Will You Boo, Or Will You Cheer? How Donovan McNabb Should Be Welcomed Back

Pat EganCorrespondent IOctober 1, 2010

Donovan McNabb with friends and family gets booed at the 1999 Draft
Donovan McNabb with friends and family gets booed at the 1999 Draft

“With the second pick in the 1999 NFL Draft the Philadelphia Eagles select Donovan McNabb, quarterback, Syracuse”. And with that one selection it changed the face of a franchise. You know what happens next. Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue didn’t even get the word “Quarterback” out of his mouth before WIP’s “Dirty Thirty” greeted the new birds QB with a smattering of boos. The scene of the Eagles fans, led by camera whore/super fan/everyone look at me Sean (I don’t know his last name but sadly he has became the face of an Eagles fan base for the national media). McNabb heard the boos but ignored them, pounded his chest twice (once each time for his deceased grandparents) and accepted the jersey he would wear for 11 seasons.

In Philadelphia the Donovan McNabb debate is a heated one. Think Republicans and Democrats, but with sports. You’re either for Donovan McNabb or against him but there is no gray area. The debate still rages on even after McNabb is gone. April 4, 2010 at a little after 8pm EST it was reported that the Eagles had traded their franchise QB to the division rival Washington Redskins. It was a move that shocked everyone in Philadelphia.

“I get that they wanted to move on but the Redskins?!” That was how the consensus of Eagles fans felt when they heard the news. Of course the Eagles brass had their press conferences all the while acting as if the trade was no big deal. The fan base however had to get used to life after McNabb and do it fast because training camp was right around the corner. The Kevin Kolb era had finally arrived.

Kevin Kolb was the surprise pick in Philadelphia. The Eagles traded out of their first round pick in the 2007 draft and moved down in the draft. With their first pick many were expecting any position but quarterback. The Eagles however threw a curveball and drafted Kevin Kolb, quarterback, University of Houston. Andy Reid got on the television and, like when he traded McNabb, acted like the drafting of Kevin Kolb was no big deal. He seemingly forgot about the All Pro QB he already had, and their average secondary he had, and still has.

Kevin Kolb had big shoes to fill. He was taking over for the man that was voted “The best QB in franchise history”. It was a move that many fans had however been begging for. Be careful what you wish for Eagles fans. Kevin Kolb played 2 quarters against the Green Bay Packers before exiting the game with a concussion. In that time he looked awful and unprepared. He threw for just 24 yards and 0 TD. It quickly dawned on many Eagles fans that maybe McNabb wasn’t so bad. With Kolb nursing a concussion, and a broken ego, in came controversial QB Mike Vick.

Philadelphia is a “what have you done for me lately” kind of town. Michael Vick is a prime example of that. Vick was brought to Philly on a deal that many fans hated. Most of them didn’t like the move because of the dog fighting, some didn’t like the move because they just didn’t think he was a good QB, while others loved the move. The fact is though that at the time of the Michael Vick signing the general consensus around the city was that of a negative one. Most didn’t want to see Vick as an Eagle. Fast forward a little over a year and it’s a totally different feel for Vick in the city of brotherly love. I’ve seen more Michael Vick jerseys in the past 2 week’s then I’ve seen Kevin Kolb jerseys in 3 years since he was drafted. You hear very little about the dog fighting because the city has seemingly, after just 10 quarters of play, changed their tune. “What have you done for me lately?” Michael Vick has won games and because of it changed how a city views him.

Vick was named the starting QB of the Eagles and just like that the Kevin Kolb era was over after just two quarters. This week’s game is one that has been talked about since the schedule came out. Originally it was Kevin Kolb Versus Donovan McNabb but now it’s even more interesting. Donovan McNabb was the driving force behind getting Vick to Philadelphia and now, on Sunday, the two will do battle.

No one is arguing the effectiveness that Michael Vick has had as the Eagles QB this season. All the reasons of why I didn’t think he was a very good QB (run first mentality, couldn’t read a defense, had weapons but didn’t use them, rarely threw) he has changed. He truly does look like a different QB then the one we saw in Atlanta. Because of Michael Vicks emergence however I am assuming that this Sunday at the Linc will sound a lot like Radio City Music Hall circa 1999.

I have a theory and it goes like this; If Kevin Kolb were still the QB of the Philadelphia Eagles and they were struggling, then Donovan McNabb would be greeted by a chorus of cheers come Sunday. Instead many fans have fallen in love with Michael Vick and because of his play you’ve been hearing more and more “And Vick should have been the starter last season too!” on the radio waves of Philadelphia. Because of Vicks recent play most fans aren’t able to see what they lost in McNabb. This makes me think that the dirty thirty will be booing as the nation looks on and says “Well that’s Philadelphia for ya”.

The Washington Redskins have yet to decide if they will run out on the field as a team, or announce their team individually. I can’t imagine they won’t announce their starters individually and I expect to see McNabb run out, in Redskins burgundy and gold, pound his chest twice and point to the sky, and get booed. The fact is a boo is louder than a clap. 10 people clapping can be drowned out by 5 people booing. While I expect many people to come to their feet and salute McNabb with a modest cheer, I expect bitter fans to boo the QB that never got it done.

You never know what you have till it’s gone. It’s a saying that many Eagles fans haven’t had to use in the last 11 seasons. 6 QB’s were taken in the first two rounds of the 1999 NFL Draft and if you don’t count Daunte Culpepper’s current UFL stint, Donovan McNabb is the only one still playing football. When Mike Shanahan got the job as the Denver Broncos head coach he had a 35 year old All Pro QB in John Elway who had the stigma as never being able to win the big game. Donovan McNabb is a 33 year old All Pro QB with a stigma of never being able to win the big game.

Because McNabb was never able to bring home Lombardi’s trophy he is considered, by some, a failure. Many have called #5 a choke artist who isn’t an accurate passer. His former receiver Terrell Owens criticized McNabb back in 2005 and former Eagles first round pick Freddie Mitchell is continuing to bash McNabb. Mitchell fails to realize that if he was as talented as he says he is then the Chiefs wouldn’t have cut him and someone would take a chance on him and maybe people wouldn’t call him “Free Agent Freddie”. McNabb has been criticized by the media, the fans, and even his own players. Like Rodney Danger Field he just gets no respect.

On Sunday Donovan McNabb will exit the tunnel and enter Lincoln Financial Field as a visitor for the first time in his career. Not Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper, Cade McNown, or Sean King. Arguably the best player in the 1999 draft class, definitely the best QB in Eagles franchise will walk out with enemy colors on and I for one will cheer.

Its true McNabb never got it done but football is the ultimate team sport and the quarterback is the easiest scape goat there is. In Philadelphia we have been treated to 11 years of never having to worry about our QB. Sure the McNabb hate has always been there but unlike some teams (Lions, Dolphins, Jaguars, Raiders, ect.) we have always been solid in that position. We knew what we were getting from #5. A QB who would, at times, throw in his receivers feet (which is better than into the hands of a DB) but then bust out for a 14 second scramble play against the Cowboys on Monday Night Football. Sure he wasn’t the best with 2 minutes left in the game but then he would throw for 4 TD on a broken ankle against the Cardinals.

The McNabb hate will always be there. Some games were obviously his fault. He made poor decisions at times but there isn’t a QB in the NFL who hasn’t had a game like that. If you go to the game on Sunday and you look hard enough you may be able to find the jersey of the last darling QB of Philadelphia before Donovan. Anyone remember Bobby Hoying? You may have tried to block him out of your memory but 1 good game and people were scrambling to get their hands on #7 Hoying jerseys.

“What have you done for me lately?” Well Donovan McNabb never won the big game. But lately, looking back on it, Donovan McNabb gave me one hell of a career, one amazing decade of football. He made believers out of the detractors that “wanted Ricky”. I will welcome Donovan McNabb back with a standing ovation and I hope you do the same.

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