Philadelphia Freedom for McNabb: What Were They Thinking?

Matthew DowContributor IMay 10, 2010

ASHBURN, VA - APRIL 15:  Washington Redskins Donovan McNabb works out at the Washington Redskins training facility on April 15, 2010 in Ashburn, Virginia  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Vince Lombardi once said:  “Football is like life —it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and respect for authority.”


Few modern-era players embody the complete list of attributes mentioned by Lombardi.   Donovan McNabb nearly attains that high standard, and has displayed a level of professionalism matched by few other National Football League players in recent history.


Sports fans love to root for an underdog.  But what if a team has a proven commodity, a winner from day one?  Do you take the player for granted; do you doubt him or call him out at every opportunity?  


No! You recognize the fact that you possess a great leader, a class act, and consummate professional to represent your organization as the Eagles had once upon a time with Donovan McNabb.


The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Donovan McNabb second overall in the 1999 NFL Draft.  Boos sharply rang out from the Philly fans in attendance at the Theater at Madison Square Garden as McNabb’s name was called by then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue.


In 2000, McNabb became the starting QB, and completed a stellar season as he finished second in MVP voting behind Marshall Faulk.  He also earned an alternate selection to his first Pro Bowl in his first full season as a starter. 


2001 marked a second consecutive Pro Bowl selection after McNabb netted 3,715 total yards and 25 passing touchdowns.  He was voted by his teammates as the club’s offensive MVP for each of his first 2 seasons, helping him to earn him a 12 year contract worth $115 million. 


McNabb’s third full season marked the beginning of his  injury-plagued history as he was the victim of a broken ankle in week 11.  He left that game against Arizona to be re-taped and was reported initially to have only a sprained ankle.  McNabb finished the game 20 of 25 passing with 4 touchdowns while competing with a broken ankle. 


2003 introduced McNabb’s first monumental controversy, as radio personality Rush Limbaugh, while working for ESPN, called into question McNabb’s race and his status as the “media darling of the NFL.”   Limbaugh speculated that the media, in its quest to curb social and racial concerns, had pre-maturely hyped McNabb as the next great quarterback in the NFL.  Limbaugh later resigned amid the controversy, and watched as McNabb led his team to a NFC Championship game.


McNabb improved in each of his first 4 seasons while holding together arguably his weakest offensive supporting casts as an Eagle.  Wide receiver talent was blatantly lacking, and the organization did little to provide their young franchise quarterback with the help he needed.   


After weathering Rush Limbaugh’s comments a year earlier, McNabb witnessed the addition of wide receiver Terrell Owens as a significant roster upgrade in 2004. The Eagles jumped out to quick start, winning 7 straight games to begin the 2004 season.  McNabb and Owens propelled the Eagles to the Super Bowl and a tightly contested loss to New England.  Owens was injured late in the regular season, but miraculously returned to play in the Super Bowl. 


McNabb completed 30 passes for 357 yards in Super Bowl XXXIX, but again his resolve was called into question as a mysterious illness caused confusion at times while he attempted to run the offense, and he threw 3 crucial interceptions, which ultimately sealed the Eagles’ fate.  The illness was most likely the result of the brutal hits McNabb received while standing tall in the pocket to complete passes earlier in the game. 


Reporters in Philadelphia were brutal, often questioning McNabb’s toughness and more absurdly, his team loyalty.  The bitter sting of a Super Bowl loss had quickly escalated into a daily media frenzy surrounding McNabb.


Terrell Owens provided a quick remedy on the field, but his blistering comments against McNabb began to deteriorate team chemistry soon after the loss in Super Bowl XXXIX.  Owens stated that he thought McNabb had run out of gas.  McNabb responded by making a simple request of Owens: “Just keep my name out of your mouth.”


Comments made publicly by Rush Limbaugh and Terrell Owens marked the beginning of a difficult final seven seasons in Philadelphia for McNabb.  Several major injuries, and the inability to win a championship, gave the fans of Philly an opening to let their feelings be heard.  Chants were created at games and talk-radio phone lines lit up with the pleas of  “We want AJ Feeley,” in years past or “Bring on Kevin Kolb’” more recently.


Seriously people? This man led your beloved Eagles franchise to 5 consecutive NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl.  Donovan McNabb was a role-model for your children.  He handled all of the criticism with class, and he displayed the utmost respect for the game he loves to play. 


And to the Eagles Organization, what exactly were you thinking?  How do you let the face of your franchise for the past 11 years twist in the wind amid trade rumors?  You simply don’t do that to a player like McNabb!  You show him more respect than that!


Remember why you don’t have a championship.  How many seasons did McNabb play like a champion every single game, but you did not provide him with the tools to accomplish the ultimate goal?  How long did it take to address the lame-duck wide receiver position? 


Andy Reid and company need to be accountable for their inability to get the job done.  McNabb was ultimately hung out to dry by his organization and Head Coach, but yet again he was dignified and avoided opportunities to complain.


Today’s headlines brought reports of yet another “diva” wide receiver; DeSean Jackson, directing unnecessary comments at McNabb.  Jackson and Owens need to recognize who delivered Pro Bowl status to each of them.  Calling out a former teammate for no apparent reason is childish and irresponsible, period!


While I agree that championships are the goal of each season in the NFL, I also realize that only a handful of teams have accomplished this feat during the tenure of Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia.  Injuries happen and personal decisions are not made by the quarterback.  McNabb is a winner.  He made other players better and he successfully handled the demands of the most difficult job in professional sports. 


Why does McNabb deserve all of the adversity he has handled in his career?  I am not a Syracuse fan or an Eagles fan, but instead I am a fan of good quality people and accordingly I root for the champion. 


Donovan McNabb is now a Washington Redskin.  He handled the trade maturely and will be a very welcome addition in our Nation’s Capital.  I personally hope he has the last laugh as he gets to meet his former team twice each season.  Trading your best player to a division rival—brilliant!


Are we missing something here?  Enlighten me. Give football fans one good reason why Donovan McNabb has been the most disrespected man in the NFL?     .