times, qualified for the playoffs eight times, won nine postseason games, appeared in five NFC Championship Games and reached Super Bowl XXXIX where the Eagles lost to a superior New England Patriots team.
McNabb was simply majestic, able to beat teams with both his arms and legs. He rushed for nearly 3,500 yards in his career and threw for 234 touchdowns. He had a cannon attached to his right shoulder that allowed him to make all the throws and he was more cerebral than people gave him credit for on the field.
I grew up a Giants fan in New York City. Watching Big Blue play the McNabb-led Eagles was always an exercise in extreme frustration. My family, friends and I would continually watch as McNabb would slither out of the grasp of opposing defenders (usually Michael Strahan) to either run or throw for a first down or touchdown.
All of that said, the question is: Why is McNabb so underrated and so underappreciated?
The answer lies in his perceived performance in big games.
McNabb led the Eagles to five NFC title berths, but his detractors will tell you that he only won one.
Well, in 2001, the Eagles lost on the road to the St. Louis Rams, who were the better team.
In 2008, they lost a heartbreaker in Arizona, but the Cardinals showed in Super Bowl XLIII that they were a worthy representative of the NFC.
Then there's Super Bowl XXXIX, where McNabb seemingly ran out of gas at the end of the contest. The fact of the matter is that the Patriots were a juggernaut coming off back-to-back 14-2 seasons and were deserving champions.
In his playoff career, McNabb threw for 24 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. Those are not bad numbers by any stretch of the imagination.
It's not fair for McNabb's career to be judged on what he didn't do. No, he never won a Super Bowl and he probably isn't a Hall of Famer (see this column by B/R's Gary Davenport). While the Eagles faced their share of playoff heartbreak, there is no way that they would have been in all of those games without the contributions of McNabb.
He was the main reason that Philadelphia was so good for so long in his time as their signal-caller.
When McNabb officially retires as an Eagle this fall, I hope that Philadelphia fans, and all NFL fans, can stand up and applaud him for an outstanding career.
He deserves to be appreciated. It'll be a crime if he isn't.
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