Donovan McNabb vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Is This the 'Referendum Bowl?'

Matt Goldberg@@tipofgoldbergCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2010

ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 26: Donavan McNabb #5 of the Washington Redskins passes against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on September 26, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Rams beat the Redskins 30-16.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images


So, admit it Eagles fans.  When you looked at the Eagles 2010 schedule—sometime after Easter Sunday and The Trade—you immediately looked for the Eagles-Redskins games.  Even before you marked the date of those two death-matches with the Cowboys.

You noticed that the first Birds-Skins matchup was in Week 4, Sunday, Oct. 3 at 4:15pm at the Linc, to be exact.  So with the occasional 90-degree September weather and all of the Phillies Phever, did this game kind of sneak up on you?

On the surface, it's the 2-1 Eagles hosting the 1-2 Washington Redskins in the Bird's first divisional showdown of the year.  But, as Peggy Lee once famously sang, "Is that all there is?"



Eagles fans were already in two or more camps regarding McNabb, and that was when he still played here.  Looking back, perhaps it all changed after the near-miss of the Super Bowl XXXIX loss to the Patriots. I don't need to recount all the intrigue and allegations that ensued, do I?

Perhaps, it changed after the TO controversies, or when Jeff Garcia (of all people) rescued the 2006 season that was headed to oblivion after McNabb's Week 10 injury.  He wasn't Mike McMahon and the team caught fire, even winning one playoff game.

Maybe, there were other reasons, rationalizations, and justifications, but a large sector of the Philly fan base either never took to McNabb or turned on him even before The Trade.  As we all know, we're talking about a quarterback (arguably, along with Norm Van Brocklin, the best QB the franchise has ever had) with one of the greatest winning-percentages of any significant quarterback in the history of the NFL.

But there were always two schools of thought—check that, this is Philly—two schools of emotion regarding that player, and the man.

  • He could not ever win the "Big Game."
  • He never had a true chance to win the "Big Game," given his supporting cast, coaching decisions, etc.

The 2010 season was going to be the referendum on whose fault it was:  McNabb's or Reid's.  Who was to blame for denying Eagles Nation its rightful parade, it's first Super Bowl win, and its first pro football championship since 1960?



I never subscribed to the philosophy, or mindset, that we had to blame either our quarterback or our head coach for the Eagles failing to win a championship in their 11 seasons together.  Simply put, this is a simplistic and almost vindictive mindset and stance that never took root in the rational part of my brain. 

Yes, I would have loved to have seen, and attended, that parade, and it's probably still on my mythical bucket list to see one, but my quickie perspective on this referendum is the following.

There are holes in Reid's "game," but all in all, he's proven to be one of the five or so best NFL head coaches during his tenure.  Not yet a Hall of Fame coach, and not Mr. Warmth, I still admire what he has achieved.

Although some may see me as a McNabb apologist, I not only defend the man's record, but admire what he achieved here, and not always under ideal circumstances. 

You can do what you want with stats, and some show him to be one of the best to ever play, while others may delude one into thinking that he was only middle-of-the-pack.  For my money, he had a Hall of Fame career here, and showed the kind of resilience time and time again that should have been admired and respected by more Eagles fans.

Even if I subscribed to the philosophy that one of the team's two lightning rods was to blame for the lack of Lombardi Trophies, how could one season (let alone one game) in the next season—a game where your former face of the franchise is playing for a pretty bad team—prove anything about what happened, or didn't happen, in the past.

In other words, in the great majority of cases, I'm not a big fan of using events of the future (or even the present) to prove what happened in the past.  Oh yeah, sorry for the buzzkill.



You may have possibly heard that the showdown between our former franchise player and the new centerpiece of the franchise took an interesting turn in the last week.  The mano-a-mano between the old (McNabb) and the new (Kevin Kolb) is now the old versus the now (Michael Vick). 

It should be noted that the 'now' has elicited many wows in his 10 quarters of superb play.

Of course, football is not a head-to-head contest between quarterbacks, although all of us make these "sexy" comparisons.  McNabb and Vick will only share the field in pregame and postgame handshakes.

It says here that Michael Vick has all of the advantages over McNabb in terms of his supporting cast.  Eagles fans: Would you take an aging Clinton Portis over LeSean (Shady) McCoy?  Maybe three years ago—not now.

Who would you rather have to throw to: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant, or Santana Moss, and, and...? .Hey, Moss is their "star" receiver, and may not even crack our top three.  Not even close here.

Tight ends?  You can make a case for Chris Cooley, and probably an even stronger case for Brent Celek.

O-line?  Well, neither one is that great, and the Redskins are playing with a rookie left tackle and still adjusting to a new system.

The Eagles defense is showing signs of improvement this year with a healthy(?) Stewart Bradley back in the middle, ready-to-play draft picks Nate Allen and Brandon Graham, and a more self-assured defensive coordinator in Sean McDermott.

The Skins quite infamously are in the process of converting a fairly stout 4-3 defense to a 3-4, and carrying an overweight malcontent in Albert Haynesworth, who should be their dominant force.  The Eagles probably are a little stronger here, too.

How about coaching? In time, Skins coach Mike Shanahan may prove to be as sharp as he was in his heyday with Denver, but right now, I'll give a slight edge to the stability of systems under Reid.



If the Eagles win, they will move to 3-1, boast a two-game lead over the Redskins and at least a one-game lead over both the Cowboys and Giants.

If the Redskins win, they will be tied for the lead at 2-2, which could be a virtual four-way logjam pending the Giants' result as the Cowboys have a bye.

Of course, psychologically and emotionally, this game will mean more than this to Vick, McNabb, the coaches, and the legions of fans who would not think of missing this game that has been circled, underlined, and highlighted for weeks and weeks.



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