Donovan McNabb, The Eagles, and The Next Two Years: The Legacy Of Five

Brian Joseph@bj316Correspondent IJuly 11, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 18:  Quarterback Donovan McNabb #5 of the Phildelphia Eagles walks off the field after losing to the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC championship game on January 18, 2009 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Eagles 32-25 to advance to the Super Bowl.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

With each passing season, I am convinced that a bust of Donovan McNabb will sit in Canton, Ohio someday. I am not convinced that McNabb will end his career in midnight green, as the ownership has proven that loyalty comes second to conducting the business of football in Philadelphia.

The two-year restructuring of McNabb's deal by Eagles management was a vote of confidence from the club and a nice gesture for the face of the franchise for over a decade. But the deal didn't extend the life of the contract, and Kevin Kolb lurking in McNabb's shadow as the heir apparent to the starting quarterback job in Philly, might spell the end of the McNabb era for the Eagles after those two years expire.

In the end, what will it all mean?

It's hard to deny McNabb's success. Only Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have a better winning percentage among quarterbacks with more than 100 starts in the last decade. He's the Eagles all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, and has led the franchise to more postseason appearances—seven—than any other signal caller.

So, why does it seem like McNabb could still be considered an underachiever?

Consider the fact that "Five" has yet to get the Eagles over the hump to capture that elusive Super Bowl title, despite five NFC Championship appearances, and one failed Super Bowl run. Consider the number of lesser quarterbacks that have guided teams to Super Bowl wins and the number of talented teams McNabb has had to work with on both sides of the ball—and that begins to tell the tale.

McNabb will be 33 this season and likely has just two years remaining to see if he falls in with the likes of great quarterbacks such as Joe Montana, John Elway, Troy Aikman, Brett Favre, and contemporaries Brady and Manning. Or is McNabb destined to enjoy the "Great Quarterback but..." knock that the Jim Kellys and Dan Marinos of the world have been forced to endure.

Of those mentioned, McNabb could end up a lot like Hall of Famer Kelly, who played 11 seasons in Buffalo, and is remembered more for his four failed Super Bowl tries than his impressive Hall of Fame career.

Or he could end up like Hall of Famer Elway, who spent most of his career with the same criticisms because of many failed playoff and Super Bowl appearances early in his career, before finally breaking through for two Super Bowl titles at age 37 and 38 and finally retiring.

Of the two, McNabb's career path more closely resembles Elway than Kelly. In Elway's situation, early on as a Bronco, he was an offensive force on a team lacking a serious running threat. The addition of Terrell Davis in Elway's final years was what finally pushed Elway's Broncos over the top and to Super Bowl glory.

While the Eagles haven't lacked in the running department, they have been short on offensive weapons in recent years. With the exception of the one Super Bowl run with Terrell Owens by his side (before the fallout, of course!), McNabb has done the most with the least, really.

Things are different, now though. McNabb has publicly applauded the offensive additions made over the past two seasons and knows the score when it comes to his legacy.

“With the type of team that we have, I think it’s important that we focus in on what we have to do in order to achieve that common goal, and that’s obviously to win a Super Bowl,” McNabb said at his press conference announcing his extension. “I looked at it in the sense that it’s in these two years, our focus is to win the Super Bowl and anything past that, it will take care of itself. At this particular point, in these two years, we feel like we can get the job done.”

And if he does, McNabb no longer has to worry about the elephant in the room when discussion about the legacy of his career comes up. From great to elite goes Five's status with just one win.

The Super Bowl title does not automatically make a quarterback great. Ask anyone who ever watched Trent Dilfer play. However, the difference between greatness and elite status is what's at stake for McNabb over the next two years. It's what separates Montana from Marino, Elway from Kelly. 

And, for now, it's what keeps McNabb out of the discussion with the likes of Brady and Manning. We'll see if that barrier can be broken down in the next two years. It's up to "Five" now.