In Philadelphia, scrutiny and criticism are a guarantee for all players.
For the starting quarterback, it reaches levels of outrageous proportions.
Donovan McNabb can tell you first hand. He received his share of boos upon entering the NFL, as everyone who watches any game of the Eagles ever can tell you. The replay of McNabb's draft in the 1999 NFL draft is played about as much in Philadelphia as the Rocky theme song.
Boos have been something McNabb has heard throughout his entire career.
For good reason. Upon his entrance into the league, McNabb has become one of its' best quarterback's, initially mesmerizing viewers with his ability to run and evade tacklers; he has more recently established an ability to become a more complete quarterback.
He has the numbers to back it up. The 32 year-old out of Syracuse has a career 194 Touchdowns to only 90 Interceptions—an impressive ratio of almost two-to-1.
What those numbers do not tell you, though, is No. 5's inaccuracy. The strong armed McNabb can make all the throws, theoretically. His strength and speed of the ball he throws can get to his receivers on all areas of the field. His strength, however, gets the best of him sometimes.
The ball, as if hurled by a cannon, is erratic at best. Sometimes it hits the ground several feet before his receivers can catch it. Sometimes it is airmailed high above the receiver to the point that only a giraffe would have the ability to haul in a completion.
Until the NFL allows the use of sub-Saharan animals, however, No. 5 has to get more consistently accurate.
McNabb's completion percentage for his career is 59 percent. In a system that deploys dump-offs to short yardage receivers and running backs, passes that are considered "gimme's", the quarterback has a startlingly low percentage.
On top of that, his ability to close out games has been a big issue to fans in Eagle land. In the last Super Bowl the Birds appeared in, in 2005, Donovan is said to have "choked".
While this might not be as true, it was a frustrating end to a promising season. To be more reasonable to McNabb, the quarterback started the teams rally too late, and didn't show a sense of urgency that the proud fans of the Eagles wanted to see.
The team needs a more responsible quarterback, a more urgent quarterback, and a more reliable quarterback.
Last year, the Eagles had a chance to go to the Super Bowl. In the NFC Championship game against the Arizona Cardinals, the team's defense was almost non-existent, allowing Larry Fitzgerald to run wild in the first half, nearly putting the game away before it began.
But McNabb and the Eagles came back. They came back because McNabb is a competitor. They even were leading the game at one point.
Until the probable happened. The usual happened. The obvious happened.
The Cardinals scored again.
Now, it was McNabb's turn. The Birds, with less than a minute left, promptly went four and out, ending their season.
Now, no one blamed the quarterback for that loss. It was obviously a game in which the team's defense was exposed. But for McNabb, who wants to be thought of as an elite quarterback, it was all too common.
If you're an elite quarterback, shouldn't you be able to win your team the game?
He has already shown he can throw touchdowns with very few interceptions. What the Eagles need from him now is to lead the squad when they are down, and seconds remain on the clock.
Fans love McNabb because they know he is their best chance for a Championship. He just needs to realize that to become an immortal in this town, he must turn the next disappointing defeat into a celebration.
Then, the infinite boos with turn into infinite cheers.
I think McNabb would be O.K. with that.
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